How to Cope with Anxiety and Depression

When I discovered that something was off with me, I was eleven years old. I went to a doctor at sixteen and was subsequently diagnosed with anxiety and Major Depressive Disorder. It was rough, considering I reside in a household that does not simply believe in mental problems. Instead, they presumed that going out with friends and having a nice cup of coffee would solve the fact that I was suicidal and suffering from panic attacks. So, I had to figure out how to live with these problems on a day to day basis without seeking a professional.

1. If you suffer from panic attacks, try to figure out some triggers that you are able to control. After analyzing my past incidents, I figured out that caffeine was a major trigger for me. Once I cut out things such as coffee, energy drinks, and soda I rarely had panic attacks. I will admit I have found ways to still drink coffee, but this may not work for everyone. Look over your panic attacks and see if any of the triggers are potentially controllable.

2. This may sound cliche, but listening to happy music makes it pretty hard for my bad thoughts to manifest. Whenever I get a pang (which is essentially just my depression hitting me out of nowhere, no matter how much fun I’m having, who I’m with, or what I’m doing), I am hit with suicidal thoughts, feelings of demise or sorrow, etc. I listen to Hamilton, The Strokes, Vampire Weekend, and even the Star Wars music score. Obviously, these methods will not work for everyone; they have been effective for me over the years.

3. Animals. Cats, dogs, hamsters, even snakes! Being around animals has always been therapeutic to me. Whenever I would get a pang, I'd curl up with my dog Montana (a beautiful labrador who sadly passed away two years ago), and just brush her fur and scratch under her ears. When she passed, I began to visit pet stores frequently when my disorders would act up. I'd look at all the little hamsters, guinea pigs, and Leopard Geckos, and proceed to ask owners if I could pet their dogs. The company of animals was always soothing. If you’re able to, I would suggest a service animal- there are plenty out there specialized for mental disorders. If you’re not able to do that, consider volunteering at your local shelter. You will brighten up an animal's day and hopefully, yours too!

4. The biggest reason I became a writer was to wean myself from self-harm. Each time my body craved the endorphins released through self-harm, I slowly but surely started to turn to a pen and paper. Writing even began helping with my panic attacks. Trying to find the perfect metaphor to describe how I was feeling in that moment was soothing in itself. Writing became such a good coping mechanism that I slowly began to love it as soon as I begun to realize how much I was improving. Writing may not be for everyone- some lean on painting, taking pictures, or other creative pursuits. Some even workout or knitting. A friend of mine does her makeup when her anxiety begins to get bad, as all of her focus is set on blending her eyeshadow to perfection. Find something to turn to. 

5. A big step in coping is cutting out the toxic people in your life. Many people will not understand how and why you feel the way that you do and just won’t accept it or won’t react nicely. Many of us who suffer with mental disorders are homebodies, preferring to stay at home curled up in bed. Not everyone takes that so kindly. Some will go to great lengths to see you as flaky, decide that you are lying and just don’t like them or even see you as bore despite their awareness of your condition. The people who make you feel guilty for something that is out of your control are the ones that you most definitely do not need in your life. Before I cut off those friends in my life, I was constantly anxiety ridden trying to impress them. I just wanted them to keep liking me no matter what. I would force myself to go out, even though I would often feel suicidal if I was away from my house for too long. My main priority was to please them. Please learn from my mistakes and learn to cut those people off and prioritize your mental health.

6. Another trick that I have found helpful is using essential oils! I adore the scent of vanilla. I have found that if I rub a little bit of it on my wrists before putting myself in situations that give me anxiety such as school or work, it always helps me out throughout the day. Say I was dealing with a rude customer or was put on the spot during class- I would smell my wrist (I know that sounds a little strange) and the essential oil would immediately calm my thoughts and bring my heart rate down. It could be any scent, as long as it caters to your needs!

7. I find candles comforting as well! Whenever my job has a candle sale, I stock up because the amount that I burn in a week is just absurd. When I feel my anxiety acting up at home, I’ll light one in my room, leave, and close my door for fifteen minutes. Upon my return, I am flooded by the scent of whichever candle I lit in that moment. Just make sure when purchasing a candle that the wax is soy, as many candles that are sold are not good for you to inhale!

8. This last one may also seem a bit strange, but I promise it helps: Changing my diet. Before, I drank lots of juice (such as the Welch's brand) chock-full of sugar and consumed plenty of chips, cookies, fast food, and junk in general. At first, I only changed my diet for the sole purpose of taking better care of my body. Soon, though, I began to notice alterations in my mood. I didn’t shake any more when arriving to certain classes. I didn’t suffer from nightmares as much as I was used to. I talked to my biology teacher about this, and she explained that foods can affect not only your general health, but your mental health as well. I cut out meat, began drinking more water, and began making my own snacks at home such as 'fruit roll ups' simply composed of blended fruit. I’m not a physician or doctor, so I would suggest talking to a professional for further information and to see if it would be safe for your body. I am merely talking from experience.

These are the coping mechanisms that I’ve learned throughout the years. I cannot guarantee that these will work for you, as everyone is different! Those of us suffering from mental disorders all just want to feel at peace. We just want to be able to go a day without having a panic attack, a pang, shaking, or vomiting. We deserve a chance to try and feel better about our mental healthPlease take care of yourselves, and know your worth! It may take awhile, but I promise recovery is worth it. I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me.

Visual by Indie Fonkem & Text by Lou Escobar

1 comment

  1. A great visual. I love seeing articles on Lithium that give the reader some sort of instruction. <3 We could all use some help coping with our mental illnesses.