Editor's Note: This is a "best-of Joan" column, which first ran on Oct. 11, 2019.
We live in a fast paced world, seldom taking the time to catch our breath. Add to the general stress of life, a significant event such as losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, going through a divorce, or another difficult situation, and you have a recipe for emotional overload.
Emotional overload keeps us in a continual state of stress and stress can wreak havoc on our system. While it is normal to feel sad, lonely, and/or scared at times, it’s important to pay attention to our feelings and take action when necessary. In more severe cases of depression, medical attention may be warranted.
According to experts, anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health concerns in our society, and they are often experienced as a complex set of emotional and functional challenges.
People suffering from anxiety or depression can have very different experiences. Some may have mild symptoms that do not have too much of an impact of their daily life, while others may experience debilitating anxiety attacks or severe depression. I know people who have ended up in the hospital thinking it was a heart attack, only to find out they were experiencing an anxiety attack. And, symptoms may come and go. Just when you think you’re feeling better, wham … you get hit like a truck and knocked down all over again.
I have dealt with major anxiety and depression two times in my adult life. The first was after the birth of my second child, and the second was when my mother and sister died and I got divorced (all occurring within six months).
We all worry too much about every day things. But what constitutes ‘too much’? Experts say ‘too much’ means having persistent anxious thoughts on most days of the week and the anxiety interferes with daily life. When it interferes with daily life, seek medical care. But, if it is something within your control, you can try making some life changes.
Exercise. Exercise is a natural mood booster because it produces feel-good chemicals in your body. These chemicals are like those in anti-depressants.
Meditate or try yoga to help you relax and reduce stress.
Write or journal. Writing is a wonderful way to express and release your feelings.
Stop feeding your fears. Break the fear-adrenaline-fear cycle.
Change your thoughts. Your thoughts cause the brain to create chemicals that may feed anxiety and depression. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones and help your brain produce serotonin, dopamine, and other feel-goods.
Eat healthy. Eliminate sugar and processed foods and eat a more plant-based, nutritious diet.
Get a good night’s rest. Experts recommend seven to eight hours per night. Unplug a few hours before going to bed. I love a cup of chamomile tea at night.
A good support team is vital to healing. People that have managed anxiety or depression say that help from loved ones played an integral part in their recovery. Listen to family and friends when they tell you something is off. They may see it before you do. Don’t be embarrassed and ask for and/or accept help. You need time to get better. You can’t pour from an empty cup so refill yours!
Sometimes people will avoid you when you’re going through a difficult situation. That says more about them than it does you. Your true friends will be there, no matter what. If they choose not to, then they’re not really a friend, and they shouldn’t be in your life. The first time I experienced a ‘breakdown’ as I like to call it, my husband told me that he was tired of me being so sick all the time. The second time, he didn’t offer any support. You can now see why he’s my ex-husband!