How I've Dealt with Anxiety/Depression Part I
May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, and I thought what better time than to share a bit about my own journey and the ways I take care of myself when it comes to my mental health.
Please note I am not a mental health professional/medical professional and I am not promoting a particular method of treatment, rather I'm sharing my thoughts and experiences.
Mental health and mental illness are areas of health that carry unnecessary stigma around them. We don't shame people suffering from illnesses like cancer or multiple sclerosis, so why do we shame people suffering from mental illness and mental health issues?
I've probably dealt with anxiety and depression most of my life, and though I didn't know it at the time, I believe I had my first panic attack when I was 16. At the time there was a lot of change happening within my family, I also started driving which gave me a great deal of stress and anxiety, and as an average student college seemed out of reach. My mother had a procedure during that time (she was totally fine), but I remember going to school and feeling like the ground was gone from underneath my feet. I couldn't breathe and I felt light-headed. Over the years I have found different methods to cope with the depression and anxiety, which have included, talk therapy, medication, journaling, exercise in general, and yoga in particular.
Though it's a great way to stretch, build strength in your body, and become more flexible physically, yoga also has amazing benefits for ones mental health. The most important component of yoga is the breathing. Some of the benefits of taking long, full, breaths in and out through the nose, (called Prāṇāyāma in yoga), are that it helps the body detoxify and rid itself of toxins, releases tension, massages your organs, strengthens the immune system as well as the nervous system, and elevates the mood, among many other beneficial aspects.
I started practicing yoga in 2013 and it has had one of the biggest impacts on my mental and overall health. It's a practice that I keep coming back to as a way to center and focus myself. Even when I'm not doing an asana practice (yoga poses), I use the controlled breathing or pranayama, to calm and center myself throughout the day.
Even within the first year of practicing I found that my mood and attitude about many things were beginning to change. I was becoming more "flexible" in my thoughts, and I was better able to let things go. I began to understand that most of the discomforts that we deal with in life are only temporary. Anxieties about school or friends and family were things that I had to the tools and patience to cope with. Besides the fact that my body was more toned and stronger, I was also more connected to it in a way I hadn't been before. I listened to my body and was more aware of its needs. I was also able to be more aware and connected to my thoughts. We hold a lot of tension and stress in our bodies, and the days where holding poses or breathing are more difficult are days when I try and evaluate where I am mentally.
Yoga comes from the sanskrit word which means union, and that's why I love practicing so much. My practice is a complete connection of my body, mind and spirit.
Photo Credit Kimberly Blake