Post subtitle: How a $5 Wal-Mart bra can change your life
For you and for me, here's a list of the new things I'm doing to keep depression and anxiety at bay. First, though, let's all acknowledge that bodies and minds and times are different, and what's currently working for me might not work for you, and it might not work for me in the future. There's no magic bullet here. If meds work for you, keep it up. Do not quit meds and hope that yoga and tea will fix that shit. Still, maybe you'll find something that helps. If I'm missing something that works for you, please share it in the comments.
First off: I'm not getting into any talks of cultural appropriation. I refuse to debate anyone who doesn't like yoga. I am telling you, quite honestly, that yoga is making the biggest difference in my life right now. It connects my body and mind and relaxes me better than two drinks ever did. I look forward to it. It gets me out of the house. I talk to people. I sleep better. My body feels stronger. My digestion works better. I bought a travel mat and do it at home and on the road. I read about the history and philosphy behind it. I love my studio and found a teacher I believe in. It's not bullshit. This feeling is real. If yoga isn't your thing, you might try Zumba, Jazzercize, a personal trainer, a barre class, Pilates, kickboxing. Something that forces your brain and body to move and keep you grounded.
2. Probiotics and digestive enzymes
Whether you're considering the ongoing science behind the brain-gut connection or you just get an upset tummy when you're anxious, I can assure you that life is always better when your digestion is regular. You might have to play around with brands and strains that work for you. I've found probiotics that make me feel wretched, and I've tossed them in the trash. But when you find the combination that works, it's awesome. I'm currently using HyperBiotics Pro-15 and DigestMore, an enzyme blend especially helpful for people without gallbladders. It's so important that I don't travel without those bottles. Get thee a good quality probiotic, stat.
3. Natural Calm
This powdered magnesium supplement by Natural Vitality is everything. I have it in cherry flavor and in a formulation balanced with calcium and zinc. Magnesium is freaking awesome-- it helps with digestion, with mood, and with the thyroid, especially Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which I have. I drink 1.5t mixed with water morning and night. It's amazing.
4. No gluten
Yep, I'm one of those gluten free assholes who has tested negative for celiac disease and wheat allergies but nevertheless sees a 180 degree difference in my body when I avoid wheat. When I quit, I dropped 7 pounds immediately and saw huge changes in my entire body, from a lack of sugar cravings to less indigestion to better skin. Not eating wheat means I make better nutritional choices all around. Mind you, I didn't replace wheat products with a barrage of GF snacks; I don't replace bread or buy $5 bags of pretzels, and if I did, I doubt I'd see the weight loss. But I eat a hell of a lot more salad now, and that's pretty cool.
5. Lots of sleep, no matter what it takes.
When I get anxious and depressed, I dread going to bed. I love sleep, but I hate feeling like I can't get the sleep I need. That means that I might have to take a Lorazepam before bed. Or I take Melatonin when I'm traveling or Unisom tablets when it's really bad. Point being that I'd rather take half a Unisom and get ten hours of sleep than proudly toss and turn all night and get four hours of crappy sleep. Find what works for you and use whatever crutch you can until you're on the other side of your mental health issues. Your brain can't heal if it can't sleep.
6. SAD light in the morning
Sunlight can be hard to come by in the winter. I have my SAD light ($80 on Amazon) programmed for 45 minutes. I sit in front of it as I check social media and email in the morning and drink my Crio Bru. The only bad thing about it is the frown I get when the damn thing turns off. And whenever it's sunny, I'm outside, trying to soak that shit up. Vitamin D is your friend.
I suck at meditating on my own, so I use the Headspace app. While traveling, I use earbuds and meditate to go to sleep; I rarely finish the 10 minute session. If Headspace doesn't work for you, there are tons of free apps and sessions online and on YouTube. Hell, even Jeff Bridges does an amazing series of psychedelic meditation trips. Find someone you can listen to and try to make time to clear out your brain.
8. Daily journaling and listmaking
I bought The Artist's Way Morning Pages Journal, a big, hardcover beast. I don't use it the way I'm supposed to. I make a list each day of things that I do that are good for me, or moments I want to remember, or things that made me feel wonderful. I plan books and write quotes that strike me. It's great to look back and see how much I accomplish and how many moments of mercy I tend to forget when times get dark. And when I can't get to sleep at night, I make a list of all the shit I'm worried about or need to do and set it aside until morning, when it feels negligible. Just push that to-do list to Future You and go to sleep.
9. Reading out of my comfort zone
When I was younger and friendless and had acres of time, I loved sweeping fantasy tales that drew me into a new world. But now, with two kids and a husband and a career, I've leaned toward fast, immediately compelling reads, especially YA. I basically untrained my brain to commit to big, fat books. Now I spend my daily bath reading a big ol' fantasy, and I'm remembering how pleasant it is to be immersed in something heavy and long-term. I'm also reading more non-fiction. The idea here is to force your brain to slow down and work in a different way. We get caught in our loops, and it's valuable to do the unexpected.
10. No more underwire
So I've spent most of my adult life wearing lightly padded underwire bras to make my bazooms look bazoomtacular. But once the indigestion and anxiety and gallbladder issues started, I one day realized that I looked forward to taking off my bra every night and never put one on unless I was going out in public. I came to dread the bra. And then I realized that... well, I never promised anyone a fantastic rack. I don't owe the world Victoria Secret boobs. So I started wearing these $4.96 bras from Wal-Mart (pictured above) and never looked back. No confusing straps. No underwire. No tight band. I feel more comfortable all the time, I can do yoga or ride my horse in them, and no one yet has complained about any lack of boob lift. So there. If this doesn't apply to you or you require more support than I do, the take home lesson is this: If you dread a particular item of clothing or part of your beauty routine, see if you can change it or give it up. If your jeans are too tight or you hate tying sneakers or heels hurt your feet or mascara makes your eyelashes fall out, fuck that.
11. Nightly epsom salt bath that is sacrofuckingsanct
I blogged at length about this, and I stand behind it. Epsom salts, dead sea salts, essential oils, Lush bath bombs. Get that hour of relaxation and enjoy the hell out of it.
12. Forgiving myself
Every Thursday at yoga, we each draw a card from deck. My card last week, which I drew on Wednesday because I knew I couldn't make Thursday, said, “I forgive myself. As I forgive myself, I leave behind all feelings of not being good enough, and I am free to love myself.” Goddamn, that's powerful. I hold myself to very high standards, and when I mess up, I chew on it and nurse it until I feel like shit. No more. Let it go.
13. Eating well
Fruits, vegetables, cheese, nuts, quality meats. The more I rely on prepackaged food, the worse I feel. I've even upgraded the protein bars I take when I travel to make them less candy bar and more rectangular whole foods. I'll bake a pan of chicken breasts and use them to make turmeric chicken salad or toss the into a bed of spring mix or stir fry with frozen broccoli. Just making them ahead of time suddenly makes every meal easier.
14. Lots of tea
Seriously. I've learned to love tea. I love Jasmine White Pearl tea and Candy Cane Lane tea and Caramel Yerba Mate tea and Decaf Coconut Chai tea. A lovely fan sent me a fancy batch of Russian Caravan tea. Tea is good for you and warms you up and hydrates you. Buy good tea and stop your crazy life and relish it for ten minutes.
15. Recognizing signs of anxiety and shutting them down
If someone is posting tons of good news on Facebook and I feel myself getting jealous? I unfollow them. If everyone on Twitter seems to have great announcements? I don't read my feed. Googling symptoms or illnesses makes me crazy? I don't do it. Talking to someone ratchets up my blood pressure? I don't take the call. Stuck in a real life convo that makes me feel like shit? Bye, Felicia-- albeit politely. Basically, when you feel your body start to freak, you slam down the NOPE and stop whatever it is. Get up, go do something else. Turn on music and dance around. Whatever it takes, don't let that shit in. You're worth it.
What's working for you?