As most of you know, I’ve been struggling with a variety of physical and mental health issues lately- ones which are very heavily linked to one another (but that’s an entire post altogether).
Since being pretty public about these topics, I’ve had so many people (mostly women) reach out to me to let me know they’re going through similar things- or have gone through it before.
In such messages, one of the most common things they write is:
“Thank you for talking about this. I don’t feel like enough people express their struggles. I’ve been dealing with the same feelings lately, and I haven’t known how to get through it.”
After receiving hundreds (literally hundreds) of messages like this, I’ve felt a variety of emotions come up.
Comfort in knowing we’re never truly alone, even if we feel like we are.
Sadness for their pain.
And confidence in my choice to show up authentically through ALL the stages of my life- even if the vulnerability feels a little awkward or embarrassing at the time.
All of that being said, I wanted to share a few tools I’ve leaned into during this “dark period.”
As I’ve reiterated before, I’m not a professional in these areas, in that I don’t have a background or any sort of credentials in psychology, nor health care.
I’m simply sharing a few things that have brought even just a GLIMMER of light into each day, in hopes that you find that same spark yourself if you feel like you’ve lost it, too.
I won’t dwell on this one too long, as it speaks for itself. I put this at the top of the list, because I think turning to a professional is the safest option to ensure you’re getting proper care.
However, I fully recognize that putting this option at the top of the list is proof of my privilege.
Because, let’s be real- therapy is NOT cheap.
I get that.
I found it hard to part with a few hundred extra dollars a month at the beginning, as well.
But then I realized that not only is my mental health is invaluable, but I’m also fortunate enough to have that money- so why not INVEST in my total well-being?
I should also mention that it took me a few tries to find someone that I actually clicked with, which made the financial aspect feel even MORE wasteful.
But, damn, now that I’m working with a woman I know I can trust and reach out to at any time- it’s made the other attempts so worth it.
I feel totally held by her.
I feel totally heard by her.
And I feel totally safe with her.
Nothing compares to that.
It's also important to note that therapy can come in all shapes and sizes.
Find a method that works for YOU.
Personally, I've found acupuncture to be just as beneficial for me as the sessions with my therapist.
The acupuncturist I see also holds a super safe and nurturing environment, that truly encourages HEALING.
Plus, she hooks me up with crazy herb concoctions that taste like ass, but do a great job at kicking my yeast infections to the curb.
Point being, maybe talk therapy isn't your thing.
Maybe acupuncure isn't either.
I'd just like to encourage you to see what's out there, before dismissing the idea of tending to your mental health.
Insert eye roll here, right?
I know, I know, everyone always talks about this idea of focusing on what you’re grateful for.
And, I don’t know about you, but when I’m that down and someone says something like that- all I can think of is:
How the fuck is seeing the beauty in a random flower, or a sunset ACTUALLY going to magically cure me right now?
I’ll be straight with you- it doesn’t work like that.
It’s a practice- a process that, overtime, helps to shift your overall perspective.
Here’s my take on it- it’s OKAY to feel all those feelings associated with darkness (sadness, pain, hurt, anger, resentment, etc).
In fact, I think it’s important to feel them all.
The danger lies not having those reactions to events.
The danger lies in dwelling in these spaces.
The longer we dwell, the more all of those yucky feelings fester and thrive off of one another- and the more difficult it becomes to pull ourselves out of it.
Because, let’s be realistic here, it’s a helluva lot easier to stay in that space of moping, pity, whatever you want to call it- rather than fight to pull ourselves out of it.
Incorporating a gratitude practice into my day-to-day life has forced me to see light in areas where I might otherwise only see gloom.
I use Five Minute Journal (the app) every morning when I wake up.
There are also hardback copies you can buy, as well- but given my lifestyle, having it on my phone has been super handy.
Since I’ve had my (let’s just call it) break down, usually the first thing I write to be grateful for every morning is just:
That’s how simple it is.
Some days I find beauty and abundance in most things, while other days I truly struggle to come up with even three.
But, I try.
And I think that’s the point in all of this.
I’ve written about this before, so I won’t go into the details of exactly what this entails for me.
I will say, however, this has helped to keep me grounded during a time of extreme uncertainty.
As I mentioned above, I do Five Minute Journal just about first thing when I wake up.
I avoid checking social media and/or emails until I’ve had even just a short meditation, and full ARRIVAL into the new day.
The great thing about a morning routine is that it’s something I can take with me everywhere, anywhere in the world.
However, there will need to be adjustments made- no doubt.
I was surprised how unsettled I felt a few days ago the first morning I woke up in Bali, simply because I didn’t have my own kettle for my morning tea ritual.
This jolt of annoyance just made me realize how sacred the first few hours of my morning are to me- so I quickly adjusted accordingly.
This one is big.
It’s so important to have people who know what you’re going through.
Then the weight won’t feel quite so heavy.
That being said, I think that as valuable as the online world is- it’s much more important to have support from “real” people in your life.
What I mean is, people you actually KNOW.
People you’ve spent time with, laughed with, cried with, experienced bits of life with.
However, your go-to people might not be in your immediate area.
This when technology is a God send.
I swear, sending long voice notes with my girl friends every day has been enough to make me smile EVERY day.
Even if I’m smiling through the tears.
I’m so grateful for the people around me lifting me up- family, friends, and loved ones.
And I hope you have even just ONE person like this in your life you can rely on.
Let them be there for you, even if you don’t want to.
Let them love you.
This one is very multifaceted, and can be whatever you make of it.
Maybe that means detoxing from social media/technology, relationships, or food.
Whatever it may be- usually these super low moments are a reminder that certain energies we’re letting into our sphere are NOT serving us.
It’s our job to figure out what those are.
And it’s out job to cut them off, or at least phase them out.
It’s pretty simple- does this practice, person, or thing lift you?
If the answer is yes, then keep it.
If the answer is no, then BYE.
If the answer is unclear, then see what happens if you lessen the amount of time you dedicate to this person, place, or experience.
Observe how you feel.
Look, you guys already know I’m vegan.
You know I have a dedicated fasting practice.
So I’m not going too continue to repeat myself there.
Also, you and I are at totally different point in our lives- so I’m not going to tell you what to eat, when to eat, how much of it to eat.
All I’ll say is that remember your body is a vehicle.
The higher quality fuel you put into it, the better it will perform.
Food/eating habits are so connected to depressive states.
We either overeat all the things that we crave, but might not serve us.
Or we don’t eat at all, because there’s just no appetite.
Maybe you don’t experience either of these things.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, just notice what you’re putting into your body during this time.
Notice how it makes you feel physically, energetically, emotionally- not just while eating, but also after.
I find that when I clean up my diet, I FEEL better on all levels.
However, it’s super important to note that if I eat something that “unhealthy” (has refined sugar, is processed, not organic, WHATEVER), and I feel good about eating it- then that’s OKAY.
The last thing you need when you’re depressed or anxious is to put yourself on a strict diet- because that’s just going to cause more worry.
All I’m suggesting is be mindful of what goes in, and how the output feels.
Be gentle and loving with yourself.
Everyone has a movement of choice- whether it’s yoga, surfing, running, hiking, skipping, snowboarding.
DO MORE OF THAT.
Or, if you can’t do MORE, then just do it at all.
I get it, sometimes it’s hard to just get the fuck out of bed.
But that’s when you need it most, I promise.
Even five minutes will help.
Moving your body means you’re moving the energy that’s within you, rather than letting it stay in that stagnate, festering phase.
My go-to movements are yoga (obviously), even if it’s just a couple deep breaths and stretches.
This is seriously my therapy.
Waiting until it cools down- putting in my headphones, listening to voice notes from loved ones, sending them back, and just MOVING all those ruminating thoughts around.
I’m not putting this at the bottom, because I think it should be prioritized last.
I just think it’s important to have at least somewhat of a foundation as far as mental health goes, before extending yourself to others.
We all know the idea of not being able to give from an empty cup, right?
Yeah, well that applies here.
I don’t know about you, but when I fall into a depressive state- I fall hard.
I don’t see nor feel ANY light.
But, then I start to claw myself out.
And after a few weeks, or months, I come back to myself a little more and recognize that OF COURSE there’s hope.
Of course there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s just going to take awhile to get there.
But at least that shred of hope is back.
It’s in this time that I feel comfortable serving others.
What does this mean?
Well, it can mean just about anything.
First of all, I’d suggest letting your act of service also be something that you actually ENJOY doing.
For instance, I miss teaching yoga.
So, I just offered to teach free classes to any women who contact me while I’m in Ubud over the next few weeks.
This feels great for me, because I love teaching.
And it feels great for them- because yoga is fucking awesome, and because it’s not a financial burden.
That’s just a small example.
Essentially, this totally depends on YOU- where you live, what’s needed, you’re skills, interests, etc etc.
Whatever you do- let it come from a place of truly just wanting to give, rather than wanting to get better.
This can be tricky.
And maybe it’ll take a few tries, and a few options to figure out what that means.
But when you know, you know.
You’ll feel it.
It will feel selfless, rather than selfish.
I know, I know- the whole argument that all good deeds are selfish, because they make us feel good in some way (hello, I grew up watching Friends).
I agree with this to a degree.
Although the act might make us feel good, it’s the intention we enter into the act with that matters.
Are you doing it to serve YOU?
Or are you doing it to serve THEM?
Get clear on that before jumping in.
Just a Final Few Reminders:
You’re not alone.
You have the tools AND the answers already within you- it’s just going to take some work to unearth them (and that’s okay!).
Light exists due to the contrast of darkness- it’s there.
Don’t lose faith.
You’ve got this.