Nearly a decade ago, CBT taught me to re-think my thought processes, but it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses. When the universe throws a dodgeball right at your face, there’s always the danger of relapse, and I’ve definitely been close more than once. Close…but no cigar. I believe that I’ve avoided falling back into anxiety because of some key lifestyle changes.
Here’s my personal top 5 – the lifestyle choices that have kept my head above water when the big waves came:
- I maintain a good diet 80/20, eating wholesome, varied, colourful food, with a focus on mood rather than weight. If you haven’t already, I suggest you buy ‘The Happy Kitchen’ by Rachel Kelly. Rachel ate her way out of depression, and thanks to the information and recipes in here, you can do the same. For so much of my life, I’ve put together ‘healthy meals’ because I wanted to lose weight/stay slim at all costs. It’s much more empowering to know that I’m putting together meals that feed my body and brain. It doesn’t hurt either that the meals are delicious!
- I’ve cut down on the alcohol. Me and booze have always had a love/hate relationship and I’ve definitely abused it over the years as a way of masking anxiety. While our relationship is better these days than it was (mostly down to the fact that Saturday nights are now spent with the cats instead of at the club), I’ve become acutely aware that when I do overdo the drink, the negative effects are long-lasting. And I’m not talking about the hangover. Alcohol chemically messes with your brain so while it might make you feel great in the short-term, it might also increase anxiety, depression, paranoia and negativity. Certainly, this is what I’ve found myself… and frankly, no one night out is worth a fortnight-long slump.
- Thanks to Brazillian Jiu Jitsu, I’ve found a way to workout without it feeling like a ‘workout.’ I used to get a great buzz from running, but even at the peak of my training, it was a real effort to get there. Though BJJ is an individual sport, it’s also a lovely, welcoming community, maybe even more so for women because there’s less of us in martial arts/combat sports. It’s an incredible workout and harder than anything I’ve ever done, but it’s so much fun that I often spend my day looking forward to training. There’s so much learning involved along with the physicality of it that I find myself completely immersed in the moment. So while I understand that rolling around on the floor, fighting off choke attacks isn’t for everyone, I absolutely believe in the benefits of finding a form of exercise that excites you rather than fills you with ‘urghhh.’
- I have a good support network, and I am much more willing to talk honestly about what’s going on with me. This is partly an offshoot of the last point, because the girls that I’ve met in BJJ have become an amazing source of strength and wisdom for me. I’ve said before that a lot of us are much better at giving advice than taking it, so we talk about what’s really going on in our heads and give each other honest guidance, based on reason and common sense. We all go through ups and downs – but we’re never all down at the same time. There’s always someone who can motivate you back to reason when your thoughts threaten to sabotage you.
- I’ve developed daily self-help habits that maintain a defense against anxiety. I write in my gratitude diary. I watch TED talks when I wash up. I listen to podcasts and audio books in the car. I practise yoga. I watch comedy shows on TV and laugh loudly and heartily. I actively look for the goodness in people. I never miss an opportunity to give someone a genuine complement. I step into mindfulness at different points throughout each day. I play PS4 games like a teenage boy. Some of this is down to subtle changes; Some is down to a conscious effort to avoid things that trigger my anxiety and instead opt for things that trigger happiness.
There’s always things to work on…. like breaking my coffee addiction. But that’s life right? If you didn’t have any problems to work on, things would become very dull.
Have any of these things worked for you? Anything I’ve missed that has been essential on your road to recovery? Tell me below!