The title of this sounds a lot more depressing than I mean it to, but I’ve been struggling lately. If you have anxiety, depression, or are dealing with trauma, it really comes down to you being able to regulate yourself and working toward getting yourself to be able to find out what’s true and what’s not. Sure, friends, family, and intimate partners can be there for support, but ultimately it is your responsibility to try to regulate yourself.
That can be really frustrating, though, when the people around you trigger you, or you were harmed by someone close to you. Maybe someone close to you caused the trauma, or contributed. Shouldn’t they try to help you? Yes. They should, but not at the expense of you learning to help yourself. There is nothing more constraining than feeling like the people who hurt you were the ones you sought comfort from. Learning to give that to yourself is hard if you didn’t have stability growing up or emotional connection. I’ve been working on self-regulating lately and failing. Here are some of the things I’ve learned though.
- Sometimes simple distraction works. When I have to work 11-12 hours at a rehab center, I get to focus on other people and then I am forced to not look at my emotional pain. Usually that works for me, it’s rare that I would think my work would be impaired because of my personal mental state… but then, maybe I’m just too good at compartmentalization.
- Sometimes taking care of your basic human needs, like eating well, drinking water, exercising, or taking a shower can help. However, I do know that there are days when it’s hard to get out of bed and the thought of exercising is repulsive … don’t force yourself to do something that feels awful. Find a balance between the discomfort of starting something when you don’t feel like it and the potential benefit.
- Talking to other people can be good, but can get tricky if you don’t feel ready to talk about a trauma, for example, or if people know you struggle with anxiety/depression/trauma and you feel as though they don’t want to hear about it anymore. That might or might not be true, but I do think loved one’s frustrations come with seeing you miserable, not the fact that they don’t want to hear about it. Oftentimes they just feel helpless. It’s good to have someone you feel like you can tell everything to and that that person understands. If you don’t have that at the moment, try to reach out online through forums, or have some other outlet like blogging (like me!).
- Some days you flat out will just want to stay in bed. If you need to do that, sometimes that’s what needs to happen. Try to set small tasks for yourself that are manageable and not overwhelming. For example, I set a time limit for half an hour for tidying up my room today to not get overwhelmed and had instrumental piano music on in the background.
- I do realize that sometimes the thought of even trying to tackle something is so overwhelming that it can leave you in tears. If you are in that space today, or any day, do what feels good to you. And if that means nothing, then do nothing. I realize sometimes emotional pain can be so bad that everything becomes overwhelming, you have interest in nothing, and you can’t think. If you can take a nap outside, I would recommend that. If you can bring yourself to read a meditation book, I would recommend that. If you can’t do any of those things, I would try to recall a time when you felt happy, by yourself, and it wasn’t contingent on anything else. Here is an excerpt from a “happy” journal that I started keeping years ago to remind myself of good things when I feel anxious… and no, there aren’t many entries. lol. This is from yesterday:
I am not happy, but this was compelling enough to mention. Last night lightning lit the sky and millions of lightning bugs lit the fields as I walked in the dark on country roads, trying and failing to photograph both. The breeze swept over me and through the muggy night. I was briefly reminded of who I used to be: adventuring out in nature alone as a child, never bored, not happy–but content. I feel like I woke up at 29 and went to bed at 9. After my anxiety and insecurities sort of took over, it takes effort to get back to myself.
- Find something that serves to remind you of the core of who you are. Try not to forget, or fall into a trance/dissociation like I have. It’s hard to do, it’s hard to come back to yourself after kind of living in a dissociative state for so long, but to live more fully it has to be done.