Coping with Difficult Days

Written by Sahar Abdulaziz, MS

There are numerous challenges one must face when learning how best to cope with a chronic mood or anxiety disorder. Those who live with these disorders often describe feelings of uncertainty, feeling drained, and combating an overall sense of gloom exacerbated by unanticipated shifts in home life, jobs, or relationships. Others find themselves consumed with shame and guilt associated with having a mental disorder, and this begins to impede on a person’s ability to provide for their family or earn a living. Sometimes well-meaning family and friends are just as perplexed and challenged and unsure of how to help. Ultimately their support becomes sporadic and uneasy.

People with chronic mood symptoms and mental pain sometimes have difficulty enjoying the simple pleasures in life. Those who suffer from depression will often revert to autopilot, barely sliding through their daily chores and responsibilities, unable to fully engage in their work or family life. To the outside world, they may appear just fine, but inside, their mind and body are in crisis — facing a profound sense of psychological exhaustion. As a result, not only is the person with the mood or anxiety disorder struggling financially and interpersonally, but their self-image and self-esteem takes a beating. This is especially challenging when someone is already struggling to hold everything together and why many become overwhelmed. However, it does not have to be the case.

Finding techniques to work through the various stages of grief and anger allows men and women to move forward into a new life while reducing stress, generating new and attainable goals by reprioritizing tasks, and setting up a positive environment to foster a feeling of inner peace and self-acceptance.

TIPS TO COPE WHEN LOSING HOPE

1. DROP THE LABELS

Never be defined by your mood disorder. You are not your anxiety or depression. Nor are you your Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. You may be clinically depressed or riddled with anxiety, but that is a health condition to contend with, not who you are at your core.

2. WRITE ON

Some people report that writing or journaling about their illness has helped them cope. Putting emotions to words is empowering and a healing tool. Writing provides clarity of thought and can become part of the process dedicated to honoring the journey while inspiring courage to face an uncertain future with optimism. Journaling can also be an indispensable tool to facilitate the grieving process––the loss of what was and a genuine acceptance of the new normal.

3. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

Learn about your disease process. Acquire information about what you are living with and become an active participant in your treatment. Seek out assistance from support groups, one-on-one therapy sessions, and seminars.

4. EMBRACE THE NEW YOU

Learning to embrace all the parts of yourself can be the most vital piece of success. That means accepting the good and bad, the frustrating, and the frightening. Learn to reconcile yourself to your mood or anxiety disorder to regain power and control. This can create a peace of mind and space where you can feel safe.

5. EXPRESS YOURSELF

Besides writing, explore your emotions through art. Unearth those hidden talents laid to rest when other life responsibilities dragged you away from your creative center. Do not concentrate on what cannot be done, but relish in all the things you can accomplish.

6. LET’S GET PHYSICAL

Exercise doesn’t have to be laborious or tedious. You don’t need to join a fancy gym either. Just move, breathe, walk, run, swim, or bike ride. Staying active is vitally important when facing the challenges of a mood or anxiety disorder. Researchers suggest thirty minutes of exercise a day, three to five days a week to significantly improve depression symptoms. If you cannot manage that amount of time, even smaller segments of movement and exercise can make a significant impact on a person’s overall health and mindset. How about dancing for a few minutes in the kitchen or living room? Sway those arms, kick your legs! Get those feel-good endorphins working for you. Start small, and build up slowly. There are no unattainable mountains to climb or valleys to climb out of. This is simply about allowing movement to help the body release tension, reduce stress, and improve sleep. Although exercise is not a cure, it is a proactive strategy in helping one manage the symptoms of anxiety and depression.  

7. ACCEPT HELP

Take off the mask of presenting yourself as “just fine” and let those you trust be there for you. Take pride in big and small accomplishments, and recognize how each step bravely taken forward is another step toward attaining independence and acceptance.

8. LEARN TO BE COMPASSIONATE TO YOURSELF

Learn to honor your limitations. Recognize that mood disorders and anxiety cannot be beaten through sheer will and determination. It takes ongoing courage to combat mental illness daily.

9. MINDFULNESS & SPIRITUALITY

Stay mentally in the moment and out of the past or present. Spiritual beliefs and faith are also exceptional coping mechanisms which can provide a philosophical frame of reference and meaning to suffering and life challenges.

Lastly, always remember, change is difficult. Nobody chooses to have a mood or anxiety disorder. The good news is that while mental anguish is challenging, it can also be a good teacher, guiding one through incredible changes and extraordinary growth. Despite the frustrations, challenges, and struggles, sufferers can eventually learn to befriend and coexist in relative peace with their mental disorder.

Bio: Sahar Abdulaziz is the author of But You LOOK Just Fine, Unmasking Depression, Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder; a user-friendly resource and support group in a book. Through her writing, Abdulaziz demonstrates that those who have faced difficult life challenges are not victims, but survivors.

Find But You LOOK Just Fine: Unmasking Depression, Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder on Amazon here.

Visit Abdulaziz at www.saharraziz.com .

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