For most of my life I have suffered with anxiety and depression. It took me years to really understand why and to get to the root of understanding anxiety and depression and what these very strong emotions mean.
Several years ago I started meditating which worked wonders for my panic attacks but the feeling of anxiety (right in my gut) would always come back. It wasn’t until I read a passage in Deepak Chopra’s book “The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire” that I truly began to understand anxiety and depression from a more holistic perspective.
There are several causes for anxiety and depression . I believe all of our emotions exist to benefit us and by simply taking a deeper look we can begin to hear the messages that exist within these feelings.
I am using both anxiety and depression here because where one is often the other one exists as well. When I deal with and listen to my anxiety the depression instantly leaves, so in my experience I strongly believe that the cause for my deep bouts of depression came from not dealing with my anxiety.
Going deeper into understanding anxiety and depression:
In his book (“The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire”) Deepak states that anxiety comes from not being true to yourself. A few pages later he describes how relationships are the mirror to the Self. He has you do an exercise where you list all the qualities you love about a very attractive person to you and all the qualities you dislike about a very unattractive person to you. Then he states that you are all the qualities both the attractive and the unattractive.
I realized that the main reason for my anxiety was a complete lack of self-acceptance. While I was aware that my relationships were a mirror for my own Self I still refused to accept my flaws and have worked ridiculously hard to rid myself of them rather than just simply accepting them. Thusly, I haven’t been very accepting of others either.
Ram Dass, one of my most favorite teachers, states that when he sees himself acting or thinking in a negative way rather than judging himself he simply states “God look how deliciously human I am”. I read this years ago but it has always stuck with me. This is a wonderful statement of complete self-acceptance.
We all have the capability to be both very negative or to be very positive. All of us have flaws or behaviors that we might not like. But the best way to experience peace is to experience it within first and the first step to that is acceptance of who we are.
Another key to understanding anxiety and depression is to become aware of when you are resisting. Naturally, we resist our emotions especially those that are painful or uncomfortable. However, I have realized and experienced that when I move into my anxiety (using a gentle curiosity) it immediately releases.
Same goes for depression. I rarely feel depressed these days but I still have “down” days so when these happen I go with it. I’ll let myself feel sad, I treat myself kindly, I take a bath, etc. But I don’t fight it because if I do that it throws me right back into the cycle of depression and anxiety attacks.
Talk to yourself with kindness. If you feel yourself resisting these strong emotions because they are painful, just be kind and gentle. Speak yourself out of resistance and into acceptance. Using sentences like: “I accept that right now I feel anxious and depressed but I know it will pass.”
Also, another tool that works really well for me is just asking myself why I feel this way. Is there a message I need to hear? Something I need to address that I haven’t? Then I journal whatever comes to mind. This is hugely helpful and will relieve any feelings of anxiety within minutes. Plus, it takes you out of resistance and into gentle curiosity.
The Present Moment
This is a big one and probably the biggest cause of anxiety and depression. Living outside of the present moment will cause anxiety which will lead to depression, period. It’s easily counteracted though, just find time each day especially when you are experiencing anxiety by placing yourself in the present moment. Whatever you are doing pay attention to it. Get curious about it and use your 5 senses to help you.
The more practice and attention you pay on staying within the moment the better you will feel and the less anxiety you will have to deal with. Meditation is a perfect way to get yourself present. So is sitting outside and listening to the birds or reading a good book. There are a million ways to get present, find ones that speak to you and practice them regularly. If you only do this one thing you will still find that one day, not to far from now, you aren’t depressed anymore and you no longer suffer from anxiety.
Lastly, become aware of how you might be overwhelming yourself. A dear friend of mine pointed this out to me – that I suffer from self-induced overwhelm. I laughed, it was so obvious but I had never put that together as being a cause of my anxiety. All of us tend to overwhelm ourselves from time to time with stressful thoughts, things we need to get done, a busy schedule, a cluttered home, etc. Look for ways you can release your overwhelm and take it day by day, minute by minute.