**DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional, but just someone who’s suffered for years with anxiety and has come out on the other side mostly unscathed. Always seek the advice of a medical professional first.
I first started having severe anxiety problems when I was about 14. I distinctly remember being at my grandmother’s house on vacation with my mom and experiencing what I thought was just shortness of breath, which turned out to be a full blown panic attack. I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to be able to say, “Oh yeah, that’s anxiety”. Instead, I ignored it and said my back hurt. For years, the physical symptoms of anxiety plagued me without any real thought towards it. My most common symptom was muscle spasms in my mid and lower back that made breathing nearly impossible. This would strike at seemingly random times, often when I was no longer ‘worried’ or ‘anxious’ and on one occasion took me all the way to urgent care.
The first time I had the can’t-catch-your-breath-pacing-around-like-a-weirdo attack was while working at my local movie theater. I was working the concession stand, which is essentially a long rectangle with a stock room in the back. It was a midday, boring shift but something triggered me. Maybe an ex came with their new beau? Maybe a surprising text message? Who knows, surely I don’t remember now. But what I do remember is pacing, panicking and meticulously counting the concrete blocks that formed the managers/box office right ahead of me. Over and over and over again. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. And again. And again. And again. Why eight? I don’t know honestly. Maybe it was from dance lessons as a kid or maybe something about eight just resonates with me.
But in the end, something had to give. After a breakdown call to my General Physician who referred me to a psychiatrist, I was diagnosed as high-functioning panic disorder and prescribed therapy and medication. I first went to therapy my second year in college when I realized that what I deemed my ‘crazy’ was affecting those around me negatively. I’d had some latent realizations of trauma from my past and it hit me like a freight train at 19. Therapy was amazing for me, but that isn’t a universal experience. From a spasmodic 14 year old girl to now, over a decade later, here I am kicking it with my Anxiety Demon like I would a friend. I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks over the years, so here they are. I hope they can at least provide a reference if not a helpful trick or two to anyone else that suffers.
Learn the early signs
The tightening in your chest, the tunnel vision, the suddenly-fuzzy hearing, the rush of heat to your face and neck. Learning the early signs of an anxiety attack can be the most crucial thing. By learning the trigger signs, you may be able to slow or completely avoid a panic attack. That’s how I was able to truly control my little Anxiety Demon – because I figured out how she operated. As soon as I feel those few rushed heartbeats, I take deep breaths and try to relax. Normally, whatever I’m worked up over doesn’t really matter.
Don’t mix medication and caffeine
I learned this the hard way one night while working at the local haunted house. I took my prescribed medication because I was panicking – then immediately chugged a Monster Energy drink because I was tired. BOY – was that the worst idea. Never in my life have I felt what my body felt during the next hour after drinking that energy drink – I could feel my heart palpitating in slow motion. (In general, high levels of caffenation will make your anxiety worse no matter what, so be careful when engaging with coffee, energy drinks, etc. if you’re not used to it).
Find something simple and stupid that soothes you
When I started out, counting made me feel better for some reason. I have no history of OCD or any other numbers related ailments, but counting my breath, counting the ceiling tiles, counting the steps it took to get around a building mid-attack was comforting and soothing. A lot of relaxation apps will have you count your breath as a wind down activity, so there must be some reasoning to the numbers. I also used to run my hands under cold water, especially if I had an attack while working. I wanted to cool down – bring my senses down – as quickly as possible. I wanted to extinguish the fire roaring in my head and chest and by running cold water on my hands, it almost immediately brought a sense of ‘Oh yeah, I’m back now’.
Just know, as it starts it will also stop
One of the toughest things about anxiety is that you truly do believe that you will die. That you will always feel this way. That you will never be able to have a deep breath ever again. But that’s the thing: anxiety is just a mental block. It will stop, you will breath again, you just have to let it either pass or run it course naturally. You can create a mantra to remind yourself of this during the attacks or just let yourself feel the flow and know that it will end.
Create a safety net
Whether it’s an aromatherapy inhaler, special bubble bath or your favorite food, create a small cache of things that make you feel better or grounded. I carried an aromatherapy inhaler in my purse for years that my grandma gave me after my first panic attack. I still have it and occasionally use it when I’m feeling full of lightning. Certain scents are good on the senses and can help you unwind like lavender, jasmine, bergamot and chamomile.
Download apps or find books to help
These days, I’m sure you find yourself mindlessly scrolling social media, creating an even worse social anxiety experience for yourself like we all do. Sometimes taking a break from social media while staying connected to your phone can help. I’m a personal fan of Candy Crush (proud level 644) or a meditation app like Headspace. Not a phone person? Never fear, books are here! Over the last year, I’ve built quite the arsenal of books to help me understand my issues. From Emotional Detox to First, We Make The Beast Beautiful, there are plenty of books worth checking out about emotions and anxiety.
Talk to someone
The easiest way to come down from a panic attack is to discuss it with someone. When you’re walking someone else through the panic and fears you have, it may be easier to realize how outlandish or wild they are. Whether it’s your therapist, a friend, or a partner/spouse, talking it out can release the hold that your Anxiety Demon has on you. It can ease the tension while allowing you space to breathe.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to depression, contact 911. If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454 or text “HELLO” to 741741 the Crisis Text Line.
Let me be the first to say that I am a natural pessimist, an anxiety-ridden, serial depressive who is an enneagram 6. I’m not one for religion, overly positive mantras or crystals, but I’m willing to try just about anything at least once if it’ll improve my mental health and life. Like many others, 2020 was a rough year mentally, physically and emotionally. Fresh off the hell that was Q4 2019 (see How to Heal a Broken Millennial Heart for further understanding), 2020 was doomed from the start. It was to be a year of transition, a metamorphosis if you will.
When 2020 started, I was at my heaviest – emotionally, physically and mentally – and the most uncomfortable in my own skin. Each day was a trial, presenting countless obstacles for my personal and professional life. However, through all of the changes and adjustments, one thing prevailed: I suddenly had time. More time than I knew what to do with.
I began having to confront things that I’d been able to push away thanks to being busy at work or by spending time with friends. I discovered pieces of myself that I wasn’t a huge fan of and wanted to change that. Serendipitously, 2020 became the year of realization and inner growth. Now, I won’t be one of those bloggers or influencers that vomit positivity and about how great 2020 was. Don’t get me wrong, 2020 SUCKED. But through the darkness, we can find light. That’s why I wanted to make a vision board for 2021.
What is a vision board?
A vision board, sometimes referred to as a dream board, is a physical way to manifest what you want. It’s a visualization tool used to manifest or ‘visualize’ what dreams or ideas you want to project into the universe. Personally, I’m not into all that touchy-feely stuff, but again, anything is worth a try at least once. This year, I’ve learned that there is no bigger obstacle than myself. I am what creates (and thus destroys) my own happiness. I am the only one who controls that.
What is included in a vision board?
It can be anything you want. There are a few different ways to go about building a vision board, so truly there is no wrong answer. I made two – one for general ideation (completed) and one for specific goals (in progress). I included quotes, reminders, photos, souvenirs, small tokens/gifts and stickers. Besides the cork board itself, I only purchased one magazine to cut up – otherwise everything else was just stuff I had lying around my house. This does not have to be an expensive project – but it will require some time and thought.
How does it work?
Vision boards serve as a physical reminder for what you’re wanting to achieve. Seeing it everyday will help keep your goals or ideas at the forefront of your mind as you progress through the weeks and months. It can help to motivate you in a passive way. Rather than an obnoxious alarm on your phone or a calendar reminder, you can be met with a peaceful, self-created image that hangs on your wall as a friendly notice.
Here’s my vision board, broken into four segments: travel, healing, growth, reminders.
Top Left – Travel
Each year, except 2020, I plan a trip abroad. I love to travel and to help visualize that, I’ve included a photo of the airplane when I visited Scotland, a luggage tag from France in 2011, a polaroid from the condo in Marco Island and a few travel themed stickers. I hope to travel, whether a big or small trip, and remember how lucky I am to be able to do that.
Top Right – Growth
Midway through 2020, I was invited to join a personal and professional growth program through my company. I was hesitant at first, feeling that I was already at a transitional point in my life, but decided, ‘why not?’. I had nothing to lose, but so much to gain. I’ve included two acronyms to remember daily: one from the work program (S.N.A.P.) and one from the Emotional Detox book by Sherianna Boyle, MED, CAGS (C.L.E.A.N.S.E.)
Bottom Left – Healing
As mentioned in How to Heal a Broken Millennial Heart, 2019 was a shitstorm before 2020 dreamed of it. I’ve included a dream catcher from a Lakota reservation that my grandmother gifted to me, a postcard from Annecy, a fortune cookie and quotes. This section will serve as a reminder that healing is a priority throughout this year – even when it doesn’t always feel good.
Bottom Right: Reminders
The bottom right has no true theme, but just gentle reminders. The moon cycle is a reminder that everything will pass and change. The polaroid is a reminder to get out every once in a while, embrace nature and the relationships that I’ve cultivated over the last year. Lastly, the patch, simple and straightforward – have a nice day.
Stay tuned for part two: goals!
A true gift from this shithole year was Animal Crossing. Originally released in 2001, AC has been popular amongst audiences for almost two decades; releasing in the US in 2002. With over 40 million units sold worldwide and five spinoff games, there is clearly something for everyone to love and learn from Animal Crossing.
The newest game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released worldwide in the beginning of 2020 on the Nintendo Switch, eight years after the previous AC game release. A perfect storm of social distancing and much needed entertainment brought AC:NH to new heights, with over 5 million downloads in the first month alone. So what’s so great about this game?
First and foremost, I am not an avid video game player nor am I a good video game player. I typically get bored after a few gaming sessions, having only completed two games prior (s/o We Happy Few and BioShock!). But I love AC:NH and have spent 310 hours playing over the last six months. This is what I learned while playing AC:NH.
You embark on a deserted island getaway and are able to create, morph and design your perfect island over time. You have residents that move to your island, along with shops, seasonal events and more to experience. Thanks to your raccoon overlord, Tom Nook, you start the getaway in debt, but don’t worry, you’re able to pay it off quickly.
What I Learned
Daily tasks are necessary – in the game and life.
As a person who’s struggled with heavy depression on and off for a decade, sometimes the essential tasks like cleaning, laundry or eating can be a burden. In AC:NH, your character is rewarded for doing simple things like picking up sticks, clearing weeds or chopping down trees. Being able to make a character push through mundane tasks made it a little easier to force myself to get out of bed and do laundry.
If you’re unhappy, restart.
I spent almost 275 hours building an island which is roughly 12 full days. I received the coveted 5-star rating on accident at around 180 hours and was seriously unhappy. I really didn’t like my island – I started playing without knowing the purpose, creating a mismatched, haphazardly built island that I really wasn’t enjoying. So I restarted. Erased all that work and started over. That same principle can be applied to each of us every single day. If we’re unhappy with something – our attitude, mindset, exercise level, whatever – we can change that. Hit the restart button until you’re at ease and at peace with yourself.
Everything changes and that’s okay.
You can build a perfect utopia from top to bottom, but inevitably something will change that you have no control over – like the seasons. AC:NH is set to recreate the seasons of your hemisphere, changing the available DIY crafts, ingredients and overall landscape of your island. This is not something that can be fought, but merely accepted. I do not enjoy change as a person, but playing this game has surprisingly made it a little easier to accept. (An overexaggerated reaction, but a good example nonetheless).
Sometimes, people you love leave.
When you start your island, there are two other islanders who spawn with you. You’re able to interact with your islanders and swap gifts, etc. throughout the game. However, sometimes your islander will decide that it’s time for them to move on to another island. At first, I hated when islanders would want to leave – because I wanted them to stay with me. But just like in real life, sometimes you have to let people go so that they can be the best versions of themselves. Or alternatively, you need to let them go because they’re not good for you anymore (cough*Curlos*cough).
Just because my island looked different than others, doesn’t mean it’s bad.
A fun perk in AC:NH is that you’re able to visit other islands, deserted or inhabited, to trade or simply see a friend’s design. After watching a few of those 5-star island tours on Youtube though, I was feeling pretty dejected about my shabby island. Who cares? As long as I like my island and it functions for me, then it doesn’t matter. The same principle should apply to regular life too. Who cares if I’m not the same size, personality or type as someone else? It shouldn’t matter as long as I’m happy with myself.
People can be jerks, but that doesn’t mean you should put up with it.
AC:NH contains over 400 characters that you could randomly meet or interact with. The characters are grouped by a personality trait: normal, peppy, sisterly, snooty, cranky, jock, lazy and smug. Snooty and smug villagers can be annoying to deal with, especially when they’re being rude towards other characters. You do have limited control of kicking people off the island if you so choose. There’s no reason to keep villagers or people in your life if they bring you down. Surround yourself with those who bring happiness.
For anyone that’s looking to kill some time as we move towards another potential lockdown, maybe give Animal Crossing: New Horizons a chance. With bright colors, cute characters and a mostly stress-free gameplay, this can be a great escape for anyone experiencing heightened anxiety from lockdowns, COVID-19 or just the day to day stress of life. Spend your time fishing in lakes or growing flowers or diving for sea creatures.
I’ve never really stayed in one house for a long time. It partially comes with the territory of coming from a divorced family, not only the loads of back and forth between Mom’s and Dad’s, but also when one parent moves, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other parent won’t move in the same time frame. By that I mean, separately parents may not move a lot, but when you combine it for the kids… it stacks up.
Looking to my mom, who coincidentally has moved a lot, with her I grew up in seven different houses, and with my dad I grew up in three different houses. Then when they were married, there is one house in my active memory. So we’re looking at eleven different houses I lived in from the time I was born until I graduated college. Speaking of college, you could even increase the places I’ve lived since I lived in the dorms throughout that time, and then my senior year a friend and I got an apartment off campus. I also did a semester in France which was a whole other type of living situation!
After reflecting on my adolescence, and now looking towards my adulthood – almost the minute I graduated college, I shipped up to NYC for an internship that turned permanent. Upon first moving to the city, I lived in a small sublet in Harlem and my room was literally the size of a twin size mattress. Two months later, my sublet was up and I moved to Chinatown for a little over a year and that was an experience! After that downtown escapade, I booked it back uptown to Spanish Harlem for a little over a year.
All sounds complicated and all over the place, right? Am I done yet? Am I getting to the whole purpose of this overshare yet?
Thanks to Miss Rona, things only get more complicated.
My lease was up in Spanish Harlem July 31st and the friend I planned to live with, Zoe, couldn’t move until October. So we were faced with two options:
- We find a place for August 1st and sublet until Zoe can move in.
- I go home – I’m working from home anyway, so why not spend some time at home, save some money, and move back to the city in the fall?
Two was the obvious option, but the not so obvious is the thing I had to ask myself – “Where is home?”
My nomadic mom is currently posted up in Pittsburgh, which isn’t too far from my uncle and papa along with many other family members. My dad is where he’s always been, in Kentucky, along with many family members. But then I have my nana and aunt and nearly all of my friends who are tucked away in Indiana.
So, again, where is home? Where do I go?
I essentially did what I always do, and that was split up my time and touch ground everywhere. Which definitely isn’t COVID Kosher, but I was essentially homeless, so sue me.
I did some time with all of my family and some friends – sprinkling my sass and two-cents along the way, lending an ear to those who needed it, and offering support when the situation called for it. It was nice to be “home” for a little while. But honestly, I couldn’t help but be hyper-focused on the term, “home“… what is it? Where is it? Do I have one, do I have many, or do I not have one at all?
My mom always says, “Home is where your mom is.”
But I don’t think home is that simple, or maybe it is.
I think home is a feeling. It’s something that comes natural, but it’s also something that can be manifested. For instance, both my grandparents houses always feel like home, the Catholic church I grew up in feels like home… but everywhere I’ve ever had my own room I’ve seamlessly created a notable “cozy-homey vibe” that gets riddled with compliments on how comfy it is.
It’s as if I’ve always understood that with a few adjustments, you can make anywhere feel like home. I have some things I always do, nearly as a reflex, whenever I settle in somewhere in order to make that place more comfortable – to make it mine.
1. Your bed is a sanctuary, treat it as such.
Make sure you have a bedspread that you like to look at, and honestly – the more pillows the better. Even if you only use one pillow to sleep – during the day have your bed coated in pillows. Those decorative sacks of fluff and feathers are so inviting, there’s no such thing as too much, I promise.
Once you like your bed – make it every single day. There was a time not too long ago where I didn’t make my bed everyday; I found I didn’t have time, what’s it matter, etc… I was full of excuses. But what was funny were the days that I didn’t make my bed in the mornings, I would almost instantly make it the minute I got home – because there’s nothing better than slipping into a freshly made bed.
Just respect yourself enough to make your bed in the mornings – respect the evening version of you who just spent a hard day at work and deserves a freshly made bed.
2. You look at each wall more than you think, hang things that bring you joy and peace.
Think of every wall in your space as a mood board.
Fill each wall with pieces of art, photos, or shelves of knickknacks that evoke positive emotions. This is where you can put plants, real or fake, to encourage growth in your space and to feel grounded and connected with the earth. Fill your walls with whatever brings you peace and happiness.
3. If it smells great, you’ll feel great.
I adore candles. I love them not only for the smell, but I enjoy even the simple flame. The sense of warmth I feel when I see the lit candle and then the scents that beginning coating the room, it brings so much instant peace. I love fall scents the most, like vanilla and hazelnut, but sometimes these scents don’t translate well in the summer. I found that my safe-ground is finding earthy candles that smell of amber and oud.
Go find your scent – be it floral, fruity, earthy, or fresh… find it and do what you gotta do to maintain that smell in your room. Be it candles, incense, oil diffusers, or wax warmers – just give your room a scent that you associate with comfort.
. . .
I’ll be honest, sometimes doing all of the above isn’t enough. You can go the whole nine yards on your space and still feel like a fish in the wrong bowl. Like you’re a pretty fish in a decked out aquarium, but you kind of miss your old bowl for some reason.
AKA -> homesickness.
All I’ve gotta say to that is to think long and hard on what you’re homesick for, what’s missing. Would you be happier back where you were? Or do you find you’re actually missing specific moments and feelings expressed in the old space?
I find that most of the time, my homesickness is for a time and not a place.
Once I realized this, it clicked that going home won’t fix anything, it won’t fix my homesickness. The only type of “going back” that will erase my homesickness is “going back in time” but that’s not possible, obviously. This type of homesickness can really only be healed by some intense self-reflection, maybe even some therapy, in order to dig up what the real root of the problem is and to truly understand what you’re missing. In realizing this, in understanding what it is exactly that you’re homesick for, you can then move forward and adjust what you must in order to find that mental balance and manifest your “home vibe”.
Ultimately, it’s important to understand that you are deserving of feeling at home wherever you’re living.
I’m a sucker for cliches that can blanket statement a situation. I find that cliches have the same function as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, except a bit more practical. For instance, something’s happened and you don’t know what to say, just give a sympathetic shrug and throw in, “All that glitters isn’t gold,” “What goes around, comes around,” or “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” But while I dig a good cliche, I also fully acknowledge that some are trash.
Like hold the phone, sticks and stones… I’m sorry, what?
If you ever think about saying “Sticks and stones…” to someone, of any age, just stop. Don’t even think of finishing the sentence. All this stupid sentence does is dismiss the feelings of the person you’re speaking to. I’ll say it right now, words hurt, and they can hurt bad.
Imagine you’re in a situation getting bullied, maybe it’s about something like the size of your nose or ears, your skin color, or maybe even the clothes on your back. Imagine getting bullied relentlessly by shit kids, imagine experiencing this, and the only thing you’re told on how to deal is either, “Oh, they’re just mean because they have a crush on you!” or the god awful cliche mentioned above about stupid sticks and stones.
It’s just wrong, it’s so wrong. Words have power, we should stop gaslighting people into believing otherwise. I wish I was taught at a younger age to call people out when they said hurtful things instead of being taught to just ignore them. Can you imagine what kind of place the world could be if we started calling out the haters earlier on in life?
Oof, gives me chills just thinking about a society that beholds fruitful communication.
Everyone and their brother has said this, but I’ll say it again – communication is so important. It’s vital to understand that when someone tells you that something you said hurt them, don’t fight them on this, just don’t. You cannot control the feelings and emotions of others. All you can do is accept their feelings at face value and try to earnestly understand where they’re coming from.
I’m over this whole, “They’re just words, we were only kidding!” thing, it’s not cute. Dismissing the feelings of others, essentially calling their emotions invalid… it’s not a good look.
When someone confides in you, opens up and tells you that your words hurt… embrace that dialogue. Ask them what exactly was said that hurt, and if after finding out you still don’t understand why it hurt them – be honest and ask them how you can do better. This is good communication, and trust me I get it, deep communication is hard and a lot of people suck at it – myself included!! But when you have the conversation and acknowledge the feelings of others as valid, you’re on a higher path, a higher frequency, of basic human decency.
It can be so groundbreaking once you fully acknowledge that words hold power, they can hurt, and you’re not being too sensitive. In fact, stop putting the word “too” in front of “sensitive”, your feelings are not too much, nor are they too little – they just simply are. What can also be groundbreaking is to not only accept the negative and toxic power of word, but to simultaneously embrace the positive uplifting power it has too. It’s clear that other people’s words can hurt you and that their love and compliments can lift you… but what about your own words? Do you realize that how you talk to yourself also has a great impact your mental health?
In a book I’m currently reading*, the author writes on self-talk and the importance of acknowledging your “inner-child.” This term, inner-child, is rooted deep into psychology and associated with a person’s potential, creativity, and expression – all of which are aspects influenced from their childhood. It’s also the idea that the child version of yourself lives on in your psyche and still has influence over your day to day life within your emotions and where you find your common comforts.
That above passage from the book really hit home, it had me thinking not only how I would talk to my younger self, but in a more tangible sense I thought, “Would I say the things I tell myself to my kid sister?” and before I could even complete that thought, I already knew the answer. The way I talk to myself sometimes can be so intense and so hurtful, not only would I never talk to my little sister that way… I wouldn’t even talk to burnt popcorn that way.
Food for thought: If we wouldn’t talk to others a certain way, why in the world should we talk to ourselves in such a manner?
Just like we need to wear a mask, just like we need to vote… we need to be kind to ourselves. There is only one person we are with at all hours of the day and night, there is only one person we can’t escape from, there is only one person we can’t ever shut out… and that’s ourselves.
So guys, this is a friendly reminder to treat yourself with the love and respect you deserve, it’s your birthright.
How’d you sleep last night?
I always have trouble falling asleep – my brain runs a mile a minute the second my head hits the pillows, and sometimes I cannot seem to just chill out.
I think about my day, everything I could’ve done differently and how I could’ve used my time more wisely, I think about what I have to do tomorrow, what time I should wake up, and if I go to sleep right now exactly how many hours will I get to actually sleep?
It doesn’t stop there folks, I think about something I said in third grade that was so embarrassing that I’m convinced everyone else must randomly think about it too, I mean if I am then they must be, right?
I think about how many more days I can put off laundry, when I should get groceries, and I get so restless that I think about whether or not I should create a new Spotify playlist that fits with a certain mood I may or may not feel tomorrow, simply because I want to do something semi-productive in the midst of my sleeplessness.
When I say my mind doesn’t stop, it truly doesn’t stop.
So I’ve tried several tricks over the years:
- I’ve tried medication, but I always do this terrible thing which is me suddenly feeling “fixed” and like I don’t need them anymore *eye roll*. I’ve been prescribed medication, but I’ve also done over the counter sleep aids, and good ‘ole Benadryl always does the trick to knock me out.
- One major thing to note with sleeping meds is that the minute you start taking them, your body becomes somewhat reliant on them – so when you stop taking them the best thing to do is wean yourself off to avoid the most sleepless night of your life. More info here on sleep aid medication
- I’ve tried teas – these help, but sometimes I just don’t feel in the tea mood and well… that’s how that goes.
- I’ve tried pillow sprays, like the ones from Bath & Body Works, which also help – but sometimes they’re a bit out of budget, and sometimes I simply don’t want to smell that same smell every night.
So as you can see, my self-sabotage game is strong! But I’ve identified my main problem is that I’m incredibly fickle-minded, I need something that is flexible and takes minimal effort in order to stick with it.
The first major milestone in conquering my sleep issues was discovering the Sleep Pillow app.
Sleep Pillow not only offers various sounds to soothe and distract the mind, but it allows you to create your own sleep mixes. I find water incredibly soothing and grounding, so what works great for me is a mix of rain splashing in puddles, waves crashing, and a strong thunderstorm. But they also have various other noises to mix in like a crackling fire, whale sounds (lol), and other relaxing noises.
I used this app for a hot minute, but then my fickleness showed face and Sleep Pillow suddenly wasn’t right, or enough, to drown out my late night thoughts. That being said, I still have it downloaded on my phone, just in case 😉
I tried the Calm app for a few weeks and had people like Matthew McConaughey tell me stories, which was oddly relaxing. But then this app cost some money that was more than I was willing to spend, especially on something my fickleness could deem useless in X amount of time.
Then a major breakthrough happened: the Breathe app.
Guys, this app is a game changer. What makes Breathe so different than my previous explorations, is that it’s multi-functional. It’s not just a sleep app, it’s a mindfulness app for anytime of the day – and it’s free. There are meditations in there for a quick mid-day mindbreak, yogic meditations, tracks for quick power naps, and my ultimate fave – hyponotherapy sessions.
Whenever I mention hypnotherapy to people, their eyes widen a bit and I practically hear their thoughts of, “Hypnotherapy?! Why would you fall asleep to getting hypnotized! What if they’re putting false thoughts in your head?!”
All I’ve gotta say is scroll back up and read through what are just a fraction of my late night thoughts. I’m sure you’d be desperate to do what you gotta do to shut yourself up. And ultimately, you just have to trust the process. Breathe has stellar reviews, the people speaking have reputable backgrounds, and I can put on literally anything by Glen Harrold and I fall asleep within 20 minutes. There are other folks on there, but his voice is what is the most soothing to me, I highly recommend bouncing around the various speakers until you find someone whose voice works for you.
I’ve been using Breathe for a little over a year, and I’m sure you’re wondering, “Does the hypnotherapy actually work? Like WORK, work?“
If I’m being honest, I genuinely have no idea. Since it’s so psychological, I do have a hard time telling if I’m in a better mood or feel more rested because I switched up the track that night, or because I did stick with the same track every night one week, or maybe it’s simply a better day… it’s hard to tell. I should also note that I don’t necessarily use this app every night, only when the thoughts are significantly loud – which I would put at anywhere between 50-85% of the time.
One thing I will say, is that the last two nights I’ve been listening to Glenn Harrold’s Transformation & Miracles track, and each morning I’ve woken up incredibly well rested and hopeful for the day. Which, I’m sad to say, is a rarity for me.
The last tip I have to share, if you’re not into apps, white noise, or meds, is a breathing trick: get comfortable in bed, take a deep breath in (count to 4 or 5, whichever feels more comfortable), hold your breath for three seconds, then slowly exhale (counting to 4 or 5, whichever feels more comfortable.) The deep breathing slows down your heart rate, and concentrating on counting each breath gives you something to focus on, bringing you to a state of mindfulness and bringing your mind to the present: which is that your day is done and it’s time to sleep.
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So, my fellow dwellers of the night, I’ve shared my tips and I’m eager to know some of yours! Please share your sleep hacks in the comments! My fickle mind could come into play soon and I may need a new fix 🙂
A close friend texted me this week saying, “Three things you do to get yourself out of a slump. Go.”. My answer was go for a walk, clean the house/rearrange things and to light candles. While rushed, the answer is still mostly accurate but I wanted to elaborate more on the whys behind them.
First things first, depression affects everyone differently and can manifest in a variety of ways. Personally, depression comes in waves almost like clockwork. I can feel myself slipping and before long I’m sitting at the bottom of the pit, living there for a while. Two years ago, I hit my roughest patch which consisted of regular depression naps every Saturday at 2PM (which genuinely became a concerning joke amongst friends and family), overindulging in food/alcohol and spewing self-deprecating depression jokes to everyone’s displeasure. I’ve watched friends suffer through these depths numerous times but for the first time I was miles away from the surface with no sense of what to do. I spent months in this proverbial hellscape before drifting slowly upwards. Before long, that heavy weight I’d been carrying was gone, without a note goodbye. Here is my easy guide to interrupting a depression spiral.
- Learn your warning signs – Inevitably, if you’re experiencing depression, there’s a good chance that it’ll happen again and that’s okay. It’s normal. Like I mentioned earlier, depression can be like a wave: it ebbs and flows. Comes on in a hurry then leaves. Push and pull. While it can be scary to think that it will return, especially when you’re already feeling low, it can instead be a positive situation because you have time to prepare for the next fall. Common signs can include: sleeping too much or not at all, disconnected emotional changes, overeating or under eating, overall numbness or lethargy.
- Find simple tricks to give yourself joy – When you’re spiraling, there’s not much that can bring you joy or even a glimmer of hope. Thankfully, I was able to find a consistent, low-energy trick: watching weekly Jenna Marbles videos on Youtube. I have been a fan of Jenna Marbles for nearly a decade and it was easy to go ‘Oh, it’s Thursday – I bet there’s a new video up’. That simple act was enough for me to hold on to. Did I really care about the content of her videos? No. Did I routinely watch them just to get a chuckle or two? Yes. The most important part of this trick is to find something that requires barely any effort on your part but is scheduled: a show on cable, a weekly youtube video, a podcast.
- Create a self care kit – For the most part, self care goes out the window during a depression wave however, by having a go to kit of your favorite things, it may be enough to slow the impending tide. Whether you’re a shower or bath person, keep on hand your favorite candles, gels, bombs and scents. Another part of your kit can be productive like art supplies, your favorite book or maybe just an extra comfy pair of sweats. Scents to look for: lemon and orange for energy, lavender and jasmine for calming, bergamot and rosemary for alertness.
- Care for something outside of yourself – Loving others is another way to energize yourself. From plants to pets to people, being able to respond and love something can help you feel a little more connected when in the pits. My boss gifted my coworker and I tropical plants last fall that I was determined to keep alive. When my coworker left her position, she gave me her plant to take care of. Tropical plants in central Indiana? Goodluck. For the record, I do not have a green thumb and can barely keep myself alive let alone a plant. They never bloomed, but they’ve sprouted new growth and are something I’m proud of now.
- Try something new – Routines can be great but they can also be smothering. I crave routine and structure but once I start falling down a pit, routines make my skin crawl like I’m growing too quickly from the inside and my skin can’t hold me. When you’re feeling a funk come on, try something new. Say yes to an invitation from a friend. Take a different route home from work. Walk a new path at the park. Watch a new sitcom just to change the perspective. We are so comfortable in our own worlds that sometimes breaking the routine and experiencing something new can be liberating and cathartic.
What worked for me may not work for you perfectly and that’s okay. The goal is to try things that you may not have considered previously if you find yourself descending the steps into the pit. If you’re fully in the trenches, these things may not work or work as well and you should always confide in someone you trust about your feelings.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to depression, contact 911. If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454 or text “HELLO” to 741741 the Crisis Text Line.