I recently had a day recently where I felt my old habits overcoming me and I genuinely was fearful. At that moment I was so overwhelmed with life that I started reverting back to old habits and I was spiraling quickly. Dealing with a mental illness while on a spiritual journey can be very chaotic at times.
I think for most people it’s hard to understand the ups and downs of dealing with mental illness and I know it’s a unique challenge that I face every day. My high’s are higher and my low’s are lower because of my mental illness and in a unique way it’s become my strength and my weakness.
I have been struggling with generalized anxiety disorder and major reoccurring depression along with hypersensitivity for as long as I can remember. I feel like it gives me a very unique view of the world. When I am able to slow down and enjoy the moment I can feel extreme joy peace and happiness. But if I let circumstances overcome me I can feel hopeless and broken. The swinging pendulum of moods can be exhausting and that’s why it’s so important to be mindful.
Here are some things I have done to cope with my mental illness and the tools that I have in my toolbox which have allowed me to keep progressing on my spiritual journey.
It’s in moments of hopelessness and despair that I need these tools the most and it’s nice to have a reminder.
Circle of Influence
Having a positive, supportive and empowering circle of influence is key to overall good health. Struggling with mental illness isn’t something anyone should try to do alone. It’s especially crucial during times of despair. For me personally, I have learned my triggers and I reach out when needed. Don’t confuse a Circle of Influence with a circle of friends for venting. Surround yourself with people who share common interests and can help re-focus your energy on something positive and productive. I have found more value out of the relationships that help me get out of my bubble. During the worst of my depression, I used to believe that friends were there to help support each other by listening to each other bitch, moan and complain. I will tell you, those are draining relationships. Find people who engage in positive and constructive communication and I assure you it will be more fulfilling.
When I become overwhelmed and start to catastrophize situations it is usually (almost always) because I have stopped being mindful. Ironically in those moments is when it’s hardest to be mindful. This is where a positive a circle of influence makes a big difference. In my experience, friends have helped remind me to take a step back, slow down and re-frame the things that are causing me so much stress. It’s incredibly important to rebalance and re-center when in the midst of a depressive episode. For me, this is a practice of releasing the chaos and slowing down the thoughts that are constantly running through my mind. I imagine the thoughts as clouds and I slowly release them and envision myself blowing them away with my breath until the sky is clear.
Repetition of my Contract & Vision
Several years ago I created a short one sentence contract with myself. (I am a happy, decisive confident, and worthy woman). Using this affirmation helped me believe in myself and was a powerful reminder of the qualities I wanted to embody. Over the years, my vision has evolved as I continue to grow.
Today, I am practicing an updated vision for myself; I am a balanced, wise, grateful and abundant woman.
I also hold a vision in my head of my future and what I want to build with my life and my life’s purpose. My grand vision is a detailed view of the life I am working to build. It’s a powerful tool to help me create a different energy. This is is especially helpful when I become overwhelmed and frustrated with my current circumstances.
The importance of using a contract and vision is to help shift energy. By putting our dreams into words, we are able to help manifest changes in the physical world. Each morning, I take a few minutes to repeat my contract and repeat my vision allowed. When I do these exercises I can physically feel my emotions and energy shift to a more positive and relaxing state.
Re-frame my Distorted Thinking
When I began discovering how to be more mindful, I learned about Cognitive Distortions. Many people suffering from mental illness are plagued with distorted thinking. I tend to catastrophize situations, it’s my default mode. This is why it’s so crucial to be mindful of how my thoughts are affecting me. When I’m being mindful and I’m in a healthy state, I can make a conscious choice to release the overwhelming thoughts.
I also am prone to “filtering” my thoughts and which means I focus only on the bad things. For most of my life, I thought that I’d never be truly happy because my default mode is to be pessimistic. With a lot of practice, I’ve been able to adjust my default but it’s in times of high stress that it’s easy to revert. This is why it’s important to have an amazing circle of influence who can help point out when you’re not being nice to yourself.
What would I say to my daughter?
Having children is an incredible blessing, I have a beautiful baby girl who is my world. When I become consumed with my anxiety, it’s easy to forget the blessing in front of me. I’ve learned a simple trick to help shift my mood when I’m feeling overwhelmed and mentally beating myself up. What would I say to her? I certainly would never say to her the things I say to myself. So it’s a reminder to love myself as much as I love her.
I want to be a role model for my baby girl and that means I want to teach her to love herself. When I realize I’m being incredibly hard on myself, I take a moment to think of the things I want to tell her, and then I say them to myself.