February 16, 2020
Depression and anxiety are sisters. They like to hang out together much of the time. Sometimes they even look alike.
Depression brings with her hopelessness, sadness and a loss of interest and motivation. Anxiety brings with her irrational fear and dread, excessive worry and nervousness. Both are isolating and dark. They both contribute to irritability. And both are total buzzkills.
The terms “depressed” and “anxious” are increasingly part of our vernacular. This may be amplified by the work I do, the regular exposure to people of all ages struggling with depression and anxiety. Maybe it’s because these oh-so-real conditions are more present than ever. Or perhaps we have made real progress in our general understanding of what these words mean and our willingness to discuss them openly.
It would be fairly safe to assume that if you are reading this, you (a) have experienced anxiety or depression at some point in your life; or (b) you know someone who has experienced anxiety or depression in their life.
Genetic and environmental factors cause anxiety and depression. If you lost the genetic lottery, you may be prone to experiencing one or both conditions regardless of your environment or experiences. But if you are lucky enough to have won the lottery, you may still be at risk.
The World Health Organization frequently cites the United States as one of the most anxious and depressed countries in the world. With all our first world luxuries and comforts, it almost seems counterintuitive.
Upon closer inspection, however, we find a culture with staunch commitments to productivity and involvement, poor diets, sedentary lifestyles, increasing social isolation and individualism, a growing detachment from nature, and a gross absence of or emphasis on restful activity.
We are a culture of noise and busyness. Rest is frowned upon. Convenience is a lifestyle. All these things have an impact on our mental health.
Although we can’t alter the course of our culture by ourselves. We can, however, start by taking ownership of our own lives. Consider the following:
Exhaustion is not the new “chic.” Coffee is not a food group. Over-commitment should not be worn as a badge of honor. No one is going to manage your stress and boundaries for you. Sorry, this one’s totally on you.
If you don’t take care of your body, your mind will suffer. It’s that simple. This means nutrition and exercise really do matter.
Self-care is creating a life from which you don’t feel the need to escape. It’s a lifestyle. Self-care is countering periods of productivity with moments of rest. It’s a good night’s sleep most nights. It’s being selective about how and with whom you spend your time and being intentional about doing those things that rejuvenate you. Go outside. Breathe in nature.
This is true even for the introverted among us. There is a very fine line between solitude and isolation. Solitude is good. Isolation is not.
Depressed does not always looked depressed. Anxious does not always look anxious. Stop assuming everyone else is better off. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Just because someone looks happy, successful, and pulled together doesn’t mean they are. You do you. Comparison only feeds the monster.
Sometimes, even if you are mindful of all the above, depression and anxiety may still lurk in the corner. Don’t be too proud or stubborn to seek help through therapy! ⯁
Andrews & Associates Counseling is owned and operated by Dr. Stephanie Wick, who is a long time resident of the Manhattan area. She is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist (LCMFT) and Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor (LCAC) in Kansas.