Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Battle

I'm taking a break from my Europe posts to talk about something that means a lot to me right now.
As I've mentioned before, I have struggled with anxiety and depression off and on for as long as I can remember.
But a few years back, I realized that my ability to handle these disorders had gotten so bad and I felt so unhappy and overwhelmed that my family was suffering as a result, too. I have spent a lot of time trying to find what works for me when it comes to managing and controlling my anxiety as well as when depression tries to set in. I know it is not the same for everyone, but I have learned that the best thing for me is really just self care. Good sleep, eating healthy, and getting exercise are what help me manage my symptoms so much better.

I'll admit. It is not always easy to do. Because my husband travels for work weekly, there is so much I am responsible for here on my own as far as the house, kids and everyday life. And in the past generally the first thing to go when things got a little crazy was self care. I would find myself getting to bed later and later. Or grabbing a quick bite to eat that definitely wasn't healthy between errands and running the kids around. Or thinking I could get to exercise later in the day if I missed it in the morning, which hardly ever ended up being the case.

But not anymore. I have realized that by not taking care of myself, I wasn't doing my family or me any favors. When I get 7-8 hours of sleep, eat more fruits, veggies and protein, and exercise five days a week with a little meditation/yoga thrown in, I feel so much better. Not so stressed out, and definitely happier.

Some changes I have made:

- I really shoot for 7-8  hours of sleep a night. If I get less, I try to get a short nap in the next day. Even a ten minute cat nap energizes me so that I can get through the rest of the afternoon and early evening.

-have given up soda completely. Occasionally miss having a Dr. Pepper, but don't like the way it made my body feel. So it's worth it! Drinking a ton more water for hydration
-Include a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal and more protein after working out.
Recently we went to Mod pizza and the mini with pineapple, canadian bacon and spinach was plenty for me. Plus I had my fruit, vegetable and protein. :)
-a lot less sugar and carbs but not totally eliminated.
-I tried Whole 30 and it wasn't my thing. I don't believe in eliminating things totally unless it is causing a major issue. I am just taking more note of how my body feels after eating certain things. If I feel like crap after, I am cutting it.
I will say this for Whole 30. I found a recipe for Avocado mayonnaise that I actually really liked. I used it for my tuna salad in the photo. I also found myself eating a simpler meals. It didn't take much to fill me up, and I didn't feel as bloated.
-so I am focusing on more clean, simple eating and less processed or take out food. If it has more than five ingredients or words I don't recognize, I am trying to avoid it.

-I joined the YMCA at the beginning of September because the timing finally felt right. I have been attending classes or just using the machines 2-3 times a week and love it so far! 
-My goal is exercise at least five days per week. If I hit six great, if not no big deal. I like to have at least one as a rest day. I know I'm lucky to not have to work full time, so it makes it a little easier to fit workouts in. But on the days I substitute teach, I push myself to at least get a yoga workout completed.
-I am varying my workouts by rotating Pilates, yoga, weight training and cardio.
-I have done Pilates Fusion, PiYo, and Turbo Kick classes at the YMCA so far. I also love the Elliptical Machine when a class is full or just want to watch an episode of netflix while I workout. Makes the time go by so much faster!
-One or two days a week, I go for walks with friends. Plus I have been meeting up with friends at the Y. It's a great way to hold myself accountable.
-I think the key at my age is adding in the strength training and building more muscle. I have gone through on and off phases with it in the past, but now I am trying to do at least two workouts a week that involve weights.

I have a feeling that Depression and Anxiety may always be an issue for me. But I have learned that my life does not revolve around them. Beating and overcoming them actually makes me feel stronger. And I think about how many amazing experiences I would miss out on if I didn't fight back.

Like going for a bike ride through Amsterdam together!

When we were in Brussels this summer, we were stuck in a huge crowd trying to get from the U2 concert venue to the trains back to our hotel. When we finally got on our train, we were literally jam packed in there! I could feel a little bit of an anxiety attack coming on. The difference is now I have ways to push it back. And Mike understanding a little better how it works now was a huge support. He wrapped his arm around me, I lay my head on his chest and took deep breaths. Done.
But when I don't have him there, I use tricks like mindful breaths and grounding. And because I am not as afraid of them as I used to be, the amount of anxiety attacks have definitely gone down.
Cause you know I want to be able to stand in that huge crowd of strangers and watch my favorite band.

When I feel depression trying to creep in it helps that I can truly recognize it for what is now. The few times I was deep into depression periods, I didn't even realize that is what I was experiencing until much later. But now when I have an off day, I do things to combat it right away. Number one is to make sure I am getting enough sleep. That is key for me. When I am not sleeping well, I have rougher days as I am sure most people do. But in the past it has been extra hard for me to shake it off. Now I know that I can. Sleep and focusing on things that make me happy help a lot. And talking to people I love and/or trust. And exercising helps me feel a lot better as well.

I know there are people who shy away from talking about "mental illness". It can have such a stigma sometimes. But I think maybe if we talked more about it and shared our stories, it would help others to not feel so alone.
I hope that by sharing my experience I can help someone realize that those of us who do struggle with depression and anxiety are warriors, not weak. And we definitely can win the battle!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing, Mary Jo! You touched on so many good points. xo

  2. Definitely warriors Mary Jo! For me it has been a lifetime struggle but being diagnosed with a Chronic illness a few years ago just made things worse. Apart from the exercise part, I pretty much follow your method of dealing with it all - and discovering craft has definitely been a lifesaver! Anne xx

  3. Thank you for this post! Such an inspiration! I am glad you are finding ways to help yourself!