When you’re young, bouts of anxiety and depression are almost expected to occur. It’s the hormones of the teens or the major life changes and coming to grips with adulthood of the early-to-mid 20s that are expected. Once you pass those parts of your life, you think you’ll become a functioning adult who knows how to deal with almost anything in a mature and balanced manner.
Unfortunately, mental struggles don’t necessarily disappear as you age. In fact, a looming concern can really rear its head as you approach 30 (or 40, or 50): you haven’t become the person you always thought you’d be by this age. When you’re young, it’s easy to assume that someday you’ll be healthy, successful, well-read, social, and all those well-rounded things. It’s easy to brush it off, to save the work for a later, future you who is more capable of dealing. Things don’t work that way. Before you know it, you’re doing the same things you’ve always done but it’s 5 years down the road and the you that you wanted so badly (enough to put it off, anyway) is still 5 years off.
This can just add to the despair if you’ve already been prone to anxiety and depression throughout your life, but suddenly you can feel somewhat ashamed to admit it. You’re supposed to be a proper adult now — you’re supposed to tough it out and deal with your problems.
Luckily, these feelings can be a driver. They push you to see that the ultimate you that lives down the road is something you need to start on now. If you always fantasized that one day you’d be a fit, financially stable, and politically minded being, you’ve got to start living for that now. You’ve put it off for a future version of you to deal with for too long.
This can be easier said than done when your mental health is not in alignment, so let’s take it step by step.
Step 1: Start a Journal
Get a notebook, any notebook, and write in it as regularly as you can. Write about your day, your thoughts, your desires, your ideas, your goals, and your plans. Take your time with it and let your thoughts flow organically. Notice the ideas, plans, and goals that you come back to regularly.
Step 2: Create a Vision of Your Life
Once you’ve written in your journal a few times, you might begin to notice trends in your thoughts. Use these to write a description of how you want your life to look (e.g. “I wake up early each morning and drink a smoothie before going for my run…”).
Step 3: Live Your Vision
Don’t wait to become the person you want to be. Just do it. Be the person who goes hiking on the weekends and reads books instead of watching Netflix. Be the person who learns Norwegian for fun or moves to their ideal city or switches career paths.
Step 4: Use Your Anxiety and Depression
I have days where I can’t get out of bed because I want to give up so badly, followed by days where I’m overcome by guilt for being so unproductive. Don’t do that to yourself. Recognize your feelings and use them as a sign that there’s something you should be doing differently. Don’t beat yourself up over being unproductive for one day — use the time to analyze your thoughts and know that you have the power to change anything you need to. You are not trapped. You don’t need to wait to take action or make changes. You can start working towards something different right now, even if that’s simply figuring out what that different something is.
Quick Tips for Just Getting Out of Bed
All this is easier said than done when you can’t even find the motivation to move. When dealing with those moments, take it slow and try the following:
- Drink a litre of water (getting hydrated can change your whole mindset).
- Take a shower and put on clean clothes.
- Procrastinate by doing something productive (instead of jumping right into work, clean your kitchen or do some French study on Duolingo).
- Download a podcast and go for a walk outside.
- Make plans to cook an international-themed supper (nothing too elaborate, just enough to interest and occupy your mind).
- Give yourself permission to take a day off from worrying about things or feeling negatively about life.