Shortly after I graduated from high school, I quickly understood the meaning of anxiety and depression. You see, not only did the Columbine shooting happen during my last year of high school, but then just two years later, we experienced the most terrifying terrorist attack in the history of our nation, now commonly referred to as 9-11. Talk about a real mental health crisis happening in my own backyard. In a matter of seconds, my life flipped upside down, and I started to suffer from anxiety and depression.
As I look back now, I wish that someone had been able to express to me just how important it would be to find authentic, meaningful ways to love myself. Learning how to love yourself is a tough concept to understand, and it can be even harder amid adversity. Unfortunately, because I did not grasp the idea of self-love in my early twenties, I had to learn some pretty harsh lessons.
These lessons have continued to stick with me for many years, and I hope that you will take what you need from the list below and apply them to yourself during these stressful times. Loving yourself is not only crucial to your health, but it will help guide you along your path.
Lesson 1: GET READY!
When you are in a deep depression, you tend to lack motivation for ordinary daily activities, such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, putting on makeup, and, most importantly, getting out of those sweat pants! Listen, I’ve been there before, and some days you can only do one small thing at a time. After the worst break up of my life, I would catch myself thinking, “What’s the use in getting ready, I ‘ve already lost everything I wanted.” My question to you is, “Would you let your best friend sit in her sorrows and cry her days away?” Probably not, and you shouldn’t let yourself do that either! The sun will shine again, and trust me, your mind, body, and soul will be so happy to know that you took care of yourself during the storm.
Lesson 2: DANCE!
Music can be very therapeutic. Just recently, I found myself lying on my back patio, feeling a little bit down because of the quarantine. My ten year old suddenly got an idea in her head to cheer me up. She made a playlist of all the songs that I love to dance to and forced me to have a dance party with her. It truly was one of the best moments that I had had in a long time. That’s the thing about music. It can lift us up from those dark places and help us to feel alive. Many therapists use music to help heal anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Music is an incredible and intimate way to show yourself some love!
Lesson 3: TALK!
The more you suppress your feelings, the bigger chance you have of it coming out through anxiety. We were made to talk and have relationships with others. Sometimes it may feel more comfortable to keep your emotions bottled up and hope that they disappear. However, our bodies and minds were not designed that way. All of those bottled up emotions will come spilling out one way or another, and talking it out is the best way to do that. Find a close friend, family member, or a therapist who you can confide in. We were designed to do life together, and as a mental health therapist, I can tell you that 100% of my clients feel better after talking about their situations.
Lesson 4: SHOW YOURSELF SOME GRACE!
This one isn’t easy. The first thing we want to do when we are faced with stress is to start nitpicking our role in situations. For instance, if you are stressed because of work, you may find yourself questioning your abilities. If you are stressed in a relationship, you may start focusing on all of your insecurities. Focusing on the negative is the exact opposite of what you should do to show yourself some love. We’re human, and there isn’t one person on this planet that has it all together. Cut yourself some slack. Give yourself the credit you deserve and start showing yourself the grace you deserve.
Lesson 5: DIG DEEP
The last lesson is probably the hardest one. To understand yourself, you must know yourself. This takes a lot of work, but it is by far the most important lesson. Digging deep means to get to know yourself better. When you dig deep, you’re able to get to that wound of yours that you may have neglected. For instance, maybe you did go through a hard breakup, and you want to understand your role in it. Start examining your childhood, your faith, your social activities, and list all of the things that make you, well, YOU! Once you have a better understanding of why you feel a certain way or what has impacted your views, you will have a better understanding of who you are. Just like with everything else, knowledge is power, and the more knowledge you have about yourself, the better success you will have!
The truth is there are many different lessons I could share with you, and things that I wish I could have done differently during those stressful times in my life. It is essential for your mental health for you to have an outlet. For some, that may mean getting together with friends, playing sports, doing art, cooking, sewing, or finding a great book to read. Whatever it is for you, you must lean into it during those stressful times. As I mentioned above, my life was flipped upside down, and my anxiety was out of control. If only someone had shared these lessons with me. I could have saved myself years of therapy and would have definitely enjoyed the stressful times a lot more. Most importantly, please know that you are not alone. You are seen, and you are heard here at Girl Above!
Jennifer Kovach, MA, LPCC