After taking anti-depressants for 7 years and becoming emotionally blunted, Ms.Meyers wanted to find healthier ways to feel better.
- Are you fighting depression and anxiety but wanting to avoid anti-depressants?
- Do you want to take control of your life so you don't feel so helpless and sad?
- Do you want to deal with your emotions rather than numbing them with food, drugs, and alcohol?
If nodding "yes," you're not alone. We're now at a crossroads when it comes to combating depression and anxiety in our country. With greater awareness of mental health issues, more people are acknowledging they need help. Yet, instead of recommending treatments that could prove highly beneficial and don't have harmful side effects, doctors are over-prescribing anti-depressants.
Steven Hollon, a psychology professor at Vanderbilt University, has extensively researched the effectiveness of these medicines. He says, "I would say at least half the folks who are being treated with antidepressants aren't benefiting from the active pharmacological affects of the drugs themselves but from a placebo effect. If people knew more, I think they would be a little less likely to go down the medication path than the psychosocial treatment path."
Taking Control of Your Life Is One of the Most Effective Ways to Fight Depression
I've battled depression and anxiety ever since my first period. As a teen and young adult, it went unrecognized and untreated, leading me to believe I was just a loser—lazy, unmotivated, and socially awkward. My self-esteem plummeted. When I finally got diagnosed as an adult and put on anti-depressants (Zoloft and Lexapro), I thought these “miracle cures” would end my anguish and let me finally experience some relief and happiness.
After seven years on the drugs—walking through life like a zombie—I was ready to wean myself off of them and take a healthier, more proactive approach to fighting my depression. After reading Dr. Brene Brown's life-changing book, Rising Strong, I realized that I had been doing everything wrong by denying my emotions rather than embracing them. From a young age, I had thought my feelings were what was wrong with me and, if they were muted, my life would be better. Dr. Brown helped me finally understand that my emotions are an asset, not a handicap.
For seven long years, anti-depressants had helped me no longer feel sad, but they had also robbed me of joy, excitement, and hope. As Dr. Brown so perfectly states, "you cannot selectively numb emotions." I was ready to do the hard work to discover what caused my despair (in addition to biology and genetics) and learn how to conquer it. What I found out is something that no doctor or therapist had ever mentioned.
The key to lifting the weight of depression off my shoulders involved me finally taking control. Food, fear, social anxiety, and low self-esteem had run me ragged for too long. When I decided to become the architect of my life, I found peace of mind at long last and a purpose for my existence that I had never known. I began to feel every feeling and was no longer emotionally flat from the anti-depressants.
Dr. Brene Brown talks about how we numb our emotions with food, drugs, gossip, and social media.
20 Ways to Fight Depression and Anxiety by Taking Control of Your Life
1. Speak up for yourself. I was a shy child whose parents discouraged me from asserting myself. When one is quiet and passive like that, though, people can walk all over you and take you for granted. You start to feel insignificant, unappreciated, and powerless and look for solace in food, alcohol, and drugs like I did. Now I speak up for myself, keeping in mind the words of Dr. Seuss, "Be who you are and say what you think because those that mind don't matter and those that matter don't mind."
2. Find a job that empowers you. I had a career with enormous responsibility but little power. That combination leads to stress, burn-out, and anxiety. It takes a toll on your self-esteem that carries over to all areas of your life. If you're unable to change jobs, ask your boss for more authority. When you feel empowered at work, time moves quickly. You feel needed and appreciated and your life has purpose.
3. Maintain a healthy weight. When you suffer from depression and feel hopeless, it's easy to turn to food for comfort and a quick pick-me-up. I did just that and gained fifty pounds. Then I was even more depressed and ashamed. Taking time to sit down and enjoy a well-balanced meal shows you're in control and that you value yourself. When food is the only thing in your life that's bringing you pleasure, you know serious changes must be made. When I lost the weight and took control of my eating, I felt empowered in all areas of my life.
4. Exercise. When I was growing up, my mother criticized women who made time for exercise, calling them selfish and superficial. When I became an adult, it wasn't surprising that I placed exercise dead last on my to-do list (right after scrubbing the toilets). But now I make it a priority. Not only does it make me look better, it helps me feel powerful and strong (especially when lifting weights). Studies show that exercise helps us fight anxiety and depression, and releases endorphins that lift our spirit.
5. Avoid negative people. Many of us who suffer from depression are extremely compassionate. We feel the pain of those around us. While we never want to lose our empathy, it's important to take control of our lives, look out for ourselves, and not make a habit of hanging around negative, needy people who drain our energy. Successful people such as Oprah Winfrey make a habit of surrounding themselves with positive people who share their positive thoughts. Winfrey explains, "I know for sure what we dwell on is who we become."
6. Speak with authority. To be a powerful person, you must speak with confidence. That means keeping up on current events, forming well-reasoned opinions, reading, and being able to accept differing viewpoints.
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7. Dress sharply. People make quick assessments of one another based largely on appearance. Our clothes are one of the first things that get noticed. Men in suits and women in skirts and heels give off a lot of authority. Pick clothes that make you look powerful and they'll help you feel powerful, too.
8. Meditate. Taking time to meditate lets you live in the moment, not letting the past weigh you down or the future cause you worry. It clears our minds of negative thoughts and derogatory self-talk. Studies show mindfulness meditation can reduce our stress, improve our concentration, and enhance our ability to connect with others. This helps us take control of our lives at home and at work.
9. Be your own cheerleader. We all wanted moms and dads who championed our talents and encouraged our endeavors. Unfortunately, a lot of us didn't have such parents. Instead of wallowing in that reality, we should become our own cheerleaders. We should use our inner voice to say: “You did a fantastic job with that presentation” or “It took a lot of courage to speak up at that meeting.”
10. Do activities that boost your self-esteem. Some people think having self-esteem is out of their control; you either have it or you don't. But, in reality, actions determine how we feel about ourselves. We build confidence when we do things that challenge us, amaze us, and impress us. Running a half marathon, putting together a 1000 piece puzzle, giving a speech, or making a wedding cake are all things that boost people's self-esteem, making them feel powerful and in control of their lives.
11. Get those negative messages out of your head. For most of my life, I had disparaging comments about myself running through my brain: “You're dumb . . . nobody wants to be your friend . . . you're a loser.” Many of these were rooted in my father's brutal verbal attacks on me and my siblings during childhood. When I became aware of this, I began replacing the negative messages with positive ones each and every time.
12. Keep learning and evolving. We remain powerful as we age if we stay open-minded and accept that change is inevitable. When we become frozen in time—thinking the “good old days” were the best—we lose influence in today's world.
13. Make waves. I went to Catholic school as a child with strict nuns and large classes. We weren't allowed to fall out of line or we'd immediately get sent to the principal's office. At a young age, I learned to conform, keep quiet, and fly under the radar. In order to feel empowered, however, we must sometimes go against the tide, voice our opinions, and show our passions. We must be our authentic selves or else we're living a lie and diminishing our very existence.
14. Set goals and accomplish them. When we establish realistic goals, we put ourselves in the powerful position to get things done and move our lives forward. "I'll lose 25 pounds in three weeks by eating grapefruit for breakfast and lunch," is a ridiculous aim that only sets you up for failure and disappointment. "I'll lose 25 pounds in the next six months by walking on the treadmill every morning, eating less sugar and carbohydrates, and making vegetarian dinners," is realistic, concrete, and attainable.
15. Get off social media. Study after study shows that people are more depressed after looking at Facebook, but the throngs continue to do it. We are manipulated by the site as we get “rewarded” by receiving a thumbs up and a like for our photos and posts. We feel jealous, bitter, and sad when we see our friends and relatives frolicking at the beach, going out to fine restaurants, and playing with their new puppies. It's pitiful, not empowering. Find real friends and form meaningful relationships.
16. Write in a journal. Powerful people like Oprah Winfrey keep a journal to record their thoughts, feelings, and dreams. Oprah has kept a “gratitude journal” for years, writing down each day five things for which she's thankful. Hey, if it works for Oprah, it could work for you, too!
17. Face your fears. Every day we wake up to a choice: embrace the day with love or turn away from it with fear. Our anxiety keeps us from experiencing so much. We don't find a partner because we dread rejection. We don't try for a promotion because we worry we're not good enough. We don't go back to college because we're concerned about being too old. When we face our fears and conquer them, we gain tremendous confidence and power over our lives.
18. Be forward thinking. It's so sad when someone in their sixth or seventh decade of life is stuck in the past, lamenting how their abusive childhood is preventing them from doing this or that. When do we leave the hurts behind us and start looking ahead to a brighter future? Marinating about an imperfect upbringing is just a waste of time. Moving forward in our lives is what brings happiness and makes us feel powerful.
19. Read. Billionaire, Warren Buffet, credits reading and thinking for his grand success in life. He estimates that 80 percent of his working day is spent on these two tasks. Now in his late eighties, Buffet is proof that cognitive challenges keep us young and in the game.
20. Play. According to Stuart Brown, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, playing is as important to our mental and physical health as sleep and food. It makes us feel better and stronger by promoting our imaginations, building friendships, and helping us focus and solve problems. He argues that play is not just for kids but is a powerful way for adults to take control of their lives with humor, optimism, and greater engagement.
Dr. Brene Brown tells us to embrace joy and practice gratitude rather than denying our emotions.
What do you think?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2017 McKenna Meyers
McKenna Meyers (author) on June 21, 2019:
Madeleine, thanks so much for your kind words. It's good to hear that others are benefitting from what I learned during my battle with depression. While they've helped many, anti-depressants are largely over-prescribed today and healthier alternatives are neglected.
Madeleine Clays on June 21, 2019:
This is an excellent article. So much of what you said resonated with me. Thank you for sharing these 20 tips as well as your life experiences. This is very helpful and empowering.
McKenna Meyers (author) on December 17, 2017:
Thanks, Dora. It's good to hear so many prominent people start to talk about their struggles with depression and anxiety. I regret staying on anti-depressants for so long, and I'm very grateful for my life now.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 17, 2017:
This account of the stride you made is inspiring. Thanks for sharing your journey and offering so many helpful tips. Best to you, going forward.
McKenna Meyers (author) on December 16, 2017:
I agree, Venkatachari. When I was put on anti-depressants after my son got diagnosed with autism, I really needed them. I wasn't functioning well or thinking rationally. But, I certainly didn't need to stay on them for seven years. My doctor should have encouraged me to continue with talk therapy and encourage healthier ways to deal with depression (exercise, nutrition, etc.). I think western medicine failed me and many others. As more kids are suffering, I don't think drugging them is the answer but prevention is. Thanks for commenting!
Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on December 16, 2017:
These tips are very good for normal people who go through some or other kind of routine disturbances in life.
But, the real patients suffering from serious problems of depression, anxiety, insecurity, and stage fear may not find enough solutions through these tips. Such people already know these facts but can't implement them. They need much support from experienced people who have gone through such severe conditions of life and came out successful.
McKenna Meyers (author) on December 15, 2017:
Thanks so much for your kind words, Michael. They're appreciated. My son who's in high school came home today and told me that a freshman had committed suicide. We really need to be getting the message out to teens and kids about depression and anxiety and how to combat it. Social media is a big factor and young people don't realize how harmful it is. I've been reading about former bigwigs at Facebook who now sorely regret their involvement with it because of its detrimental effects on society.
Michael Duncan from Germany on December 15, 2017:
Anxiety and depression are becoming increasingly common amid the hustle and bustle of modern existence. To find someone who has been through a tunnel such as this and come out on the other side with a new song of freedom, is like a breath of fresh air. Quality tips, very well presented. Thanks for sharing!