20 Ways to Fight Depression and Anxiety by Empowering Yourself
Take Control of Your Life and Live Free and Happy
Fight Depression and Anxiety With Self-Empowerment
I've battled depression and anxiety ever since having my first period as an adolescent. I got pummeled by my opponent repeatedly until I couldn't take it anymore. 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 this “miracle cure” 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, proactive approach to life. 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 and anxiety off my shoulders was self-empowerment. Up until that point, I had never been powerful. It was quite the opposite. I let food, fear, social anxiety, and low self-esteem take charge. I had to become the architect of my life, and gain control and authority over my destiny so that I could have a happy and meaningful existence.
20 Techniques for Self-Empowerment
1. Speak up for yourself. I was a shy child who never got encouraged to speak up for myself. My mom's favorite sayings were “silence is a virtue” and “discretion is the better part of valor.” But, when one is quiet and passive, people walk all over you and take you for granted. You feel insignificant, unappreciated, and powerless and often find solace in food, alcohol, and drugs like I did.
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 in all areas of your life. If you're unable to quit your job, talk to your boss about being given more authority. When you feel empowered at work, time moves quickly. You feel needed and appreciated and your life has purpose. It's said there are three parts to happiness: 1) having something to do 2) having someone to love and 3) having something to look forward to. When we have a job that makes us feel unfulfilled and put upon, two of the three parts are missing and that leads to depression.
3. Maintain a normal weight. When you suffer from depression and feel hopeless, it's easy to turn to food for comfort. I did just that and gained forty pounds. Then I was even more depressed and ashamed. Taking time to sit down and enjoy a healthy, well-balanced meal shows you're in control and value yourself. When food is the only thing in your life that's bringing you pleasure, you know serious changes must get made.
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 look out for ourselves and not make a habit of hanging around negative, needy people who drain our energy.
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.
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 become more powerful at home and 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 of having self-esteem as something out of their control; you either have it or you don't. But, in reality, actions determine our self-esteem. We build it 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 alive.
Engage in Positive Self-Talk and Become Your Own Cheerleader
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 childhood and my father's brutal attacks on me and my siblings. When I became aware of how harmful and frequent these messages were, I chose to stop them. It wasn't easy as they had been playing for so long and seemed automatic. Whenever one came in, I replaced it with a positive one, 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 write down realistic goals and how to achieve them, 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 keep 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.
I Recommend This Book for Battling Depression
Most of my life I thought my weight was making me unhappy and keeping me from enjoying life. It took many years for me to realize that my excess pounds were just a symptom of severe depression and anxiety. This book was vital as I began my journey to get stronger, healthier, and more mindful. It helped me understand that many of my problems started from within—the negative messages about myself that ran constantly through my brain. It taught me exercises to eliminate this crippling self-talk and replace it with words that empower.
© 2017 McKenna Meyers