Please, please see a doctor or mental health professional if you suspect you have anxiety or depression. It doesn't necessarily mean you'll need medication if you're not keen on that. At the very least they will help you establish a baseline.
I saw an LCSW not a Psychiatrist. First thing he suggested, supplementing B vitamins and magnesium, along with exercise and diet. He said our other work would have limited effect otherwise. The healing therapies we engaged included directed breathing exercises, meditation, inventorying love relationships, and just talking through my limiting beliefs and my assumptions/misconceptions about myself and others. Most of the limiting beliefs were manifestations of survival skills developed in response to childhood trauma. Seeing it that way made it simple (not easy) to leave all that shit in the past and write a new future for myself.
That said, when it comes to medication, it's kind of like Russian Roulette. The documented side effects of SSRI-based antidepressants of suicide and homicide are catastrophic when the subject has a co-morbid disorder or perhaps genetic distinctiveness making them susceptible those side effects. There's no way to screen if a subject is prone to those effects, and basically there is no screening at all (similar to your own experience -- it was a "No Brainer") to determine if someone is clinically depressed. Such a diagnosis is achieved through non-invasive, casual observation, and is far from perfect.
If we have someone check our teeth and gums a couple times a year just to clean out the gunk and make sure everything is ok, why wouldn't we do the same for our (arguably) most important organ?
That's what you meant, right? The most important organ, the kidney?
For this reason, the vast majority of "good' therapists, in this market anyhow, choose to not accept below-market rates.
That may be because they aren't allowed to.
But as a secondary aside, there has been an awful lot of talk about mental health on this forum as of late. I hear about it daily in articles. You see increasing rates of suicide. People I talk to are generally miserable. Some more than others, but the trend seems to be a general dissatisfaction with life.
Does anyone else think about this? It has been on my mind for sometime. I have a feeling that there is something about the way our society, culture, technology is changing that does not jive with our biology. Maybe the level of interconnectedness that is causing our competitive nature to make us feel like perpetual failures. Maybe its the technological isolation or lack of social interaction and contact with other people. Maybe its the economy, lack of faith in our future economic wellbeing. What do you guys think?
Personally I feel a constant tension, being constantly pinged by my devices "so and so just got a house"... "so and so is on vacation"... "see what so and so is doing, thats more interesting than what you are doing".... "so and so just got promoted to a more prestigious title than you"... and then you want to say screw that, I'm unplugging, but everyone else is plugged in, and stuck, so when are you ever going to interact with them otherwise?
Additionally, we are always "feeding". We are getting sick from over-indulging.
My friend group is starting to coordinate board game nights. Also good old fashion gatherings, and just making a point to be present as much as possible.
I find myself using a phone as a digital communication device as much as possible, where I think for a lot of people it's become a digital consumption device.
Personally a big difference was only consuming proper newspapers in the morning instead of tv and news sites during the day. The quality of the information is greater and I don’t experience fomo as much.
You're right to say that we have evolved alongside nature, and it is really only since the industrial revolution that we have fully diverged from the natural world. We live, eat, breath, sleep, and dream completely man-made everything. Things like Google can exist, because of our collective imagination and effort to sustain it.
What that means for us is that we are ignoring our biology and the habitat we have evolved to thrive in. We think we are all geniuses because we've created this artificial landscape, but we still have barely scratched the surface of our own bodies and how they work and why.
Also, In general society has lied to us about what makes humans content. So there's weird thing happening where I'm doing everything the TV/Movies/Inst/FB told me would make me happy and I'm not. It's very confusing and depressing and can make you feel hopeless and empty.
The thing is, I don't think we need some crazy transformation, the world that respects our biology and instincts doesn't look very different. It works mostly the same except that people are generally happier and outside more and talking to eachother face to face. Not because facetime isn't cool too, but facetime isn't the same
Learn the platform, then arrange to engage with it in a way that works for you. The kinds of things you choose to post or respond to influence the kinds of information/followers/etc you attract.
Pick and choose your notifications. Learn to block, mute, unfollow, etc judiciously.
Be mindful that what you post will shape how other people engage you. If you don't like the kinds of interactions you are getting, look to your own behavior first. Experiment with posting different things and then invest more in the kinds of behaviors that get results you like.
I also picked up photography and love being humbled by how great some people are at it, and it relaxes me knowing that it's something I can improve on yet never really care about being exceptional at.
Finally, I spend a lot of time observing "successful" people (since I realized a lot of my mental health is affected by ambition), and when you actually dig into the lives of the people so many of us look up to, there's a lot of things in their lives that are either undesirable, or not any more figured out than most of us have it. Some of them are downright awful people. So, that helps in a weird way.
It's a daily effort to stay mentally healthy, one that I doubt will go away, so it's something I try to work on. I know I have it easy though since I don't have major depression or other challenges.
- Exercise: weightlifting 4x per week
- Meditation: 15 minutes daily in the AM
- Diet: Paleo-ish, I initially did the "4 Hour Body" diet to lose some weight and noticed I felt better all-around not eating bread/heavy carbs. On the other hand, bread is delicious. Mostly, I just try to avoid tons of sugar/insulin spikes.
Being disciplined about these things is pretty critical for me.
My grandma used to say "stop starring at your own belly button." There are many saints, sages, gurus (alive and dead) that guide you to shed identity with your person, but Mooji is especially compelling to me. Here's his YouTube channel:
There's a lot of 'I' in all of those things. I don't know much about getting rid of the 'I' but they _appear_ incompatible? I wonder if there's some middle ground?
Twenty two years later, (about 8 years in the middle of that with a good therapist) and I'm not depressed any more. I feel a wide variety of emotions, compared to the two I had before getting clean, "Good" and "Bad". It was the hardest thing I've ever done, and the absolute best thing I've ever done.
I recognize and respect there are numerous ways to get clean and seek recovery. For myself, I still regularly attend a 12-step fellowship and work steps and sponsor other men in the program. I do this openly as an Atheist to boot. I fully acknowledge the low success rate of this program. I attribute my success to committing to a regular practice of connecting with recovery in a supportive environment of individuals seeking the same.
- Exercising (doesn't have to be strenuous, can just be a walk around your neighborhood)
- Writing my thoughts down when I am overwhelmed
- Never trying to keep too much information in my head at once
- Talking with a family member or close friend on the phone
- Avoiding social media and comparing myself to others
- Reading (about anything)
And most importantly is not being hard on myself. As a perfectionist, I have to take a step back sometimes and force myself to gain a different perspective. It's easier said than done but it's important for me to realize this.
2. I play with my kids, read to them, spend time with them, etc.
3. I workout ever day.
4. I enjoy my job and my coworkers. I have a great boss.
5. I go to church each week and have a community of friends there.
6. I get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
7. I eat well. I almost never go out to eat but mainly eat homemade meals.
8. I have many hobbies: woodworking, remodeling, gardening, hiking/camping, reading, studying ancient afro-asiatic languages, baking, board games, programming, etc.
9. I look for ways to serve and help other people.
10. I avoid reading the news.
(Props for #10 especially, though. I've recently sworn off the news, which was a toxic force in my life.)
One important comment I want to make is that even well managed, life is a journey with peaks and valleys. Its part of being human to struggle with this (and occasionally conquer it).
Current habits / beliefs:
1. I've been practicing MBSR (mindfulness meditation) for 40 - 60 minutes 5 days a week for almost 2 years. I cannot stress how powerful I believe the impact of this practice has been for me, nor how challenging it is to develop this habit. The investment is absolutely worth it.
2. I cycle in and out of a ketogenic diet (2 - 3 months on , 2 -3 months off). I lost 40 pounds and got to a very healthy weight in the very first cycle, haven't needed to lose weight since but I believe the diet + the weight have a profound impact on my mood stability and self perception respectively.
3. Connect with people. I'm not sure if its because I enjoy writing software so much or have any natural tendencies toward introversion, but I've gone through periods where I don't do this and there's a good correlation there with my mental health. I'll prioritize activities with friends and families at the same "strict" level as meditation. They can add perspective and meaning to life in ways nothing else can.
Edit: Also in the worst of times I'll turn to "Feeling Good" by David Burns, and finally the plug for if things are really rough professional help is the way to go.
First and foremost I know myself. I've spent a long time figuring out who I am and why. This allows me to set myself up for success. I've lived around the world, and I've had lots of different experiences and friends. Ultimately that led me to understand where I want to be and who I want to share my life with.
I avoid toxic people in my life. I know who will just make me angry and bring me down, and I choose to avoid spending too much time with them, even if they are close family.
My dad took his own life last year, and that led to me seeking help. Know when to seek help. You don't have to go through anything alone. Therapy and support groups have been amazing for my mental health.
Finally, mindfulness. I allow my emotions to move through me freely, but I don't let them take over if I can. I acknowledge them and their purpose, and I know they will pass. Even the darkest, scariest feelings or visions eventually pass (in my case anyway).
1. Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Prof. Mark Williams
For me it was "the work", by Byron Katie, which beyond all the mumbo jumbo, is just a very simple(great for habit formation) and very effective such tool and supposedly has some similar effect to meditation , learning to discern truth from all the stories our mind invents.
1. 20 minutes minimum of cardio exercise per day. I avoid doing too much, as being physically exhausted has a negative effect on my next-day energy levels. Physical exhaustion can be useful as a mental reset though if I'm feeling overwhelmed.
2. Lots of fruits and vegetables. I think I'm happier when my gut bacteria are happy.
3. Proper sleep. Being well rested decreases my overall anxiety level. For me this means limiting alcohol, no caffeine past 2pm, and blackout curtains. I take melatonin when I feel like I need it.
Whether I run a mile or three, doesn't matter. Feeling is the same.
I restarted doing a martial art about the same time, which gave me regular socialization, exercise, and something to get good at that wasn’t coupled to my career / work identity. It was kind of a package deal.
I am not religious, though I’m familiar with church from childhood. I’m reminded that there are some practical downsides of not being religious. In some ways, martial art is my secular church.
Humans, even introverts like myself need some level of socialization to stay healthy. I’d advise anyone to find their “church” even if it’s not religious or spiritual. Some characteristics that I think make for good groups:
- Things happen at specific times. You don't have to plan something unless you want to. If you don’t show up, someone wonders where you are and maybe asks about you.
- Everyone isn’t like you. You interact with people who work different jobs, make different money, come from different cultures, and are of a different generation.
- It’s a regular place that can become familiar, and that you have some interest in its care
- The unifying task isn’t too utilitarian. It’s good to have something that improves you, but isn’t itself that important.
I think as a society we’ve lost the notion of personal social health in favor of a completely individualistic notion of mental health. My suspicion is that many of our mental health issues are the result of / are exacerbated by bad social health.
I eat well - zero carbs, normally only two meals per day, at least Sunday through Friday. It might just seem disconnected from mental health, but it creates discipline and focus in day-to-day life. I cut coffee out of my diet last year, but I've been having it in moderation this year.
I prioritize my lifestyle above my work. I decided to travel full-time a year ago, and I'm making my company match my needs.
Lately, I've been decreasing how much I work on the weekends. I take at least one day off per week without answering emails or talking about work.
- Spending time with loved ones and invest in those relationships.
These types of relationships provide a comfy safety harness for my mental health. I know that no matter how bad things go in my day to day life, they are always there and will always provide help, guidance, and love. You have to put effort in here though and can't just reap all of the rewards.
- Strenuous exercise. Great for my self confidence and sense of accomplishment. It's a nice feeling to look at yourself in the mirror after consistently working out for months/years. The discipline it takes to workout every other day will leak into other parts of your life.
- Hobbies. Playing a video game instantly turns a bad mood around. Finishing a multi weekend wood working project gives me an incredible sense of accomplishment. In both cases I am improving skills which also makes me feel accomplished/important, exercises my mind and allows me to be creative.
Be brave and do the healing work. Whether that is through spirituality, religion or mental health professional. Our society is badly in need of healing and it starts with each individual. It's a long (seemingly never-ending) process but it's worth it and you get quality of life improvements all along the way.
I wonder how much mental health would be improved if people lived and worked close to nature.
Did you eat well? Sleep well? Exercise properly? Have a meaningful conversation today? Articulate and share an emotion? Listen to someone you care about? Do something intrinsically satisfying today? Enjoy yourself today?
If you can't answer yes to all of the above (add your own prompts), then blame that rather than Random Problem X and come back when you can answer yes and if you still feel bad and don't know why then tell someone, possibly a professional.
Usually once I can answer yes to the above I'm fine.
I wrote about happiness here:
I also wrote down a set of rules of my own to follow:
The rules get updated as I learn new things in life.
For me, introspection worked very well. I think people are rushing to try the solution for their mental problems without first understanding themselves.
There's a lot of good content here already.
Strategies to prevent mental health struggles: regular exercise, prioritizing sleep, time with friends, a pet, reasonable nutrition, a life philosophy that includes self compassion, breaks from work as well as time to deep-dive into meaningful work, self-reflective practices (like journaling), having a relationship with a "wise" person (therapist, clergy member, mentor, etc), volunteering or finding a way to make meaningful contributions to other people. Many of the other things people have mentioned.
Strategies to cope with mental health challenges include extra doses of all of the above plus a mental health professional who "gets" you. Who doesn't have an agenda beyond understanding you and supporting you. I admit it can be hard to find the right therapist or physician but it is worth the effort. Most problems do not require medication (bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are notable exceptions- they are almost always treated with medication)
Most HN readers will do well with someone who is tech savvy and has experience working with folks in the tech industry.
My advice is don't be scared to jump in and start trying some of these items that seem appropriate to you.
If it doesn't work, pivot.
Pivot again if needs be and again until you find what helps you. Use the experimentation as a positive message to yourself that you are helping yourself when you need to the most. Don't let anyone tell you your ways of trying to deal with mental health are wrong.
Also, if you ever find yourself in crisis and questioning your mental health, please see a qualified professional and if you feel you are in real danger call a hotline (U.S Info): https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/immediate-help
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255)
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline, 1‑877‑SAMHSA7 (1‑877‑726‑4727)
Although I guess the above is more of an answer to "How do you manage your mental illness?" vs "How do you manage your mental health?"
Life is easier but it's difficult knowing that I lost everything and it could have been prevented. Now, I have a startup of eight people and it's challenging but I'm doing it for my children. They're also the reason I stay on treatment.
Out of curiosity, why would you want to go off?
- Keep a non work hobby (something manual, non digital for me)
- Read fiction
- Checkin with my therapist every 6 weeks
* being on a regular schedule of waking up/going to bed
* at least half an hour of some form of exercise per day, outside preferably.
* * seasonal depression especially can kick your ass hard, so if you live in a northern area like me where you get no sunlight in the wintry months take vitamin d supplements or get a happy lamp.
* a good support system of friends, family, and professionals to support me
and last but not least:
* venlafaxine (effexor) er, 150mg/day.
moral of the story is don't be afraid to take meds or go get help. sometimes you don't even realize just how down in the ditch you are until you get up and out for the first time in a long time.
Get out and workout in nature.
Meditation daily with Calm.
Reading some history books.
I eat healthy and simple food(potatoes, rice, soup, banana).
I plan instead of reacting.
Less materialistic and more spiritual.
Always thinking and finding the cause of my depression and getting rid of it.
Until now, everything seems to be ok.
If you're overwhelmed by your thoughts or your emotions or the nothingness inside you, please DO seek help.
F--k the stigma. You are doing it for you and you WILL feel better.
It can be difficult and it can be painful but it's also freeing.
I have a list of values/sayings which I review every week and I set a reminder on my phone. It keeps me focused on the most important things in life like my health and relationships with friends and family. I also believe in abundance mentality.
She wound up going to a cash-based psychiatrist, and they met every week. He was basically available for any appointment time as he was cash-based.
She churned through 8 medicines across 8 weeks before finding the right one. I was shocked. That was years ago.
Weirdly enough, it was almost like devops. Constantly redeploying through the pipeline. Hate saying that, but it did remind me of it.
Hope this one story helps someone.
- Morning walk.
- Be thankful for what you have. It will help you get out of rat race.
- If you follow a religion then get in habit of praying and shift the credit of your achievements towards God and remain humble.
- Give charity as much as you can and look towards the people who are less fortunate than you.
- Help others.
- If you don't have a family, start it ASAP if you can.
I'd be a bit cautious recommending this. Sometimes kids are born out of "trying to make something work" or otherwise using the pregnancy as a fix. 2 of my children were brought into the world this way and I can tell you it didn't help me manage my mental health at all.
Just my .02, only the OP knows if this would really be a good idea for them.
Good apps for this: Keelo, Peloton. I use them both in combination since they are totally different. Insanity is also great but their app blows.
YMMV but really hard exercise has proven invaluable for my mental health.
Its more of an engineering exercise at this point. I just need to keep evaluating new improvements I could make.
- Regular exercise 6x a week
- Eating healthier so I don't feel heavy and tired (less carbs, fats, factory sugars)
- Spending time outside in nature
- More time with friends/family
- Writing everyday 3 lines to reflect on my day
Take time out for yourself, make sure to remember to have fun, try to surround yourself with good people whose company you enjoy.
I'm fully functional 5 days a week at work but not when I am home and not on the weekends. At the moment, my apartment is a mess. I keep saying I'll get to it and at some point I will.
The thing that I had to learn to do was to not punish myself for failing to meet my own expectations. It isn't helpful.
Always make time to deal with everything that i shunt away.
play with the kids.
Maintaining mental health with meditation drags every other aspect of myself into the same basket, I stop eating meat and eat lots of vegetables and fruit, I drink only water and don't consume anything processed, sweats etc. and I exercise 7 days a week.
Then I get better, physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally and I feel like nothing can beat me. Then I skip a day of meditation, then two days and before you know it I'm eating burgers from McDonald's and skipping exercise, drinking Red Bulls and smoking. Then I'll have anxiety/panic attacks before bed, insomnia, depression and after struggling with myself for a year I'd change my lifestyle again.
But then I get well again and forget about the struggle and the cycle repeats. It's a living hell.