Five Things in my Toolbox

I started medication at the age of six for anxiety, depression and OCD, and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17. After searching for answers, following many bouts of depression and hopelessness, I decided to escape the emotional jail built for me. About eighteen months ago, I did a complete 18. Below are a few things from my “toolbox” that have helped me live a life I never thought possible. I spent all those years looking for someone or something to save me, all I needed was to look within myself.

1. Intuitive Movement
Doing some sort of gentle movement with deep breathing is essential for me. Yoga or Thai chi are some great examples. Vigorous exercise works well too, but I find doing slow controlled movements creates a stillness in mind and my body. Taking care of your body is the first step into taking care of your mental well being.

2. Meditation
Everyone should practice meditation even if it’s just several minutes a few times a week. By meditating daily I am able to give my mind a break. I still find it hard to focus during the meditation, that is ok. Even if I can only get to that place of stillness for one second of the whole meditation, my brain still experienced that one moment of being quiet. The more I practice it the more my thoughts slow down.

3. Essential Oils
Essential oils have been one of the biggest factors that have helped me go from sick to well. I only use Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils because I ingest them for medicinal purposes. The most important oil for me is Frankincense which acts as a natural chemical to help balance my moods. A close second is lavender. I frequently roll lavender oil over my heart, behind my ears and under my nose to help soothe me whenever I get into an anxious situation. It works magic. It's crazy that something natural can change my state so quickly. There's an oil for everything!

4. Mindfulness
Something so small like stopping for a moment to take a deep breath can change our moods. As an example, when I have my cup of coffee in the morning, I stop and take a sip and say out loud, "I am grateful for that delicious coffee". When I am stopped at a traffic light, I will look up at the sky and take a deep breath and just acknowledge how beautiful the sky is. Those tiny moments are where I feel grateful to be alive. The more I put them into practice the more my attitude changes. When I focus on being grateful, I feel grateful.

5. Affirmations
Affirm yourself every day. At the end of the day, I used to lay in bed and analyze everything I did that day and tear myself apart for it. I would criticize and beat myself all the imagined missteps I did that day (as I'm sure a lot of you understand). This was where affirmations changed my life. When I find myself in a negative headspace I place my hand on my chest and say, "I love you," and, "You are enough". It sounds silly and so simple, but the effects are incredible. If my best friend were getting verbally beat up, I would comfort them. I had to stop judging myself and to learn to comfort myself.

I want to mention: what works for me might not work for you. Whatever you decide to try, if it doesn't work the first time, please don't give up. I tried all of the above things once or twice and they didn't work so I believed that they wouldn't help me. It wasn’t until I committed to not letting this be my story that things changed. It’s not just one thing that is going to fix everything, it's about creating a tool box that is loaded with tools you can pull out whenever you need them. Find what makes you feel good and just keep doing it. With some faith and some hard work your “life sentence” can become your biggest opportunity.

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