When dealing with my CPTSD, OCD, and major depressive disorder, some days are harder than others. When that happens, I try to tell myself gently that it’s just one of those days. “It’s just one of those days. This, too, will pass,” I remind myself.
This gentle reminder is a mindfulness exercise that helps me keep things in perspective. There are other tools I’ve learned that help me get through these days as well. For instance, sometimes it helps to make a mental list of improvements in my life and milestones in my healing journey. It helps me see how far I’ve come before I get overwhelmed with fear and stress. Fear and stress take me out of the present moment, but naming and listing my accomplishments helps me realize and hold onto the bigger picture of my recovery.
An example of an accomplishment that I like to include in my list is the major reduction in the number of weekly panic attacks I used to have. I used to have major panic attacks in which I would cry endlessly and feel completely hopeless. Another example is the progress I’ve made with emotional regulation. I’m not always perfect, but I no longer have emotional outbursts. I’ve accomplished this through regular practice of mindfulness techniques.
I’d like to share some other tools that I use when I’m having a particularly difficult day. When I’m sitting at my desk or I am in-between tasks, sometimes my anxiety begins to overwhelm me. When this happens, I like to practice deep breathing. I take a deep breath, as deep as I possibly can, and I repeat this three or four times. Taking a moment for myself really helps keep me grounded. I exhale and can feel my body relaxing, and I feel more connected to the earth.
Sometimes, I need to take more time to ground myself in the present moment. When this happens, I like to use a “5 in 5 senses” exercise technique. This is really easy to do, especially once you’ve practiced it a few times. The idea is simple. You name five things around you for each of your five senses. First, I’ll name five things to myself that I can see outside or in the room. Then, I’ll name five scents I can smell; I’ll name five things I can taste (if I have food or drink nearby); I’ll name five sounds I can hear; and I’ll name five things I can touch/feel.
To summarize, here are some tools that I use when my anxiety is rising and when I don’t feel grounded on a particularly difficult day:
- Acknowledging my progress.
- Deep breathing exercises.
- Reminding myself that, “This too shall pass.”
- 5 in 5 senses.
Most of all, it’s good to know that I have go-to tools I can use to help me when I am struggling. Oftentimes, recovery feels like one step forward and two steps back. Progress is slow, and some days I begin to lose patience with myself. But the more I practice these tools, the faster I become at quieting my anxiety and coming back to myself.