My emotions have been better this year.  Much, much better. This year was what I silently dreamed of during all those dark years when I thought of peace. The funny thing is that I never thought it was possible. Now I know it is.

Most of this change is the result of difficult changes in perspective on my part. Well, that mixed with the exact right dosage of medication — too much makes me depressed and too little, anxious.

But there have been some insights that I have gathered over the years that have helped me keep the minor blues and frets away:

1. This too shall pass.  In the past when I would wake up a bit depressed, I would assume that it was just the beginning of the descent into the inevitable. I would panic, and within minutes I would go from mildly depressed to full-blown panic and despair. These days I have been able to remember that everyone has down days and that down mornings don’t necessarily have to lead to down days. This is obviously easier said than done, but when I just remind myself over and over (and over!) that one bad morning doesn’t have to mean anything, I can usually get through it.

2. I feed my soul.  I have three little kids. I don’t have much time for relaxation. I have found, however, that taking time at the end of the day to do something that truly fills me up (for me it is knitting and reading) allows me to have more to give the next morning.  Without a reprieve, it’s far less pleasant to go to bed knowing that as soon as I wake up, I will have a whole new day of endless giving ahead of me.

3. I read. As I said, I don’t have a whole lot of time to myself. Books are great, however, in that they don’t get upset if you leave mid-conversation. Sometimes I can find ten whole minutes to read. Sometimes it’s only a paragraph or two. But either way, it helps me get out of myself and my head. Anything that helps with that boosts my mood.

4. I seek out others. One of the nice things about being a writer is that people know your struggles. As such, they feel more comfortable sharing their own. I used to think that I was the only person in the world who had troubles. Through writing, I have found that this most certainly is not the case.

5. I remind myself that compulsions are self-perpetuating.  Sometimes it really, seriously, truly feels like if I just indulge in a compulsion that things will get better and I can go back to my day. That’s obviously not the case. If I indulge the compulsions, I just give them more food to thrive upon. Instead, I try to hold off for as long as I can. If I can hold myself back, eventually, the panic goes away.

This last insight is so important that I feel the need to take it out of the list. What I have learned is to respect the disease. Anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional illnesses are real. They are just as real as a broken arm or pneumonia. The only problem is that we don’t have a blood test or simple x-ray to confirm them.

I think it’s because everyone has felt sad or worried that they believe they understand what anxiety and depression are, and as such, everyone feels they have a right to tell you that everything your doctor and therapist have told you is all rubbish and that you just need to take a walk or take a vitamin or sleep some more.

Yes, those things can help. But believing that this is all that is needed can undermine your trust in the process that works for you.  And trying to get yourself to do those things when you are at your lowest…

So the biggest thing I have done to help myself is acknowledge that my issues are real. They aren’t made up. They aren’t issues everyone deals with on a constant basis. They are legitimate and they are formidable.

And I have every right to own that and respect that.

Actually, I must own that because as soon as I start listening to all the armchair (or internet) therapists, I start feeling guilty and defective and weak.

So while this list is a list of actions that have helped me, I want to be clear that they were used in tandem with much stronger interventions. Basically, this is what helps me stay centered when I am already pretty much there.

This is a rough time of year for people with mental or emotional problems. Hopefully this list will help remind you of some things that help fill up your bucket and help you stay in that happy middle place where peace can be found.

Knitting photo available from Shutterstock