10 Ways You Can Take Care of Your Emotional Health Throughout the Day
Last updated: November 2020
It’s no secret that those of us living with macular degeneration also sometimes struggle with our emotional health. Worry, anxiety, depression, sadness, fear, anger, and confusion...are all difficult emotions and all have a tendency to accompany any difficult medical diagnosis.
Good days and bad days
Many of us who have been on this health journey with macular degeneration for a while are realizing that some days we are able to look at the bright side and have feelings of acceptance, peace, and joy. Other days just aren’t that way.
Add this to stressors of everyday life and the hustle and bustle of the holidays...and I think we're all in need of a little self-love! I'm here to tell you that self-love doesn't take an entire day at the spa or require an expensive and luxurious vacation.
Coping strategies for vision loss
Over the years, I’ve been able to create coping mechanisms to help get me through my anxious moments and days. I’d like to share these tips with you just in case they can help you through your difficult moments and days as well.
Please keep in mind that what works for me may not work for you. Something that calms me may make you feel more stressed, so in that case, you wouldn’t want to add that to your bag of tricks and replace it with something more suited for you.
One of the most important ways we can help ease uncomfortable emotions is to first recognize what we are feeling, why we are feeling it and identify triggers that cause stress. This can help to reduce these feelings throughout the day.
Here are 10 tips for anyone looking for quick and easy coping strategies to calm our anxieties while battling macular degeneration:
1. Create your own happy place
Whether at work or home, surround yourself with positivity and things that make you smile. Can you place pictures of your family and inspirational quotes on your desk at work? Can you take a few minutes to sit in your favorite comfy chair by a window where you can look out and take your mind off of things? Know where to go in order to divert your attention. This will change your train of thought and train your brain to stay calm when things feel hard.
I know this sounds so basic, but breathing is very helpful for a few reasons! First, breathing slow and deep breaths helps our bodies relax. You can also do simple breathing exercises to change your mind’s thought process. Try drawing a flower in the air with your finger as you inhale and exhale for each petal. Or, think of your favorite color and breathe deeply as you look around the room to find 5 things that are that color. This tells your brain to think of something else besides what it is worrying about.
3. Have a personal motto!
Sometimes we just need to let our brains (and anxiety) know who’s in charge! Have you ever tried telling your brain to relax? Literally, when I’m feeling any uncomfortable emotion, I say to myself, “Andrea, stop. Take a breath. Relax.” And then I remind myself of my motto…"Keep your head up, Love." (I even have it tattooed on my body as a reminder). When my son is feeling overwhelmed, as children feel quite often, we say this together out loud, “This feeling got too big, it cannot stay! I’ll take a deep breath and blow it away!” This works really well for both of us too!
4. Take breaks and practice self-care
Feeling overwhelmed? It is more than okay to take a break (as often as you need). This was not an easy thing for me to learn, as when I feel overwhelmed, I tend to ‘do’ more. What I am learning is that if I give myself some grace and take a break (take a bath, have a cup of coffee, call a friend, go on a walk...the possibilities are endless), I’m actually more able to conquer the day with a positive outlook. Breaks can actually help us to be more focused and productive.
5. Write it down!
Ever heard of the phrase, ‘get it off your mind’? One way to do this is by writing our worries on a piece of paper to set aside for another time or to just crumple up and throw away to get rid of!
6. Connect with others
Find time each day to spend time with those who understand what you’re going through. Friends and family are great for this, as well as our awesome MacularDegeneration.net community!
7. Eat well
I know that this may seem more for physical health, but it is also for our emotional health as well. Foods high in sugar and saturated fats can make it hard to control our thoughts and function at 100%. Eat nutritious meals and snacks daily to stay fueled, feeling good and hydrated. Plus, when I eat well, I certainly feel better about myself, more in control of my health, and am better prepared for whatever the day will bring.
Any form of exercise that gets our heart rate up for 20-30 minutes each day releases hormones that help us control our thoughts and emotions. Exercise relieves tension and helps to alleviate extreme feelings like anger and anxiety. If you’re feeling depressed it can be really hard to get up and exercise. Even a short walk or minor gardening to get some fresh air and sunshine can help tremendously. Just try to get your body moving!
9. Organize something
I don’t know about you, but when my house/desk/car/workspace is messy, my mind feels messy. Cleaning up or organizing is not only productive, but it also helps me to keep busy and focus my energy on something I can control in the moment.
10. Reward yourself
Life is this wonderful roller coaster of good times and bad, easy times and hard. When moments feel hard, try to reward yourself with something that helps you feel better! You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this.
If you’ve ever wrestled with these feelings because of macular degeneration and vision loss, I’m here to tell you that you are definitely not alone. I’d even venture to say that these feelings are a normal response to such a diagnosis.
Small moments of peace can change our feelings in big ways,
Do you find that fear interferes with your ability to regularly go to eye specialist appointments?