It starts with sleep.

I wake up feeling tired, my energy low through most of the day, and all I can think about is when I can crawl back into bed again. My thoughts drift to being asleep in a state where I don’t have to deal with the issues and problems in my life.

Stress manifests in my life in other ways as well. My body doesn’t cooperate, it struggles to process the harmful inputs, and I end up with things like headaches, muscle spasms, and general inflammation and swelling.

That pain in my ankle or a crick in my neck is usually the first indication that something is wrong, that my body is not processing or protecting me in a time of crisis.

I’ve had issues for my entire life. They usually arise in two varieties. Depression sets in when I begin to worry about what happened in the past, things I wish I could have done differently, or outcomes I think I might have been able to change. Depression is more than regret, it’s a physical pain, a reminder of unseen scars.

Then there are times when my worry is focused on what I think could happen. I fixate on a future outcome, almost convincing myself that it’s inevitable. I find myself having futuristic conversations with people in ways I think they might respond, even though I have no idea if it would go that way. And those conversations are almost always fatalistic. Anxiety is what happens when I begin to worry about what could happen in the future, all of which is completely out of my control.

When I have a lucid moment, and I can feel my body moving into crisis, I can’t ignore it. Physically, I keep doing what I’m doing, and I rely on my routine to carry me through the tough moments when I don’t have ample decision-making power. I keep eating healthy foods, I keep exercising, I keep meditating.

But mentally, I struggle. I have to force myself to identify whether I’m suffering from depression or anxiety. To someone who hasn’t had mental health issues, these might sound like the same thing, but they are not.

If I can identify my crisis as depression, it usually involves accepting absolution. I have to forgive other people for past transgressions, and most of the time, the first person I have to forgive is myself.

With anxiety, my approach is different. I’m a proponent of Stoic philosophy, and one of the tenets of this approach to life is focusing only on the moment and what you can control. It doesn’t mean that you damn the future or live like a hedonist, but it does mean that you let go of a future you can’t possibly anticipate. Every time, what I’m worried about never manifests. And things that do cause me pain or stress come from situations that I never could have predicted, which means my anxiety is doing nothing but punishing myself.

I think because I have been studying stoicism for years that I’m much better equipped to deal with anxiety than I am depression. When I begin to worry about something that hasn’t even happened, a little voice in my head pops up and says, “You can’t possibly know if that will happen so let it go.” And for some reason, that helps to re-center me and bring down my blood pressure a bit.

It is the depression that is most difficult for me to manage. I might think I’ve buried something or made amends with the situation, and then it resurfaces like a zombie in a cheap B movie. I’ll sometimes put myself through the same mental beating that I did the last time, which is why I think depression is not something that you cure. It is something that you must manage for a lifetime.

Whether it’s philosophy, religion, relationships, family, or sports—we all need ways to manage both anxiety and depression.

And unfortunately, your problems will still be there when you wake up, or when you put down the bottle, or when the pills wear off.

It might take hard work and a commitment to counseling, but I believe everyone can manage anxiety and depression, but they can’t be ignored. If you need help, ask for it. There’s no shame in that.

Each week in this blog series, I’ll discuss what it means to live the author life, delving into topics about mindset, craft, audience, finance, publishing, self-improvement, spirituality, technology, and more.

Each week in this blog series, I’ll discuss what it means to live the author life, delving into topics about mindset, craft, audience, finance, publishing, self-improvement, spirituality, technology, and more.

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