“We are what we repeatedly do.”
Recovery from depersonalization and derealization is not an overnight process. If we expect to just wake up one morning feeling perfectly all right, then our expectation will never be fulfilled. Recovery takes time, and most importantly, some daily practices. There are certain routines that you can undertake to heal yourself over time.
Let’s take a look at six key practices that have personally helped me on my path towards recovery, and how they can help you in yours.
Be Physically Active
A healthy and strong body will be able to handle the stress from any mental anguish more than a body that has grown weak due to the lack of a fitness routine. You do not have to be a gym rat to be free of depersonalization, just find a weekly rhythm that you’re comfortable with and stick to it. It could be 2 days a week of running or 3 days a week of lifting or alternate days of yoga sessions.
Find a routine that you can stick to consistently. You can burn off excess adrenaline or cortisol, the two hormones that are associated with anxiety, panic, and depersonalization, with some moderate exercises. Also, the endorphins that your body produces after a good workout session is naturally calming and is the best antidote to DP/DR.
I have also detailed in length how to kick-start your fitness routine if you need some help in this area.
This is related to maintaining a healthy body but is much more important than exercising. Your food affects your mood, it’s that plain and simple. What you put inside your body will determine your state of mind and health. Stick to whole foods and avoid excess sugars, stimulants, and hyper-processed foods. It’s okay, once in a while, to eat whatever you want, but it shouldn’t be a regular habit. Cooking food at home is also an excellent activity that makes you forget about your DP/DR symptoms for some time.
Journal Your Thoughts and Feelings
Write every day or at least a few times a week. Write about your bad days. It helps to vent your feelings out. When thoughts are stuck inside your head, they may look confusing or scary, but when they come out in writing, they may help make sense of what you are going through.
Don’t forget to write about your good days. It will make you feel better. Also, when you are having setbacks during recovery, you can read about the good days and know that they will be coming around again.
There is very good scientific evidence supporting the notion that journaling helps with recovering from any mental health issue. Personally, when I had a very bad day of feeling anxious or feeling unreal, I’d come home and journal about my day. It helped me put things into perspective and gave me a way to channel my feelings when I couldn’t relay them to anyone else. I always felt calmer after a journaling session. Try it for yourself and see if you can notice any difference.
Pick up a Hobby or a Project
Is there something that you’ve always wanted to do, but you never got to do it? I’m not talking about climbing Mt. Everest or going to outer space. I’m talking about simple projects or a hobby that you’ve been interested in. Losing yourself in an activity can be the best way to forget about depersonalization for hours.
When you are working on something that’s not too demanding, but at the same time not too easy, you are said to be in a state of flow. Flow states are the exact opposite of DP/DR state. The more you experience flow in your life, the less anxious you will be.
Start a project and commit to it. Build that treehouse or write that book. How about a new hobby? Maybe gardening was something you’ve always wanted to do? How about picking up the guitar or knitting? Or even working on a ten-thousand-piece puzzle set. If you wanted to release a music album, commit to it and go for it. Don’t worry about the finished product, just focus on what you can do one day at a time.
Dare to Socialize
We are social beings. To a degree, we all yearn for some connection to others. However, this can be hard when you are feeling anxious or feeling out of touch with reality. We may have hung out with friends and family when we were feeling disassociated or anxious, and then tried acting normal outwardly. That’s the reason we want to avoid people, because we try to act normal while we are burning with depersonalization/derealization symptoms on the inside.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You do not have to hide your discomfort. If you experience a lot of DP/DR during an interaction, bring it out and let the person or the people know how you are feeling. DP/DR grows when it’s kept hidden. By exposing and putting it out there, it becomes small. You’ll be amazed to see how understanding and supportive people can be, if you just let them know how you really feel. And if they are not understanding or make fun of you, then that is an indication of their immaturity and has nothing to do with you.
When we are in the midst of the right company, where we can be with all of our parts, including the part that is afraid, worrisome, or anxious, it helps us relax and takes the stress away.
There are also many DP/DR support groups that you can find on the internet. Being with a small group of people who are facing similar challenges helps you interact and connect easier. When we find the right human connection, it can be very healing.
Do Normal Things
To start feeling normal, you’ve got to do normal things. Going out for a walk, picking up a part-time or full-time job, or going to school and attending classes are all examples of what one normally does. The more you spend time avoiding everyday normal activities, the longer it will take for you to recover.
The level of fear you experience will gradually decrease through daily, deliberate exposure to your triggers. If you wait around, hoping this depersonalization will magically go away, and you can then connect with life again, you are going to be waiting for a long time. Connect with life along with your mental health issues, and those issues will slowly stop hindering your life.
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