Working with acceptance and mindfulness gave me a platform to get back to normal
Written by Daniel Sleat, a buddhify user since 2015
With depression and mental health issues, Daniel has discovered from personal experience that the route to recovery and a healthy mind often comes through speaking openly with others and sharing useful tips. That’s why he wants to pay it forward and share his own wisdom about getting better. Spoiler alert: mindfulness is part of the equation.
A few years ago I was suffering from anxiety and depression. I had overworked my mind with overthinking, worrying, and other bad habits like these. When my mind became tired, anxiety symptoms were triggered. I then fell into the classic trap of worrying about these symptoms — the anxiety cycle.
This is the anxiety trap, because identifying with the thoughts adds extra work on a tired mind and keeps it trapped in that state.
What I did wrong was to then deeply engage and identify with these thoughts. “Why do I feel this symptom?”, “Oh gosh, what is happening now?”, and it spirals from there. This is the anxiety trap, because identifying with the thoughts adds extra work on a tired mind and keeps it trapped in that state.
All the mind wants at this stage is to be left alone to get better and repair. There is a lot you can do to slow down that process or make it more difficult, particularly overthinking. However, there is very little you can do to speed it up — patience is critical.
A combination of things helped me break free of this pattern: a low dose of antidepressant medication, mindfulness, and also properly understanding anxiety and how to then get better. My biggest tip for someone feeling unwell with anxiety/depression is to first understand what is happening and get familiar with the different phases the mind goes through.
The next stage is to find a route to recovery that is right for you and try to stick with it. In my experience, I found that the explanation from Paul David and Dr. Claire Weekes of what anxiety is and how its symptoms manifest themselves to resonate. Their work based on acceptance made a lot of sense to me, and alongside mindfulness, it gave me a platform to get back to normal.
In my case, putting this idea of total acceptance into place has deepened my connection with mindfulness. Only recently did I truly come to understand the intention is not to stop a thought, but rather to accept it — to recognize and allow it, but not engage or identify with it.
Grasping this helps me with some of the very things that initially led me to be unwell — in particular with overthinking, worrying, and obsessive thoughts/fears. What a vital tool it is to learn to simply let thoughts and feelings come and go. I no longer have to waste time or energy engaging in the anxiety cycle. Now I can recognize when my mind is tired at the moment, let it run through the thought patterns it wants to, and come to peace.
It is a continual process of growth, rather than something where you reach a specific point or end state.
Mindfulness is not always easy and my experience with it changes over time. It is a continual process of growth, rather than something where you reach a specific point or end state. For this reason, I’ve found it beneficial in different ways at different times — being present more, deepening a sense of gratitude, and also continuing to understand and reinforce the difference between me and my mind.
Daniel Sleat is based in London, England. He recommends Names (Stress & Difficult Emotion 1) in particular, which he noted is great for recognising and accepting thoughts, but not engaging with them.
If you feel you have learnt something important through your meditation practice and you’d like your share your insight or experience, we’d love to hear from you. Let us know via [email protected] and we’ll be in touch.