I keep a list of my values written on my phone. I’ve thought a lot about these values and I genuinely believe they are true to me. When I’m feeling terrible I look through the list on my phone and think about my values, and then try to take some kind of action which is in line with my values.
My current values are:
Family - Making the lives of my family better than if I wasn’t around. Being a good role model for my children and my partner, and doing what I can to make them happier
Honesty - With other people but primarily with myself. Not lying to myself. This is the value of mine I struggle with the most. I think I have a tendency to instinctively protect my ego or attempt to placate other people, whereas I should instead be vulnerable and combative if necessary
Courage - Not a lack of anxiety or fear, but rather doing things despite being scared
Meaning - Engaging in activities and living my life in such a way that I experience feelings of meaning, even if I can’t objectively argue why these experiences are meaningful. For example growing my career, increasing my fitness, spending time with people I care about, challenging myself intellectually, and pushing myself to face hardship
Responsibility - Not allowing myself to have self-pitying beliefs or identify as a victim. Recognising when things are my fault, or when I have control over situations. Being a grownup and not allowing myself to use my suffering as an excuse. Recognising my failures, but also not being too hard on myself for not being perfect.
Reflecting on my values and taking action in line with those values often leaves me feeling less depressed and/or anxious.
Another thing I do is meditate mentally on the meaning of the word acceptance. I tell myself repeatedly “I’m willing to feel scared. I’m willing to feel anxious. I’m willing to feel depressed. I’m willing to experience this vertigo and not try to fight it. I’m willing to go out in public and accept whatever happens. I’m willing to feel these difficult thoughts. I’m willing to be vulnerable… etc, etc.”
I find these two techniques are a powerful way to deal with what I call the “vertigo-induced existential crisis”. It generally occurs when I’m out in public and a strong wave of vertigo hits me. Suddenly everything looks weird like I’m in a dream, and thoughts about the nature of reality start to pop into my head. If I engage with the thoughts too much it’s easy to end up feeling extremely anxious. It’s weird that vertigo can make me question my place in the universe so intensely, there’s so many assumptions about reality you take for granted until the world suddenly starts moving around you.