There are many forms of anxiety and depression, and every person experiences these feelings at some point in their life. When these feelings become persistent, draining and crippling, however, it can feel like you are spiralling out of control in a very dark tunnel and all the exits are blocked. Overcoming anxiety and depression is possible. These conditions are manageable with the proper education and resources. Though there is no cure-all solution or magic juice to make your symptoms disappear, taking the appropriate steps towards recovery can place you on your journey to living the healthier and happier life that you deserve.
These twenty useful tips can help you work, though, manage, and relieve your symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you are just starting your journey towards recovery, then these steps will provide a valuable base of information for you launch off of. Just being a bit more positive can have an impact on your mind. If you have been struggling to manage your anxiety or depression for far too long, then do not feel discouraged and never resist the urge to seek help if life becomes too overwhelming.
Give Yourself a Break!
Inadequate sleeping patterns are the most widely researched phenomenon in regards to depression and anxiety. Franzen and Buysse’s 2011 research discovered that over 90% of those struggling with depression also complain of sleep problems. Additionally, insomnia is considered a major risk factor for eventually developing depression in otherwise healthy adults.
The National Institute of Mental Health agrees that more research is needed, but there is mounting evidence that preventing sleep disturbances can also prevent depression, anxiety and other mental health crisis. Hundreds of studies have collaborated these findings.
For these reasons, make sleeping well a priority in your life. Resist the urge to prioritize work, entertainment or even family over your health and well-being. If you are having problems sleeping, then make it a point to talk to your doctor and don’t minimize the real consequences sleep disturbances are having on your life.
Super Charge Your Diet
The notion that our diets influences our emotions is an old saying that has now been proven by modern science. Numerous scientific studies can be found confirming that neurotransmitters, which control emotional responses, are directly impacted by certain foods. Alan Logan extensively showed the connection between major depression disorders and a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.
The same effect is present in animal studies. Nicolas Singewald’s important research concluded that mice with magnesium-deficient diets displayed increased anxiety and depression related symptoms.
Touch your diet by eliminating foods that contribute to anxiety such as alcohol, unrefined sugar, and fried foods. Replace these comfort items with super foods packed with magnesium, vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients. Some of the best super foods for anxiety and depression are whole grain foods, blueberries, seaweed, acai berries and pure dark chocolate.
Plenty of self-help resources emphasizes the importance of daily exercise. Research has proven that stimulating our muscles produces more “happy” chemicals like serotonin and endorphins that fight depression symptoms. More mindful movement and stretching exercises like yoga or tai chi have been proven to alleviate anxiety. Joining a local exercise program, like a weekly yoga class or dance session provides you with an opportunity to relieve stress while meeting new people.
If you feel that exercising has never been your strength, then start with baby steps. Even a daily walk around the block can do wonders to improve your mindset and boost your personal sense of empowerment. Make it a goal to increase your daily steps with small changes like parking your car farther away from the store or walking (rather than driving) to your lunchtime hangout.
Limit Decision-Making Pressure
Severe anxiety and uncertainty can make everyday decisions seem overwhelming and unmanageable. A concerned spouse asking a simple question, such as what you’d like for dinner, may unwittingly send you into a panicked frenzy by asking you to access decision-making resources that are simply unavailable to you at that moment.
A simple way to manage decision-making anxiety is to limit the amount of pressured decisions you will need to make each day. Creating a weekly meal plan, for example, will ensure that you make these decisions when you are thinking clearly. Avoid any anxiety-inducing or time-pressured decision by preparing ahead for any decision you can.
There will be times when you are forced to decide on the spot, but managing the day-to-day decisions you’re forced to make will free up more brain power for those unexpected choices that life throws your way.
Establish More Structure
Depression and anxiety cloud your focus and agitates your nervous system. It’s common to feel the desire to shut down, withdraw and avoid responsibilities. The idea of structuring a daily routine can sound unappealing and mundane, but injecting more structure into each day will progressively soothe and settle your nervous system.
Your body will slowly adjust and calm down by knowing what to expect each day in a similar way that an infant can be pacified by learning what to expect at snack time or nap time. Establishing a routine will also reduce any decision-making anxiety that stems from restless, nervous energy when trying to decide what to do next. The certainty and stability of a daily routine will offset the uncertainty and can help you reinforce newly-found positive habits.
You can establish structure though planned meal times, break times, work times and even rest times. It’s about being a little more productive. It may seem a little silly for a grown adult to set himself a plan to remove the stress out of our lives completely. But if you find yourself always putting your daily needs on the back burner, then you will certainly struggle with any additional load that comes your way. It is not uncommon for individuals with severe anxiety issues or depressive episodes to simply forget to eat, sleep or even drink water because they are too hyper-focused on other problems. If you have to put yourself on a schedule to maintain a healthy life until it becomes a habit, then make it a point to write yourself a program every day.
Make a conscious effort to slow down physically. It’s common for those prone to anxiety to speed through things or rush about without even being aware of why they have such a sense of urgency. Being jumpy and speedy can become a destructive habit that causes your anxiety symptoms to go full circle.
Catch yourself when you are acting out your anxiety symptoms in this way and pay close attention to the way your body tenses and your breathing changes. Make an effort to relax your muscles and slow down the pace of your breathing. This focused action will quell the sense of urgency and return your body to a more relaxed state. Over time, you will become better at recognizing early signs that your body is tense and have more power to control it.
Even the most intelligent and emotionally stable person will buckle under too much stress. It’s impossible to remove the stress out of our lives completely, but learning how to reduce the amount of stress you do have will minimize the power that anxiety and depression hold over your life.
The first step in reducing your stress level is to identify what types of things provoke feelings of stress. These are called triggers and could come in the form of a person, place, situation, activity or even a particular item. You can minimize many of these stress levels by avoiding the person, place or thing. If you’re unable to remove a trigger from your daily life completely, then it’s crucial to manage your response to it.
Relaxation techniques or controlled breathing can immediately empower you to maintain control in the face of a trigger. We recommend that you attempt to observe, rather than react, to situations until you can clearly process what is happening. You will have to deal with those stressors that are unavoidable by learning resilience.
Learn How to Build Resilience
Dr. Southwick defines resilience as “the ability to bend, but not break, and even to grow from adversity in one’s life,”. When setbacks inevitably occur in life, it can be truly traumatic for someone who is already suffering from anxiety or depression. It can seem almost impossible to take a bad situation and look at the positive aspects or the possibility of positive things coming from it.
It is possible to build up this power to overcome adversity. Dr. Southwick recommends finding support in a social network, educating yourself on how to manage stress and getting spiritual as the three most important keys to gaining resilience. The spiritual path focuses on obtaining a beneficial connection with something larger than oneself. We can find this through religion, but we can also find it by holding onto values such as love and respect or even through nature.
Social support and relationships are crucial aspects of human nature. Depression and anxiety can make you feel completely alone and detached. It hinders your ability and desire to maintain any bonds that you do have, while additionally preventing you from forming new ones.
Take the time to reach out and stay in regular contact with your family or a few close friends. Avoid the pitfall of falling out of contact with everyone and isolating yourself. If you are always avoiding people, then they will eventually stop reaching out to you. Modern technology makes it easy for us to stay in contact with people, so when you feel too anxious to physically go out with your friends, utilize text message services or email to stay connected.
Sunlight is nature’s free mood-boosting gift that we could all use more of. The Environmental Health Journal published a wide-scale study of over 16,000 participants in 2009 that confirmed the direct correlation between sunlight exposure and brain functioning. Further studies have revealed that lower levels of vitamin D are associated with depressive disorders.
Sunlight is essential for proper absorption of vitamin D, so just taking vitamins will not have the same effect as going outside and feeling the sun’s warm rays. Aim to get at least fifteen minutes of sunlight a day if the weather allows for it. If you’re not able to physically go outside, then try to maximize the natural light in your space by opening your blinds or drapes.
Though dehydration does not directly cause depression, it does exacerbate any symptoms of depression that you are experiencing. Dehydration will decrease your brain’s energy and increase your body’s stress. A lack of water will cause your brain to halt all production of “happy” chemicals abruptly. According to extensive research conducted by the University of Connecticut, once you start to feel thirsty, mild dehydration has already set in, and the body is already functioning at a lower energy and mood level.
Drinking more water, especially in place of sugary drinks, is always beneficial to your health. Experts recommend that you should drink about half of your body weight in ounces each day. For instance, someone who weighs 100 pounds should drink around 50 ounces of water each day.
Filter Your Thoughts
Every person experiences negative thoughts and feelings, but these thoughts often become persistent, overwhelming and even irrational in depressed and anxious individuals. Thinking negatively becomes an ingrained pattern that is consistently throwing more fuel onto the burning fire of depression.
Habits like jumping to conclusions, labeling and over generalizing are all destructive and should be challenged immediately rather than dwelled upon. Put your negative thoughts on trial. Examine and question the validity of each draining thought. Often, once you start examining and filtering your thoughts the negative ones quickly crumble and you become more balanced in your perspective.
Have you ever noticed that the body’s response to feeling cold is to shake, shiver and tense up? Certain symptoms of anxiety mirror these responses to feeling cold. Warmth is incredibly soothing to our body’s central nervous system. This is the reason why curling up in a nice warm blanket can sometimes feel like a huge relief to our body when we are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety symptoms.
Plenty of warm fluids throughout the day is relaxing and calming. People recommend hot water because it will cleanse your system, rid your body of toxins that may be making your symptoms worse and keep you hydrated. Warm coffee and tea are also very good, but be aware that many report caffeine increases their anxiety symptoms.
Set Limits on Stimulation
If you have children or have ever been around young ones, then it’s likely you’ve been witness to a full-blown meltdown where the child is completely inconsolable. They’ve been stimulated too many times past their limits, and they begin to shut down as a survival mechanism. We may not throw ourselves on the floor or scream out in disapproval as grown adults. But we can still become overstimulated past our limits.
If you’re already feeling anxious, then be wary of overly stimulating activities even when they have not been a problem for you in the past. Loud concerts, horror movies or big group gatherings can be exciting and fun. But they can also be unsettling to someone who is experiencing too much tension in their daily life. Avoid activities that may push your body into overdrive until you can confidently manage your symptoms.
Explore New or Old Hobbies
Once depression sets in, activities you found enjoyable in the past have lost their luster and anxiety may prevent you from doing activities that you might enjoy otherwise. You may not see the benefits of spending your time on a new or forgotten hobby initially, but overcome this feeling of doubt and give it a try. Hobbies help ease overactive minds by inducing feelings of relaxation, creativity, and enjoyment.
Libby Segal began a project called “The Hobby Hoarder,” in which she tackled a new hobby each day for a year to battle her crippling depression. Her main takeaway from that experience has been that trying new hobbies, or even exploring old ones, will dramatically increase your resources to pull from when anxiety or depression does strike.
There are numerous clubs and social groups dedicated to managing and recovering from depression and anxiety. Joining a community club puts you in direct contact with like-minded individuals that you can fellowship with. Curb feelings of isolation and loneliness by attending gatherings and meeting new friends. Forming new, healthy bonds with people you can trust is healing in many ways.
If you feel uncomfortable joining a group specifically dedicated to depression, then look for other groups that interest you. There are book clubs, art groups, mom communities, religious organizations, video game fan clubs and all varieties of gatherings. There are even online communities that you can be a part of without ever leaving your home. Whatever your interests or hobbies, there is a community or group out there for you.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to offer help to people that are in need. Surprisingly, research is showing that volunteering may also be one of the best ways to provide help to yourself. Helping others results in a happiness effect that spreads to everyone around. Volunteering builds social connections, breeds feelings of fulfillment and is good for your overall body and mind.
Dr. Suzanne Richards extensively reviewed research on the effects volunteering has on reducing an individual’s level of depression and published her findings in BMC Health. Her findings indicate that volunteering increases one’s self-worth and well-being to such an extreme degree that it lowered an individual’s risk of dying by 22 percent.
Look for Your Purpose
Whatever your life situation, finding or redefining your purpose in life will have positive effects on your mental health. Research shows that individuals that report feeling a strong sense of purpose are more resilient to life changes. Remaining satisfied through life’s ups and downs is an important factor when trying to starve off depression and anxiety.
Individuals find comfort and purpose through spirituality, religion, friendships and marriages. But not everyone feels like they are called to do something or be something. Investing in finding your purpose in life involves taking the time to consider your innermost values, gifts, and talents. Make an effort to act out and defend your values intentionally. Discover and utilize and gifts or talents you have to bring joy to others. Pay attention to your inner voice and let your uniqueness shine.
The old saying “knowledge is power” holds true and is very relevant regarding managing anxiety and depression. Educating yourself about the causes, symptoms, and terms related to these conditions is empowering. Putting a name on something you have been experiencing is a form of positive validation and encouragement.
Utilize the internet, books and any self-help resources you can find to learn as much as possible about your condition. As your knowledge grows, you will gain more confidence and continuously be discovering new coping skills and tricks.
Take Time to Unwind
Take these suggestions about getting outdoors, starting a meal plan and finding new hobbies in small steps. Managing anxiety and depression is even more complicating to us when faced with conflicting advice like as “stay active” but “avoid overstimulation.” If you are currently struggling with anxiety and depression, then jumping head first into an entirely new lifestyle can feel even more destabilizing.
Expect the journey to be challenging and don’t expect to see results overnight. Take the time to unwind and detangle your old lifestyle. Read quotes. Slowly integrate these new, positive habits into each day and focus on your daily accomplishments. Freedom and peace of mind are achievable goals!