For people that have never experienced mental health issues, depression and anxiety can be difficult to understand, and mental illness can happen to anyone - the mom next door experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety after the birth of her baby, the successful businessman experiencing panic attacks for the first time out of nowhere, the CEO with anxiety due to overwhelm, the wife suffering grief from the loss of her husband...the list goes on and on, because anxiety and depression can happen to anyone, and can often feel as if they come out of nowhere (even when we identify a root cause).
People who experience mood disorders know how crippling these feelings can be. Panic attacks and suicidal thoughts are the most dangerous symptoms of these disorders, and while medicines are available to help combat these symptoms and can be life-saving, they often can have side-effects, and studies show that therapy and tactics to combat anxiety and depression often have better long-term effects than SSRIs, SNRIs, or benzos (which can be used for both short-term and long-term under the supervision of a psychiatrist). Treating any type of mental illness often requires a multifaceted approach, like any combination of the following -- meds, therapy through a psychologist, psychiatrist care, and/or lifestyle adjustments or changes. YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS JOURNEY.
Practicing these seven daily mental health exercises can help ease anxiety and depression symptoms and help you establish a routine. That being said, always seek the advice of a professional and board-certified therapist, psychiatrist, and/or physician for supervised treatment options.
1. Make Positive ListsSelf-hate is a major component of depression. All sufferers experience this feeling in some capacity. We often tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough at what we want to do, we hate on our appearances or think negatively about our self-worth. The best thing to do when you have these thoughts is to keep a running list in a place where you will always see. You can tack it onto your fridge, tape it to your computer, or fold it in your pocket. Every time you do something that you are proud of, write it down. When someone says something nice about you, write that down! When you are feeling your worst, look at your list of positivity and remember that negativity is transient.
2. Set Long-Term Goals
Stress and anxiety can ruin motivation and cause bouts of inertia that go on for months at a time. To combat the inertia that comes with mental health disorders, set a long-term goal. It might seem like the worst time to take on a huge project, but it’s the exact opposite. Pursuing a long-term goal that you are passionate about will occupy your thoughts with something positive and get you looking forward to the future. You might even enjoy the process of working towards it! Think of the things you’ve wanted to do all your life like picking up a new hobby, getting healthy or pursuing a career. Try not to pick something that will stress you out too much. The goal right now is to get your mind off the feelings of stress and panic that you’ve been experiencing.
3. Identify Triggers
Sufferers of anxiety and depression have triggers. Triggers can be words, emotions or situations that cause them to experience their mental disorder in full-force. Triggers can be anything from rainstorms to abusive situations or words. By recognizing your trigger, you’ll be able to avoid it or prepare for it. In some situations, you may want to slowly expose yourself to it as a form of therapy, but this should never be attempted without a professional therapist.
One of the best ways to cope with negative emotions is to meditate. Sometimes it can be difficult to pull yourself out of the physical world and relax, but with patience, it can be liberating. Monitor your day and understand when you are likely to experience the most stress. Is it after the morning commute? Arrive to work a few minutes early and meditate. You might experience the most stress after work. Come home, play some relaxing music and take some time to relax and focus your mind. Another great habit is to meditate right before bed. Your body will get ready for sleep and you’ll be more relaxed and prepared for a good night’s rest. If you enjoy meditating, you might want to try incense, candles or practicing hand mudras.
5. Reward Yourself
Every time you complete a goal, reward yourself. Because inertia is so common with depression and anxiety, getting motivated can be tricky. Stay focused on goals with rewards. They can be anything from your favorite meal to a vacation. You have to stay motivated in whatever ways you can and treating yourself isn’t a bad way to do it.
6. Say No To Self-Hate
Self-hate can be an overpowering feeling. We are often so desensitized that we chastise or dismiss ourselves without realizing the ramifications. Saying no to self-hate is a critical part of the healing process. Watch yourself for negative thoughts about your personality, body, strength or worth and then say no to it. Sometimes, it can be hard to say no to these strong voices, but by just saying it, you’ll start to feel yourself growing stronger.
7. Find a Creative Outlet
Studies have shown that most sufferers of anxiety and depression are also highly creative. If you aren’t, you should still try to find a creative outlet. Writing, drawing, painting, cooking, graphic design or crafting are all great ways to unleash your creativity. Engaging in a creative activity is shown to reduce stress and improve mood. While you might not always enjoy creative activities, you might actually find one you like even if it’s making little paper flowers, writing a poem or making graphic art on your laptop!
P.S. Therapy & Professional Help Are King
Mental health disorders can be extremely debilitating to live and suffer with. While medicine should not be overlooked, it does not work for everyone. Therapy like talk-therapy, CBT therapy, and ACT therapy can be effective in overcoming long-term struggles and make real changes. Medicine and therapy are both very efficient forms of treatment, but you should continue to care and cope for yourself at home as well (think of it like homework for your brain and soul).
To take control of your anxiety and depression focus on these seven easy mental health exercises, BUT also reach out to your OBGYN/psychiatrist/primary care physician for your postpartum/general anxiety and depression treatment options. These are opinions and self-help options and are not endorsed by a professional. Use at own discretion, and always seek professional help for any mental health issues or concerns.
About the authors -
Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Jane is an entrepreneur and a full-time housewife. She spends most of his time on doing kitchen stuff reviews and owns several health and home sites such as gearweare.com, runnerclick.com, monicashealthmag.com, janeskitchenmiracles.com, thatsweetgift.com & carseatexperts.com. Follow her on Pinterest for more.
Living in Northern California, Shelley is a mama to a cub, writer, social media maven, and believes sunshine and country music are essential to life. Shelley loves peonies, her son, keeping her sunroof open at all times, and her favorite author is Debbie Macomber. You can find her writing about life on IG @saltysweetseasons, and she is the founder of Speak Up Speak Endo (@speakupspeakendo), a platform for women with Endometriosis. Follow her on Instagram for more.