Anxiety and depression affect millions of Americans and can occur separately, or together as co-occurring disorders. Virtually everyone has had anxiety or felt a touch of “depression” in their lives. However, when transient issues become a chronic and clinical disorder, they require treatment by a licensed mental health professional. Of course, while seeking help in the form of inpatient or outpatient therapy is the ideal course of action to stop either of these diseases in their tracks, your therapist cannot be there 24 seven. The following list involves the activities and interventions that those who suffer from depression and anxiety can use to help on a day-to-day basis. However, neither this, nor any information that you find on the Internet, should replace the recommendations of your mental health care provider.
Before we begin, however, the number of clients who actively seek out and receive appropriate mental healthcare is surprisingly low. Unfortunately, due to a number of cultural and social stigma, those suffering from anxiety and depression are often told that their conditions are avoidable, or they should simply “get over it.” Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. Anxiety and depression are complex, multifactorial diseases.
Some easily pursued and highly effective strategies for helping anxiety and depression include:
Team sports and activities
Many people who suffer from anxiety or depression have a hard time getting out of the house or even getting out of bed. However, most of us have something we truly enjoy – something outside our typical social or family circle. However, due to the constant, busy nature of our lives, we’re likely to neglect it. If this passion involves teams or groups of people, they can be a very effective motivator. Having others rely on you to show up is a great push to get out and accomplish something. For some it may be sports and getting better with practice and play. For others, activities such as immersing oneself at book club, low impact activities such as water aerobics, gardening or cycling may be ideal. Some may benefit from spiritual activities such as going to church or spiritual gatherings of any kind. Finally, even taking on someone else’s character, in the form of acting, can bring out new emotions and suppress fear and depression.
Exercise can go a long way toward mitigating the effects of depression and anxiety. Exercise releases important hormones, which have a distinct mood lifting effect. Of course, always be mindful of getting injured and don’t overdo it. Getting sidelined for a month or two makes it that much more difficult to get proper exercise.
This goes for both men and women, but some self-care can be a great way to reduce the effects of anxiety or depression. In fact, many of the activities and therapies that we consider to be pampering can actually be therapeutic. Relaxation such as yoga and massage therapy, body strengthening such as dance, Pilates, and more, and others such as equine therapy, painting and arts, all have real therapeutic value.
Diet & Supplementation
Diet can be effective in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Improving one’s diet not only makes them feel better, improves their mobility and energy levels, but can also make them sharper and more productive both at work and at home. Proper diet also promotes healthier vitamin and mineral levels in the body which can play a significant role in how we feel. For example, increasing protein can help with endurance while increasing complex carbs can flatten out sugar spikes throughout the day.
In similar fashion, dietary supplementation may help with both depression and anxiety. For example, Americans collectively have a significant deficiency in vitamin D. Vitamin D is usually acquired through sunlight, but few of us get outdoors enough. Vitamin D is more difficult to metabolize through food, so supplementation may be important. Other common deficiencies such as iron, zinc and more can be managed easily through dietary supplementation. However, any supplementation program should only be started with the oversight of a qualified physician.
Now, it is important to understand that these interventions should not be considered professional or effective treatment for a mental illness on their own. Any of these activities can be performed in conjunction with active therapy. Of course, the best course of action is to let your therapist or counselor know about the activities you are intending to pursue to ensure that they mesh well with the professional therapeutic intervention that you’re receiving from them.