Let's just get this out of the way right away: these tips are most definitely not intended to be a substitute for professional therapists or prescribed medication. As I mentioned in an earlier post , I’ve had some success with conventional medical treatments. If you suffer from anxiety or depression in any way that impacts your life, please talk to your doctor.
That said, it’s really empowering to play an active role in your own recovery, and to feel like you’re doing something yourself in between those therapist and doctor’s appointments. Different things work for different people, but I’ve gotten a few requests for a post on what I do to help manage my depression and anxiety, so I thought I’d share them here.
The best part: these are all a heck of a lot cheaper than therapy, so you can do them as often as you like!
This is the one tip that has been recommended by every therapist and doctor I’ve ever talked to, and it’s a really good one. When you encounter a really strong feeling (it can be positive or negative), grab your writing implements of choice and just start writing. Don’t worry about how it sounds, or whether your spelling and grammar are correct, just write down everything that comes to mind. I’ve found this has two really big benefits: it feels really cathartic to get those feelings out of your mind and onto paper and it also provides a useful log to track what feelings and situations are more likely to make you feel anxious or depressed.
I’m also playing around with some mood-tracking apps. Stay tuned for more on that in future posts on tech and wellness!
Art therapy is often used in conjunction with more conventional therapies when treating anxiety and depression, but you can also take advantage of the benefits of getting in touch with your creative in a less structured setting. Making art can act as a visual form of journalling (I sometimes sketch things I have trouble writing down), and it also just feels good to produce something you can see with your eyes and hold with your hands. I’m using “art” in the loosest way here. You do not need to consider yourself an artist to benefit from this practice, and art can encompass a whole slew of creative pursuits. You can draw, paint, make music, knit, cook, take photos or anything else that comes to mind.
Get Up and Move
Physical activity has a huge effect on your mental health. No one’s saying you have to run a marathon (but, if that’s your thing, go for it). It can be as simple as going for a walk around the neighbourhood or doing your favourite yoga DVD in your living room. Personally, I like to attend a yoga class with a teacher I really love. It adds that extra social aspect that I can’t get from practising at home.
Make a Manageable To-Do List
When you’ve got anxiety or depression, there may be days where doing even the simplest task seems like a challenge. I’ve found that it really helps to start making lists of things you want to get done, and if the tasks look too daunting, break them down into smaller, more manageable sub-tasks. Write everything down and check them off as you go. Once you start getting stuff on your list checked off, it’s time for my final tip …
Did you get a challenging item on your list checked off? Maybe you went to that work-related mixer even though you were feeling a bit anxious about it. Maybe you finally managed to complete that frustrating task you’ve been procrastinating on. Awesome! You deserve a treat! Feel free to celebrate little victories with little rewards. It doesn’t have to be anything big that will break the bank, but rewarding yourself for your accomplishments with something simple like a tea latte from your favourite coffee shop or a new song off iTunes can help reinforce your sense of accomplishment and self-confidence, so – in the words of the Parks and Recreation crew – treat yo self!