For Mental Health Awareness Month, AIM Group in NY offers these strategies for coping with anxiety and depression.
Is There A Link Between Anxiety And Depression?
Research on mental health suggests that depression and anxiety, though separate conditions, often occur together. According to an article published in May 2020 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the causes of these overlapping feelings can include genetic and environmental factors. Genetics account for 40% of the predisposition to depressive and anxious symptoms, with the remaining 60% being attributed to environmental, non-inherited factors.
Environmental factors, which are also known as social factors, can play a role in developing depression. These factors can include traumatic or neglectful experiences during early childhood, and current stressors such as relationship issues, unemployment, social isolation, and physical illness. People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are particularly prone to developing depression.
Additionally, chronic pain and disabling pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia, IBS, low back pain, headaches, and nerve pain are often linked to psychological distress, including both anxiety and depression. Research indicates that there are biological mechanisms that link pain to both anxiety and depression.
Coping With Anxiety
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, it can be a good idea to step away from the situation for a while. Consider going for a walk or do a few minutes of yoga to help clear your mind and relax your body. Exercise can be a great way to lift your spirits and ease your worries.
- Creating a habit of writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal on a daily basis can be beneficial. For some, the simple process of writing can be calming. Additionally, it can help you to recognize when you are feeling anxious, how it affects you, and what causes it.
- Identifying triggers can be done on your own or with the help of a therapist. Some triggers are easy to spot, such as caffeine, drinking alcohol, or smoking. Other triggers may not be as easy to recognize, like long-term issues related to finances or work. Once you have identified a trigger, try to limit your exposure to it if possible. If the trigger is something you can’t control, such as a stressful work environment, try using other coping techniques.
- Shallow breathing constricts the diaphragm’s range of motion, causing a lack of oxygen in the lower lungs, which can make one feel short of breath and anxious. On the other hand, deep abdominal breathing promotes a beneficial exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and can slow down the heart rate and normalize or stabilize blood pressure.
Coping With Depression
- Having a supportive network is key to overcoming depression. Trying to take on this challenge on your own can be exhausting and even harder to maintain a positive attitude. It may be hard to reach out for help since depression can make it difficult to want to connect with family and friends. You may feel too tired to talk, embarrassed, or guilty for avoiding relationships. However, these feelings are just a part of the depression. Staying connected to people and participating in social activities can make a huge difference in your mood and attitude. Asking for help does not mean you are weak or a burden. Those who love you only want to help.
- Turn to people who make you feel safe and cherished. The individual you converse with doesn’t have to be able to solve your problems; they simply need to be a patient listener–someone who will listen attentively and compassionately without being judgemental. Make sure to prioritize in-person contact.
- Even if you don’t feel like it, consider getting out of the house and doing an activity. You may be amazed at how much better you feel once you are out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t go away right away, you will slowly start to feel more enthusiastic and energetic as you set aside time for enjoyable activities. Consider taking up an old hobby or a sport that you used to enjoy. Show your creative side through music, art, or writing. Spend time with your friends. Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or to a ballpark.
- Identifying and managing stress can be an effective way to prevent and lessen depression. Take a look at what in your life is causing tension and find ways to address it. This can be anything from an overbearing workload to financial struggles or unsupportive relationships. Establishing a balanced schedule and adopting relaxation methods.
- If you’re looking for a quick mood boost, try making a list of things you enjoy doing that you can refer to when you’re feeling down. Having a few coping mechanisms for depression can be a great help. Even when you’re feeling good, try to incorporate some of these activities into your daily routine. Examples include taking a walk in nature, listing positive qualities about yourself, reading a book, watching a funny show, taking a hot bath, meditating, playing with a pet, talking with friends or family in person, listening to music, and doing something fun and spontaneous.