Anxiety and depression are serious mental illness issues that need to be treated, but it is also important that we find ways to manage these illnesses ourselves in our daily lives. As someone who has both anxiety and depression, I have learned a few tricks to keep myself on track when I'm not feeling well.
Not all of these tips will work for everyone, but I hope you find at least something that can help you.
1. Keep a schedule.
I plan my days out down to the hour sometimes. It keeps my nerves down and lets me focus on things other than being nervous about everything I have to do that day. And it feels pretty great to check off a task when it's completed.
2. Take care of the basics.
Anxiety and depression can make it feel like you're losing touch with your life. Keeping a tidy list of everything basic that needs to be done (brushing your teeth, drinking water, making the bed, taking your medication) allows you to know that every day you have accomplished those small things. I always keep track of these things, and when I check them off I feel more in control of my own life (something that mental illness can take from you). If you have done nothing else today, at least you haven't fallen behind. That in itself is enough.
3. Try to write down one good thing that happened to you each day.
Sometimes our days don't feel so good. That's OK. But, if you can manage to find one, small, tiny reason that each day was worth living, it can be really helpful for your mental state. Even if it's something as small as your lunch tasted good, or that you saw a cute cat, find something.
4. Practice healthy coping mechanisms.
We all need coping mechanisms, but sometimes they can be harmful. Locate a healthy activity that makes you feel happy, in control, and at peace (try exercise, knitting, drawing, reading, drinking your favorite tea, etc.). Try to utilize that activity when you are anxious and/or depressed. It's okay once in a while to use toxic coping skills, we can't be perfect all the time. Sometimes we have to give in to those less healthy means of surviving with mental illness, but we should focus on decreasing our dependency on them.
5. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method.
If you're having a panic attack, it can be helpful to use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method. I use this method frequently and it truly helps to center me. So, here's what you do...
Stay still and pay attention to your surroundings. You don't need to move anywhere.
Name 5 things you can see,
4 things you can touch,
3 things you can hear,
2 things you can smell,
1 thing you can taste.
This method works to focus your brain at the moment and engage your senses to stay present. Anxiety pulls you out of reality, so forcing yourself into reality helps relieve your panic.
6. Go outside.
A lot of times anxiety and depression keep you in your house and therefore focused only on your mental anguish. Instead, if you're not feeling well, go outdoors. Even if it's just on your front porch. Get fresh air, take deep breaths, maybe socialize if you feel up to. For me, a lot of my coping with mental illness takes the form of forcing myself into situations that I don't want to be in. But, I almost always feel better afterward.
7. Put a pencil between your teeth.
Seriously. Do it. Placing a pencil between your teeth forces your mouth into a smile. When you smile your brain automatically releases the "happy" chemicals that you're probably lacking in. I know it sounds dumb, but give it a go.
Sometimes your mental illnesses can completely take over your thoughts and actions. Sometimes you can't get out of bed, or off the couch, or off the floor. Sometimes you literally cannot do anything else than be alive. If that's the case, then just survive. If you are anxious or depressed and you made it through the day, accept that that is enough for now. Of course, you can't just survive for days or weeks, you have to live your life at some point. But if today isn't a day when you feel comfortable living your life, than just survive. You haven't failed.
9. Gain control over your health.
Exercise and healthy foods help your body produce the correct chemicals it needs to feel happy and alert. Living off of junk food, and never moving your body only leads to fatigue, depression, anxiety, and a general sense of losing control in your life. You don't have to be perfect but just try your best.
10. Try your very, very best to remember that your life now is NOT your life forever.
Accept that you feel bad right now. Accept that you feel bad this week. This month. Maybe even this year. BUT, the circumstances that you exist within now, will not be these exact circumstances forever. I can't tell you when it will change, or how, but know that it will. Think about how different your life is now from how it was months or years ago. Quite a bit different, right? Things will change. Just make it through this time period. There will be a point in your life when you will feel okay again. I promise.
Now that spring is here, hopefully, everyone's mental illnesses will let up a bit. In any case, if you have mental illnesses you should consult a doctor about medications, or seek out a therapist. But, if you need to manage symptoms on your own, hopefully, the above advice helped.
Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.