Learning to cope with anxiety and depression can be one of the most difficult, but necessary tasks that someone can take on. It is not uncommon for people to say that “anxiety and depression are taking over their life”, “my life is over”, or “anxiety is ruining my life”. And, in a lot of ways, that could feel very true. Anxiety and depression can be completely overwhelming and debilitating. Fortunately, despite the strong sense that depression and anxiety are ruining your life, they are both treatable mental illnesses.
First, it may help to understand what typical anxiety and depressive episodes can look like. Common anxiety symptoms include:
- Feeling nervous, irritable or on edge
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly, sweating, and/or trembling
- Feeling weak or tired
- Difficulty concentrating
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal problems
Common depressive episode symptoms include:
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed.
While a lot of these symptoms can seem overwhelming, and make sense why people would feel like anxiety and depression are ruining their lives, there are many ways to cope with and treat anxiety and depression. Since anxiety and depression are some of the most common mental illnesses, there are a lot of treatments and coping skills available for people to use. However, an even more helpful step than before treatment can be the recognition and acknowledgement that you or a loved one may be struggling with anxiety or depression. Learning skills and seeking help and support can come next.
Mindfulness skills are a great tool to help calm your mind and body when experiencing anxiety and stress. Try these when you’re feeling anxious or stressed: taking deep breaths, counting to ten slowly, and accepting that there will be things that you cannot control. Another great grounding skill is to access your surroundings utilizing all 5 senses. Grounding skills are tactics you can use to help distance yourself from painful emotions, back into the present from a flashback, and into your body more fully. There are numerous grounding skills, and it is important to find which ones work best for you. Some people find mental grounding skills to be preferable over physical grounding skills.
Examples of physical grounding skills include deep breathing, putting hands in cool or warm water to notice the change in temperature and sensation, touching and describing objects around you, utilizing scent to calm you, and stretching your body and tuning in to how that feels. Exercise can be a great outlet for stress and anxiety, as well as a mood booster. Some studies say that in order to get the best benefits from exercise, try to include at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), or a combination of the two. Regardless of the amount of time you put into exercise, moving the body is what will help with anxiety and mood. It is also very important to engage in forms of exercise that are enjoyable to you. If you are doing a workout that feels painful or unenjoyable, this is not likely to have a positive impact on your mood, stress levels, or body.
Distraction can be a helpful temporary skill in how to cope with anxiety and depression. Distraction techniques can be taking your mind off of the current situation with music, events, activities, etc. While they can be helpful in the moment, if you are experiencing severe anxiety or depression, this may be less helpful. If there is no follow up in terms of addressing the feelings that you experienced to deploy the distraction, then there will likely be little long term change in mood or anxiety. It can also be incredibly beneficial to get involved in your community. This gives you an opportunity to connect with a mission and message that you support, as well as gives you a break from your normal routine, and potential chance to create new support systems.
Overall, how to deal with anxiety and depression is a long term practice. Overcoming depression and anxiety can include therapy, medication, non-medication interventions, alternative therapies and social connectedness. Make sure to give yourself time and space to help yourself recover if you are living with anxiety and depression.
Treating Depression With TMS Therapy
One specific treatment for depression that is highly effective and produces no side effects is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS therapy. This is a non-invasive brain stimulation therapy that targets the prefrontal cortex with magnetic pulses. These impulses stimulate nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex, as this area is often responsible for controlling mood. Research and clinical trials show that these impulses impact neurotransmitters in the brain and decrease symptoms of depression for an extended period of time. This is an FDA cleared, non-invasive pain-free solution that is covered by most major insurance companies.
This blog post is meant to be educational in nature and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. See full disclaimer.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Tips | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Retrieved April 3, 2020, from https://adaa.org/tips
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.-a). Symptoms | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Retrieved April 3, 2020, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad/symptoms
Raypole, C. (2020, February 11). 30 Grounding Techniques to Quiet Distressing Thoughts. Retrieved April 3, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding-techniques#physical-techniques