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How to Find Light in Darkness: Ways To Cope With Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are all different, but their symptoms can benefit from the same coping mechanisms. Here are 8 ways to cope with mental health.

A common misconception is that anxiety and depression are the same things. While depression may experience many similar symptoms as anxiety the difference is important. Depression is a mood disorder resulting in despondency and overwhelming sadness. Whereas anxiety is stress or worry due to the perception of an inevitable negative outcome. Despite their differences, treatment or coping-skills of depression and anxiety have some non-medical similarities that are effective.

Here are a few tricks to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression.

Smile

This is one of those coping mechanisms which you might roll your eyes at, but it’s true. Smiling is so simple that many people laugh (that’s a good thing) when they hear that holding a smile on their face can actually trigger happiness and reduce stress.

Smiling triggers a chemical reaction in your brain that can improve your mood, lower your stress, boost your body’s immune system, and some research suggests lengthen your life.

So, next time you feel down in the dumps, just smile, or as the adage says: “grin and bear it.”

Eat well

Food is what provides our body with the energy to function. It helps to build our muscles, keep our bones strong, and helps our mind stay healthy. You could, in a way, say that food makes or breaks us. That’s because when we eat healthily our body rewards us, but when we don’t our body and mind suffer.

A well-balanced diet consists of good fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Plant-based foods are often touted as the best health options due to low fat and low calories plus nutrient-dense options. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy meat, though, like anything else in life, moderation is the key.

Exercise

Exercise and diet seem to go hand-in-hand. While diet provides energy, exercise helps to build strength and confidence. Though, on a scientific level, exercise can provide a few direct benefits that help cope with both anxiety and depression. For starters when we exercise our body recognizes this as stress. The body then responds by releasing endorphins which minimize pain by blocking pain receptors as well as providing a feeling of “euphoria,” calm, and relaxation.

These feelings last well after your exercise and directly combat that negative effects of anxiety and depression.  

Be open to your disorder

You may feel the mental and physical pain that comes with a mental disorder, but many people suffering find it embarrassing to admit to their problem. Admitting that you have or may have a mental disorder will not only open the minds of your loved ones but is also critical to helping you get the medical attention you need. Understanding that you may have a mental health disorder will also allow your mind to focus on coping techniques and ways to live with your disorder. Additionally, it will help you become acquainted with others who have similar concerns.

Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. It’s recommended that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, however, about 25% of American adults don’t. Sleep is the time when your body organizes thoughts, ideas, memories, and emotions. It is also when your body regulates hormones and chemicals which repair muscle tissue, joint damage and bolster your bodies systems such as the immune and cardiovascular.

Your body has four cycles of sleep that slip between the REM and non-REM patterns. The combination of those four cycles can take two hours, and they happen multiple times a night. So, when you suffer from insomnia or sleep disruption, you can miss a lot of the repair and mind organization which can lead to memory loss, loss of balance, lack of focus and motivation.

Add mindfulness to your life

Mindfulness is a meditative practice that helps an individual focus on the present moment. This is important for people who suffer from anxiety and depression because it teaches you how to put aside the concerning thoughts of the past which cannot be changed and the future which is highly unpredictable. Mindfulness is used as a therapeutic technique to help a person validate their own feelings, emotions, thoughts, and sensations which can promote self-healing.

Stay socially connected

Anxiety may make it more difficult to be social, but depression can result in personal alienation of everyone including those you love and those who love you. To be fair, for someone with mental illness socializing may be the hardest of these coping mechanisms to stick to. However, technology helps us out a bit. One suggestion is that if you have trouble getting out to meet people, you can bring them to you. Online chatting is a way for you to build relationships and grow self-esteem and confidence from the safety of your home. Eventually, you’ll want to branch out into public, but once you know all about online chat with strangers, then you can grow from there.

Replace bad habits with good ones

Wouldn’t we all like to get rid of some of our bad habits such as biting fingernails, overeating, and smoking? Our bad habits are actually a mental trigger that can perpetuate or validate negative feelings, much like eating ice cream after a breakup. It’s not good for you and by eating ice cream you allow that habit to overtake your body’s will to overcome an obstacle. So, instead of going to the bad habits that lead you to lethargy or additional problems, try replacing a bad habit with a good one. For example, replace biting your fingernails with chewing gum. They are both similar in movement, but chewing gum has been shown to improve mood, as opposed to biting nails which can leave you feeling distressed.

In conclusion

Stress, anxiety, and depression are common mental health disorders that affect tens of millions of Americans every year. While the disorders and medical treatment are different, many of the symptoms are the same and can be addressed with a healthy lifestyle, socializing, smiling, and of course a good night’s sleep. Coping with mental health disorders is not always easy but focusing on these mechanisms can help relieve your symptoms and create better awareness for you and your environment. 

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