If you often feel sad for days or no longer enjoy the things you loved, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. According to some numbers by the WHO, an estimated 264 million people around the world suffer from depression of some sort. The numbers for anxiety disorders are similarly large, with an estimated 275 million people.
Although anxiety and depression are depicted as simple mood disorders by many, it’s not that simple. It is a phase of distress, grief, and dissatisfaction that is highly detrimental to both your mental and physical well-being.
Understanding The Symptoms Of Anxiety & Depression
Common Markers of Anxiety
- Irritability, restlessness, and obsessing over the smallest of issues
- Mood swings
- A feeling of impending doom
- Inability to sleep
- Trembling, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath
- Chronic headaches and nausea
- Gastrointestinal distress
Common Markers of Depression
- Pessimism, irritability, and anger
- A lack of energy
- Lack of focus
- Thoughts of suicide and death
- Difficulty sleeping, insomnia
- Headaches and muscular pain
- Weight gain or loss
- Gastrointestinal distress.
It is observed that many of the symptoms of anxiety and depression overlap, which may have individuals confuse one for the other. Therefore, proper diagnosis by a professional is highly beneficial to single out the issue.
Coping With Anxiety & Depression – Try These Habits
Although people suffering from anxiety or depression should consult a medical professional whenever possible, certain behavioral methods and therapies, along with changes in lifestyle are shown to be highly effective to help you get out of this web of ill-being.
Practice Meditational Breathing Techniques
Breathing is a necessity of life. Slow breathing techniques promote autonomic changes, increasing Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (HRV in sync with respiration). It can lead to increased comfort, relaxation, vigor, and alertness along with reduced anxiety, depression, and anger.
A variety of techniques have been proven to help with stress disorders, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
People have claimed that it helps with anxiety, stress, and insomnia. It is one of the staple exercises for breath control.
- Exhale to the count of four.
- Hold your lungs empty for a count of four.
- Inhale to the count of four.
- Hold the air in your lungs for a count of four.
- Exhale and repeat the cycle.
Also called relaxing breath. Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, and called a “natural tranquilizer of the nervous system”.
- Sit with your back straight in a comfortable spot.
- Place your tongue at the ridge behind your front teeth for the entirety of the exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth around your tongue, making a “whoosh” sound.
- Close your lips and inhale through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth making a “whoosh” count. Do this for a count of eight.
Exercise Your Way Out
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 43% of adults with depression are obese. One crucial thing that most people suffering from depression or anxiety leave out of their life is exercise. The efficacy of exercise in decreasing the symptoms of depression has been well established by several studies.
The growth of new nerve cells in the brain (neurogenesis), particularly the hippocampus, has been implicated in the treatment of psychiatric conditions including depression and anxiety. Exercise is believed to positively influence the measures of adult hippocampal neurogenesis such as β-endorphins, vascular endothelial growth factor, and serotonin, all of which are thought to influence anxiety disorder mechanisms.
The focus should not be on exercising at the highest intensity possible or for extended durations. Instead, work on developing a routine. The frequency of exercise is the most important factor when it comes to its antidepressant effects.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Depression and anxiety are not a result of your weakness or inability, but rather a culmination of unwanted emotions. Instead of self-criticism, you should understand your feelings, acknowledge your distress and work a way around the underlying issue.
Seeking help and sharing your feelings is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of you being secure with your existence.
Eat Better & Don’t Starve Yourself
Nourishing your body with the most nutritious foods – fruits, meats, dairy, and vegetables- is key to a positive mood.
A study in 2017 showed that a dietary intervention comprising of personalized dietary advice and nutritional counseling support, including motivational interviewing and mindful eating improved the symptoms of people with moderate to severe depression over 12 weeks of healthy eating.
Scientists believe that the following nutrients may help improve mood and reduce the symptoms of mood disorders –
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- B Vitamins
- Pre and Probiotics
Optimize Your Sleeping Routine
Sleep problems can increase the risk of developing depression, anxiety, or both. For people who have been successfully treated for depression, constant lack of sleep can also increase the risk of a relapse.
Even too much sleep can affect your mental well-being and is often a precursor to mood disorders. Eight hours of quality sleep seems to be the sweet spot according to most experts, with anywhere being 7 to 9 hours considered a good amount.
Tips to improve your sleeping routine –
- Go to bed and wake up around the same time.
- Try not to eat too heavy a meal before sleeping.
- Exercising a few hours before bed is optimal, although exercise about an hour from bedtime should be avoided.
- Avoid the use of screens an hour before bedtime, as it can mess up your circadian rhythm.
- Maintain an ideal temperature, which seems to be around 18 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit).
Reach Out To Your Loved Ones
People suffering from depression and anxiety often withdraw from their social interactions. They spend less time with their loved ones, family, or friends. This has been known to be highly counterproductive, as a loving relationship can be one of the best things to improve your condition.
Spending time with your friends and family, talking about your day and feelings, and performing activities like walks together and shared meals often help with uplifting the mood.
Treatments For Anxiety & Depression
Many different types of therapies have been known to help treat anxiety or depression. Many of these involve sessions with trained professionals to have your emotional needs met more effectively.
Some therapies which are known to treat both conditions are –
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – It focuses on teaching people to use coping methods and relaxation techniques to reduce stress. It is one of the best-studied and applied treatments.
- Mindfulness Therapy – This involves several techniques and introduces behavioral changes that help you manage negative feelings. It can involve mindfulness meditation – a method where you calm your mind and body by focused breathing to let go of negative thoughts.
- Exposure Therapy – Common with the treatment of fears and phobias. It involves exposing the individual to a fear-inducing stimulus in a safe environment, to have the person become comfortable in these situations.
Several medications have also been known to relieve the symptoms, but they come with a fair share of side effects and should be avoided as much as possible.
- Antidepressants – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac® (fluoxetine), and Zoloft® (sertraline), or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
- Anti-anxiety medications – Benzodiazepines and beta-blockers. Although benzodiazepines have a calming effect, they are highly addictive. Long-term use of benzodiazepines has a similar effect on the brain as alcohol and is associated with psychosis, sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, depression, and anxiety.