Tips for

Depression & Anxiety

Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the US, and depression is the leading cause of disability globally (ADAA). As prevalent as these conditions are, they are also unique to each person, and can affect someone in a myriad of ways. Both anxiety and depression can impact our neurological functioning-- our ability to think, plan, analyze, and regulate our emotions. Unfortunately, they also frequently occur at the same time.

Luckily, both conditions are highly treatable, and have a large body of research to inform treatment. One of the best ways to get off to a strong start with a clinician is to be aware of how depression or anxiety show up for you. Not only does this help your clinician, but being able to describe and recognize your symptoms can improve how you manage and cope.

Consider the following to build an understanding of your symptoms:

  • How long have you been feeling depressed or anxious?

  • Do you believe your symptoms are in response to a discrete event or moment? If not, when's the first time you recall feeling this way? What happened and who was involved?

  • Are there days or weeks where things feel "normal?" How long does it tend to last?

  • What do you notice in how your body feels, your thoughts, or your emotions when your symptoms are getting worse? How about when your symptoms are getting better?

  • In addition to, or beneath the feelings of anxiety or depression, are there other feelings, fears, or insecurities?

  • In considering the situation, what are components of it that you may be able to influence or change, and what are the parts that you may not and need to accept? What makes these difficult?

  • If your symptoms were gone, what activities or actions would you be able to do that you cannot presently?

  • Is there something making it difficult to accept your feelings as they are and identify what you need (versus 'supposed to')?

Consider also the following for expanding your ways of coping with symptoms:

  • Are there any fundamentals of self-care that could be bolstered (i.e. regular sleep schedule, variety in food, enjoyable exercise, moderate caffeine or alcohol)

  • What is a routine that you may maintain to help with a sense of productivity, normalcy, or achievement? (i.e. food at a certain time, physical activity, a daily chore)

  • What are things you can do to distract yourself when feeling overwhelmed?

  • What are some things that you are at least reasonably good at that you can do to feel a sense of accomplishment?

  • What is something you can tell yourself when your thoughts would have you believe all the worst things? (i.e. "it's only a thought; not all thoughts are true" "Even if I don't do it 100%, something is still better than nothing" "My worst possible outcome from this situation can still be managed")

  • Who can you interact with to either talk about what is happening, or to talk about anything else?

  • What is something that can remind you of what makes the struggling worthwhile? (i.e. a goal, a person, a pet, a feeling; an image as phone background, a note on bathroom mirror, a token on nightstand)

  • What can you use as a prompt to reconnect with your surroundings, your body, and your feelings? (i.e. an alarm to check in, just before eating, as a distraction from work)

  • What permission can you give yourself to feel the emotions you have, and to do as much or little as you want to today?

These are some potential starting points to consider for yourself. It is by no means exhaustive, but is also not necessary to consider all of them. I hope that there is something within these that you find interesting or helpful. As with everything, take what works for you.