Anxiety and depression are both extremely common mental health issues that many American adults face on a daily basis. In fact, in one study found that over 8 million adults in the US face serious psychological distress in the way of depression and anxiety.
Many common treatments for depression include prescription antidepressant medications, which are designed to help balance neurotransmitters in the brain that affect emotions and mood. A recent study by the World Psychiatric Association found that symptom reduction for depression using antidepressants was only effective in about 40% of patients.
This study also found that people who take antidepressants have a high relapse rate, as opposed to patients who take placebo and experience symptom reduction without relapse for six months or longer. Antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication can have some pretty significant side effects including nausea, vomiting, weight gain, drowsiness, constipation, loss of sex drive and many more.
If you’ve been suffering from anxiety or depression but are hesitant to start taking medication for fear of the side effects, you might feel like there is very little you can do to manage your mental health challenges.
But, luckily there are a number actions you can take without using medication that can help reduce symptoms of both depression and anxiety, to help you get your normal life back.
Of course, it’s always recommended that you consult with your doctor regarding your condition and the treatment options available for you. But once you get your doctor’s approval, then you may want to consider these powerful but simple strategies for managing anxiety and depression without medication:
Sleep problems such as insomnia are common in people with depression and anxiety. Although a poor quality or lack of sleep alone does not cause these conditions, it can mean the difference between effectively managing your condition, or letting it worsen and spiral out of control. One of the most effective ways to manage depression is to have your sleep disorder treated.
One effective treatment option for sleep disorders such as insomnia is to seek cognitive behaviour therapy. This type of therapy focuses on teaching patients healthy sleep patterns, to improve your quality of sleep on a consistent basis. Cognitive behaviour therapy to improve your sleep involves the following:
Sleep restriction teaches people to limit the time they spend in bed, and to use the bed only for sleeping. For example, if you only sleep for five hours each night, your initial limit will be the same: five hours. So if you find that you spend a total of eight hours in bed, but only get to sleep for five hours, then you will need to get out of bed every time you are unable to sleep.
This sleep restriction method may make you feel more tired initially, but it will help you fall asleep faster in the long run, meaning you’ll be able to sleep better, for longer.
Stimulus control helps you establish a regular wake-up and sleep time by removing factors that cause your mind to resist sleep. Here are some basic guidelines for using stimulus control to improve your sleep:
- Go to bed only when you are sleepy – this point is important because it prevents you from engaging in negative thoughts while lying in bed. Worries about what tomorrow brings, things you need to accomplish immediately, and decisions you have to make can all create arousal and make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
- Note: Being sleepy is different from being tired, and the recommendation is to go to bed only when you are sleepy. Once you feel your eyelids drooping, and you find yourself yawning and involuntary nodding your head, then it may be time to hit the bed.
- If you are unable to sleep after 20 minutes, leave the bed and go to another room. Once there, engage in relaxing activities such as reading a book, listening to relaxing music, and writing on your journal. Once you feel drowsy, you can return to bed and repeat the steps as often as needed.
- Avoid napping – to maintain a normal sleep schedule, avoid taking naps throughout the day.
A comprehensive guide to stimulus control can be read here.
Depression can sap your energy and motivation, so hitting the gym may be the last thing on your mind, and although getting out of bed to exercise may sometimes be the last thing you want to do, it’s well worth pushing yourself.
Research has shown that exercise does not only bring physical benefits, but psychological benefits as well. When you engage in physical activities, your brain releases feel-good endorphins that help fight stress and decrease depression and anxiety.
Here are some simple tips to help you get started:
- Do 30-minutes of exercise, five times a week. It doesn’t have to be super intense or exhausting -you can jog, bike, walk, or even dance! The key to it is just to get your body moving.
- Aim for daily consistency with your exercises. It’s better to engage in modest physical activities each day than wait for the weekend to do intense workouts.
- Start slowly and progress gradually with your exercise program. As noted above, it doesn’t have to be gruelling exercise that runs you into the ground – just enjoy what you’re doing and make sure you can sustain it for the long-term.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that meditation can help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. When you meditate, you become aware of what is happening in your surroundings, and discover deep-seated emotions such as stress, worry and anxiety.
Once you’re aware of your emotions, and your weaknesses and strengths, you can then start to have a better understanding of yourself. Regular meditation helps you control unwanted thoughts and allows you to reach an inner calm. This is especially helpful for people with anxiety and depression who can sometimes have a consistent stream of negative thoughts running through their minds.
To start your meditation, you can do the following:
- Go to a peaceful place where you can focus on the task. Make sure to choose an environment that is free from distractions. If you are doing the meditation at home, turn off your phone and the TV sets to minimize distractions.
- Wear clothes that will allow you to move freely, and make sure to take off your shoes.
- If you are a beginner at meditation, start by doing practicing just five minutes a day. Regardless of how long you want to meditate, the important thing to remember is to make it a part of your daily routine.
- Do some stretching to release any tension before you begin.
- Sit in a comfortable position – you can sit in a lotus or half-lotus position depending on your body’s flexibility. Just remember to find a position that allows you to sit with a straight posture, balanced posture, while remaining comfortable.
- Close your eyes, follow your breathing, and clear your mind.
If you’ve been suffering from anxiety or depression and aren’t sure where to begin managing these potentially debilitating conditions, try starting with the three actionable tips outlined above. These actions will allow you start seeing some relief from these unpleasant and unwanted symptoms, which means you’ll be able to start improving your daily quality of life.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends for support, and don’t forget to nurture your well-being including your mind and body, your environment, and your relationships. Lastly, it’s always a smart idea to consult with a mental health professional to help you manage any mental health challenges you might be facing.
About Terri Bowman
Founder and Creator of the Brain Wellness Spa
Terri Bowman is the creator and CEO of Brain Wellness Spa™. For almost a decade Terri has been successfully working to help people overcome a myriad of mental illness and emotional problems and her results are an absolute revelation. Terri doesn’t believe clients need to pay for expensive therapy to get the help they need, which is why she has set up her unique stress treatment centre in Perth. Her mental and emotional help methods give you the ability to handle your issues in a way that suits your specific needs. She is here to offer treatment that is original and successful, giving you the relief you so highly-sought after.