A look at some ways to manage anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.

Jason Brien.

We are all susceptible to anxiety, depression and other mental conditions at some point in our lives. If or when we do experience anxiety, depression or anything else, sometimes its impact upon our bodies, minds and emotions are mild and we recovery fairly quickly and other times its impact is more severe and persistent. All of these mental health conditions have the potential to take away the joy and happiness we once felt towards life and others. We can easily become unmotivated, lethargic, withdrawn, negative and incapable of reigniting that spark of passion and wonderment that exists deep inside of us. Our intimate, social, familial and occupational relationships can be impacted if we are not mindful. Here are some suggestions for how to manage anxiety, depression or any other mental health condition.

Seek professional support and take things slowly;  Don't rush into things or pressure yourself to recover in a short period of time. This will only put more undue pressure on yourself and by putting undue pressure on yourself, you are only making things harder for yourself. Just take it one day at a time. Don’t be afraid to seek out professional support and also don’t be afraid to try different therapists, different therapeutic approaches or different prescribed medications. Different strokes for different folks, right? If you are seeking a formal diagnosis, don’t necessarily rely upon a single professional to provide that diagnosis. I always recommend seeing multiple professionals and if all come to the same or very similar conclusion, you can be fairly confident in the diagnosis. In saying this though, receiving multiple different diagnosis can confuse and upset you more so be mindful of the pros and cons of taking this approach.

Seek support from family, friends, co-workers and whoever else you can; Having a strong and healthy support network is important for anyone regardless of whether you have a mental health condition or not. Humans are by nature social creatures and the vast majority of humans feel safer and more content knowing that others are there for us should we need them. This is why humans don’t survive too well in invalidating and abusive environments. Whilst we are on the topic of validation, you want to create a support network which is supportive and accepting of your needs, wants, etc. This is why I included strong and healthy in the initial sentence. There is not much value in having a support network which is invalidating and flaky because they will end up doing you more harm than good.

Start journaling; Writing down your thoughts at the end of each day is a great way to get everything out of your head before bed. Let the thoughts get stuck to the paper instead of being stuck in your head. A diary is also a great way to write down daily affirmations such as "I love and respect myself", 'I appreciate myself", or "I am a kind, strong, loving and independent person". Keeping a diary can help you to keep track of your moods and thought processes from day to day and week to week. Go back through your diary and identify the moments when your mood was low. What triggered you? What happened on that day to lower your mood? Do you remember what you did to raise your mood? Keeping track of your moods and thoughts like this helps you to identify your triggers and strengthens your emotional awareness and resiliency.

Eat healthy; This is not only about watching your diet. It is more about eating food which feels good to eat. Have you ever noticed how eating cold, fresh fruit like watermelon, apples or oranges feels good to eat? The crispiness of the apple. The refreshing and cooling wetness of the watermelon or orange. The lightness your body feels after eating it. The feel-good moment you get for knowing you are treating yourself and your body properly. Now compare that to fatty and spicy foods which tends to make you feel lethargic, bloated or sweaty. When you are feeling down, the more that you can activate the pleasure sensors in your brain, the more it will release serotonin, oxytocin and other feel-good hormones. This leads us to the next point.

Socialize more; Depression loves and thrives off of the company of one. Remember how I just said that when you are feeling low or down you want to activate the pleasure sensors in your brain more? Well, if you are struggling to activate your pleasure sensors yourself, then give other people a chance to activate them for you by making your laugh. Or by giving you a hug. The other problem big, big, big problem with isolation is that the mind has unrestricted freedom to get itself entangled in a perpetual cycle of negativity and misery. Getting yourself outside of your head and into the company of others can do wonders. Sure, at first, it’s difficult to drum up the enthusiasm to be around "happy" others, but the potential to hear one good joke, and to have one good laugh will start you on the road to recovery much more than being isolated and withdrawn but don't be too hard on yourself if you can't get out of bed.

Appreciate the value of meditation; Medication can do wonders for the mind, body and soul. Choose either a guided meditation or some calming music of your choice. YouTube is a great source for both options. If you want to use incense sticks or fragrant oils, choose very subtle fragrances. The weaker your fragrance the more you will have to focus on the smell. Sit in a position which is comfortable for you and avoid laying down as this can trick your mind into going into ‘sleep’ mode rather than ‘meditate’ mode. It is also important to avoid stimulants such as coffee, sugary drinks, energy drinks, alcohol, tobacco and children (lol) for several hours prior to meditating as doing so will help you to relax more. Most people think that meditating before or while in bed is the best time to meditate. This is false as reaching a meditative state can leave you feeling rather fresh and alert afterwards so you may find it difficult to sleep if you mediate too close to your bedtime.

Improve your emotional intelligence and assertiveness skills; Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the capacity for people to recognise and differentiate between the emotions and feelings of themselves and others and to use their own emotions/feelings to self-regulate during times of stress. Emotional intelligence allows us to empathize with others, build strong familial and social relationships and positively regulate our mental health. The ability to be assertive is a fundamental communication skill which can help you to express yourself more efficiently. Assertiveness respects the rights and beliefs of others whilst simultaneously allowing you to stand up for your own beliefs, values and views. Not everyone is naturally assertive and it takes time and conscious effort and control to become more assertive.

Remain hopeful; Remember that protecting and preserving your physical and mental health is always of upmost importance: When people learn that they are unable to seek support from outsiders, whether it be family, friends, police, mental health professionals, etc, they can quickly give up trying. They lose the drive to seek support and they can quickly develop beliefs that this is their ‘fate’ or that things will never change. Their physical and mental health becomes secondary to simply surviving and they give up hopes of ever thriving. Reach out to as many people as possible whenever possible. Research as much as possible. Find the professionals that can understand and fight for your situation. Find the organisations that can offer you support or who may be able to fight for your situation. Hope is an extremely important element of healing and recovery.