On the face of it, you probably wouldn’t think of depression and anxiety as having much in common.
One mental health concern leaves people feeling empty inside and having little motivation for enjoying life, while the other one steals pleasure from the affected person by causing them to focus on the future with “what if” thoughts.
Each of these “Ugly Stepsisters” interferes with getting the most out of what is happening in the present, which is the only place any of us can live. Dealing with depression and/or anxiety is an essential part of maintaining your sobriety.
Medications Have a Place in Treating Depression and Anxiety
Antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications can be an effective part of a treatment plan for someone who is living with one (or both) of these medical conditions. If you or a loved one has been prescribed medication, it’s important to follow the doctor’s advice carefully.
Drug-Free Ways to Cope with Depression and Anxiety
Along with medication, there are other measures you can use to cope with depression and anxiety. These drug-free methods can help you to feel better and may improve your overall health. If you have questions about whether any of the suggestions here would be helpful for you, do discuss them with your doctor.
• Eat on a Regular Schedule
Appetite can suffer when someone is depressed or anxious. Either it tends to take a nosedive and food isn’t appealing or there is an urge to eat more than usual. As much as possible, try to maintain a regular schedule for meals.
• Stick to a Balanced Diet
No one ever craves broccoli when they are feeling depressed or anxious. The foods that tend to appeal most when the Stepsisters are at their worst are usually ones that are sugary, salty or greasy. Even though it can be challenging, it’s worth the effort to try to eat a variety of foods, including lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
• Get Moving
It’s difficult for someone who is already depressed to make himself get up and exercise. However, physical activity is a great way to cope with depression. It releases endorphins, the body’s “feel good” hormones.
Endorphins also benefit people living with anxiety. Exercise increases body temperature, and a study has shown that this warm feeling may change the brain’s neural circuits which control cognitive functions and mood.
• Cut Back on Caffeine Intake
Drinking coffee or soda containing caffeine may seem like a good idea when stressed or as a pick-me-up when feeling down. However, too much caffeine will leave a person feeling irritable and jittery instead of calm and focused.
It may be unrealistic to cut out all caffeine, since coffee and soda in moderation can be enjoyable. Chocolate contains caffeine; however it also stimulates endorphins, resulting in the same good feelings as exercising, eating a good meal, or falling in love. The key is to enjoy it in small amounts.
Good alternatives to coffee and soda are green tea, which is packed with healthy antioxidants, and chamomile tea, which is known for its calming effect.
• Start a Journal
Journaling is an effective way to get to the root of the depression and anxiety. It has the advantage of being private, with no one judging the writer on form or content. This form of communication allows someone experiencing depression or anxiety to work through their feelings at their own pace.
One way to approach this exercise is to start a gratitude diary. It can be helpful to write down things that one is grateful for on a daily basis.
The act of writing in a journal allows you to release the feelings you have been holding in and look at them in a more objective light. Your emotions may not seem so overwhelming after using this strategy.
• Talk to a Professional
No one should feel as though they have to “tough it out” on their own or that taking medication is the only cure for depression or anxiety. A therapist can be immensely helpful to clients who are experiencing these mental health conditions. A therapist can offer counseling, either individually or in group settings.