What’s in Your Mental Health Toolkit?
Anxiety and depression have been the subject of numerous papers, but few address prevention. CDC data shows that the number of adults with recent anxiety or depression symptoms increased in the U.S. from 36.4 to 41.5 percent between August 2020 and February 2021, with the largest increase among adults 18 to 29.
The prevalence of major depression among women and men in the country by age 65 is also estimated at around one in three and one in five, respectively.
What can you do to prevent anxiety and depression from occurring in the first place? If you have experienced anxiety and depression in the past, how do you prevent them from recurring?
We’ve put together 9 useful tools you can keep in your toolbox for managing anxiety and depression, or keeping it at bay.
- Know your own warning signs.
Become aware of your body and your physical feelings, which can be early signs of anxiety or depression.
The feeling of tension in the abdomen, often accompanied by deep emotional discomfort, is often described by people. Some describe a hollow feeling in the abdomen, accompanied by deep emotional discomfort.
Considering that each individual is unique, warning signs will differ from person to person. Some people’s appetites show warning signs, so be aware if you eat more or less than usual. Many people also experience unusual fatigue, difficulty sleeping, difficulty focusing, irritability, or a greater need for drugs or alcohol.
Take action as soon as you notice these signs. You should also reflect on what has happened in your life recently if you are on the verge of anxiety or depression. Is there anything you’re unhappy about? Are there any changes that need to be made?
Early on, a mental health professional can be invaluable to help with these reflections and to know when a psychiatrist (who can prescribe medications) should be consulted.
- Take note of what people say about you.
Family members and friends may be able to identify their own anxiety and depression precursor signs, but some people won’t be aware of them themselves.
When someone asks you: “Are you okay?” or “You don’t look okay,” dig deep inside yourself to find out what is going on.
- Check out your recent pictures.
Are you looking unusually sad or anxious in recent pictures? If so, consider what could be causing your body to react.
- Let out your strong emotions.
Whenever you feel stressed, angry, frustrated, sad, or any other strong emotion in your life, talk to a friend, a family member, or a therapist.
You can also express your feelings in a safe way through writing, painting, dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument, taking up a sport, or taking part in another activity. You could spend a great deal of energy bottled up emotions if you don’t let them out, leaving you exhausted and prone to anxiety and depression.
- Turn a negative into a positive
The longer you stay in misery, the harder it will be to get out. We all get stressed out at some point in our lives. A person’s reaction to stress differentiates him or her from others. Anxiety and depression are often caused by people feeling helpless and losing control of their lives.
It’s all about how you perceive things. When everything around you seems negative and stressful, what can you do that might be positive? Can you learn to dance, sing, or play an instrument? Would you like to swim or take up another sport? Are you able to meditate? Try to appreciate the small things in life that bring you joy in the present moment.
Positive facts can help alleviate depression, whereas remembering negative facts can lead to depression.
- Lean on your social support system.
Choose friends or a partner who will listen to you and the other way around. Spend time with people who make you laugh and who have a sense of humor.
Adults should sleep between 7 and 9 hours per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Consistent routines also help: go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Take a look at your diet
According to University of Alberta researchers, depression could be linked to inflammation, so eating anti-inflammatory foods could help prevent depression, as well as improve bowel, lung, and joint function.
All kinds of berries, from strawberries to blackberries to cranberries to blueberries, are on the Harvard School of Medicine’s list of anti-inflammatory foods. Cherries, citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges, apples, stone fruits such as peaches and apricots, grapes, pomegranates, walnuts, almonds, fatty fish such as salmon and black cod, green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, tomatoes, olive oil, and green tea are other anti-inflammatory foods.
You should also stay away from alcohol and street drugs.
- Get regular movement and exercise
Take a 30-minute walk every day (or do any other kind of physical exercise) in the open air. The benefits of regular physical exercise go beyond lowering anxiety and depression to reducing inflammation as well.
By keeping these tools in your mental health toolbox, you will be prepared to combat the stress that will inevitably come your way at some point in your life. Preventing symptoms and catching them early is usually more efficient and easier than treating them later.