How to get over anxiety & depression: 3 things you haven’t tried before

It’s one of the most poignant questions a person can ask: how to get over anxiety and depression? Because when someone asks that, you know there’s a lot of pain and hardship in their heart.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome both anxiety and depression, even if you think you’ve tried everything.

Here are three ways.

1. Instead of resisting the feelings…make friends with them.

In general, there are two common ways to confront depression and anxiety – ignore it, or combat it.

If you try to ignore it, often the fear just grows, and continues to influence your actions in ways you don’t want. It stops you from taking action toward what you want.

When you combat something, you create conflict, and that negative energy can overtake your mood. It can permeate you, so that the thing you want most becomes tainted by negativity. And again, that will inform your actions.

But if you take a totally different approach – negotiating with your negative feelings, not combating or ignoring them – you can get a totally different result. If you take the time to listen to them, and express your side of the story, you can come to a reconciliation.

Strong negative feelings have something to teach us. They’re there for a reason, and we can gain from trying to understand it.

That’s the purpose of this exercise.

It’s designed to help you see your feelings more clearly, understand what role they play in your life, and befriend it instead of fight it.

By doing that, you can learn from it. You can talk to it, listen to it, understand it. You can work with it to come to a solution. You might even be able to say goodbye to it for good. Or at least you’ll be able to put it in the backseat, so it’s no longer the driver.

Are you ready?

Let’s get started.

First, find a place where you feel completely safe, somewhere you won’t be disturbed. (If you have someone around whom you trust, you can ask them to read you these prompts.)

Get comfortable. You can sit, stand, kneel, lie down, whatever. All it matters is that you feel grounded, comfy, and relaxed.

Close your eyes, and begin to take long, deep breaths. Inhale, exhale. Send that oxygen throughout your whole body, letting it reach out into your fingers, your toes, letting your belly expand.

Feel your own strength. Feel your courage. If any resistance, anxiety, or judgment comes up, just let it go. Right now, we’re stepping into a place of strength, peace, and neutrality.

Now, call to mind that thing that’s keeping you stuck, or afraid, or feeling small.

Invite it into the room with you. Keep breathing, keeping focusing on your own power and strength.

Notice it. What does it look like? Does it have a sound, a rhythm, a color, a face?

It is not here to hurt you. It is here to tell you something. Know that you are in complete control right now.

From this place of neutrality and strength, ask your fear what it wants you to know.

Instead of running away or blocking it out, speak to it.

And then listen.

Have a conversation with it, if you’d like. What would you like to say it to?

What would you like to ask it?

Allow the conversation to go on as long as it’s useful. Don’t cut it short.

When you’re ready to come to an end, ask this question—then answer it, and listen to fear’s answer:

“Is there a way we can come to a resolution together?”

When you’re ready, step back into your own perspective.

Given this conversation, how do you feel about your fear now?

How might you move forward, with this new understanding of fear?

What was it like to listen to your fear instead of run away from it? Was it uncomfortable? If so, which parts? What did you learn?

You can do this exercise any time you feel resistance, fear, anxiety, depression, or negativity. I can say from experience that you’ll get very different answers each time. The more you learn to negotiate with your fear, the more you empower yourself to work with it, and achieve what it is you want most.

2. Build up evidence that you are amazing.

We're constantly achieving goals, even if we don't realize it. Every day, we achieve things we set out to do. We got out of bed, we brushed our teeth, we went to work. Now you're reading this! Those are all decisions you made, and the result of actions you took. So now see them as evidence.

In other words, look for proof that you're capable. That you can achieve what you set out to achieve.

Build up your case. Convince yourself that you can do it.

Let's take public speaking as an example. Say you have to give a presentation next month, and you hate public speaking. Maybe you've never done it before, or you haven't been onstage since you forgot all your lines in your eighth grade Christmas pageant. Either way, just the idea of it makes you shake.

No matter how scary it is, though, I bet you've got some skills in your back pock-et. You know how to speak to people, one-on-one. You know the subject backwards and forwards. You've done hard things before.

Collect those things. Generate as many examples of your own competence as you can. Build your case. Find evidence that you can do this. No action or piece of evidence is too small.

You know what? The more you look, the more you'll find.

By starting to look for evidence of your own awesomeness, you’re programming your Reticular Activating System, a complex system in your brain, to filter information differently. It’s like a lawyer gathering evidence for a case. Make sure it’s on your side!

Today, start gathering evidence that you are a strong, capable, achiever who can do anything you set your mind to. Let the evidence be small at first, if it needs to be. Write those actions down in a journal every night before you go to bed. It's a lot of fun to go back and read what you were proud of a year ago.    

Another aspect of building evidence is this: look at what you've accomplished, and ask yourself why. Why did that happen?

I had a client who was amazing at getting her work done, efficiently and on-time. She was a freelance designer who juggled about a million projects every day. She struggled with confidence in her work, though, and it was holding her back from earning the amount of money she deserved, not to mention stressing her out.

I asked her to look at what she'd accomplished at the end of the day, and then ask why. "Because I made a to-do list last night, and I followed it," she said. "I stayed focused even when I wanted to check Facebook. When I needed to do something I didn't know how to do, I looked it up." In listing the "why" behind her achievements, she was able to see that she'd been the driver behind them. Her decisions, actions, and unique gifts allowed her to thrive in her work. All those things now became evidence for her abilities.

3. Move your body.

There’s no way I could talk about mental health and NOT talk about exercise. The truth is, it’s one of the surest, fastest, and more reliable ways to build feelings of positivity, confidence, and peace.

In fact, the science behind this is so robust that it’s hard to just pick a few. Here are some of the highlights:

  •         Studies repeatedly show that when people start working out, they feel an increase in self-esteem, self-image, and overall mental health. The American Psychological Association reports that about five minutes into a workout, you get a boost of mood enhancers that make you feel good immediately and can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety long-term. 
  •         Exercise causes the same structural changes in the brain as medication for depression - namely, growth in the hippocampus. In England & Canada, exercise is the first prescription doctors give for depression. New Zealand & Australia go even further, looking at lack of exercise as a potential cause of it.

Here’s a taste of some of the statistics around the power movement has on our mood:

  • In studies from the UK and US, regular exercisers who replaced physical activity with a sedentary activity for two weeks become more anxious, tired, and hostile.
  • The average daily step count required to induce feelings of anxiety and de-pression and decrease satisfaction is 5,649. The typical American takes 4,774 steps per day.
  • When randomly assigned adults reduced their daily step count, 88% become more depressed. Within a week, they reported a 31% decline in life satisfaction.

 Okay, but why? How are all those radical changes possible?

Physical activity releases hormones that impact every area of the brain and body. These include:

  •         Endorphins—aka the body’s natural painkillers—which have been shown to reduce discomfort, enhance pleasure and improve self-esteem.
  • Serotonin, which controls your appetite, helps you sleep, and regulates your mood. These factors all go hand-in-hand to make us feel happier, calmer, and more stable.
  • Dopamine, that pleasurable habit-forming hormone that keeps you coming back for more. It signals the reward and pleasure centers in our brains, helping motivate us to take action and work towards things that make us feel good.

Some more fun (i.e., mind-blowing) facts about exercise:

  • Physical activity influences brain chemicals that give you energy, ease anxiety, and facilitate bonding with others.
  • Regular exercise remodels the physical structure of your brain to make you more receptive to joy and social connection and better able to manage stress.
  • Exercise reduces inflammation in the brain, which can protect against depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
  • Exercise actually expands your brain’s capacity for joy.

             I bet you know someone who's experienced the exercise-confidence dynamic personally. When you start taking care of your body and giving it the movement it craves, you start to feel amazing from the inside out. Exercise affects every level of our brains and bodies, optimizing and strengthening every system from respiratory to immune to nervous. One of the many byproducts of working out regularly is that amazing sense of self-confidence and well-being.

The takeaway

If you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, know that you’re not alone. You do have the power to change your feelings, and you can take steps to feel better. 

And you don’t have to take them alone.

Contact me to set up your first coaching session, where we’ll look at ways you can cut past all the clutter that’s holding you back, identify what’s calling to you, and start to take steps toward making that goal your reality.

Can’t wait to meet you.

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