Learning to cope with stress anxiety or depression is a matter of learning what works for us. It’s important to build our own toolkit so that we have more than one strategy we can implement when stress anxiety or depression kicks in.
- Deep breathing: The best thing we can do when we feel stressed or anxious is to engage in deep breathing. For example, we can inhale for a count of four, hold for four, and exhale for four, and repeat for as long as is needed.
- Get grounded: If we are feeling anxious, we should try to feel our feet on the ground. If we’re sitting, we can also feel how our sitbones come into contact with the chair beneath us. Feel how our weight is supported by the ground and/or chair beneath us.
- Reconnect with nature: Spending time in nature has been proven scientifically to help with anxiety and depression. Many of us would benefit from disconnecting from our digital worlds and reconnecting with nature for at least a short time each day. Take any opportunity to go for a walk outside (preferably somewhere with trees and grass!) and try to notice our surroundings using all of our senses.
- Look after our physical health: This can make a big difference to how we feel! For example when we get enough sleep, we are less likely to be depressed or anxious. When we eat regularly and keep our blood sugar stable, this may also help to improve our mood and energy levels. Exercise (especially if its cardiovascular in nature) releases endorphins in our brains. Making exercise a daily habit can help us to cope with stressful events much better and may help with depression. Avoiding recreational drugs and alcohol is also sensible – while in the short term we might be tempted to use them to help us cope with our issues, in the long term they could make us feel worse and may even prevent us from dealing with underlying problems.
- Keep a journal: Journaling helps us to become mindful of our inner world, and we become more aware of what is going on for us. Keeping a mood diary can help us to keep track of any changes in our moods, and can also help us to notice if any activities, places or people make us feel better or worse. Identifying the difficulties we are facing at the moment also helps us to let go of them easier – a process known as ‘disidentification’ in Psychosynthesis.
- Practice meditation and mindfulness: There are plenty of meditation and mindfulness based apps we can download onto our phones, but for me the best way of practising mindfulness is just to slow down and notice, observe and become aware of everything that is going on in the present moment. Afterall, Buddha’s word for meditation is to ‘watch’. Yoga and other mindfulness based practices can also help in this regard.
- Talk to someone we trust or join a peer support group: Many people find that just having someone listen to their experiences can help them feel better. On the other hand, peer support brings together people who’ve had similar experiences to support one other. Many people find it helpful to share ideas about how to cope, connect with others and feel less alone.