Self-Care Tips For When You’re Depressed Or Anxious

Updated March 20, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, self-care can be a powerful way you can help yourself when you need relief. Anxiety and depression can be very challenging to cope with—not only can the symptoms rob you of your energy and motivation, but they can also create endless negative thought patterns that can wear you down. They are also two of the most common mental health disorders: for instance, from August 2020 to February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder was 41.5%.

For individuals with anxiety or depression, seeking professional treatment such as therapy and/or medication can be important. But, if you’re looking for additional ways to support your own mental health, practicing self-care may be helpful. 

What Is Self-Care?

Self-care can be defined as doing things to support your own physical and mental health. Practicing self-care can allow you to meet your basic mental, physical, and emotional needs, and it can help you recharge when you're on empty. It can give you the stamina to overcome obstacles and allow you to comfort yourself through difficult circumstances. Essentially, self-care should ultimately support your well-being.

In our busy world, self-care is often something many of us overlook or fail to make time for. Our attention is pulled in many directions as we meet multiple demands. All too often we focus on the needs of others while forgetting we have our own. But, when we go too long without self-care, we may become overwhelmed and even experience burnout. 

Some people have the misconception that practicing self-care is lazy or selfish, but self-care is neither of these things. Think about it this way: even to meet the needs of everyone else, you have to meet your needs first. When you try to give from a source that's depleted, very little can go to others. Self-care is also not something that only some people can enjoy. For example, self-care doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money on a luxury spa weekend. Many forms of self-care are completely free and can be done on your own schedule in even a few minutes—like a short meditation. Everyone can work self-care into their life. 

If you are living with anxiety or depression, self-care can be a very important part of your treatment plan, but it is not a substitute for advice or treatment from a licensed mental health professional or medical professional. Seek professional help so that you can get the treatment that’s right for you. Visiting with a licensed mental health provider or with your primary care physician can be an important first step.

Self-Care Tips

Everyone practices self-care in their own way. What works for one person may or may not work for someone else. You can discover the right type of self-care for you through a process of trial and error and understanding how different forms of it make you feel.

If the idea of self-care is new to you or you haven't practiced it in some time, it might be hard to know where to start. There are many types of self-care, so if you're feeling stuck, try some of these popular options that can contribute to your well-being.

  1. Take A Warm Bath

Many people find warm baths comforting. For added relaxation, you can add essential oils or bubbles to your water. Feel free to dim the lights and put on some gentle music. Warm baths can also be great places for meditation. Shutting out the world for a short time might be enough to quiet worried thoughts and uplift the spirit. It can also help calm you to prepare for better sleep.

  1. Get Plenty Of Sleep Or Take A Nap

Lack of sleep can make symptoms of anxiety and depression worse. Practicing good sleep hygiene can be a great form of self-care. Try to relax before bed, limit alcohol intake, make the bedroom dark and cool, and avoid screens and blue light. Going to bed at a regular time and getting up at a regular time each day can also be helpful. When you need to recharge during the day, you can also try taking a 15-to-20-minute nap. Power naps like these may make you more alert and boost your energy. Just remember that napping too much can interfere with restful sleep at night, so try to keep your nap at or under the 20-minute mark

If excess fatigue is bothering you, it might be a symptom you want to bring up to your doctor. Anxiety and depression and many other health concerns can affect your quality of sleep.

  1. Journal

Journaling can be a simple way to release your emotions. When you put your thoughts on paper, you can release them from your mind and may be able to see things from a new perspective. If writing your thoughts down is difficult, that is okay. There are many alternative types of journaling including bullet lists, art journals, and mind mapping that you can experiment with. You might try working a simple form of journaling into your daily routine. Gratitude journaling can be particularly helpful for boosting positive thinking. You might also try jotting down just a few of your positive qualities each day, which can be self-affirming.

  1. Spend Time With Friends Or Family

Although it can be common for anxiety and depression to make you feel like you would rather be alone, social connections are important. Try to take some time out of your day to catch up with a friend or family over coffee or dinner. If you can't meet up face-to-face, give them a call. Facetime and Skype can be great alternatives to chat with friends who are far away too.

  1. Look At Pictures

Some people find that looking at old pictures or scrapbooks can be a rejuvenating activity. Reminiscing about fun memories, laughing at fashion from days past, or seeing old, happy pictures of friends or family can be a feel-good experience. If your pictures are digital, you could make a slide show for yourself and even send it to friends and loved ones.

  1. Take A Day Off

On days when anxiety and depression are at their very worst, you may consider taking a day off from work or school if possible. Many people need a mental health day from time to time. However, if you find that you seem to need much longer than a day to feel better, talk with your doctor. An increased lack of interest in going out might point to a change in your mental health.

  1. Listen To Music

Music can help connect you to your emotions and process those that are difficult. Studies show that listening to music can lower blood pressure and improve mood, which can offer relief if you’re dealing with negative or anxious emotions. You might try creating a self-care playlist made up of songs that help you the most.

  1. Meditate

Meditation is one of the most commonly recommended forms of self-care. It can be done anywhere and can take as long or as little time as you want. If you aren't sure how to get started or if you’re thinking that you don’t know how to meditate, there are many free resources available online to help you.

  1. Go Outside

Outdoor activities are also popular self-care options, and there are many ways to get outside. If you prefer low-key activities, you can try hiking, fishing, or relaxing in the sun at a lake or beach. If you prefer more adventure, kayaking and skiing are just a couple things you can try. Even simply walking outside to get fresh air might be enough to help your mood.

  1. Create Art

Art can be a powerful form of self-care for some people. You might think about your favorite artist or get inspiration from art around you and try to create your own. Experiment with different mediums until you find a style that is right for you. Doing a creative project can help you stay in the moment, which can be effective for reducing anxiety and taking your mind off of negative thoughts.

  1. Connect With Someone In Your Support System

If you have watched movies about depression, you might be aware of the importance of the support system in helping the character cope with the struggles. If you have a mental health disorder, having a supportive network can be very helpful. Support groups may be organized (groups you can join) or maybe more personal (a group of friends who supports you, offer advice when needed, and helps you cope). Your therapist may be able to offer you suggestions for building or joining support groups. Once you have a supportive network, try to contact and connect with them if you need a boost.

  1. Exercise

Exercise can be another helpful habit for those experiencing anxiety and depression. Any activity that gets you moving can release endorphins, hormones that can help you feel good and fight depression. You might try yoga, swimming, biking, walking, or dance. Even light exercise in the comfort of your home can have a positive effect. Regular physical activity can also help you sleep better, too—a healthy step in a plan to manage depression and anxiety.

  1. Watch Something Funny

Laughter can be another great way to boost your mood. Watching a funny show, movie, or even just short video can take your mind off negative emotions. Research shows the many health benefits that can come from laughter. For example, laughter can stimulate the brain to release endorphins, soothe tension and stress, and improve mood.

  1. Follow Your Treatment Plan

To manage depression and anxiety, working with a licensed mental health professional to find a treatment plan that’s right for you can be incredibly important. Once you have a treatment plan, following it and prioritizing it can be one of the best approaches to self-care. Treatment may include therapy, medication, or both, along with learning healthy coping and self-care skills.

  1. Talk To A Therapist

While talk therapy is a form of treatment for anxiety and depression that happens over time, it can also be seen as a form of self-care like depression self help or counseling. When you're dealing with intense anxiety or depression, it may be helpful to be able to reach out to your therapist in those particularly low moments—rather than waiting until your next appointment to reach out for help. With online therapy through BetterHelp, you can use in-app messaging to do just that, and your therapist will respond as soon as they can. 

Plus, research has found that online therapy can be an effective treatment option for individuals with anxiety and depression. One such study of an online cognitive behavioral therapy program concluded that its results showed that “effective treatment for anxiety and depression can be delivered online to large numbers of patients.”


Self-care can be any activity that makes you feel recharged or refueled, and it may look different from one person to the next. Anxiety and depression can be very challenging to experience, and incorporating some self-care habits, like the ones listed here, may help you cope. For additional support in managing these conditions and creating positive self-care habits, you can reach out to an online therapist for help.

Commonly Asked Questions On This Topic Found Below:

How do you take care of yourself after depression?
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