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

By Gabrielle Seunagal |Updated April 12, 2022

Anxiety and depression are two of the most challenging feelings to deal with. Not only do the symptoms rob you of your energy and motivation, they also create endless negative thought patterns that can wear you down. In the long-term, talk therapy and medication are helpful treatment options. But when you need fast relief from anxiety and depression, self-care is a good option.

What is Self-Care

Dictionary.com defines self-care as the "care of the self without medical or other professional consultation." However, self-care is much more than that. Self-care allows you to meet your basic mental, physical and emotional needs. It helps you recharge when you're on empty. It gives you the potential to overcome obstacles and comfort yourself through difficult circumstances.

In our busy world, self-care is often something people forget about. 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.

Unfortunately, this pattern isn't workable for the long run. When we go too long without self-care, we can experience something called burnout. Burnout goes hand in hand with increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. Without self-care, we put ourselves at risk for an endless cycle of being overwhelmed.

What Self-Care is Not

Some people have the misconception that practicing self-care is lazy or selfish. Self-care is neither of these things. Although you are taking time out to put yourself first, you shouldn't feel guilty about it. Think about it this way. In order 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, you don't have to be rich enough to afford a luxury spa weekend. You can practice it if you have a full-time job or a family. Everyone can work self-care into their life, and it is important that they do. You might have to be creative with your time or budget. Fortunately, many forms of self-care are completely free and can be done on your own schedule.

How to Find the Right Type of Self-Care

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.

Some people recharge by indulging in relaxing activities. Others need high-energy pursuits to refuel their mental and emotional tanks. Keep in mind that self-care is important for your mind and body. Meeting the needs of both can help you manage symptoms of anxiety and depression while you wait on long-term treatments to take effect.

Self-Care Tips

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 endless types of self-care and not all of them will work for you. If you're feeling stuck, try some of these popular options.

Take a Warm Bath

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

Take a Nap

Lack of sleep can make symptoms of anxiety and depression peak. When you need to recharge, take a 15-20 minute nap. Studies show that power naps like these make you more alert and boost your energy. 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.

Journal

Journaling is an easy way to unleash your emotions. When you put your thoughts on paper you release them from your mind and allow them to exist in a space where they aren't judged by you or anyone else. If writing your thoughts is difficult that is okay. You aren't obligated to write a novel about how you feel. There are many alternative types of journaling including bullet lists, art journals and mind mapping that you can experiment with.

Visit or Go Out with Friends

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

Look at Pictures

Some people find that looking at old pictures or scrapbooks is a rejuvenating activity. Reminiscing about fun memories or laughing at fashion from days past can be a feel-good experience. If your pictures are digital, make a slide show to send to friends and loved ones.

Take a Day Off

On days when anxiety and depression are at their worst, don't hesitate to step away from work or school. Everyone needs a mental health day from time to time. No one thinks twice when someone calls in for the flu. Mental health should be no different. 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.

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. Create a self-care playlist made up of songs that help you the most.

Meditate

Meditation is easily one of the most recommended forms of self-care. It can be done anywhere, it's free and all it takes is a few minutes. If you aren't sure how to get started, there are many resources available online. Everything from basic poses to guided meditations can be found there without paying a dime.

Go Outside

Outdoor activities are popular self-care options. The choices are endless. If you prefer low-key activities try hiking, fishing or relaxing in the sun at a lake or beach. If extreme sports are your go-to, kayaking and skiing are just a few things you can try. Even a simple walk outside might be enough to do the trick.

Create Art

Art is a powerful healing tool and it is a very successful form of self-care. 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.

Exercise

Exercise is almost always a go-to lifestyle change for those experiencing anxiety and depression. While many people default to running, any activity that gets you moving can release endorphins. Try yoga, swimming, biking or dance. Even light exercise in the comfort of your home can have a positive effect.

Eat a Comfort Meal

While indulging is not something you want to do all the time, eating your favorite sweet or savory food can boost your mood temporarily. It's not called comfort food for no reason. If you try this form of self-care, practice mindful eating. By consciously focusing on the smells, textures and tastes of your food, you can get even more out of the experience.

Organize

Self-care can take the form of activities that set you up for future success. Clean your home, catch up on housework, sort papers or delete old apps and emails. Purposefully getting rid of the clutter can help you hit the mental reset button.

Talk with Your Therapist

While talk therapy is a form of treatment for anxiety and depression that happens over time, it doesn't mean you shouldn't look at it as a type of self-care. When you're feeling like you have hit rock bottom, don't wait until your next appointment to reach out for help. Online counselors, like those available through BetterHelp.com, have far increased availability and flexibility compared to traditional therapy.

Self-care is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. Needing it doesn't make you lazy or selfish - it is part of being human. Everyone should practice self-care in a way that works for them. Remember that self-care can be any activity that makes you feel recharged or refueled.

Anxiety and depression have a way of stealing from our mental, emotional and physical health. Self-care can help you manage that. If you are struggling with symptoms of these conditions or are unsure how to start a self-care regimen in your life, talk to a professional therapist at BetterHelp.com today.

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