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

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated April 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you’re experiencing anxiety disorder-related symptoms or depression, self-care can be a powerful way to 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 currently recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For example, from August 2020 to February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder quantified by the agency was 41.5%. There could very likely be higher occurrence rates due to the number of possible cases that may go unreported.

Seeking professional treatment such as therapy and/or medication can be important for individuals experiencing anxiety disorders or depression. If you’re looking for additional ways to support your own mental health at home, practicing self-care may also be helpful. Read on to learn more about techniques you can try today.

Are you feeling anxious or depressed?

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 also give you the stamina to overcome obstacles and allow you to comfort yourself through difficult circumstances.

Essentially, self-care can ultimately support your well-being.

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

Some people believe the misconception that practicing self-care is lazy or selfish—but self-care is generally 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, in most cases. 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. 

We do want to note: If you are living with anxiety disorder-related symptoms or depression, self-care can be a very important part of your treatment plan—but it is not generally a substitute for advice or treatment from a licensed mental health professional or medical professional. You may consider seeking 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 in your journey to symptom management and healing.

Self-care tips

Everyone can practice self-care in their own way. What works for one person may or may not work for someone else, though. 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, you may consider trying 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 as you prepare your soak. 

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 and prepare you for better sleep.

2. Get plenty of sleep (or take a nap)

Lack of sleep can make symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression worse. Practicing good sleep hygiene can be a great form of self-care to possibly combat this. 

Not sure where to start? 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 you might consider trying to keep your nap short. 

3. 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 you can try, including bullet lists, art journals, and mind mapping.  

Gratitude journaling can also 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.

4. Spend time with friends or family

Although it can be common for anxiety disorders and depression to make you feel like you would rather be alone, social connections can be important to maintain. 

To take this step, you might try taking 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, you can always give them a call. Services like FaceTime and Skype can be great alternatives to chat with friends who are far away, too.

5. 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.

6. Take a day off

On days when anxiety disorders and depression-related symptoms feel overwhelming to face, 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, you might consider talking with your doctor. An increased lack of interest in going out might point to a change in your mental or physical health.

7. Listen to music

Music can help connect you to your emotions and process those that are difficult. In fact, 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. To try this technique, you might try creating a self-care playlist made up of songs that help you the most.

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Are you feeling anxious or depressed?

8. Meditate

Meditation is one of the most commonly recommended forms of self-care for many. 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. You might also begin by clearing your mind and redirecting your energy to inner quiet and peace. 

9. Go outside

Outdoor activities are also popular self-care options for many, 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, you might consider kayaking or skiing. Even simply walking outside to get fresh air might be enough to help your mood.

10. 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. You might also 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 disorder-related symptoms and taking your mind off of negative thoughts.

Talk to an online therapist

While talk therapy can be a form of treatment for anxiety disorders and depression that happens over time, it can also be seen as a form of self-care. 

When you're dealing with intense nervousness 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. 

Is online therapy effective?

Research has found information that suggests that online therapy can be an effective treatment option for individuals living with anxiety disorders 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 disorders 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. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.
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