Develop An Action Plan For Anxiety And Depression
Your action plan for anxiety and depression will cover a wide range of options. The plan can include exercise, stress management and how to improve your sleep. You may be referred to a psychologist who can help you address things like negative thinking and how to manage difficulties in your relationships.
Some people think its weak to admit theyre going through a tough time, but if you have anxiety or depression, you cant just snap out of it or pull yourself together. Theres more to it than that.
If you think you may have anxiety or depression, and want to take action, start by talking to someone you trust keeping it to yourself can make things worse. Discuss your situation with a friend, partner, family member a colleague or your GP.
Beyond Blue has put together information about how men can create an action plan.
If Someone Has A More Serious Anxiety Problem Avoid Stigmatizing Them
What can we do for folks with more serious issues? People experiencing things like panic disorder, depression mixed with anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or obsessional thinking may fear that theyre literally going crazy. Helping them may feel beyond your ability.
You can still be supportive in many ways. When someone is experiencing significant anxiety, its helpful to reassure them that your overall perception of them hasnt changed. Theyre still the same person theyre just suffering a temporary problem situation that has become out of control. Theyre not broken and who they are hasnt changed. To the extent possible, you can help the person stay connected to positive aspects of their identity by participating in or encouraging their interests and hobbies.
Sometimes, individuals who have chronic anxiety problems arent interested in changing. For example, you might be friends with someone who has agoraphobia or an eating disorder, but their condition is long-term and stable. In these cases, you can be accepting of that person so that they dont feel isolated. Being matter-of-fact about their limitations without excessively shaming them or insisting they should pursue becoming normal is often the best strategy.
Signs That Someone May Be Depressed
Depression has lots of possible symptoms.
You may notice that someone:
- has lost interest in doing things they normally enjoy
- seems to be feeling down or hopeless
- has slower speech and movements or is more fidgety and restless than usual
- feels tired or does not have much energy
- is overeating or has lost their appetite
- is sleeping more than usual or is not able to sleep
- has trouble concentrating on everyday things, such as watching TV or reading the paper
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Know The Different Forms Depression Can Take
Depression often involves sadness or a low mood, but it also has other, less well-known symptoms.
For example, many people dont realize depression can involve:
- confusion, difficulties with memory, or difficulty focusing
- excessive fatigue or sleep concerns
- physical symptoms such as stomach distress, frequent headaches, or back and other muscle pain
Your friend may often seem to be in a bad mood, or feel exhausted a lot of the time. Try to keep in mind that what theyre feeling is still part of depression, even if it doesnt fit into the stereotypical versions of depression.
Even if you dont know how to help them feel better, simply saying Im sorry youre feeling this way. Im here to help if theres anything I can do may help.
Knowing How Anxiety Works Can Help You To Better Support Loved Ones Without Inadvertently Making Their Anxiety Worse
When I first moved into my spouses house in 2001, she didnt want to include my name in our answering machine greeting. Because of our big age gap and same-sex relationship, she was justifiably anxious about how her parents would react to my having moved in so she kept it from them for several months. Though I felt a great deal of compassion for her and her situation, I was also frustrated that her anxiety was affecting meand I didnt like acting as though we had something to be ashamed of.
Scenarios like this are common when someone in your life is struggling with anxiety. Your loved one may feel so fearful that they avoid taking action, or act in ways that are inconsiderate or that increase your own anxiety. This might look like a boyfriend constantly putting off important tasks or discussions, a friend complaining about being lonely but refusing to date, or a boss always focusing on what could go wrong, making everyone miserable. Its difficult to witness anxiety in someone you know, and its even harder when their anxiety triggers yours.
But what can you do to help anxious people?
While its upsetting and frustrating to see these folks suffer, there are things you can do to help. Here are some of the strategies I recommend based on my book, The Anxiety Toolkit.
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Minimizing Or Comparing Their Experience
If your friend talks about their depression, you might want to say things like, I understand, or Weve all been there. But if youve never dealt with depression yourself, this can minimize their feelings.
Depression goes beyond simply feeling sad or low. Sadness usually passes fairly quickly, while depression can linger and affect mood, relationships, work, school, and all other aspects of life for months or even years.
Comparing what theyre going through to someone elses troubles or saying things like, But things could be so much worse, generally doesnt help.
Your friends pain is whats real to them right now and validating that pain is what may help them most.
Say something like, I cant imagine how hard that is to deal with. I know I cant make you feel better, but just remember you arent alone.
Symptoms Of Anxiety In Men
Anxiety is more than having sweaty palms and butterflies in your stomach. Symptoms of anxiety can include ongoing feelings of worry, fear and impending doom that are so severe they interfere with your ability to work, maintain relationships and get a decent nights sleep. Physical signs of anxiety may include:
- pounding or racing heart
- thinking about death or suicide.
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Mental Health Conditions: Depression And Anxiety
Depression is more than just feeling down or having a bad day. When a sad mood lasts for a long time and interferes with normal, everyday functioning, you may be depressed. Symptoms of depression include:1
- Feeling sad or anxious often or all the time
- Not wanting to do activities that used to be fun
- Feeling irritable easily frustrated or restless
- Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Waking up too early or sleeping too much
- Eating more or less than usual or having no appetite
- Experiencing aches, pains, headaches, or stomach problems that do not improve with treatment
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
- Feeling tired even after sleeping well
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Thinking about suicide or hurting yourself
The following information is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis of major depression and cannot take the place of seeing a mental health professional. If you think you are depressed talk with your doctor or a mental health professional immediately. This is especially important if your symptoms are getting worse or affecting your daily activities.
The exact cause of depression is unknown. It may be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.2 Everyone is different but the following factors may increase a persons chances of becoming depressed:1
Look For Signs That Treatment Is Working
There are lots of little ways to tell when treatment works it will be clear in the ways that your loved one looks and acts, says Angelos Halaris, MD, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of outpatient clinical services at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
As they improve, someone with depression may start making better eye contact with you instead of looking down to avoid eye contact due to feeling vulnerable or anxious. Other signs of improvement, according to Dr. Halaris, include:
- Smiling occasionally and having more relaxed instead of tense facial features
- Having a calmer demeanor
- Isolating less and interacting with people more
- Eating and sleeping better
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Ask Them What They Need From You
To show further understanding and support, ask the person what they need. They may need:
- reminders to take medication
- company when visiting the doctor or attending therapy
- home-cooked meals
- encouragement to socialize or exercise
- a hug or a hand to hold
- to be left alone sometimes
Helpful questions to ask include:
- What can I do to help?
- Would it be helpful if I ?
Avoid Judgment And Blame
If someone you love is depressed and no longer able to do the activities they used to, including working or helping around the house, you may feel like they are lazy. When you get frustrated, try to remember that someone who is depressed isn’t lazythey’re ill.
Everyday activities like cleaning the house, paying bills, or feeding the dog may seem overwhelming, if not impossible, to someone who is depressed. If your loved one’s responsibilities around the house are piling up, you may not be able to take them on yourself.
In addition to resisting the urge to blame your loved one, try not to blame yourself either. Know that it’s OK if you need to ask for help.
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Accept That There Will Be Bad Days
People with depression have good days and bad days. To deal with the bad days:
- expect that they will happen
- understand that this is a normal part of depression
- do not withdraw love or support during these times
- take some time out and do something enjoyable, either alone or with others
- remember that not every day will be like this there will be good days too
What Causes Depression Or Anxiety
Depression and anxiety can happen for no obvious reason. But in many cases it can be triggered by certain life events, such as:
- money or finance issues
- the time of year.
These situations might make anyone feel low and not everyone who experiences these goes on to develop depression. But thinking about any triggers can help you understand your feelings.
Everyone feels down from time to time, but if you’ve not been feeling yourself for a while it’s time to talk to someone like your doctor, nurse or a trusted friend or family member.
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Be Alert To Signs That Treatment Is Not Working
On the other hand, the absence of any such signs most likely means that ones depression is not improving and may be getting worse, Halaris notes, adding that a major concern in the absence of improvement is whether your loved one is having suicidal thoughts.
This is where you need to very gently raise the question whether they are having even fleeting thoughts of their life not being worth living, Halaris says.
According to Mayo Clinic, signs your loved one may be considering suicide include:
- Making statements such as I wish I were dead or I wish I hadnt been born
- Purchasing a gun or hoarding pills
- Fixating on violence, death, or dying
- Withdrawing from social contact with others
- Feeling hopeless or trapped in their current situation
- Telling people, goodbye, as if theyre going to disappear
- Getting their affairs in order or giving away their belongings with no other plausible explanation for doing so
If your loved one shows signs of considering or planning to take their own life, Halaris and Riba recommend taking steps to reduce their risk of attempting or completing suicide, such as:
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How To Help Someone With Depression
Dr. Borland recommends some dos and donts to get the conversation going:
Do: Practice assertive communication
Rather than making depression taboo, talk openly with yourfriend about your concerns. Dr. Borland recommends cultivating the art ofassertive communication: You take ownership of your feelings and concerns andcommunicate them without finger-pointing. And you listen and provide yourfriend with unconditional emotional support.
To do this, practice using Istatements. Begin sentences with, Im worried, Im concerned or Ive noticed.Then explain your concerns to your friend, he suggests. Avoid saying, Youdont seem like yourself, or You havent been hanging out as much as youusually do. They can create defensiveness in the person receiving the message.
Do: Show empathy
Put yourself in your friends shoes in a nonjudgmentalway. Think about how you would feel if you were coping with symptoms ofdepression and how you would want friends to react. Maintain eye contact whenlistening, and say things like, That sounds hard. Im sorry you are goingthrough this, and Im always here for you.
And if youve dealt with depression yourself, self-disclosure can be very powerful, Dr. Borland points out. Youre giving your friend a gift by opening yourself up and sharing that you understand.
Do: Set boundaries
Do: Be patient
Dont: Think you can fix it
Dont: Give up
But what if your friend rejects your efforts even when youvedone all the right things?
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If Someone Tells You Theyre Depressed What Should You Say Next
I think its really important that you dont feel like you have to fix it, but just be curious and listen to your friends experience, says Rosen. She advises asking questions like: What has it been like for you? Are you able to function at work? How are you doing at school?These should lead into the most important question to ask: Has it ever gotten so bad that you feel like hurting yourself or you want to end things?A lot of people wrongly think that asking about suicide will give someone the idea to do it. But experts say thats not how suicide works and that its really, really important to ask about suicide directly. By not asking, you could isolate a friend even more, and cause the person to spiral even further into suicidal thoughts.
Unless youre a mental-health professional, its not worth following up with hyperspecific, nitty-gritty questions like When did you start feeling bad? or What makes you feel worse? because whatever the person says will put you in a position of needing to share advice youre not qualified to give.
The next step would be trying to see if theyve actually been clinically diagnosed, says Cordero. Have they done any of the screenings? Suggest they take an online test its the same quiz theyd take in a primary-care doctors office, where people are encouraged to start seeking help for depression in order to rule out any other medical conditions.
What Causes Depression
Depression is a complex condition. There are different factors that can lead to it, including genetics, physical health problems, difficult childhood experiences and stressful life events such as unemployment, the end of a relationship, or being bullied or assaulted.
You may find that a combination of factors led to your depression, or there might not be an obvious cause.
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Take Care Of Yourself
When you care about someone whos living with depression, its tempting to drop everything to be by their side and support them. Its not wrong to want to help a friend, but its also important to take care of your own needs.
If you put all your energy into supporting your friend, youll have very little left for yourself. And if youre feeling burned out or frustrated, you wont be much help to your friend.
Setting boundaries can help. For example, you might let your friend know youre available to talk after you get home from work, but not before then.
If youre concerned about them feeling like they cant reach you, offer to help them come up with a contingency plan if they need you during your work day. This might involve finding a hotline they can call or coming up with a code word they can text you if theyre in a crisis.
You might offer to stop by every other day or bring a meal twice a week, instead of trying to help every day. Involving other friends can help create a bigger support network.
Spending a lot of time with a loved one who has depression can take an emotional toll. Know your limits around difficult emotions, and make sure you take time to recharge.
If you need to let your friend know you wont be available for a while, you might say something like, I cant talk until X time. Can I check in with you then?
Or Spend Time With Loved Ones
Depression can tempt you to isolate yourself and withdraw from people you love and trust, but face-to-face time can help wash away those tendencies.
If youre unable to spend time together in person, phone calls or video chats can also be helpful.
Try to remind yourself these people care about you. Resist the temptation to feel like youre a burden. You need the interaction and they likely do, too.
Research has shown that keeping a journal can be a beneficial add-on method for managing mental health conditions.
Writing down your thoughts can help you express what youre feeling more clearly. It can also help you keep track of what symptoms youre having each day and identify what causes them.
You can make a goal to write for a few minutes each day or week. Most importantly, what you want to write about is completely up to you.
When you do the same thing day after day, you use the same parts of your brain.
Research shows doing new things can feel rewarding improve your overall well-being and strengthen your social relationships.
To reap these benefits, consider trying a new sport, taking a creative class, or learning a new cooking technique.
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