There is nothing wrong with utilizing medications to address depression or anxiety. Numerous medications exist that have been proven to be effective in treating both of these diagnoses. In some cases, however, there are reasons why people might choose not to use medications to treat mental health conditions or why they might want additional tools to use in conjunction with their prescriptions. If a person has been taking medications for any mental health condition, they should always speak to their doctor before stopping the medicine.
Maintaining Mental Wellness
In general, mental health is best when a person lives a life that includes:
This is true not only for people with depression and anxiety but also for people with other mental health conditions and those with no mental health diagnoses whatsoever. Because none of these options involve taking pills, and are thus less likely to have negative side effects, they are often the preferred choices of medical and mental health professionals for supporting mental health.
The options above are great strategies for maintaining mental health. Sometimes, however, depression or anxiety creeps up on a person, and they need tools to address their symptoms beyond eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – A type of talk therapy that observes and reframes unproductive thought patterns.
- Hypnosis – Can help with refocusing attention, rethinking problems, relaxation, and responding to helpful suggestions. Therapists and medication managers may be able to suggest good practitioners.
- Biofeedback – Uses sounds or lights to tell a patient how specific body functions, such as heartbeat or breathing, are responding to a stimulus. This helps the patient learn to control those body functions through relaxation and cognitive techniques.
- Deep breathing – There are numerous versions of deep breathing exercises on Youtube. The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center offers one example of a five minute deep breathing exercise.
- Visualization – A tool that uses the mind’s eye to place the stressed person into a less stressful environment, where they can feel safe and relaxed. While there are many options available online, Dr. Pooky Knightsmith, a psychologist from the United Kingdom, offers this video that explains ways to develop a personalized visualization exercise for a person of any age.
- Body scanning – A practice that helps people to identify where in their body they might be holding tension or stress and to help them relax those muscle areas. Mount Sinai Health System has an online body scan video that takes about 20 minutes to complete, and there are numerous other options available, for free, on Youtube.
- Yelling – A healthy release of emotions in a controlled environment is a good way to conquer the negative feelings anxiety brings.
- Reducing caffeine intake – Caffeine is a stimulant, and stimulants can be an enemy for people with anxiety, as they can ramp up symptoms of anxiety.
- Setting boundaries – Being overwhelmed by obligations is a trigger for anxiety symptoms. Saying no is one way to keep responsibilities (and anxiety) manageable.
- Having an exit strategy – When it is clear that a situation is likely to induce anxiety symptoms, it is a good idea to have a plan for how to get out of the situation. This may include enlisting the help of a friend who knows about the anxiety diagnosis and will help to extract the person from a stressful situation, if needed.
Depression is one of the most common mental health diagnoses in the United States. Millions of people have suffered from it, in one for or another. Psychology Today and other sources offer a variety of techniques for treating depression that can be used either alongside or instead of medicine:
- Have a routine – Structure can keep one day from melting into the next, which is an underlying issue of depression.
- Set goals – It feels good to accomplish something, even if it is something small. Start with an attainable goal for the day. As the symptoms of depression are less and less debilitating, add progressively bigger goals.
- Load up on Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Folic Acid – These are especially helpful for combating the chemical causes of depression.
- Remove habits and items that promote bad sleep habits – Take the computer and TV out of the bedroom. Avoid naps when possible.
- Challenge negative thought patterns – This can be done with a therapist or independently. A depressed brain wants to find blame and worthlessness in the person who is suffering, and allowing these thought processes to continue unchecked can make symptoms worse.
- Do something new or fun – Have something on the calendar to look forward to and something that will provide a sense of accomplishment.
- Talk to the doctor about supplements and hormones – Depression can sometimes be brought on by nutritional deficiencies or hormonal issues.
- Get some sun – A vitamin D deficiency can lead to depressive symptoms and can be treated with a little bit of sunshine.
At Valley Recovery Center in California, we routinely work with guests who struggle with one or more mental health diagnoses that complicate their substance use disorder. When building customized treatment plans, we address mental health complications with compassion and sensitivity.