15 Self-Help Activities We LOVE for Anxiety & Depression!

Combating anxiety and depression is NOT an easy task. Below are 15 self-help activities to reduce the overwhelming patterns of behaviors, feelings and thoughts.

self help for anxiety and depression

Studies by the Anxiety & Depression Association of American (ADAA.org), show that 264 million people Worldwide, live with depression.  Furthermore, in 2017 around 17.3 million adults (18+) in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode (the most common form of depression), in the last year. 

Combined with the assessment that anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental illnesses in the United States, affecting 40 million adults (18+) every year, it’s not surprising for an individual who suffers from depression to also experience an anxiety disorder. 

But to be clear, depression and anxiety are not the same.  Although the symptoms are similar, such as irritability and nervousness.  Each issue is unique regarding the causes, as well as, the emotional and behavioral implications.

Now, if you are reading this post, I’m assuming it’s for a reason.  Please know, you are not alone – not to sound too cliché.  Although these numbers were posted back in 2017, just how much have these numbers changed/increased with the most recent events (i.e. COVID-19)?  Likewise, what about the individuals who silently suffer? 

This is Exactly Why Self-Help Activities for Depression & Anxiety are Crucial!

Early on in life (around 9), I knew I suffered from depression. However, I did not actively seek treatment and wasn’t clinically diagnosed with both, until well after I was 30 (I think 33).  For years, I was one of those individuals who … silently suffered.

Although I reached a breaking point that was the catalyst or spark to my spiritual journey, I am still in awe of the many years I spent not knowing how to cope.  Or fundamentally understand the emotional, mental and physical damage these disorders were causing. 

Struggling with depression and anxiety can be incredibly challenging, but there are proactive steps we can take to improve our mental well-being.

In this blog post, we’ll explore 15 self-help activities that have been shown to be effective in managing symptoms of depression and anxiety. These strategies can empower us to take control of our mental health and work towards a more balanced and fulfilling life.

Quick disclaimer: Self-help activities can play a significant role in managing and alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, please note that these suggestions are not a replacement for professional medical advice. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, it’s important to consult a mental health professional.


15 Effective Self-Help Activities for Managing Depression & Anxiety


Here are some self-help activities that may be helpful for managing depression and anxiety:

1. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation:  Mindfulness and meditation techniques offer a powerful way to stay grounded and reduce the impact of anxious thoughts. By focusing on the present moment, we can help to alleviate rumination and foster a sense of calm. 

There are various apps and online resources available to guide us through mindfulness and meditation exercises.  A common favorite is the App CALM.

2.  Regular Exercise:  Engaging in regular physical activity isn’t just beneficial for our physical health – it’s a natural mood booster. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a yoga session, or a jog, regular exercise can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.  We should aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.

3.  Embrace Healthy Eating:  Diet plays a crucial role in our mental health. Opt for a well-balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats), to provide your body and mind with the nourishment they need.  Positively impacting your mood and energy levels. 

4.  Prioritize Adequate Sleep:  Quality sleep each night is essential for emotional well-being. Establish a sleep routine and create a comfortable sleep environment to ensure you’re getting the restorative rest you need.  Be sure to include the avoidance of screens before bedtime. 

5.  Nurture Social Connections:  Isolation can exacerbate feelings of depression and anxiety. Foster the right relationships with loved ones, and seek opportunities to engage in social activities that bring true joy.

6.  Discover the Power of Journaling:  Putting our thoughts and feelings on paper can be a therapeutic outlet for self-expression. Journaling helps us explore our emotions, identify triggers, even track our progress over time.

7.  Tap into Creative Outlets:  Engaging in creative activities like dancing, painting, gardening, singing, writing, or playing a musical instrument can channel our emotions and provide a healthy way to express ourselves.  


What is Bibliotherapy?

A book lover, I was thrilled when I stumbled upon the term Bibliotherapy.  Recognized as a therapeutic approach that uses literature to support good mental health (goodtherapy.org).  The simple act of reading a book is a cost-effective way to temporarily escape from the unpleasant behaviors that come with anxiety and depression.


8.  Breathe for Relief:  Simple breathing exercises can provide immediate relief from anxiety. Techniques like diaphragmatic breathing (or the 4-7-8 breathing exercise), can help calm your nervous system and reduce stress.  For more information, look into the topic of Somatic Breathing.

9.  Break It Down (think Baby Steps):  Setting realistic goals and breaking them into smaller, manageable steps can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. Accomplishing even minor tasks can boost your self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. 

10.  Moderate Alcohol and Caffeine Intake:  Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption can worsen anxiety and disrupt your sleep patterns. Limiting these substances may have a positive impact on mood and can contribute to better mental health. 

11.  Master Stress Management:  Learning techniques like progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery can equip you with tools to manage stress and anxiety effectively.

For the purpose of grounding and releasing any tension, I recently participated in this Guided Body Scan Meditation on YouTube by Alina Alive!

12.  Educate Yourself:  Understanding depression and anxiety is a crucial step in managing them. Educate yourself about these conditions to help reduce stigma and empower yourself (cope more effectively).

An easy way to learn about depression and anxiety is by listening to a podcast.  A favorite of mine is the Dear Gabby.  A weekly self-help podcast that focuses on physical and mental well-being, plus more.

13.  Embrace Self-Compassion:  Replace self-criticism with self-compassion. Treat yourself with kindness and patience as you navigate your mental health journey.

“Please Be Gentle with Yourself, Life is About the Journey and NOT the Destination”

14.  Engage in Relaxation Activities:  Integrate relaxation activities such as taking soothing baths, taking a hike in nature, and/or listening to calming music into your routine to help you unwind and alleviate stress.

15.  Seek Support When Needed:  While self-help activities can be incredibly valuable, don’t hesitate to seek professional help for therapy (even medication),  if your symptoms are severe or persistent. Combining self-help strategies with expert guidance can lead to comprehensive healing.

In conclusion, empowering yourself with these self-help activities can be a pivotal step toward managing depression and anxiety. Remember that finding the right combination of strategies for your unique needs is key.  By taking an active role in your mental health journey, you’re on the path to achieving a greater sense of well-being and a brighter outlook on life.  


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