Dealing with Depression and Anxiety

Dealing with Depression and Anxiety

Dr. Andy Yarborough

In our society, anxiety and depression are to mental health what high blood pressure and high blood sugar are to physical health.

Just like the diets that modern Americans eat tend towards these physical symptoms that can create a cascade of serious health problems, so does the culture of our lives default us towards the drift of anxiety and depression.

The constant pressure to achieve more, addiction to entertainment, regular dopamine hits from social media, comparing our low moments with others’ highs, sedentary lifestyles, highly processed foods, lack of meaningful social interactions, being accessible by anyone with your number or email 24/7...

You may have gotten a little depressed or anxious just reading that list.

But I also want you to know that because of that, experiencing depression and anxiety in our culture today is typical.

I’m not saying that minimize what you’re facing, but to let you know that you’re not alone.

To live a life that isn’t weighed down with anxiety or depression requires intentional choices.

I hope that, in the same way lifestyle changes can get the blood pressure and blood sugar for most people under control, you’ll be equipped with mindset changes that can help get anxiety and depression under control.

Depression and Anxiety

So what are depression and anxiety?

Simply put, depression is when parts of you are suppressed instead of expressed. While people often think sadness and depression are similar, with depression comes a general loss of interest and demotivation.

On the other hand, anxiety is an emotional response to an unwanted future outcome. To some degree, it’s inevitable; what you want to watch for us is when anxiety starts to shut you down in daily life.

As mentioned earlier, while depression and anxiety can progress to requiring professional and medical interventions, mindset and lifestyle changes can help you process these changes.

Let’s look at some of those now

The Approach

1. Seek first meaning and well-being.
What you seek first organizes the rest of your life. Unfortunately, the chaos of emotional struggle typically sabotages our focus. This leads us to live constantly aware of our anxiety and depression.

The focus becomes avoiding them or wanting them to go away, which then causes us to become anxious about our anxiety and depressed about our depression.

The key here is to focus on meaning and health.

You may not know that anxiety and depression are often the result (not the cause) of a life that isn’t anchored in the pursuit of meaning and well-being.

It can be challenging but be encouraged that feeling anxious or depressed can’t stop progress toward meaning and well-being.

Think of it this way, while it may be hard to exercise while feeling negative, if you did exercise, feeling negative wouldn’t stop your body from responding to the stimulus of training.

Choose something or someone that is meaningful to you and intentionally invest in that person or activity every day, regardless of how you feel, even if it’s just 5 minutes of investment.

Choose a growth/well-being goal like reading 5 minutes a day, meditating for 5 minutes a day, or going on a walk 30 minutes a day, and do that regardless of how you feel.

Take a few moments daily or weekly to write about those things for extra points.

2. Accept to build awareness
Now that you’re focusing on meaning and well-being, we want to return to anxiety and depression.

The answer isn’t to distract yourself with the first step and hope it eventually goes away; it’s simply putting your struggle back where it belongs, anywhere other than first place.

To get authority over anxiety and depression, you first need to accept its presence in your life.

This means you will stop avoiding it or hoping for its absence. This, however, does not mean that you’re agreeing with it or accepting that you’ll always feel like you are with it.

It’s more about acknowledging its presence when you’re experiencing it.

You don’t need to be afraid of it. The only power it has over you is the power you choose to give it.
Take some deep breaths. Even if it’s just for a moment. Make a conscious effort to think of something lovely and good, even if it’s just a passing second.

Realize that you can control your thoughts and body even in its presence.

3. Build understanding
Now, get curious about it instead of trying to reduce, minimize, or eliminate anxiety or depression.

Ask yourself these questions and write down the answers.

- What exactly am I feeling at this moment?
- What is it that I want at this moment?
- Are there circumstances or thoughts that triggered it?
- What steps can I take to manage those triggers better?
- What’s going on internally and externally whenever I don’t/haven’t felt this way?
- Now that I’ve sat with it for a while, what is the next thing I need to do to move forward with my day?

Just like a sudden pain or symptom we’re unsure about, we often fear what we don’t understand.

Understanding our anxiety and depression will help us to de-escalate so we can respond to those feelings instead of reacting to them.

4. Implement what you’ve learned.
As understanding grows, start taking steps to implement what you’re learning.

The steps can range from something as simple as working on your sleep routine to medical intervention.

Physical activity and relational connectivity are two steps that are helpful for nearly everyone. Thirty minutes of walking five times a week and having someone you can process with goes a long way.

Anxiety and depression make your world feel small, like it’s caving in on you, and there’s no way out. But don’t worry, there’s hope.

What I gave you above isn’t a crash diet or a quick fix for your emotions but changes in mindset that require practice and intention. Though it involves work, these changes will provide you with a solid foundation that can withstand the current culture and keep you steadfast in your pursuit of well-being.

 Dr. Andy Yarborough

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