It seems as if there is an epidemic of worry and depression in the United States these days. For some worry and depression are temporary things of not much consequence. For others, worry and depression are a constant plague that destroy peace of mind and happiness. Some suffer with clinical depression and horrific anxiety that may threaten their health and even their very lives.
There are many causes of worry, anxiety and depression in our "modern" society. Debt, family trouble, divorce, bankruptcy, health problems, weight, issues related to aging, political turmoil, international strife, natural disasters, spiritual turmoil, deadlines, school, bullying, taxes, death of a loved one, the behavior of others (especially one's children), etc. are some of the causes and contributing factors. There are a host of things that cause tension and stress in the lives of Americans.
For some, it may be necessary to seek professional counseling. For others there are common techniques that may be quite useful. My purpose in this article is to share a few ideas that have been helpful to some who suffer with anxiety, depression, stress and worry.
We all handle stress, worry and anxiety better if we are in good health. Exercise, eating right, getting plenty of liquids and enough sleep each night can be of great benefit to those who struggle with the challenges mentioned above. Exercise with its endorphin reward can be beneficial. Starting new habits or reviving old ones that contribute to health can be of great value in releiving stress.
Planning should not be overlooked as a tool that can help. Writing down a list of things that are causing anxiety can be a first step. Following that up with action plans for those items that can be addressed and then taking some action on the items that cause the most worry or depression gives a feeling of empowerment and eases anxiety. Working on specific things that can eliminate a problem or can bring healing is beneficial. For instance, I knew a man who was depressed and anxious about his massive debt. He put together a plan to get out of debt and within two years had eliminated 100% of his more than $2 million of debt. His blood pressure decreased, his life became more peaceful, he reported that he slept better, and that he was happier and had a great sense of well being. Planning can be applied to any issue that causes anxiety and depression.
Taking time to count blessings that have been received and are being enjoyed also gives us a sense of well being and contentment. As we catalog the many good things in our life (i.e.: health, family, friends, freedom, etc.) we find much to feel happy about that can counter our worries. Prayers of grattitude in recognition of what is already being enjoyed can do much to alleviate anxiety and depression.
Prayer is a very useful tool. Millions of people worldwide report that they receive help and guidance through answers to prayer. Many feel the help they receive is well beyond what they could have done for themselves and that the guidance they receive is also beyond their normal means. They report that knowing that there is a loving God who they can reach out to for help and guidance enables them to go forth with more faith and peace of mind.
People often hold grudges, hatreds, and anger towards others who have wronged them. This also creates a burden they have to carry that is detrimental to mental, spiritual, and physical health. Learning to forgive and forget can also bring peace to an otherwise emotionally distraught human.
Simplifying life in general can remove stresses from an overbooked life. Determining priorities and jetisoning some of the things that might be "nice to do", but are not "have to do" items or are not of real importance can be very rewarding. Ending the effort to keep up with the imaginary Joneses can be of great help as well. Debulk, simplify, focus, declutter in every area of life and you will find more peace of mind. Stop majoring in the minors and start majoring in the majors. Let go of the rest of it.
Getting out of debt is often a partial answer for people living stressful lives. Almost everyone can do this with some planning, discipline, effort, and thought. See my many articles on this subject published on this website.
Counseling with friends and specialists can also be of great help. They can often share experience, guidance, knowledge, ideas, and perspective that are otherwise missing. A trusted friend, counselor, clergyman, or family member can often help relieve a burden that has caused stress, anxiety and depression.
Replacing bad habits with good habits can also lead to progress. I counseled with a young woman who had been abused by her father for years. Her answer to that abuse was food, and locking herself away in her bedroom of her apartment. Once she replaced those habits with habits of planning her life, exercise, nutritional eating, work, creating friendships, service and obtaining an education, her life blossomed. She changed a few habits and things began to improve immediately. She felt empowered and took charge of her life. She was no longer a prisoner of her past. She forgave, and focused on the present and the future instead of the past. What a wonderful transformation that was.
Perhaps a vacation is in order. Often in today's world people work themselves into a place of burnout. A restful (rather than action packed) vacation may give that person time to review priorities, and plans and give some deeper thought and analysis to what has been causing anxiety and depression. Rest, sleep, and recuperation are needed periodically.
Abandoning self destructive behaviors that mask the problem can also help one make significant progress in ending depression. Drugs, drinking, and other dangerous behaviors may be contributing to a feeling of helplessness and may be piling problems on top of problems. Life is simpler and happier when we abandon self destructive behaviors that may be destroying our peace of mind, and our general health.
Service to others has long been recommended as a way to stop obsessing about our own troubles. Involving ourselves in constant service to others also helps us to put our own issues in perspective. Comparing our problems, challenges and stresses to those of others may help us to realize that maybe what we're suffering from can be endured, and, perhaps, it's not even so bad as we thought it was. Perhaps nothing is heaven or hell, but thinking makes it so as I beleive Shakespeare suggested in Hamlet.
Studying how to improve relationships can also be a boon to those who suffer anxiety. There are those who feel socially awkard or who are experiencing marital difficulties or who have lost a friend that feel extreme anxiety and/or depression from these things. Perhaps learning how to recaputre, preserve and/or enhance relationships can be at least a partial answer to these challenges.
Human nature often suggests that we should look outward to see what external forces are causing our discomfort. This may be helpful, but we must not forget that we should look inward as well. We may be causing much of our own discomfort ourselves. Perhaps there is more we can do to relieve our distress than we might have realized. Meditation at the end of each day allows us time to review the day, our lives, and our plans. It gives us time to consider personal changes we need to make in order to be more successful, and to eliminate some of the recognized causes of unhappiness, anxiety and depression.
Guilt and feelings of low self worth often come when we act in opposition to our own values. This dissonance can cause anxiety, sadness and depression. If we persist in acting against our own values or living in an immoral way, a way that is opposed to righteous living, we can find ourselves spiralling down into unhappiness. As the Book of Mormon states, "Wickedness never was happiness." In order to remove guilt and feel better about ourselves it is necessary to discontinue the behavior that is in opposition to our values. This requires recognition of the behavior as bad, immoral or damaging. Then we need to abandon the behavior. Often in order to completely feel the relief of forgiveness from other and from ourselves we need to confess our wrong doing to those we might have harmed and do our best to make restitution to them. If we persist in these efforts towards positive change increased peace will enter our lives. We will feel more confident as we approach God in prayer. Many who practice this kind of change will explain that asking for God's help to change is essential to real change. It may also be useful to ask for counseling from a professional counselor to expidite the change process and achieve the desired results.
Perhaps now is a time to take charge of your life by implementing some of the ideas in this article. Perhaps now is a time to change somebad habits, substitute them for some more healthy ones, and do something different that might help you find peace of mind. Perhaps now is the time to experiment with possible solutions that you have not previously considered. What have you got to lose (maybe your anxiety, unhappiness, and depression)?