Today, struggling with anxiety and depression is a more common occurance. Being a teen doesn’t make it easier, with changes occuring in the body and brain, society’s expectations, parental expectations, and even personal expectations; teens tend to pile up too much stress that can send them into a wave of depression or anxiety. High school students, according to Child Mind Institute, now show more symptoms of anxiety and and two times as likely to seek professional help than teens in 1980. 31.9% of adolescents meet criteria for anxiety by the age of 18. 17.7% of adolescents meet criteria for major depression or dysthymia, a less severe but more persistent form of depression.
Struggling with anxiety can be caused by multiple factors such as a build up of stress, trauma, family history, and more. The most common symptoms are restlessnes, racing thoughts, irritability, insomnia, or trembling. It’s important to keep in mind that anxiety affects everyone in different ways, so those who have one symptom, may not have the same symptoms as someone else.
Depression can be caused by long term stress, family history, or anxiety. Just like anxiety, the symptoms of depression can also vary through person, but the most common are feeling empty, hopeless, guilty, or worthless, or helpless, not being interested in things you normally enjoy, sleeping too much or too little, a change in appetite, etc.
As mental struggles become more common, more and more people become less and less aware of their struggle,and simply over look it as a mild inconvience. But ignoring a problem is not a solution. Knowing how to calm down when you are feeling anxious or stay positive when it feels like nothing is going right is extremely important in order to stop the struggle from getting worse. Here are five recommendations for how to limit your struggle with anxiety, depression, or maybe even other mental illnesses that some struggle with.
1) Seeking Professional Help:
Whether you are just looking a therapist to talk to, or a psychiatrist to diagnose you, finding a professional who knows what to say and ask is very important. Self diagnosing is the last thing you want to do because there are many illnesses that can have the same symptoms. For example anxiety and depression both have the symptoms of sleeping too little, and a build up of stress. Another problem with self diagnosing is that you can miss a diagnosis. For example depression can be caused by anxiety, so while you think you are just struggling with anxiety, it may be hiding depression. With all this being said, and even with statistics proving it’s increasingly more common for people to struggle, you may not actually have a diagnosis. The feeling of long term sadness or emptiness doesn’t always immediately mean you have depression, and the feeling of being anxious or irritable can just be from built up stress and not anxiety. Talking to a therapist would help release that stress and they could even help to manage it with coping mechanisms.
Meditating isn’t always sitting in the pretzel position and saying “om”. It can also mean putting on some nature sounds or soft music and just breathing, or doing a less intense form of physical activity like yoga or simply stretching. Meditation helps release stress which is a major cause of anxiety and depression. It also helps to protect the hippocampus-an area in the brain that is involved in memory. Research from Harvard Medical School showed that people who deal with recurrent depression have a smaller hippocampus. A study also from Harvard Medical School showed that those who meditated 30 minutes a day for eight weeks increased the volume of gray matter in the hippocampus.
3) Physical Activity:
Exercise causes changes in the brain such as neural growth, reduced inflammation and activity patterns that create feelings of a relaxed well-being. It also releases endorphins, hormones that energize your spirits. Another reason exercise helps is, it serves as a distraction. It allows you to take a break from stressing over things you, can or can’t control and breaks the cycle of negative thoughts.
When someone deals with depression or anxiety their energy levels can drop majorly, and they may no longer have the motivation to continue with activities they normally enjoy. Giving into the limited energy can cause your mental health to continue to struggle. Staying active, even if it’s not physical activity, makes it harder for harmful thoughts to creep into your head. Keeping up with hobbies also helps lower stress. Staying focused on something you enjoy keeps you from overthinking about things that you can’t change. Some hobbies like drawing, singing, and sports allow you to express yourself in an outlet for stress, anger, sadness, and other emotions.
5) Friends and Family:
Just like talking to a professional is important to get help, so is talking to friends and family. Surrounding yourself with people who love and care about you and also understand that you are dealing with troubling thoughts is important. Some people will isolate themselves away from people when they start feeling depressed or anxious. Isolating yourself from friends and family will only make you feel alone and feel like you have no one to talk to. It may be difficult to open up about whats going on in your head to others, no matter how much you trust them, but being surrounded by those who love you and can make you laugh is a great way to feel fulfilled with love and care.
Remember, mental illnesses affect people in different ways, so while one coping mechanism may work for you it may not for someone else. You may experience different symptoms or react to it a different way. The different experiences that exist for depression and anxiety make it hard to understand scientifically or biologically, but the increasing occurrence of one or the other is also making it harder to recognize what is or isn’t anxiety or depression. If you think you struggle with one or the other, seek help from a therapist or psychiatrist, and try to find the coping mechanisms that work for you. If you don’t struggle with either but notice you are continuously over stressed or mentally exhausted, try to limit the amount of work you give yourself and only expect from yourself the things you know you can do. Also try looking up other coping mechanisms, the five listed in this article aren’t the only ones out there. If you start noticing you feel like giving up and no longer want to push yourself to do better in things you love, remember there is plenty of people in this world that love you and will help you in this journey. You can do this!