9 Creative Ways to Cope with Anxiety and Depression

Stress and anxiety are two things we’re all feeling a little more of these days. So it’s all the more important to find creative ways to blow off steam so we can stay healthier (and happier) in the long run. 

Besides talking with a licensed counselor (which is always a great way to recognize patterns and make positive changes), here are nine more coach-approved coping strategies:  

  1. Take deep breaths. Deep breathing stimulates the vagal nerve, which is part of the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” nervous system. A regular breathing practice may help reduce anxiety.
  2. Practice mindfulness. Try one of the many apps for ideas and inspiration. Headspace is great for beginners, Buddhify is perfect for people who want guided meditations in a variety of situations (like walking, using your phone, falling asleep, etc.) and Insight Timer is free offers lots of options. 
  3. Show yourself compassion. Mindfulness-based self compassion has been well studied to help with anxiety and depression. You can find out more about it and join an 8 week online course at selfcompassion.org
  4. Eat regular meals. When blood sugars dip, we can’t access our prefrontal cortex and our automatic and reactive “lizard brain” takes over. Studies have shown that poorly controlled blood sugars can feed anxiety. 
  5. Take action. It doesn’t have to be something big. Finding small ways to take action helps you feel “un-stuck” and motivates you to keep going. Every time you accomplish a goal–getting up to stretch every hour for example–put a gold star on the calendar or a hashmark on a sticky note. Make it visible so your brain registers that you are making progress. 
  6. Stay connected. Write a short, simple love-note to a person you wish you could hug right now, but can’t. Send it snail-mail. This will give you (and them) a boost of oxytocin, the “love” hormone. 
  7. Express yourself. Try drawing, painting, coloring–even knitting or needlepoint–as a creative outlet. 
  8. Get moving. Find something you like to do–dancing around the house, a brisk walk at sunset, playing with your pets, jumping rope or jogging on a trampoline–and do it for just 25 minutes. You’ll find you have more energy, clarity and calm when you’re done. 
  9. Consider adopting or fostering a pet. Furry (as well as feathered and finned)  friends can be great company and give your life a sense of purpose. Check out your local shelters for animals in need of a home. 

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