Take These 10 Steps To Feel Better When Dealing With Anxiety & Depression

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How To Deal With Depression & Anxiety To Improve Your Mental Health When Dealing With Trauma
Self, Health And Wellness

There are times in everyone's life when learning how to deal with depression, anxiety, or mental health problems makes it feel like you're stuck in a pit that you can't find your way out of.

This is especially true if you've experienced a recent trauma or life change that you're worried is leading to depression and anxiety.

RELATED: Signs Your Depression Is Getting More Serious (And It's Time To Reach Out)

Even if you have high-functioning depression, or think you're doing OK, the signs of depression getting worse might be right in front of your face.

There are many different types of trauma — and different types of depression reactions — but when you're experiencing severe depression, it can be difficult to reach out for help due to perceived mental health stigmas.

You may worry you won't be helped, or that people won't believe you. Maybe you feel like your trauma isn't "big" enough to qualify for asking for help.

It’s different for everyone: A marriage collapsing, scary health news — something so overwhelming happens that you don’t know how to cope or how to deal with depression that occurs after when you're least expecting it.

You aren’t sure you will survive this upheaval in your life. It’s too big.

The first time this hit me was after my second son was born. As he grew, those first few weeks, I was falling apart. I dragged myself around, cried many times a day, and felt my world turn gray and heavy.

Normal sleepless stupor became a postpartum depression. As I felt myself bursting into tears without warning in the grocery store, I knew something was wrong.

But how could it be that I couldn’t handle having two children? Women all over the world did it just fine. What kind of a failure, a wimp, must I be? It took weeks for me to accept that I was in real trouble.

Once I took that in, I asked for help from those around me. Not everyone responded. When my closest friend didn’t seem to get what I was going through, I thought, "Okay I’ll take care of myself another way."

I started therapy, went on medication, and gradually emerged from that bleak place. But I didn’t know if I ever would feel like myself again — until I did.

Here are 10 simple steps you can take to get help when depression and anxiety are hurting your mental health after trauma or a major life change:

1. Accept that you need help

What is the trauma you're experiencing? How is it affecting your happiness?

You probably see yourself as competent and normal, so accepting that something big and hard is happening can be tricky.

Your first impulse is often denial. This can’t be happening, it’s not that bad. I’ll binge watch/run more miles/work harder.

Denial can buy you time, but it’s a terrible long-term strategy. What you don’t accept can hurt you. You can spiral into a vortex of avoidance that harms your health and livelihood.

You beat yourself up when you don’t meet your own expectations. It can take great courage to let in the possibility that you're not doing OK in something fundamental — whether it’s parenting, a relationship, or a job.

What helps you deal with denial is being willing to talk about what’s happening.

Instead of having your fear, depression, confusion, and pain bouncing around inside your skull, you can let it out it in manageable doses to a trusted confidant.

Releasing a scrap of your truth eases pressure and enables you to look straight at your situation.

2. Tell someone trusted what’s happening

You spend significant energy on appearing "whole" to those around you. In order to share your experience with another, you risk judgment.

It’s a chance that must be taken to move forward. Remember, you are often harder on yourself than anyone else will be.

Choose who to tell about your anxiety with care; someone trustworthy and kind. Include what is happening and how you're feeling.

Both are important. Because, of course, a big part of denial is avoiding feeling shame.

3. Let yourself feel your emotions

Once you accept your situation, you need to pause and feel whatever arises. If it is shame — that sense that you're fundamentally not OK — you need to tackle that feeling with words. Remind yourself of the many ways you have been OK and successful, large or small.

Reframe this depression or trauma as a point in time that you need to survive, not a forever condition. “I can get through this. I will get through this.”

RELATED: The 6 Types Of Depression (And How You Can Tell The Difference)

4. Identify what you need to heal

Figure out what you need. Information, financial or otherwise? Hugs? Someone to walk with? Childcare so you can nap or get out of the house? A new place to live?

Think short-term first. What do you need for today and this week? Then look a bit further ahead — a few weeks or months. What else will you need?

5. Decide how to get what you need

When you have a list, plan how to approach others and ask for help. I know, asking for help can be uncomfortable. I squirm every time I do it. You may be surprised at how helpful others will be, once they hear what’s going on, though.

If you let your situation be known, you may receive offers of support without even asking. People feel good when they help others, and that includes you.

6. Make your own plan

Sort out what you will do for the short term. What actions will you take today? Tomorrow? Write it down. In times of crisis, a concrete list of things to do can be wonderfully anchoring.

7. Take time to care for yourself

What can you do, each day, that will help you feel a bit of solid ground under you? Is it walking? Watching a favorite show? Playing with your dog? Writing in a journal?

Make this a priority to help beat back your depression and anxiety.

8. Vent your feelings in a healthy way

There is a place for strength, no doubt. You need to formulate plans and do something. There is also a need to let yourself feel and express those feelings — cry, throw things (at something safe), curl up in a ball around your cat and hide.

Don’t go on social media and rant, that’s not a smart outlet for your feelings, and may make your depression worse.

9. Be strong when you need to

So far you have been focusing on you. If you have children, it’s even more important that you get yourself together. Look as calm and confident in front of them as you can.

They are having their own uncertainties, and need whatever reassurance you can give them.

10. Remember you will be stronger when you're through this

This all may sound difficult, and it is. Two things make it worthwhile.

First, it will get you through this hard and scary place, which is what you need.

Second, you will build strength and resilience that will be part of you for the rest of your life.

For whatever further challenges life brings, you will have deeper confidence and greater coping abilities. You will be better able to help others, too. And that’s gold, for all of you.

RELATED: 9 Subtle Signs Of Depression (That I Was Too Depressed To Notice)

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Karen Kristjanson is a life coach and the author of Co-Parenting from the Inside Out: Voices of Moms and Dads. For more information on how she can help you, reach out to her at her website.