Depression and anxiety: self-help

Self-absorption is a habit for many of us. We become preoccupied with our problems and concerns. Self-absorption is really at the heart of feelings of depression and anxiety. It is the black hole that we descend into when we feel that life is unmanageable. It feeds upon itself and if we aren’t proactive it can become totally disabling.

How can we prevent this descent?

Don’t isolate

If you’re anxious or depressed it is likely that you will not want to be around other people. Fight this impulse. Make it a point to have contact with people every day in more than just the work setting. A friend of mine who is not working and lives alone has a rule of thumb, have phone contact with or see three friends or acquaintances every day.

Distract yourself

A simple way to try to emerge from an anxious or depressed state is to get involved in some kind of activity. It could be exercise, going to a movie, getting together with a friend, participating in a hobby or even doing housework. A person in a substance abuse facility was told by her psychiatrist that when she felt overwhelmed with anxiety it would be a good idea for her to get on her hands and knees and scrub the floor! Not a very sophisticated suggestion but a very effective one. She used this as her main way to successfully cope in early recovery.

Be thankful

I write about gratitude frequently because it is such a powerful tool. Spend time each day writing down or thinking about what you are thankful for in your life. Many people set aside time in the morning and time in the evening to review the positive things in their lives. This breaks the cycle of obsessive negative thinking.


Simply put, when you help someone who is not as fortunate as you are it puts your problems in perspective. It is amazing how good it can make you feel. This doesn’t mean just giving money to a cause you believe in, it means DOING something. Call a friend to give them encouragement when they are going through a rough time and listen without giving advice unless asked. Do an errand for a neighbor who is disabled. Life presents you with opportunities every day to do something for someone else, take them. Don’t limit yourself to just the official causes or charities. For example, a friend of mine has a chronic illness but managed to found and lead a support group for others who have the same illness. Decide what is meaningful to you and do it.


Keep track of your negative thinking when your mood is low. Replace negative thoughts with more positive thoughts. Instead of saying to yourself, “I am worthless”, think about some of your good qualities. Say, if you did call that friend today and listened attentively you could say to yourself, “I am a good listener”. All in all the best way to change your negative thinking is to actively monitor it and challenge it. You can learn more about this technique here:

Finally, get started and practice

Changing your thinking and behavior requires discipline. It’s like developing any skill; it demands practice. It can be achieved little by little. Just start with one thing and see what happens.

Here’s to a more positive outlook!

This information is for educational purposes only and should not in any way be considered a substitute for professional help. If you have ongoing symptoms of anxiety and/or depression it is advisable that you seek professional help. If you feel that you need immediate assistance please call your local psychiatric emergency services or the SAMSHA Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990.