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Managing anxiety and depression

A therapist can offer more guidance on treatment options for anxiety and depression, but you can also take steps to cope with symptoms on your own.

The strategies below may not always help, but trying different approaches at different times can help you learn more about what works for you. That insight can guide you toward a personalized toolbox of coping strategies, so you always have options to consider when feeling distressed or overwhelmed.Your therapist can also offer suggestions for new strategies to try, plus offer tips on putting them into practice.

1. Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling

Depression and anxiety are medical conditions, not the result of failure or weakness, and they’re absolutely not your fault.

Without a doubt, the unwanted emotions they cause can lead to plenty of distress. But knowing depression and anxiety result from underlying causes and triggers, not anything you did or didn’t do, can promote self-compassion instead of criticism or self-punishment.

2. Do something you have control over

Regaining some control in the moment could help overwhelming feelings feel a little easier to cope with.

You don’t have to take any major action, but accomplishing a short task, such as making your bed, taking a shower, or unloading the dishwasher, can help boost a sense of accomplishment. It could also offer a temporary distraction.

3. Maintain a routine

A daily routine or regular schedule can create structure in your life and promote a sense of control, so it can sometimes help ease feelings of anxiety and depression.

Creating a schedule also offers the opportunity to build space into your day for self-care techniques that could make even more of a difference.

4. Aim to get a good night’s sleep

Not enough sleep can worsen symptoms of both anxiety and depression — but too much sleep can also affect well-being and mood.

Experts recommend most adults get between 7 and 9 hoursTrusted Source of sleep each night for optimal health.

These tips can help you get the sleep you need:

Make a habit of going to bed and getting up around the same time each day.

Turn off electronic devices about 1 hour before bedtime.

Create a soothing ritual that helps you wind down before bed.

Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet

5. Try to eat balanced meals

Nourishing your body with whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, can help you get the nutrition you need — and it could also help improve your symptoms.

Caffeine, refined sugars, and processed foods, on the other hand, could potentially worsen symptoms of both anxiety and depression.

You don’t need to cut these out of your diet entirely, but try to balance them with nutrient-dense foods when possible.

6. Try a walk around the block

According to 2019 research, 2.5 hours of exercise each week can help relieve both depression and anxiety. Exercising outside also appeared to offer more benefits than exercising indoors.

Physical activity can help naturally boost your mood by prompting the release of “happy hormones” in your brain.

That said, exercising when living with depression or anxiety can be a challenge. If you’re able to exercise, it can help to start with small activities you can incorporate into your routine, such as:

a walk around your neighborhood after dinner

a weekend hike

walking or biking to work instead of driving


7. Make time for rest and relaxation

Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can affect your energy and motivation, which often only adds to feelings of guilt and worry.

Remember, though: Depression and anxiety are health conditions. If you had the flu, you’d need time to rest, right? Mental health symptoms require recovery time, too.

Instead of fixating on the things you think you should be doing, honor your needs by taking time for activities that soothe and relax you. Maybe this includes things like:

watching a comforting movie or TV show

re-reading a favorite book

cuddling with a pet

spending time in nature

cooking or baking

listening to music or audiobooks

Relaxation techniques could also help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve day-to-day life.

A few examples include:

breathing exercises

guided imagery

progressive muscle relaxation

massage therapy



8. Reach out to loved ones

Strong relationships can go a long way toward improving your outlook and emotional well-being when you live with mental health conditions.

Friends and family can:

listen with compassion when you need to talk

provide encouragement and emotional support

join you in hobbies or activities that offer a positive distraction

offer rides, grocery runs, and other more tangible forms of support when you have trouble getting things done

Simply knowing you have someone you trust in your life can often help you feel less alone, whether you actually want to talk about your symptoms or not.


Treating co-occurring depression and anxiety can sometimes be more complicated than treating one condition alone. Even when you get treatment for one condition, some symptoms might persist or seem to play off the others.

For example:

You can’t stop worrying about all the things going wrong in your life, or thinking about the ways things could get worse. These fears eventually drain your energy and motivation to keep trying, leaving you feeling low and hopeless.

Social anxiety keeps you from connecting with people in the ways you’d like. You want to make new friends but generally end up avoiding interactions instead. This leaves you feeling lonely, sad, and guilty, especially when thinking of those missed opportunities, but helpless to do anything differently.

A mental health care professional may recommend combining treatment approaches, since what helps ease depression symptoms may not always relieve anxiety symptoms, and vice versa.

Potential treatments for anxiety and depression include:


Many different types of therapy can help treat anxiety or depression.

For example, interpersonal therapy for depression teaches communication strategies you can use to express yourself more effectively and get your emotional needs met. Exposure therapy, an approach that helps you get more comfortable with feared situations, can treat phobias, a type of anxiety

Other approaches can treat both conditions:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches techniques to identify, challenge, and reframe unwanted thoughts and behavior patterns.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy teaches mindfulness techniques along with behavioral techniques to help you begin to manage unwanted feelings and stay present through them instead of becoming overwhelmed.

Acceptance and commitment therapy teaches strategies to accept unwanted or distressing thoughts, stay present, and commit to positive activities that fulfill your personal values.

Problem-solving therapy. This approach teaches using coping skills to manage mental health symptoms and life experiences that cause stress and other emotional turmoil.


Psychotropic medication can also help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. It doesn’t help you address the cause of those symptoms, though, so your doctor or psychiatrist will typically recommend therapy alongside medication.

A psychiatrist or other clinician might prescribe:

Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). In some cases, these medications may also relieve anxiety symptoms.

Anti-anxiety medications, including benzodiazepines, buspirone (Buspar), and beta-blockers. These medications can ease anxiety symptoms but may not improve depression symptoms. Benzodiazepines also carry a high risk of dependence, so your prescriber may try other medications first.

Mood stabilizers. These medications may help treat depression symptoms that don’t respond to antidepressants alone.

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