Immediate depression or anxiety relief tips
I mostly prefer long-lasting solutions to quick fixes, and I explain why in ‘The magic fix’. Sometimes however, you need some immediate relief from the feelings of anxiety or depression you experience. Unfortunately, everyone differs in what works best. Therefore, a lot will be trial and error, but here are some of the things that work best for me.
The worst options
It would not be fair of me to say I never tried the obvious, but not so smart options. A huge benefit for me is that I am not that prone to addiction. However, these options are still not a healthy or wise choice. Having said that, the truth is they did work for me. I therefore feel it would be unfair to present myself as some perfect person or to not give you the option to weigh the pro’s and cons yourself.
Smoking it off
The first unwise move was to smoke. Although I never smoked regularly, I did light up a cigarette whenever I would have an anxiety attack. This would only be for ones that wouldn’t go away or when my other options weren’t available. It relaxed me for that moment and it would give me just enough peace to be able to continue whatever I was doing. However, it’s known that smoking in the long term causes heightened amounts of tension in the body and therefore worsens anxiety. Therefore, it is not recommended in any way, shape or form.
The other options was medication. I used pills from the drugstore (unfortunately I don’t remember what they were precisely) that calmed down my anxiety. These were homeopathic, so they couldn’t do much harm, but instead of truly reducing my anxiety, they suppressed my panic. Therefore, they were not a good solution.
I also went to my doctor, who (too easily in my point of view) prescribed anti anxiety medication (benzodiazepines). I never took them and I would not recommend them unless there is no other option. Side effects are common and they are known to be addictive in some cases. However, knowing I had them in my bag at all times for emergency situations did help to calm me down in the first place. Knowing that there is a strong solution can prevent panic in that sense, so I was glad I had them.
Speaking of the effects of just knowing something works, we need to talk about placebo’s. As you guys know, I am a huge fan of using food as medicine. I would thus eat chocolate for the endorphins they release. I would also drink calming tea’s (like Rooibos and Chamomile) to calm me down. Although they do relax the body in some way and they are known to have real effect, a lot of this also was due to the placebo effect. Believing their effects probably calmed me down even more than the actual foods. Tea, in addition, also has the benefit of being warm. Holding a warm cup of tea can therefore also relax your muscles.
It can also work the other way around. Panic attacks often worsen when you feel that one is coming up. One of the things that increase the panic is therefore feeling your heart racing and breathing faster. Therefore, on anxious days, I would try to avoid coffee, energy drinks and sugary things. Although coffee is known to have beneficial qualities against depression (see ‘The pro’s and cons of coffee’), it had a tendency to induce panic attacks for me. Therefore, I only drink it at times I am more relaxed (like the morning). Other times can be when I know I am going to be physically active, since a higher heart rate isn’t as troublesome then.
To lower my heart rate and relax my muscles, taking a warm bath or a hot shower can also help. Although this is definitely not the most convenient option, it is always successful for me. Especially keeping my eyes closed and letting my ears be just under water works really well. You can then hear your own body, which is also known to be good for relaxation.
Hug it out
Another thing to physically relax you is by releasing endorphins through hugs. This is also not a very available option, but holding yourself can also help a little. I also noticed that wrapping a blanket tightly around me can work as well. This also works in the office if you wear a big scarf that you can wrap around you.
I lastly use meditation techniques to slow down my breathing and relax my muscles. For instance, there is a technique that tells you to focus on one part of the body. Every time you breath out, you try to release a little bit of tension in that area. When that part is done, you go on to the next. Most of the time, I don’t even need to complete the exercise to be okay again. I would recommend to start with muscles that are easier to release for you. Then, progress towards harder areas later. Chances are that you will not have the amount of concentration needed for tougher areas. This could make you panic even more. The benefit is that it fights the tension, as well as maintaining a normal breathing rhythm. Both are important physical factors in panic attacks. Meditation also works wonders for me in times of depression. It forces me to relax my thoughts (which is often better than forcing thoughts). It also makes me able to change perspectives on a problem, so I can also see the positive side of things more easily I find.
For me, walking works as well to prevent panic attack as to calm down after the worst is over. Partly because of the endorphins that are released, partly because it gets rid of left over energy in the body (more about this in ‘Stress: the good, the bad and the ugly’). It also works in a more psychological way, since I can literally feel like I am moving towards a solution. When I had strong panic attacks, I felt I couldn’t move, but when the worst was over and I could move again, it felt like I was able to influence the situation again and literally move to something that would help, like the shower or foods. This is why walking is beneficial for your physical panic as well for the mental component of it. In addition, walking for half an hour a day is also known to reduce depression in general and therefore, I try to walk at least half an hour each day, for instance to the supermarket.
Fitness also can work wonders. However, this is only the case for general anxiety and depression for me. In that case, I can get out some emotion and stress by pushing, pulling and running every problem out of my system. For immediate panic attacks, it does not work that well. This is mainly because it increases my heart rate even further, which gets me to panic even more in most cases, so during attacks I try to lower my heart rate instead of increasing it (although the increase is healthier if it is done through sports).
There are also a few hobbies that tend to help me through difficult times, starting out by laughter. Laughing can relieve physical tension and stress and therefore, it is a good way to relax. I understand that that can seem nearly impossible and that it feels as ridiculous as telling depressed people to ‘just be happy’, but laughter is something different than being happy. For me, black, dark humor works really well when I feel bad, because it makes me put everything into perspective and it still fits my mood, whereas I don’t like to much happiness around when I am down. This way, I can actually laugh at things, which can help me to relieve some tension in order to get myself together again.
Photography is also something that I use a lot, mostly in combination with walking and it is a very accessible way for me to calm down. It literally forces me to look at things differently and focus on the beautiful parts of life, whilst also distracting me from what is happening. I find it accessible, since most employers will be fine with you taking a 5 minute walk around the block and pictures can be taken everywhere: with your phone from the sky above or from a little flowers sticking out between the sidewalk tiles. It can also give you a feeling of accomplishment and pride when taking a beautiful picture.
Baking and cooking
This feeling of accomplishment can also come from baking or cooking, which also works if I feel a situation coming up. The scent of freshly baked bread or freshly cooked food also calmed me down and a lot of foods can help with negative emotions on the long term as well, so it’s a win-win solution.
Another way to relax myself to listen to music, when I feel panic I put on classical music, when I feel down I prefer faster music, like punk. Classical music helps me to breath in a healthier rhythm and it can distract me very well, whereas punk or rock helps me to feel more energized, even though it also makes me more angry. I will explain this in detail later, but I have learned to turn anger into energy, so when I feel down, it is not such a bad thing to be angry.
The last hobby that works for me will not be a shock, but it is writing. If can be writing down my thought and feelings in a dairy, but also blogging. Both work, because it distracts me, whilst also making me able to structure what is happening inside my head. Also, I tend to write about things that help me, like good foods and articles like these, so writing this helps me to feel like I am working towards a solution. In addition, when I feel depressed especially, I tend to feel useless. By writing these things, I feel like there is a possibility that I can change someone’s life for the better, which makes me feel better in return as well.
Ignoring my world
You would expect that reading would also help me, since I love to write, but I have found that when I feel depressed or when I am anxious, I don’t have enough concentration to focus on the story in the book. Therefore, listening to podcasts and watching Netflix or YouTube videos works better for me. If you want more specific tips, you can go to here for podcast tips and here for my favourite vloggers (and bloggers).
I also love this drawing app called ‘Happy Color’, where you fill in numbers with a color. You don’t need to think to much during the game, but it does look very pretty in the end and works very relaxing for me. Real life drawing probably also works, but since I can’t draw that nicely, I prefer this app.
Last, but by no means least, is social support in the times of need. Like mentioned before, hugs work wonders physically, but also just to be talked through tough times can help. Therefore, don’t be afraid to reach out to friend and family members you trust to talk to. What also works for me is to not even say I feel bad, but just call to catch up. The voice of people I love can calm me down, even if it isn’t related to what is going on at that moment.
When you feel like you have no friends or family you can call, there are also services that can help in time of need. When it gets so bad you feel endangered by it, almost every country has a suicide hotline you can call. It’s good to put it as a contact in your phone. You will likely not want to search for it online when you feel that badly, so be prepared. You’ll hopefully never use it, but just to be sure.
There are also services that are more low-key. In the Netherlands, we have Sensoor for instance. It is a service where you can call, just to talk about what is going on. People at the other end of the line have had training in how to help you get through this. There is nothing you can say that will make them think you are weird for feeling that way. In addition, it’s anonymous, so there are no consequences to anything you say and they have no idea who you are, so everything is private.
I hope these tips can help you as well as they have helped me. Finding out what works for you in what situations can be a long, exhaustive journey. However, everything that helps, even if it is only for a little bit, is a step in the right direction. Finding these tricks can also help you to feel more secure before, since you don’t feel as helpless anymore.
Please keep in mind that I am not a therapist whatsoever. I’m just a girl sharing her personal experiences, so if you have depressive thoughts, you tend to harm yourself, or you have anxiety or panic attacks, please go to your doctor or a therapist to find help. These people are way more experienced and they have science on their side. That’s thus your best bet to heal as quickly and safely as possible.
Good luck with everything you are going through. If you have tips to share, please do in the comments below. You can also send them personally to me, so I can include them in this article (anonymously if you want).
Lots of love,
LisaHome » All posts »