How to Reduce Anxiety and Depression

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mark Hrymoc, M.D.

Reducing anxiety and depression involves adopting a holistic approach, focusing on both mind and body. Strategies include regular physical activity, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and mindfulness or meditation. Social support is crucial, so building strong relationships and seeking professional help when needed is essential. Incorporating these habits can significantly lessen symptoms and improve overall well-being.

Anxiety and depression significantly impact individuals’ daily lives, affecting their ability to work, maintain relationships, and enjoy life.

Without addressing these mental health issues, symptoms can worsen over time, requiring anxiety treatment and depression treatment.

Implementing regular exercise, practicing mindfulness techniques, seeking social support, and consulting mental health professionals can effectively reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

This article explores how to reduce anxiety and depression.

How to Reduce Anxiety and Depression

The 2022 National Health Interview Survey results show that 12.5% of Americans over 18 experience excessive nervousness, worry, and anxiety. Also, 5% experience depression. The number of people with depression increases among youth between 12 and 17. Statistics show nearly 17% had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. Most of these youth and adults are not receiving treatment to learn how to reduce anxiety and depression.

You or someone you know may be struggling with anxiety and depression right now. Keep reading to learn more about each mental health disorder and specific ways to reduce your symptoms.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion that causes physical and psychological changes in a person. It can lead to stress that may be harmful. Someone with anxiety tends to worry, appear nervous, and have recurring and intrusive thoughts about potential situations. Physically, anxiety raises blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Many people with anxiety pace or feel the need to move their bodies.

For someone to be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, they must meet specific criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM5). Criteria include:

  • Excessive worry and anxiety for at least six months
  • Difficulty controlling anxiety
  • Experience problems with at least three of the following: concentration, fatigue, sleep, restlessness, irritability, and muscle tension
  • Anxiety causes problems with how you function at work, home, school, or socially
  • Symptoms cannot be explained as any other disorder or by a substance

Other anxiety disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic attacks.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes people to feel sad, hopeless, and many other negative emotions. The DSM5 criteria for a major depressive disorder diagnosis, which is most common, include having at least five of the following symptoms for at least two weeks:

  • Depressed mood most of the time
  • Loss of interest in all activities much of the time
  • Significant weight changes
  • Thoughts and physical movements are slower
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Concentration and thinking difficulties
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, with or without a plan

Either a depressed mood or loss of interest in activities must be present for a diagnosis. Other types of depressive disorders include post-partum, seasonal affective, and manic depression or bipolar.

The Co-Occurrence of Anxiety and Depression?

Anxiety and depression often appear together, affecting 32.3% of Americans. There are overlapping symptoms of depression and anxiety, which is why they often occur together. Examples of overlapping symptoms include sleep disturbances, lack of energy, irritability, trouble staying focused, and memory problems. Additionally, anxiety and depression symptoms can include aches, pains, and digestive issues that seem to appear for no specific reason.

Anxiety and depression are treatable, and you can see a significant reduction in symptoms in a short period. 

How to Reduce Anxiety and Depression with Professional Help

Working with a mental health professional, including a therapist and psychiatrist, provides you with multiple effective treatment methods. Initially, you may want to consider taking medication for anxiety and depression to help you stabilize and regain clarity. 

Anti-depressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), can help with anxiety and depression. For people who do not respond well to SSRIs or SNRIs, a doctor can administer ketamine infusions for better results.

Once stable, you can participate in various therapeutic techniques to learn how to cope appropriately with symptoms in the future, like the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MBCBT)
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy

These therapies teach you to identify and change negative thinking patterns, leading to positive behaviors. You learn to be present and aware using mindfulness techniques, which prevents feeling overwhelmed and losing control.

In addition, you can learn stress management, relaxation, sleep hygiene, relationship building, and how to achieve overall physical and psychological well-being.

Reduce Anxiety and Depression with Lifestyle Changes

Your lifestyle has a significant impact on mental health. Certain lifestyle factors make it more likely you will develop anxiety and depression, like the following:

  • Living in an unhealthy, unsafe environment (e.g., abusive relationships)
  • Eating an unhealthy diet (e.g., eating only junk food or fast food)
  • Getting little or no exercise (e.g., sedentary most of the day)
  • Misusing substances (e.g., smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, using drugs)
  • Lacking quality sleep (e.g., sleeping few hours, insomnia, oversleeping)
  • Avoiding social activities with friends and family (e.g., isolating or withdrawing from others)
  • Lacking a positive support network (e.g., not having friends, family, or professionals to help)

Each of these negative lifestyle factors can become positive with a few changes. And you do not have to make these changes alone. Mental health professionals can guide you.

Reduce Anxiety and Depression with Alternative Treatments

Alternative treatments are non-traditional therapies that are effective in reducing anxiety and depression. Alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, acupressure, massage, yoga, and meditation, can be holistic. They can be creative, like music and art therapies. They can include animals, such as equine therapy or a support dog. 

Other alternative therapies include supplements, aromatherapy, homeopathy, light therapy, spiritual healing, prayer, fitness, and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.

Alternative therapies are customizable, and with the help of your therapist, you will develop a list of treatments based on your unique needs and preferences.

Getting Help for Anxiety and Depression

Are you ready to take the first step toward reducing anxiety and depression symptoms? The Mental Health Center is here to help.

The Mental Health Center is affiliated with doctors and therapists who can create an individualized treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.