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4 Ways to Overcome Depression and Anxiety

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4 Ways to Overcome Depression and Anxiety

Depression, anxiety, melancholy. Tough to suffer from, tough to be around, tough to know how to help.

Having recently navigated an episode of depression, low mood, (call it what you will), I wanted to share what I find useful in working through and out of an episode without harming myself, my prospects or those around whom I love.

This is part of a larger conversation around depression and anxiety. Valuable insight is available, from William Styron’s personal account to numerous helpful infographics and articles. This article is my joining in that effort of community support.

By no means an exhaustive list, the points may not even be relevant to anyone beyond myself. But if they are, and they help you or someone you know, then they are worth putting out there.

1. Put things in order

A former housemate swears by the adage: ‘tidy space; tidy mind’. In this logic, comfort comes from seeing a room is ordered. Acting as an external representation of that unseeable internal landscape of your mind, that organised space lessens the fears of surprise or threat that may spring at any moment to prove those dangerous thoughts of failure and self-hate right.

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And as the objects are organised and ordered, so may your thoughts become discrete manageable and tidy-able entities—less fractious demons, more obedient books on a shelf.

Touching, seeing and organising objects is cathartic and therapeutic. Holding real objects with their weight and density helps create a connection back to the ‘real-world’. Like the talismans in the film Inception, they offer the sufferer of depression an understanding that there can be a way out or simply that there is another reality of which they are still part, willingly or otherwise.

Items of a household are neatly organised on a table, viewed from above.

    2. Counter the core insecurity

    For me, this moment is always given away by a smile that rises through me and won’t be prevented from showing. Or sometimes it is the tears and a willingness to become defenceless to them.

    This is where the core insecurity of the depression is faced down with love, empathy and understanding. It is the moment that you feel understood and not the isolated, hopeless emotional hermit you have felt all day/week/month.

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    Finding that is depression’s golden egg.

    Crucially, in that moment I am able to experience something other than the dull drone of melancholy, even if it is only for a moment. That makes the episode of depression only a part of my existence, instead of the overwhelming whole it can feel from inside. This moment counters the tyrannical power of those wild and dangerous depressive thoughts and makes them only thoughts. Thoughts are vulnerable to logic and reason, and from there is a way back.

    It is a crack through which the light gets in (thank you, Leonard Cohen).

    I can’t say what it will be for you or anyone else as I can’t even say for sure what it is for me. If you can talk about the core insecurity (if there is such a thing) when outside of an episode, it’ll make the trial and error easier, though not absent it entirely.

    3. Allow time and take your opportunities

    Depression, like anything else, has its own cycles and requires time. While it may seem like depression can break all of a sudden, the cycle is usually a slow and complex affair.

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    Everyone is different but trust that most will know a) it is irrational, b) it is unsociable and c) it is undesirable. Each of these undesirable is then further reinforced by those around the sufferer, they will only extend the cycle and make the depression harder to leave behind.

    Find a way to accept the depression into social spaces, listen to the concerns and don’t immediately rubbish them and still show them love. IF you can do this, you will not only be an incredibly generous person but will likely be doing the groundwork that helps the cycle pass swiftly and the sufferer feel less like the outcast their mind is convincing them they are.

    And in that first moment of relief from the depression, there is an opportunity. If my experience is valid, it’s in that moment that I will hear logic and love again and not second guess it. So that is when to offer it and, trusting you are heard, your love may well be a help to save that person’s life.

    A candle burns in a glass jar on a table in a dark room

      4. Do not expect to ‘cure’ depression

      As far as I’m aware, there is no definite cure for depression.

      There are ways of coping, ways of nurturing the absence or diluting of episodes. There are drugs and conversations and exercise and groups and all sorts of options with a variety of efficacies. But they are not cures, so speaking about needing to achieve that, I think, isn’t helpful. It creates a pressure and guarantees you won’t succeed.

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      For example, if you believe you are cured and you fall back into an episode, your failure to cure yourself makes that episode many times worse. It creates a potentially vicious cycle, where the very existence of the episode itself is the symbol of failure on which the viciousness feeds. Instead, when depression arrives, try to accept it wholeheartedly, then put that heart to work on turning the self-hate to self-love.

      Which is why, as hard as it may be, offering that love from the outside is all you can ever really do. Accepting the current situation and showing love to coax the sufferer out is the best medicine for most episodes. It requires great strength and patience, but on such qualities are love built.

      It is when the episode of depression or anxiety has passed (hopefully) that a more logical, mutual conversation can occur to lessen the potential cost on those who have to sit by and wait for their loved one to re-emerges from the greyness.

      More by this author

      Tom Pritchard

      Copywriter, Proofreader and Storyteller

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      Last Updated on July 20, 2021

      How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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      How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

      You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

      Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

      Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

      Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

      1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

      According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

      “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

      Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

      Warming up

      If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

      If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

      Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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      1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
      2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
      3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

      Stay hydrated

      Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

      To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

      Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

      Meditate

      Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

      Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

      Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

      Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

      2. Focus on your goal

      One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

      Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

      Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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      Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

      If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

      3. Convert negativity to positivity

      There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

      ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

      It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

      Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

      Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

      Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

      4. Understand your content

      Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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      However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

      “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

      Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

      Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

      One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

      5. Practice makes perfect

      Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

      In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

      Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

      6. Be authentic

      There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

      Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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      Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

      To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

      With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

      Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

      7. Post speech evaluation

      Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

      Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

      We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

      You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

      Improve your next speech

      As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

      Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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      • How did I do?
      • Are there any areas for improvement?
      • Did I sound or look stressed?
      • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
      • Was I saying “um” too often?
      • How was the flow of the speech?

      Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

      If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

      Reference

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