A record number of men, women, teens & even children are suffering from depression and anxiety.
Currently, there are around 40 million people in the United States alone that suffer from anxiety or depression, and nearly half of those diagnosed with depression also suffer from an anxiety disorder. I personally have dealt with both anxiety and depression throughout my life and can attest to how crippling it is when we feel like our minds aren't always our own. With these issues being so prevalent and widespread today, what better way to end our Brain Health awareness week?
Earlier in the week we talked about the importance of exercise for improving our learning, memory and overall brain longevity. Exercise has also been shown to be especially effective in helping to stave off the symptoms of mood disorders. Incorporating at least 20 minutes of physical activity into your day can really help to boost the mood, help with sleep and give one a sense of accomplishment.
2) Set up a routine
Setting up a gentle routine can help one day from bleeding into the next as well as helping to restore a sense of purpose and plan. Having a healthy routine, where you set aside time for things like exercise and hobbies, can help greatly with mood management and recovery. Start small - maybe take 10 minutes to exercise first thing in the morning or have some quiet time with God before you start your day. A routine really can help!
3) Don't isolate yourself
A big reason that depression and anxiety pack such a heavy punch is that they have a way of isolating us from friends and family. The voices in our head tell us that nobody wants to hear what we're going through, or that nobody could understand. We don't want to feel like a burden to anyone, lest of all those we love. But don't listen to those voices! Isolating yourself will only continue to propagate the cycles of anxiety and depression. Even being in social atmospheres has been shown to help elevate mood. Going to sit at a museum or coffee shop or even park can help strengthen feelings of belonging and connectedness.
4) Make time to slow down
Especially for those suffering from anxiety, taking to stop and relax and breathe is so important. Our world is an extremely busy and go-go-go type of place. OUr minds can so busy and so filled and always thinking about what's next - and that can definitely make anxiety worse. It's important to make time for rest, and it's not selfish to do so! Both our brains and bodies require it. Take time to breathe in for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts, or make yourself some tea or coffee and sit down with your bible. Let your mind and body be still, and you'll start to see the benefits!
5) Consider counseling
Having someone to talk to about what you're going through can be extremely helpful when dealing with mood disorders. Sometimes there can be shame associated with going to counseling, as though there's something broken or wrong with us if we go. Not the case! If you have a broken arm, there's no shame in going to a doctor. Similarly, if there's something in our mind that needs help and healing, there isn't any shame in seeking help for it. Going to counseling is a personal choice, and while it can take a few visits to find the counselor that's right for you, it can be so worth it!
It might surprise you, but dancing has actually been found to be a great fighter of depression. Studies like this one have shown that dancing can decrease feelings of depression in both teens and adults. It doesn't matter if you feel like you're a bad dancer or that you look silly, just dance it out! Try one of our Pazaz dance workouts, like this short, 10-minute mood booster.
7) Make time to laugh
When we're caught up in a wave of anxiety and depression, the last thing we want to do is laugh... But the truth is, that's when we most need to. Is there a funny video or movie or song that's silly or has a way of making you laugh? It sounds simple, but even just a few seconds of laughter can truly help to brighten your mood. These two videos featuring a dog who doesn't want his owner to get out of bed and a bird discovering his love of drumming always have a way of making me smile.
8) Turn to healthy foods
When we're feeling worried or depressed, we start to crave high-fat, highly processed foods that are often loaded with tons of sugar and salt and other unhealthy ingredients. These kinds of foods are bad for our brains and can lead us to feel even more 'blah' than we did before. Try to take a few hours one day (maybe a day that you're feeling a little better) and just prepare a bunch of healthy meals and snacks ready for the rest of the week. That way, when you're feeling low, you'll have some healthy alternatives to choose from. Try our 5-day menu plan here!
9) Try and set small goals
Setting goals can be important when making progress amidst depression or anxiety. Try and set small goals, you can think of them like baby steps. Maybe you want to make your bed every day this week, or maybe you want to try and turn to healthy snacks instead of snacking on chips or chocolate. These goals can help you feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment, no matter how big or small.
10) Don't beat yourself up
Depression and anxiety have a way of making us feel as though there's something wrong with us. Like, if we were just better Christians, we wouldn't be dealing with these issues. I want to tell you that those are lies! Just because you're dealing with an anxious or depressed mind does not mean that what you're going through is your fault. Listening to these lies will only further propagate the cycles of anxiety or depression. Cover yourself with God's truth instead! Listen to the song below and remind yourself not to buy into the lies. You are worthy and you are loved and shame OFF of you!
We also have a longer podcast entitled Anxiety, Depression & The Church where we discuss living with these issues and how they're handled in the church - for better and for worse - today. If you're looking to continue the conversation, make sure to give that podcast a listen!
Bree works alongside Michelle (and Mojo the Dog) here at Faithful Workouts. She has a masters degree in neuroscience from the University of Iowa, and loves sharing what she's learned about the brain as it relates to health and fitness. In her free time, Bree enjoys swimming, reading, eating, and hanging out with Jesus.
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