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5 lifestyle changes to prevent anxiety and depression

7 min read

It’s ok to be scared of bears, just as it’s ok to feel a bit nervous before an exam. What’s not ok is living with a feeling of permanent disaster – anxious and panicky about anything that happened or is about to happen.

Anxiety disorders and depression are so deeply rooted in the society, that we don’t always spot the signs. In fact, over 40 million Americans have anxiety and depressive disorders, which makes them the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. And you don’t have to go watch all the seasons of 13 Reasons Why to know that untreated depression is a dangerous thing.

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Occasional blues are a whole different story. Life isn’t always what we expect it to be and sad things happen. That’s normal. You take a deep breath. You calm down. You wake up the next day and think positive. You build a lifestyle that suits you, preventing mental health issues from appearing in the first place.

Preventing mental health problems: what can we do?

If you can control your attitude, you’ll never let stress or sadness control you. But if you feel you need a few tips on how to make it through a stress-filled week, you’ve come to the right place.

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Avoid triggers

If you dive into research, you’ll come across tons of reasons why people are prone to anxiety and depression – from high IQ to your mother eating too much licorice during pregnancy. Because genetics doesn’t make it quite clear, let’s look at the trends instead.

From 2005 to 2015, depression grew by 20% globally. The two evils of the 21st century that seem to cause the most stress are perfectionism and isolation – both driven by the dark side of digital.

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Stressed to be the best

Business Insider has recently published a supposed-to-inspire-you story about an HSBC executive, the young lady who eats green, catches up with friends at 6:30 am, studies at Stanford, and mentors women in Papua New Guinea in her free time. Yes, the world is getting faster and we have to keep pace. But who said perfection is the right path to follow, no matter what?

While our news feeds scream and shout about success, there’s hardly any space left for failure. You have to be perfect. Just like your friend from Instagram, just like that 18-year-old millionaire from the news, just like (seemingly) everyone. Any deviation – and you’re trapped.

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From antisocial to depressed

Another problem is we don’t talk anymore and if we do talk, it rarely happens in person. Social media are supposed to enhance our lives, helping us stay connected. Oddly, it’s all about disconnecting, though. Not only do we substitute face-to-face communication for online chats, but social media also affects our self-esteem as a result of cyberbullying and comparing to others. From there, entering a vicious cycle of stress and anxiety is the easiest thing.

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5 tips for avoiding anxiety and depression

If you or your dear ones have ever experienced anxiety or depressive disorders, you know these are nasty things. It’s sort of like wearing a fur coat when it’s blazing hot outside – you just have to take it off asap. We’ve collected some tips on how to ensure you never put on that coat in the first place.

You can try incorporating these lifestyle modifications throughout the week, carefully monitoring how your stress response changes by the end of it.

1. Be in control of what has to be done

Stress at work is a beast. Getting bombarded with questions, interruptions, and urgent tasks kill your productivity and focus, causing stress and emotional exhaustion. The worst part is it doesn’t disappear when you leave the office.

One of the most common types of stress associated with work is time pressure – the feeling that you have less time than you need to complete a task. That’s where time tracking comes to help – a great solution for those who seek more control over their work. You can use time tracking tools to simplify the most complex processes, assigning periods of activity to specific tasks and projects, spotting bottlenecks in a workflow, and managing your schedule like a pro.

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Another issue causing work-related stress is noise annoyance. In open-plan offices, cross-team collaboration often comes at the cost of focused work. Any intrusive noise that distracts your mind doesn’t only affect your physical health, causing high blood pressure; noise annoyance could also be one of the key anxiety and panic triggers.

Telling noisy colleagues to pipe down isn’t a particularly pleasant thing to do, nor is there any guarantee it will help. A good alternative to saying “shhh” seventy-five times a day is to dive into ambient sounds, so that you can block out the noise and enjoy the sounds of rain, coffee house, or thunderstorm instead. You can also mix sound effects together to get your productivity in tune with music.

2. Schedule weekly meetings with a friend

Shared sorrow is half sorrow, right? No matter the root of the problem, talking to someone who makes you feel safe and cared for might be all the help you need. The only condition is that you should leave the house.  

“Face-to-face contact is like a vaccine,” says Susan Pinker, a Canadian psychologist. Each time you engage in a social interaction of any kind, your body releases oxytocin, aka “love hormone,” which lowers your cortisol levels and reduces stress.

Make it a tradition to catch up with a friend at least once a week. Call it Friday beer, Sunday pancakes, or whatever you want – the main point is you stick to the plan. And no need to worry you can miss your social moment. With a full-featured task management tool, scheduling your weekly meetings is a piece of cake. You can even assign locations, set tasks to repeat, and customize reminders flexibly.

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3. Sleep it away

Insomnia and oversleeping are the two evils, neither of which can be called lesser. Although it’s hard to figure out what’s chicken and what’s egg here – whether it’s insomnia making you feel low or stress making you sleep more – breaking this vicious cycle is important.

Clearly, you can’t just program yourself for eight hours of sleep. What you can do is test new tools that will help you increase your planning skills and stay focused. Slow and steady, you’ll win the race. Here are a few simple things you can do today to fix your sleep habits:

  • Take control of your exposure to light – more throughout the day and less before sleep.
  • Reset your internal sleep clock by trying to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.
  • Exercising more is another sleep life hack. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people with chronic insomnia report improvements in sleep after 4 to 24 weeks of exercise.
  • Eat less to sleep more. It doesn’t mean you should skip meals, but it’s better to avoid heavy foods within three hours of bed, as well as exclude caffeine after 4 pm.

4. Fall in love with your routine

One thing that highly stressed people often lack is a healthy routine that helps them move ahead. Haruki Murakami finishes all his work by 10 am and spends the rest of the day working out or reading. Playing cards with his wife after lunch was an unbreakable tradition for Winston Churchill. But what if you actually hate doing things you tend to do every day? You get annoyed. You get bored. You get pessimistic.

No quick fixes will help if you decide to change your career or end a long-term relationship. But there are plenty of small things you can do to brighten up your day, making the most unbearable tasks fun and easy.

Imagine you’re cramming for an exam. You hate the subject, can’t make heads or tails of the study materials, and feel like curling up into a ball and crying is the only way out of this mess. Well, you’re wrong.

Believe or not, there’s a funny way to learn boring stuff and MarginNote is a good example of how you can achieve it. This interactive e-reader adds lots of colors to your cramming process – 16 to be precise. And that’s only one part of it. Turn notes into flashcards for review, play with mind maps, or voice your comments – this app is nothing short of fun.

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Unless you live in the secret world of unicorns, things can get boring. To ensure you don’t walk all the way from boredom to depression, a bit of creativity is needed. The good news is you don’t have to move mountains to rekindle your passion for a job – good music, a rediscovered hobby, or a nice app could be perfectly enough.

5. Reconnect with your passions

Think about the things you enjoyed doing in the past, consider doing them now, and count the number of “Mehs,” popping up in your head. Losing interest in your hobbies is one of the early signs of depression. There’s even a word for it – anhedonia.

If nothing feels good anymore, how do you fight back? The short answer is you fight. There’s no way you can change the way you feel doing nothing. And if doing what you like doesn’t bring you joy anymore, try to do it differently.

Writers and bloggers who need a breath of fresh air could benefit from a writing chameleon that adapts to any creative process or redesigns it completely if old ways no longer work. Concentrate on writing, putting all distractions away – a clean word processor makes it easy. You can organize pieces of text as you go or format it all away once you’re finished.

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Or let’s say you used to enjoy photography, but it doesn’t excite you anymore. Taking your passion to the next level with spectacular time-lapse videos could help you turn hate to love again. You can play with image sequences, making them into dynamic movies. From capturing the perfect sunrise to recording a busy street scene, that’s where your imagination flies. And the best part is you don’t get to sweat over it – batch editing and deflickering features make the whole experience smooth and easy.

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The key to a healthy lifestyle is getting in touch with your emotions, instead of burying them. Be it stress at work, tiredness, or lack of communication, there are tons of factors that can make you feel low. Luckily, there are just as many things you can do to keep the blues away like picking up a new hobby or tweaking your daily schedule.

And even if the only thing you can think of is staring at the ceiling – there’s a solution. Dive into Setapp collection and pick some fun apps to play with. Maybe you’ll discover your inner Picasso. Or get into cryptocurrencies. Pinky promise: you’ll find at least three that leave no room for stress in your life.

But if depression has crept in and you feel out of touch with your emotions, don’t wait. Seek professional help and get yourself out of a bad place to live a life worth living.

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