Staying well

The recovery process doesn't necessarily have a clear beginning, middle and end. Some people will only experience one episode of depression or anxiety in their lives, while others may go on to have another episode, or experience recurring symptoms of depression and/or anxiety that need to be managed.

Staying well is about finding a balance that works for you, but there are some general principles that most people find useful. These include reducing and managing your stress levels, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, cutting back on alcohol and drugs, and taking action early if you start experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety. It's also important to deal with any setbacks and keep trying.

Our Staying well: A guide to recovering from anxiety and depression booklet has plenty of ideas and strategies to help you, as well as tips from blueVoices members who have experienced anxiety or depression on what works for them. 

Family and friends can play an important role by providing practical and emotional support, or just being there to listen. Find out what you can do to support someone experiencing anxiety or depression, including taking care of yourself.

Reducing and managing stress

Stress is common in daily life, but exposure to prolonged stress can start to affect your mental and physical health. Whatever the cause, here are some simple steps that can help you to reduce and manage stress:

  • Making major changes in your life can be stressful at any time. If you're feeling stressed or anxious, it's probably a good idea to try to avoid moving house or changing jobs. Leave them to a time when you're feeling better.
  • Ongoing stress in personal relationships often contributes to depression and anxiety. Learn how to let people know about your feelings so that you can resolve personal conflicts as they come up. Talking to a counsellor or psychologist can help you find ways to address your problems.
  • Learn to relax. To do this, you need to allocate time to do the things you enjoy, such as exercising, meditating, reading, gardening or listening to music.
  • Take control of your work by avoiding long hours and additional responsibilities. This can be difficult, but small changes can make a difference. Check out these tips for keeping workplace stress in check.
  • Learn to say 'no'. Create a balance between work and the things you enjoy doing. Don't allow yourself to be overwhelmed by new commitments.
  • Include short-term coping strategies in your day, such as breathing and relaxation exercises, or try a guided progressive muscle relaxation exercise.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Eating healthily, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and avoiding harmful levels of alcohol and other drugs can help you manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as improving your overall wellbeing.

Tips for eating well

Experiencing anxiety or depression can make it difficult to eat well, but keeping things simple can help. Here are some tips:

  • Keep a daily timetable and include food-related activities such as shopping, cooking and eating.
  • Learn to make simple meals that don't take too much time or energy to prepare. If you live on your own and aren't eating proper meals, consider using frozen or home-delivered dishes.
  • Make use of the times when you feel good to prepare meals ahead of time (e.g. if you've got energy in the morning, make dinner then) or cook large quantities of food and freeze it.

Tips for getting active

Physical exercise such as walking, swimming, dancing, playing golf or going to the gym can help relieve the tension in your muscles, relax your mind and distract you from negative thoughts and worries. Try to do some physical exercise every day, even if it's just going for a walk. Keep it simple and enjoyable. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Increase your activity levels gradually. Start by planning simple daily activities such as shopping, driving, gardening, writing emails or completing simple household tasks. Starting small can increase your self-confidence and build the motivation needed to take on more energetic activities.
  • Activities that are enjoyable, interesting, relaxing or satisfying can help you overcome depression and anxiety. At first, you might not get as much enjoyment as you used to, but keep trying! Think about what makes you happy and focus on doing that.
  • Spend time with family members and close friends, and accept social invitations, even though it might be the last thing you feel like doing. Keeping connected with people helps to boost your wellbeing and confidence.
  • Planning a routine can help you to become more active. Make sure some form of exercise is scheduled in for each day. Try to stick to the plan as closely as possible, but be flexible.

Tips for getting a good night's sleep

Depression and anxiety can disrupt your sleep patterns. It's essential to try to restore a regular sleep pattern to make a full recovery, so here are some tips:

  • Try to get up at about the same time each morning.
  • If you're worrying about things during the night, set aside some time for problem-solving during the day.
  • Avoid drinking caffeine after 4pm and try not to drink more than two cups of caffeine-heavy drinks (e.g. coffee, strong tea, cola or energy drinks) each day.
  • Avoid using alcohol to help you sleep. As the alcohol is broken down in your body, it causes you to sleep less deeply and to wake more frequently.
  • Allow yourself time to wind down before going to bed. If you're working or studying, stop at least 30 minutes before bedtime and do something relaxing.

Tips for reducing alcohol and other drugs

It's a good move to try to reduce the use of alcohol and other drugs, as they can cause long-term problems and make it much harder to recover. It's also a good idea to avoid stimulants, in particular excessive amounts of caffeine and any kind of amphetamine (speed, ecstasy, ice), as these can worsen the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Find out more by downloading our Drugs, alcohol and mental health fact sheet.

Triggers, warning signs and setbacks

Recognising triggers

Some situations or events – referred to as 'triggers' – can bring on an episode of depression and/or anxiety. Common triggers include family and relationship problems, financial difficulties, changes in living arrangements, changing jobs or losing a job, having other health problems, and using alcohol and other drugs.

Trying to avoid or manage these triggers can be an important part of recovering. It's not always possible or practical to avoid certain situations, but you may be able to reduce their impact through stress management techniques or learning how to resolve conflicts early.

Warning signs

Warning signs are signals that you may be feeling depressed or anxious, and it's a good idea to learn how to recognise these signs early. Family members and friends may notice changes in the way you think, act or feel. Some common warning signs include:

  • getting up later
  • finding it hard to concentrate
  • skipping meals or eating unhealthily
  • having disturbed sleep
  • feeling irritable, stressed or teary
  • withdrawing socially or wanting to spend a lot of time alone.

You can learn to identify your own warning signs by reflecting on any symptoms you've experienced in the past.

Getting over setbacks

Setbacks are often disappointing and getting over them can be difficult. When people relapse, it can be easy for them to fall into the trap of thinking they'll never feel well again. However, it's important to understand there are ways of moving through this stage:

  • Don't blame yourself. Remember that setbacks are bound to happen and feeling disappointed can make moving on difficult.
  • Try again. Learning how to manage anything new can be about trial and error. Persistence is the key.
  • Focus on achievements. Feeling depressed and anxious can make it hard to see the good side of things. Try and focus on what you've gained and use this to move on from setbacks.
  • Learn from setbacks. A relapse can help you reevaluate your situation and, with the help of a health professional, find new ways to manage your condition. This can make you more able to cope with feeling unwell and may help prevent further setbacks.

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