Other sources of support

If left untreated, depression and anxiety can go on for months, even years. The good news is that a range of effective treatments are available, as well as things you can do yourself to recover and stay well. 

Different treatments work for different people, and it’s best to speak to your GP or mental health professional about your options and preferences. If you’ve taken the first step and talked through some treatment options with a health professional, you might like to try a few of the following ideas for lifestyle changes and social support. Most people find that a combination of things work best.

It's important to remember that recovery can take time, and just as no two people are the same, neither are their recoveries. Be patient and go easy on yourself.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Staying well is about finding a balance that works for you, but there are some general principles that most people find useful.

These include maintaining a healthy lifestyle – eating a healthy, balanced diet; doing some form of regular physical activity; and having a good night’s sleep. It can also be useful to cut back on alcohol and drugs

Reducing and managing your stress levels by making sure that you make time to do something distracting, relaxing, satisfying or enjoyable each day – even if you initially feel you can’t be bothered – can also help. You may find it helps to get the help of a friend or family member to help you stay active. It's also important to deal with any setbacks and keep trying. 

Tips on staying well

Learning about your condition

As with any health condition, the more you learn and know about depression and anxiety conditions, the better able you will be to work out what’s right for you. It’s important to learn the facts using reliably sources of information such as the beyondblue website, pamphlets and booklets.

A number of other organisations  provide useful information too. It may be worth talking to your doctor or mental health professional about what you’ve read if you want to make sure it is accurate and reliable.

Support groups and online forums

Support groups for people with depression and anxiety can provide an opportunity to connect with others, share experiences and find new ways to deal with challenges from others who have experienced the same issues as you. Contact your local community health centre or the mental health association/foundation in your state or territory to find your nearest group, or try searching online.

Some people prefer to seek and offer support or share their stories via online forums. You can visit the Australian Government's mindhealthconnect website to find trusted communities, or join beyondblue's online community.

Relaxation training

Relaxation training calms your body and mind, which in turn helps to reduce anxious thoughts and behaviour. It may also help you feel more in control of your anxiety.

There are several different types of relaxation training, such as breathing exercises that teach you how to slow down and regulate your breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation which teaches you to relax by learning how to tense and then relax specific groups of muscles. Another type of relaxation training involves thinking of relaxing scenes or places. Relaxation training can be learned from a professional or done by yourself.

Free recorded instructions are available online, or can be bought on CD or MP3. There are also a number of apps that focus on relaxation and mindfulness – search the Apple Store or Google Play and see what works for you.

Family and friends

The people close to you can play an important role in your recovery by providing support, understanding and help, or just being there to listen. It can be hard to socialise if you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, and many people tend to withdraw or avoid social contact. But spending time alone can make you feel lonelier and cut off from the world, which in turn makes it harder to recover.

It is important to try to get out and spend time with your family and friends, and keep saying ‘yes’ to social invitations – even if it's the last thing you feel like doing. 

It can help to talk about how you are feeling with someone who is caring and supportive. Even if you are not looking for support, it can still be helpful to let family and friends know what you are going through, so they are aware. This can help them to support you better.  

If you don’t feel like talking and interacting, try an activity where you don’t have to make conversation, like watching a movie or playing sport.

Staying connected improves your wellbeing and confidence, and doing some physical activity has the added bonus of helping you keep fit and bust stress.

Other approaches to try

If you're looking for ways to complement your treatment, there are a range of non-medical or alternative approaches you can try. These vary in both effectiveness and the level of evidence to support their use.

Our Guide to what works series provides summaries of what the research and scientific evidence says about each treatment. Each guide takes you through medical, psychological and complementary and lifestyle interventions. 

However, it's important to remember that just because a treatment is shown to have some effect in research, this doesn't necessarily mean it's available, used in clinical practice, will be recommended, or will work equally well for every person. 

Download A guide to what works for depression

Download A guide to what works for anxiety

Download A guide to what works for depression in young people

Ultimately, it's useful for people with depression or anxiety to learn about and be involved in managing their own condition, as well as getting advice from a qualified health or mental health professional who can talk you through the treatment options and help you find an approach you're comfortable with. It’s all about working together towards recovery.

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