Anxiety and Depression Workbook For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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Symptoms of depression and anxiety appear differently for people. Some people have anxious or depressed thoughts, others behave in ways that suggest they’re suffering, and others have sad or worried feelings.

Are you sad or worried?

The following statements indicate possible problems with emotional distress, including both anxiety and depression. Check all that apply to you.

☐ I worry all the time.

☐ I feel like a loser.

☐ I have less appetite than I used to.

☐ I have trouble catching my breath.

☐ I have little to look forward to.

☐ I feel extremely nervous.

☐ I can’t concentrate.

☐ I feel guilty much of the time.

☐ I have very few interests.

☐ I feel hopeless.

☐ I have lots of fears.

☐ I don’t sleep well.

☐ I am having thoughts about death and suicide.

☐ I’ve been avoiding my friends.

☐ I struggle to make decisions.

☐ My energy is low.

☐ My mood is dismal.

☐ Sometimes I feel panicky.

☐ My heart races for no reason.

Checking any of these items could indicate a problem with anxiety or depression. The more items you check, the more serious your possible problem. If you think you might be anxious or depressed, consider checking with your primary health care provider to rule out physical causes. Then think about seeking a referral to a mental health professional.

Dos and don'ts for anxiety and depression

So what action can you take if you suspect that you’re suffering from anxiety or depression? Start with the following:

  • Do take notes about your progress in a workbook or on your smart device.
  • Do seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed or have thoughts of suicide.

And what shouldn’t you do?

  • Don’t give up. Getting better is likely.
  • Don’t feel hopeless. There’s a lot you can do to remedy emotional distress.
  • Don’t blame yourself for your depression or anxiety. It’s not your fault.

If you or a loved one is suffering from depression and experiencing thoughts of self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255, or your local suicide prevention hotline.

Four easy ways to deal with distress

Here are some quick and easy things you can try when you’re feeling down or stressed out:

  • Exercise. Regularly take a brisk walk for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Increasing your heart rate burns off anxious feelings and increases mood-lifting endorphins.
  • Chill out (literally). Fill a sink or bowl with ice water. Take a deep breath, and put your face in the water for 30 seconds or so. Believe it or not, you’re likely to feel more relaxed (and a bit chilly) when you’re done. If you don’t want to get wet and have a little more time, another option is to place an ice pack or even a bag of frozen peas on the center of your chest for 10 to 15 minutes while you’re lying on your back.
  • Grab gratitude. Stop what you’re doing and focus on what makes you feel grateful. Appreciate the small things, like a good parking spot, the ability to read this, flowers, good music, a cute dog, or something else. Make your own personal list, and review it when you’re feeling down.
  • Breathe better. Take a slow deep breath. Hold the air a few moments, and then let it out slowly while you silently count to six. Repeat this exercise four or five times when you need to decompress.

Try to live in the present

Most anxious and depressing thoughts focus on the past or the future. Either you feel guilty about something you did in the past, or you anticipate a series of horrible events in the future. You can reduce this tendency by focusing on the present. Follow these steps:

  1. Sit quietly and take note of your surroundings. Notice the light, smells, sounds, and everything around you. Notice how your body feels as you sit.
  2. Avoid the temptation to judge and evaluate. Instead, just observe.
  3. Notice your breathing going in and out. Feel the air going into your lungs, and then slowly release it.
  4. Sit, breathe, observe, and remain in the present. When your thoughts start to drift toward worries or concerns, gently pull yourself back to the present.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Laura L. Smith, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in training mental health professionals in the treatment of adolescents and adults with personality disorders, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, anger, and depression. She is the coauthor of Depression For Dummies, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder For Dummies, and Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies, among other books.

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