12 Active Ways to Conquer Anxiety and Depression

February 10, 2021

1. Set Your Sights

Anxiety and depression often fill our minds with potential problems and feared failures, as though we’re victims of circumstance. Start to turn the tables. Decide first thing in the morning what kind of day you will have. What thoughts will you cultivate? How will you find joy? Who will you love? What quality of presence will you bring to any challenges you meet? You are the author of your days. Decide what is worthy of your energy and attention.

2. Worry vs. Problem Solving

Worrying is repetitive and unproductive, but it can often feel like you’re working through problems. Real problem solving, in contrast, is a focused way of finding solutions. When you’re worrying today, figure out whether there’s an actual problem to solve or if your mind is simply spinning its wheels. Then aim to redirect your mental energy toward productive problem solving.

3. Find Strength

When you find yourself hoping for an easy, problem-free day, shift your focus to how you’ll respond. Say to yourself, “May I find strength to meet every challenge. May I find courage to face whatever comes my way. May I find grace in all I do.” Problems are inevitable. How you handle them is up to you.

4. Define Your Best Life

When you’re tempted to avoid something today because of anxiety, ask yourself what kind of life you want to have lived. One defined by fear and avoidance? One where you played it safe, even when it meant missing out on things you cared about? Or a life of defying fear and inertia to do what mattered to you? Plan to take one action today that your future self will thank you for.

5. Take the Wheel

Emotions are noisy passengers, directing you to avoid anything that makes you anxious or that seems overwhelming. Careful! Don’t go there! Watch out! Consider today whether you want avoiding difficult feelings to be the top priority in your life. Is there something more important to you than being emotionally comfortable? If so, steer your life in that direction, and let your feelings come along for the ride.

6. Love Conquers Fear

Love and fear are opposing forces—as one grows, the other shrinks. When you’re feeling anxious or down today, ask yourself, “How can I show love to someone else?” Look for opportunities to meet the needs of those around you, even in ways they aren’t expecting. Focus on the act of loving, rather than waiting to feel loving, and see what happens. Let love be the antidote to fear.

7. Change the Conversation

Anxiety and depression often make themselves the center of our attention, leading us to ask questions like: “Why do I feel so depressed? How can I stop feeling anxious?” When you’re struggling emotionally today, ask a different question: “What task needs my attention right now?” Then redirect your energy toward doing what needs to be done, allowing your feelings to exist in the background.

8. Face Your Fears

Avoiding the things that make you uncomfortable strengthens your fears and makes your world smaller. The best way to reduce unrealistic fears is to gradually face them. Pay attention today for signs of avoidance, like putting off a task you’re not sure how to do or taking a longer route when driving because it bypasses roads that make you nervous. Pick one action you can take today to move courageously through fearful avoidance.

9. Move Through Procrastination

Falling behind on your to-do list can lead to stress, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed. Pick something you’ve been putting off and commit to doing the first small step of it today. For example, just gather up all the dirty clothes if you need to do laundry. Getting started boosts mood, lowers anxiety, and makes it easier to keep working on the task.

10. Maximize Outdoor Time

Being in nature is known to lower anxiety and boost mood. Set a goal to be outside as much as possible today. Find any excuse to step outdoors, even for a few seconds. Go for a short walk. Open the mail outside. Dine al fresco. Take in your surroundings—the sky, the light, the plants, and the birds. Feel your spirit connect with the natural world. Focus on the experience itself, rather than on whether or not it’s helping you feel better.

11. Practice Kindness

Caring for others is an effective way to redirect our attention away from a preoccupation with how we feel. When you find that you’re stuck in difficult emotions today, think of something nice you could do for someone you know, whether a loved one or an acquaintance. What would brighten their day? Allow anxious or depressed moods to be a trigger for acts of kindness, however unexpected or even undeserved.

12. Can I Open to This?

Difficult emotions often push us to resist reality—to close ourselves off and say no to what’s happening. When you’re confronted with something difficult today, ask yourself, “Can I open to this? Am I willing to stay with my experience?” Greater peace is available when we summon the courage to face life just as it is.

One final word—watch out for the tendency to put off doing things until the motivation strikes you. “I always suggest not waiting till you’re feeling motivated to do what you care about,” said Minden. “It’s not going to be something you’re eager to do. So instead just do it anyway, and then see what happens.”

In the end, Minden’s aim is to inspire each of us to live our best life. “It’s so empowering when you can see for yourself that you can live your life, even when you’re tested by these really difficult emotions,” he said. “People see for themselves that they can have difficult emotions and still function.”

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