I recently wrote about my day in the public library and how I was able to find a few books of some interest. One of the books I discovered is called Healing Anxiety and Depression. The book is filled with helpful information but one of the most useful was the list of 32 effective coping strategies found in chapter 20.
I wouldn’t say that the list is comprehensive but my goal is to share with you every little bit of information that you might find useful, effective, and worth trying to help you ease your anxiety. I didn’t particularly agree with every single entry either, but even with some shortcomings it’s a handy list to have.
1. Get help early.
2. Become a master at diaphragmatic (belly) breathing.
3. Do not believe every thought or feeling you have. Thoughts and feelings are based on complex memories and chemical reactions; sometimes they lie to you. ( This is my favorite entry ).
4. Become a master ANTeater; watch out for the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that ruin your mood.
5. Exercise (sweat and get your heart rate up) four to five times a week.
6. Diet matters … for your type. Plan your meals.
7. Meditate to calm the emotional centers of your brain and to encourage a more relaxed, happy state.
8. If you want to avoid or lessen the amount of medication for anxiety and depression, use meditation, phyiscal exercise, proper nutrition, and the ANT-eating techniques outlined in this book.
9. Healing relationships enhances mood and calms anxiety. Continue to build positive relationships in your life-practice clear communication, cooperation, and forgiveness.
10. Find the best professional specialist you can. Take your time, get second or third opinions, and go outside your insurance plan if necessary. The initial investment in an excellent treatment plan saves far more money in the long run than cutting corners on health care by staying with HMOs and PPOs. *
11. If several medications are needed, first choose medication to deal with the most significant symptoms.
12. Start one medication at a time and make only one medication change at follow- up visits.
13. Do not be afraid to use combination medications (29 percent of the U.S. population have two separate problems, 17 percent have three). *
14. Patients with severe symptoms may need three or even four medications together (typically an anticonvulsant, stimulant, and antidepressant). *
15. When there are both temporal lobe and anterior cingulate gyrus (overfocus) problems, treat the temporal lobe issue first. ( this makes more sense when you have read the book ).
16. Less is not better. Strive for the best dose, not the least amount.
17. Medication by itself is not the best treatment for anxiety and or depression. Bio-psyco-social treatment is best with a combination of education, support, medicine or supplements, diet, exercise, and targeted psycotherapeutic techniques.
18. Keep a daily mood log to monitor progress.
19. Have your spouse or parents go to some doctor appointments with you if they are having trouble understanding your condition or your need to take medication. Also, having someone who knows you well go to an appointment with you can give your doctor background information that may be helpful.
20. Be an advocate for your own treatment. If you’re confused about your diagnosis of if you aren’t getting better, ask your doctor about further tests and SPECT ( brain ) scans to evaluate your brain function. This will help with diagnosis and treatment planning.
21. Understand brain system functions and problems so you know what treatments are likely to be most effective for your personally.
22. Consider alternative interventions for mild to moderate conditions but remember that conventional medications are usually required for moderate to severe problems. *
23. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary feeling or problem. Things often look better in the morning. Get help through a hotline, a counselor, or your physician.
24. Adopt a healthy lifestyle by starting small. Start by cutting back or eliminating caffeine and nicotine (they constrict blood flow to the brain). You might get a brief boost in the short run, but these are bad actors over time.
25. Anxiety and depression runs in families. If one person has it, it is often helpful to screen others for it.
26. Education helps to decrease the impact an anxious and depressed person has on family members. Anxiety and depression affects everyone in the family. Having family members attend appointments and join support groups and read literature are ways of education them about anxiety and depression.
27. Practice our techniques for getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep is essential. Use good sleep hygiene to get between six and nine hours of sleep a night.
28. Come prepared to doctor visits, with written questions and concerns. Talk about positive effects, side effects, and what other help you need.
29. Talk to your doctor about sexual side effects of medications. There are many things that can be done to try to counteract them.
30. Make no excuses to avoid treatment. There are safe protocols for children, pregnant and nursing women, medically fragile people, and the elderly.
31. Honesty is the best policy. Tell your doctor about every supplement, vitamin, herb, and other medications you take. Don’t minimize the amount of nicotine or caffeine that you use, and no matter what your concerns are, never, ever hold back information about illegal drug use. If you have concerns about what your doctor will do with the information or who might see it, by all means ask those questions, but don’t ever withhold information. Your life might depend on drug interactions.
32. When treatment doesn’t work, be persistent; with continued advances in medicine we are able to help more and more people.
When I stumbled upon this list I found many of the entries to be simple but insightful. You may not want to adopt the entire list for your own life but I think it would be a good idea to consider many of them.
This book was written by Daniel G. Amen, M.D., and Lisa C. Routh, M.D., both of whom are neuroscientist and psychiatrist. Much of their work is based on SPECT (brain) scans and their ability to reveal the functioning (or lack thereof) of certain parts of the brain that are believed to affect anxiety and depression.
I’ll have more to say about brain scans and other ideas by Dr. Amen and Dr. Routh in future post.
Anything written in italics was my own entry and or commentary.
Anything with a * next to it indicates that I strongly disagree with the entry. Many, if not all, of the entries that I placed a * next to were related to the use of drugs to treat anxiety and depression. Like I’ve said in the past drug therapy does help some people it’s just not my cup of tea so I don’t go around promoting it (or detracting from it).