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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. 

Physical Fitness

One in 10 adults in the United States struggles with depression, and antidepressant medications are a common way to treat the condition. However, pills aren't the only solution. Research shows that exercise is also an effective treatment. "For some people it works as well as antidepressants, although exercise alone isn't enough for someone with severe depression," says Dr. -Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Exercising starts a biological cascade of events that results in many health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. High-intensity exercise releases the body's feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the "runner's high" that joggers report. But for most of us, the real value is in low-intensity exercise sustained over time. That kind of activity spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. The improvement in brain function makes you feel better. "In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression," explains Dr. Miller.

The challenge of getting started - Depression manifests physically by causing disturbed sleep, reduced energy, appetite changes, body aches, and increased pain perception, all of which can result in less motivation to exercise. It's a hard cycle to break, but Dr. Miller says getting up and moving just a little bit will help. "Start with five minutes a day of walking or any activity you enjoy. Soon, five minutes of activity will become 10, and 10 will become 15."

What you can do - It's unclear how long you need to exercise, or how intensely, before nerve cell improvement begins alleviating depression symptoms. You should begin to feel better a few weeks after you begin exercising. But this is a long-term treatment, not a onetime fix. "Pick something you can sustain over time," advises Dr. Miller. "The key is to make it something you like and something that you'll want to keep doing."

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 ours or another nationally recognized 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 center or the mental health association/foundation in your state or territory to find your nearest group, or try searching online.

Relaxation Training

Relaxation training calms your body and mind, which in turn helps to reduce anxious thoughts and behavior. 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 socialize 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 well being and confidence, and doing some physical activity has the added bonus of helping you keep fit and bust stress.

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