If you feel like anxiety and depression are taking over your life, it’s time to take action.

You know you’re better than your illness, so why be OK living with it? There are ways to cope with mental illnesses that hinder us from living a better life. The problem is, we often ignore them for too long without taking the small steps towards improvement on a daily basis.

Allowing yourself to say you’re OK while living with a mental illness is never OK.

We become dissatisfied with our lives because we’ve convinced ourselves we don’t need a certain standard of living. That disconnect only worsens our health, leaving us more unhappy than we were, to begin with. National prevalence data indicate that nearly 40 million people in the United States (18%) experience an anxiety disorder in any given year.

To start managing an illness may be too difficult for you to tackle on your own. Whether your anxiety or depression is situational or not, there are ways to be proactive about it. If you’re going through a rough patch and experiencing feelings of loss, grief, depression, or anxiety, these are the steps you can take to feel better – sooner.

Recognize and address your feelings

This step is the most important and often the most difficult. Not until you confront your problem can you begin to heal from it. Understand that pushing through pain rather than avoiding it will benefit you in the long-run. We must feel pain in order to one day let it go. Although symptoms of anxiety and depression may never completely leave you, there are ways to manage them, which include addressing your feelings in the first place.

Surround yourself with a support group

You know these people in your life. Family, friends, and peers bring about a sense of community and joy for most of us. Make sure to reach out consistently and share what you’re struggling with. Being able to connect with others on what you’re going through is a liberating feeling. And who knows – maybe they’ll share their own struggles with you too.

Reach out to professionals

Deciding to put my mental health in the hands of professionals was one of the best decisions I made. Psychologists and Psychiatrists are great resources and when used in conjunction, can be extremely effective in healing from mental illness. Group therapy is beneficial as well as it acts as a sounding board and eases feelings of isolation.

Participate in group activities

Your opportunities are endless here. Yoga, painting, meditation, and therapy are some group activities I’ve benefited from. These particular activities have proven calming effects with the added benefit of being surrounded with like-minded people. A friend of mine is taking group surfing lessons and she loves it! It gets her moving and she’s learning a new hobby too.

Build your self-esteem

I can’t stress how important self-esteem in managing anxiety and depression. This means you need to stick to your goals. Both big and small. Even something as insignificant as making your bed in the morning builds self-esteem and sets you up for a better day. Appreciate the little victories too.

Move your body – often

A body in motion cannot be depressed. I struggle sometimes to get into a rhythm of making it to the gym. What works for me is not having a rigid schedule and instead, doing what I feel like. If I don’t want to lift weights, I’ll go on a long walk through the neighborhood. Make physical activity a part of your lifestyle instead of a chore, and the improvement in your mind and body will follow.

Do what you love

Yes! For me, this is writing. Writing allows a safe escape and clears my mind. It’s a creative outlet to put my thoughts on paper so they don’t stay jumbled up in my brain all day. I feel productive, happy, and relaxed after a writing session. Think about what brings you joy and do more of that.

Count your blessings

Like Thanksgiving – but every day. Before getting out of bed in the morning, think of three things you’re grateful for. Focusing on the what you’re grateful for in your life clears some of the clouds brought on by anxiety and depression. A study from the American Psychological Association found that people who focused on feelings of gratitude experienced heightened well being.

Don’t be trigger happy

Notice what triggers negative feelings for you so you can prevent them before they arise. Upset because you saw your ex’s post on social media? Unfollow ’em. Pinpointing what got us feeling down in the first place is the key to developing healthy coping mechanisms. This can be tricky for those of us who are still learning what our triggers are. (More to come on triggers in a future post!)

Anxiety and depression don’t have to control your life. The emotions we feel as a result of these conditions are there for a reason. Emotions were given to us as a means to survive. They’re telling us we can be better and feel better.

Recognize that some days will be easier than others. When it feels impossible to get your day moving, realize that your happiness comes from within. Even on your worst days, taking small steps for improvement does make a difference. What can you do today to create a brighter tomorrow?

Originally published at www.todaywithtara.com