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The older I get the more I have come to understand that there is not one person on this earth that hasn’t wrestled with an inner demon. For some, that struggle could be alcohol or drugs. For others, they may battle other addictions, such as pornography. But for about a quarter of the U.S. population, roughly 58 million people, the inner demons of anxiety and depression can be and are some of the most difficult little devils to overcome (NIMH RSS,n.d.).

These mental disorders are so debilitating that an estimated 30,000 Americans take their own lives each year (SAVE,n.d.). Anxiety and depression are diseases that mainstream science is just beginning to understand. For years, people who suffered from anxiety and depression were looked upon as weak, often told to “suck it up” or “change your attitude.” Sufferers were also looked to as crazy and placed into asylums or institutions.

Science, however, has disclaimed these common misconception. Anxiety and depression are not things a person can simply wish away with a better attitude. No, anxiety and depression are real diseases of the mind. Research has found that sufferers from depression have low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Even so, we as a society need to be more compassionate with those who suffer from these debilitating diseases.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, admonished church members to “offer your prayers [for sufferers of depression] and you can give ‘love unfeigned.’Charity suffereth long, and is kind; … [it] beareth all things, … hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.'” (Holland, 2013)

While Elder Holland exhorts us to be compassionate with those that suffer from anxiety and depression, those suffering must do what they can to cope with these illnesses as well. How do I know? Well, I have suffered from anxiety and depression for the better part of my adult life. As a result, I understand what goes through the minds of people who suffer from these diseases. At times, these demons have brought me to the breaking point. Nonetheless, there are 5 ways that I have found to deal with anxiety and depression:

Coping with Anxiety and Depression

  1. Reach out to your loved ones: From experience, I know that the last thing you want to do when you are suffering from anxiety and depression is to communicate with those that you love. Too often, we feel like there is something wrong with us. We don’t want to bother the people we love. Those with anxiety and depression feel worthless. Despite these feelings, the people who love you want to help. Communicating with them your thoughts, fears, and worries will help you feel better. You may even find out that you are not alone.
  2. Recognizing your thinking patterns and change them: In an earlier post, I wrote about thinking errors and how they can lead us down a road of self-loathing, anxiety, and depression. This is probably the most difficult thing that I have had to overcome. I still struggle with negative thinking patterns today. It is very difficult to change how your brain works after practicing those negative patterns your entire life. Nevertheless, I have found that when I recognize those patterns and change them into positive affirmations, my mood and my confidence begins to improve.
  3. Do things you enjoy: Like most people, I get caught up in the rat-race of life. I get so busy with work, family responsibilities, and other obligations that I ignore the things that make me happy. When we do this, we are placing undue pressure upon ourselves. We begin to look at life through negative lenses, only seeing life as all work and no play. When I set aside time to do the things I enjoy, such as writing, reading, and watching sports, I have found it relieves stress – one of the major causes of anxiety and depression.
  4. Exercise, get plenty of rest, and eat healthy: One of the most effective ways to combat these two demons is to exercise. Exercise releases endorphins into the body that helps improve mood and contributes to happiness. Moreover, exercise promotes the building of positive self-esteem. Confident people are rarely depressed or anxious. In addition to exercise, make sure you are getting plenty of rest. Doctors recommend 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day. Any less than that, you will begin to feel fatigued as your body cries out for more rest. Also, studies have shown that people who eat healthy are less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.
  5. Pray and study the scriptures: I know the last thing we want to do is pray when we are in the woes of depression. Why? Because we don’t feel like God cares or loves us. This is a lie! The adversary wants us to believe this, so we don’t turn to our Heavenly Father. I testify to the fact that prayer has brought me out of the woes of bitterness and despair on so many occasions. Prayer also brings to closer to our Father in Heaven and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Be sure to study the scriptures as well. Within the holy pages of The Bible and The Book of Mormon are powerful scriptures that will help you change your perspective, to realize that this life and the struggles we face are but a fraction of time in our eternal progression.

In summary, it is important to recognize when anxiety and depression are beginning to rule your life. When they do, stop! Seek guidance from your Heavenly Father and your loved ones. Take care of yourself and recognize false thinking patterns. When you do these things on a consistent basis, you will begin to see your life transform into the life you have always dreamed of.

References:

Holland, J. (2013, October 6). Like a Broken Vessel – general-conference. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved June 23, 2014, from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/like-a-broken-vessel?lang=eng

Suicide Facts. (n.d.). SAVE. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&page_id=705D5DF4-055B-F1EC-3F66462866FCB4E6

The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America. (n.d.). NIMH RSS. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml