We all have those times when stress, anxiety, depression or life circumstances lead us into a difficult or dark place. During those times, we often withdraw and take less action. These periods can be isolating and it can be hard to figure out what to do to ease the psychic discomfort that has begun to set in. In this blog, I will share some of the suggestions that I give to my patients and that I use myself to help during dark days.
One thing that psychologists understand about how to help ourselves and others during these difficult periods is that getting active has a big impact. This does not mean filling every moment with activity. Instead, it means adding in some movement, which then signals our brain in ways that help to combat depression, stress and anxiety.
So what kind of activities do I mean? Here are my top 10 suggestions that many of my patients have found helpful:
- Get up, take a shower and make yourself look your best. It is often amazing that when you look better you feel better. Getting up and ready also increases the likelihood that you will engage in other daily activities.
- Get out of the house and go someplace. A good choice is a place that you find calming or fun. It could be a bookstore, the beach, your friend’s house, the mall, or the basketball court. It doesn’t matter where you go. The goal is to find a place where you tend to feel a sense of peace or enjoyment. If it is hard to think of a particular place, then don’t give up. Try a place whether it be new or somewhere you have been many times. Just getting out of the house can be helpful.
- Exercise can be a great way to combat stress. Whether running, swimming, biking or lifting you can help yourself by engaging your body.
- Try aromatherapy. People have long understood that power of nature in helping us to heal. You can use essential oils in a diffuser or simply go to a local retailer and get a candle that has a smell that you find calming. Lavender is often a great choice.
- Go outside. Whether you sit in the sunshine or take a walk, it can be a big help to get some fresh air.
- Reading can be a great tool. Whether you enjoy escapism, a good mystery to solve or book that will teach you something new, it can be a great help to get your mind working.
- Journaling is also a wonderful way to process through whatever may be bothering you. Putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper can help you sort your thoughts and it can also just find a way to get them out and put them away for a while.
- Listen to music. We can all think of a band or song that is great to either represent how we are feeling or to get us to a different place.
- Remember your hobbies or try something new. You can paint, cross stitch, garden or build something new. If you have never had a hobby try something you have always found interesting. Sign up for a class or go to your local craft or hardware store for some ideas.
- Recently, several of my patients and friends have begun to take up coloring. You can get a coloring book from any grocery store or you can get an adult coloring book at any bookstore or craft store. Coloring has a meditative quality that can be helpful for calming the mind and giving you something to focus on.
Again, the most important take away is to do something. You don’t need to try all 10 things on one day. Just do 1 or 2 to get you started. Doing a little something everyday can put you on the path for getting to a better place. Try this for just one week and see what kind of improvements you find.
Dr. Stephanie Davidson is a licensed, clinical health psychologist and co-founder of the Rowan Center for Behavioral Medicine specializing in the use of cognitive-behavioral, humanistic and existential approaches to treat patients with a range of medical and mental health challenges. She has a strong interest in mindfulness-based interventions to heal the body and mind. Her focus is on collaboration with the goal of assisting patients in adjusting to difficult experiences and achieving a greater sense of well-being, balance and peace in their lives.
Please feel free to call the Rowan Center for Behavioral Medicine for further information 818-446-2522 or email