You know what you’re struggling with is more than just the “Wintertime Blahs,” so now what? Check out these tips for Finding a Way Out of Anxiety & Depression!
I know I’m not the only one who has felt in the grip of anxiety & depression this year. It seems like the more moms I talk with, the more women I find who are struggling with more than just the “Wintertime Blahs.” While we don’t always like to talk about it, we moms NEED to come up with a strong game plan for supporting our mental health.
Last month, I had the pleasure of doing a 2-part, Facebook LIVE interview with Karisa Kaye, a Marriage & Family Therapist from I Love Us Relationship & Intimacy Counseling. If you didn’t have a chance to catch these interviews live, be sure to watch the replays below. TONS of valuable tips & info for all of us!
If you would rather read to take in important information – or would just like to something written for reference — I’ve listed out many of Karisa’s best tips for us below.
Feel free to pin this post using the image below or share with a friend using the share buttons at the top or bottom of this post. When it comes to our mental health, sharing is most DEFINITELY caring, friend! ?
Why Anxiety & Depression Hit Women Especially Hard
I didn’t realize this was a scientific fact until Karisa mentioned in our interview that a woman’s brain at rest is still 90% active, whereas a man’s brain at rest is only 30% active!
Doesn’t that make sense??
Men are designed with this amazing little “nothing” box, so that when we ask what they’re thinking about, they can honestly answer “nothing!” Then, when their brains are resting, it just means they’ve gone off into their nothing box where they can truly REST.
Any other ladies INCREDIBLY jealous of that nothing box?
Women’s brains, however, as the metaphor goes, are more like spaghetti. One thought links to another thought which links to yet another thought and it just keeps going on and on like that until we finally crash. If you’re lying in bed at night, unable to turn your brain off, your brain is still going a million miles an hour!
All that to say, we women need more help than the men do to get our bodies to rest deeply and restoratively. When we DON’T take good care of those basic needs, we’re more likely to fall into the cycle of anxiety and depression.
So, let’s start Finding a Way Out of our Anxiety & Depression through our bodies – by meeting physical needs and taking care of our physical bodies.
This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service through these links, I may receive a small commission, which helps to keep my family and this blog afloat. Your price, as always, stays exactly the same. Thank you for your support!
As always, I am not a health professional, and I do not play one on the internet. I am simply a mom sharing her best tips and tricks for supporting her family’s health and wellness. Always talk with your doctor before beginning a new wellness routine — bonus points if you can find a holistic practitioner or Functional Medicine doctor near you! View my complete terms & conditions here.
Finding a Way Out of Anxiety & Depression through the Body
A great acronym to help us is H.A.L.T.
Are you Hungry? Are you Angry? Are you Lonely? Are you Tired? (or Bored!)
If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions, it’s time to H.A.L.T. and take care of some basic human needs.
We all need food, we need to process our emotions and deal with our anger, we need to be around people (yes, even us Introverts!), and we need to rest!
Those same basic human needs we watch for so carefully in our babies are much less likely to be taken into account for ourselves as adults. But, as Karisa says, “all those things we need as babies don’t just go away when we become grown-ups!”
The number one physical way to get us women out of our own heads, wake us up, and flood us with feel-good endorphins is to exercise. Plus, it’s a FABULOUS way to reduce stress!
Just 20 minutes a day of any simple exercise that will get us out and moving will help. Whether you choose to connect with friends at a group Zumba class or take your dog and baby stroller out for a walk, find a way to get your body moving!
Karisa also advises that, if you have the means to do so, hiring a personal trainer for the first few months – especially if you’re new to the whole exercising thing – is a GREAT investment to make in both your physical and mental health. Working with a trainer provides the accountability you need, as well as the ability to just show up, do the work, and not have to expend any more mental energy deciding what to do next.
“Women absolutely need more sleep than men. We just do!” says Karisa.
Because of that whole woman’ brain being 90% active at rest thing, women tend to exert a LOT of energy during the day and therefore need more help with recovery at night. While men can go-go-go on very little rest (thanks to their 30% active little “nothing” box), we women NEED extended downtime to let both our minds and our bodies heal. Shoot for 8-9 hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT!
Sleep is one of the most powerful things you can do to fight depression. In one study Karisa remembers from grad school, a group of severely depressed women who were also chronically sleep deprived were required to sleep no less than 8-9 hours every night for six weeks. At the end of the study, ALL of these women were CURED of their depression. (Sorry, I haven’t been able to find a reference for that study yet. I’ll be sure to update this post as soon as I do!)
Sleep is THAT powerful for our mental health, ladies!
If you’re anything like Karisa and me, when you start feeling depressed or anxious, you’ll reach for something sweet. But, be careful! Sugar is incredibly bad for our mental health!
Refined sugars act like a drug in the body and create dependence. Our blood sugar levels get thrown all out of whack, which causes further damage to our gut linings, which messes with our moods and mental health even more!
Refined sugar is just BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD for our health, ladies. There is a reason removing sugar from the diet is one of my top 3 baby steps for improving your family’s health!
Another thing to consider with nutrition is that nearly 40% of the population has a genetic mutation which causes the body to not absorb B Vitamins properly, especially B6 and B12, which can lead to anxiety and depression. If you’re doing a good job of taking care of yourself otherwise but are still struggling with anxiety & depression, please see your doctor and ask to have your bloodwork checked for an MTHFR mutation. You may need to take methylated forms of Vitamin B to help your body absorb it and get back to healthy state.
One of the easiest and cheapest things we can do for our mental health is to simply get outside in the sunshine. Nature can be super calming, uplifting, soothing, and perspective-giving, which helps get us women out of our heads.
Karisa’s advice? “Take a hike! Literally!” Get outside, let your skin soak up some good Vitamin D (which helps boost mood!), and allow all five of your senses to draw you into the present and away from worry.
If you happen to live near a body of water, take advantage of it! Water is designed to calm people down. As Karisa points out, think about beach towns and the people who live there – they’re so chill! Being near water does amazing things to our minds and bodies.
Bonus points: take your shoes off while you’re outside and get grounded, which can help with a whole HOST of inflammation-based health problems – anxiety & depression, included!
Virginia Satir, a noted Marriage & Family Therapist asserts that “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
Did you catch that? TWELVE non-sexual huge per day to really grow and thrive.
Do YOU get 12 non-sexual hugs a day? If you’re struggling with anxiety & depression, and especially if Physical Touch is one of your primary Love Languages, you probably need more hugs!
For women, hugs help us feel safe, contained, nurtured, and they trigger an oxytocin release (much like sex or breastfeeding) which shuts down the fear center in the brain. Hugs are a HUGE help for anxiety!
(I now remind my husband that he’s helping my anxiety when he comes home from work and just holds me for a couple of minutes before going off to do anything else. ?)
Alternatively, if you have the ability to do so, go get a massage! Any form of safe, non-sexual touch counts toward restoring your mental & physical health.
Play & Laughter
Sometimes one of the best things we can do for our mental health is to just laugh and play! Karisa mentions in our interview that for women, laughing is 2-3 times more pleasurable than it is for a man, which is probably why men use laughter to court us. The more they can make us laugh, the more we like them!
Karisa’s theory is that affairs tend to happen when we find someone we can play well with and we’ve forgotten how to play well with our spouse. So, while we’re already struggling with anxiety & depression, let’s not also neglect our marriages! Find some form of humor you both like and sit down to enjoy it together.
Need some encouragement in your marriage? Check out this post:
I have to say, even when life is incredibly stressful, if Erik & I get struck by something funny and are laughing our fool heads off for ten minutes straight, those are the times I feel closest to him and like life isn’t so terrible. ?
Laughing allows us to let go of control, shut down our over-thinking brains for a little bit, and stop worrying.
Bonus: pets are GREAT at forcing us to take a break & play! If you have a pet, be sure to make time to play with them – it will be great for both of you! If you don’t yet have a pet, it might be time to consider the addition to your family! ?
Sometimes, there is a chemical and/or biological issue that requires medication to help us deal with it. If you’ve tried many of the tips listed here and are not finding the relief you need, it’s probably time to talk with a psychiatrist about the form of medication that might be right for you.
Finding a Way Out of Anxiety & Depression through the Mind
Beyond supporting our physical bodies through times of anxiety & depression, we need to also be purposefully helping our minds to function properly and pull out of the anxiety/depression cycle.
While it may have originated in the East, many of us here in the West can benefit from daily a meditation practice. While it is not likely that we can completely empty our minds as women, according to Karisa, nor is it biblical, we CAN fill our minds with good things and focus our attention solely on those things.
Karisa mentioned a set of affirmations from Joyce Meyer she found particularly helpful to recite to herself every day. If you’re looking for affirmations with a biblical foundation, where you can speak God’s Truth over your life every day, be sure to check out this post.
This free Biblical Affirmations printable from Dawn Klinge is also great.
If you happen to be pregnant, I HIGHLY recommend looking into Hypnobabies. I used the Hypnobabies system along with a Hypno-Doula for my pregnancy and birth with Mini-Me, and I cannot recommend this tool enough (a post for another time! :)). You can learn more about HypnoBabies here.
With any meditation practice, remember that it takes TIME to re-wire our brains to these new thought patterns. The focus is to create new thinking HABITS, so be sure to give yourself an appropriate amount of time before expecting to see any big results.
“Breathe in for a count of five… and out for a count of three… That’s the fastest way to calm a panic attack!”
Karisa is definitely right! Breathing is HUGE for both mental and physical healing, so when you find yourself stressed or anxious, be sure to focus on slowing down your breathing.
Breathing exercises are easily incorporated into a busy day. While you’re waiting to pick up kids, waiting for dinner to finish cooking, or just sitting on the toilet (if you’re blessed to be in there alone for a few minutes!), take a few minutes to focus in on your breathing.
In this TEDx-ChapmanU talk, yoga instructor Stacey Schuerman walks us through a great, 5-minute, guided breathing exercise you can use every day. (Pretty sure I need to use this one before bed every night. Sooooo calming… ?…)
If you need some tricks for in-the-moment, help-me-stop-panicking breathing, this video demonstrates 3 anxiety-reducing breathing techniques to try. (She does get a little wordy at the beginning – geesh, look who’s talking! ? – but you can skip ahead to the 3:10 mark if you just want the techniques.)
Simply turning off all distractions and being mindful of your surroundings can do wonders for anxiety. Have you seen the advice flying around Facebook about stopping a panic attack by finding 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, etc.? By drawing our attention to our senses, we’re able to pull ourselves OUT of our heads!
If nothing else, in those moments when you’re able to eat a meal by yourself or drink a cup of coffee in silence, turn those times into anxiety help sessions. Turn off your phone, your computer, any other screens, and just sit there in silence, focusing on how the food or drink tastes in your mouth.
The act of journaling actually mimics a new therapy technique called Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR) and works just as well – plus it’s a LOT cheaper!
The physical act of writing out your thoughts will not only get those thoughts out of your head, but as you write, your eyes track the words across the page, which engages both hemispheres of the brain, Karisa points out. By engaging both hemispheres, the brain is able to more fully process memories and work through emotions.
Finding a Way Out of Anxiety & Depression through Relationships
We, as humans, are designed for relationship. The better and more life-giving those relationships are, the better off we will be both physically and emotionally.
Get Rid of Toxic Relationships
Relationships with anyone who makes us feel poorly about ourselves or is in any way abusive can become a source of both anxiety & depression. While it is easier said than done, those types of toxic relationships need to be severed.
Often, we aren’t able to see the toxicity in our relationships without outside help. If you think you might be in a toxic relationship of any sort, be sure to seek out the help of a professional therapist like Karisa. They are trained to help you sort through everything that might be causing your anxiety & depression and can help you find a way out.
Seek Out Healthy, Life-giving Relationships
Beyond just being non-toxic, when we are anxious and depressed, we desperately need to be able to lean into healthy, life-giving relationships.
One of the ways we can find healthy relationships is to truly know ourselves through understanding Personality typing. You can read more about my favorite typing system in the posts below. It’s SUPER easy to understand and remember, and it’s designed for improving relationships!
- The Personalities: An Overview
- The Easiest Tool to Improve Relationships
- How to Use The Personalities & Emotional Needs to Improve Relationships
- How to Use The Personalities to Improve Your Marriage
- How to Use The Personalities to Improve Your Relationships with Your Kids
The bottom line here is to get to know yourself and how you function best! (Again, talking with a professional counselor can be SUPER helpful with this piece!)
Finding a Way Out of Anxiety & Depression through the Spirit
Karisa remembers Tim Keller once saying on a podcast that we are not only spiritual, we are not only physical, we are not only cognitive, but we are multi-faceted human beings.
Did you catch that?
We’re not JUST physical. JUST addressing our bodies’ physical needs probably won’t be enough to deal with our anxiety & depression.
We’re not JUST cognitive. If we ONLY address our mental behaviors, it isn’t likely to be enough.
We are not JUST spiritual. We can pray all day, every day, but if we don’t address the other facets of ourselves, very little is going to change for us.
We have to come at our anxiety and depression from EVERY angle God gives us to work with!
Finding a Way Out of Anxiety & Depression One Baby Step at a Time
I know it can seem SUPER overwhelming to look at a comprehensive list like this one and think, “Good grief! I have to do ALL this stuff just to start FEELING better?!”
No, friend. No, you do not.
All you need to do to START feeling better is decide to take ONE baby step today. Choose ONE thing from this enormous list to work on this week, this month, or even this year! Just conquer that ONE baby step.
Then, you can move on to another baby step. One at a time.All you need to do to start feeling better is decide to take ONE baby step today. Click To Tweet
What’s the old proverb? How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
We’re just going to keep taking one bite out of our anxiety & depression, and day after day, there will be less and less for us to deal with. ?
I’ve been working on getting enough sleep for a while, but I’m still bad about staying up late working. So, that baby step is still on my radar.
Mini-Me and I are also committed to doing SOMETHING active every day. (Notice I said *something* active? Yeah, we’re starting small over here! ? )
Which tip are YOU most excited to start working on? Tell us in the comments so we can encourage each other on this journey!
Remember: If you’re in the Chattanooga area and are struggling in any area of your life or mental health, I highly recommend you touch base with Karisa Kaye at I Love Us Relationship & Intimacy Counseling. She is fabulous at what she does – as evidenced by her tips for all of us in the LIVE video, as well as in this post!
Even if you’re NOT in the Chattanooga area, feel free to contact Karisa for some ideas on good therapists in YOUR area you could talk with or to get ideas for online resources to guide your own research.
As a former University Resident Director, Career Counselor, Certified Personality Trainer, and high school Spanish teacher, Laura has quite the “scattered” background — with one underlying theme: education! She writes to teach and inspire women on topics related to faith, family, and lifework. She is also a resume writer, specializing in resumes for moms, career changers, and new graduates.