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Perhaps you would like to try some ways to feel a bit better before getting some professional help, or perhaps you’d like to try something while waiting. All of the following ideas come from evidence-based approaches.

If you're feeling low, one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to schedule some activity.

Do you have a good mix of activity in your week at the moment? It's helpful to have a mix of the routine things, like work, or housework, and pleasurable things like hobbies, interests or socialising.

Most likely, you are not going to feel like doing much, but unfortunately the less you do, the lower your mood is likely to get.

Perhaps a good place to start could be to sit and eat lunch every day next week for example, if you're not currently eating well. Or if you're currently doing all the routine things but have a lack of pleasurable activity in your day, have a think about what might be realistic for you. Could you get out for a 20-minute walk three times next week? Or would listening to a podcast at home be better for you?

To give yourself the best chance of success, follow these tips:

  • Be very specific about what the activity is, e.g., rather than "do housework", be specific; "hoover the front room", This usually feels less overwhelming and makes it more achievable.

  • Plan exactly what day and time you'll be doing these things and write it down. Set yourself a reminder perhaps, in your mobile phone, or on a virtual assistant (like Amazon Alexa) if you have one.

  • Don't set yourself too much at once- plan less than you actually think you can manage in the first week, then you can plan to increase it the next week if you find that it is manageable.

  • Follow the plan, not your mood. This means that you most likely won't feel like doing it, but you're going to do it anyway, because it is an anti-depressant activity. Likewise, you might not enjoy it at first, that is ok and to be expected.

  • Sometimes it's easiest to pick up activities that you've previously enjoyed rather than starting something completely new, if you're feeling very low.

We all feel anxious from time to time, but anxiety may be becoming more of a problem if it feels out of proportion in the context of the situation you're in, or if it starts to get in the way of the things you would like to do.

There are lots of different types of anxiety, ranging from difficulties with panic attacks or problems with worrying too much, to more complex types of anxiety difficulties such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you think you might have PTSD, please do ask for professional help. If you would like help with worry or stress, you may find some techniques here are helpful but do seek help if you need it.

What do we mean by worry? Worry is when you go over and over negative things that might happen in the future- either many years in the future, or just later today. Usually, we do this because we're trying to problem solve, or trying to prevent potential bad things from happening. However, worry is not an effective tool as it's too repetitive and too negative.

What if I don't earn enough money this month and then my mortgage payment bounces and then I get bad credit and then my finances are ruined? What if my child is bullied at school and then has no friends and sits by himself every lunch time and then it affects the rest of his life? What if I miss the train? I'll arrive late to the conference and everyone will notice when I walk in and stare at me and it'll be the worst day... What if my partner meets someone new and starts seeing them behind my back and I don't even know about it?

One of the most effective methods you can use is to learn how to postpone worrying. Bring your attention back to whatever is going on in front of you, instead of focusing on worry. By doing this, you can build up mental muscles that help you focus on what you would like to be thinking about.

Here's a sheet which tells you all about how to practice worry delay: Postponing your worry.

Sometimes it is helpful to use a structured problem-solving method for something you're worrying about. However, before you use this process, ask yourself: is there really a problem that can be solved here? Or is it too hypothetical? For example, if I was worrying that I may not earn enough money to pay my bills this month, this could practically be solved with problem solving. On the other hand, if I was worrying that my child may one day be bullied at school, or my partner may leave me one day, these are too hypothetical for problem solving, and not worth my time and energy right now.

If you think that any of your worries are suited to problem solving, here's a really helpful step by step approach to tackling them. Be sure to spend plenty of time on each step: Problem-solving for worrying.

The symptoms of stress vary a lot from person to person. It's the response in your body and mind when you're under too much pressure. You might recognise any of the following:

I've started so many different jobs but I don't finish any of them. I can't seem to focus or prioritise. I just race from thing to thing with my head pounding and my heart racing. People just keep putting more and more pressure on me and I can't cope with it. I don't get a moment to think. I'm snappy and irritable because I'm just sick of being depended upon by everyone. When I try to sleep my mind is just racing with all the things I must remember to do tomorrow. I'm so drained and I keep bursting into tears. I don't remember when I last had time to do something for myself.

There is no one size fits all technique, it very much depends on what is causing your symptoms, and how they are affecting you individually.

Perhaps one way to think about what is causing you to feel stressed is to use this stress bucket idea. What are the demands and pressures in your life at the moment? And what do you personally find is a helpful coping strategy/stress release?

The stress bucket illustrates that the more demands, pressures, stresses and worries are present in your life, the more likely it is that you will be functioning at maximum stress level. The bucket also has a stress release tap that is coming out of it, however if your bucket is overloaded, this will impact the ability of the stress release tap to reduce the pressure.
An illustration to help you to visualise stress. The tap represents your coping mechanisms. However, if your bucket is overloaded, this will impact the ability of the stress release tap to reduce the pressure.

Is it possible for you to reduce what is going into the stress bucket? Or to increase the things that help you to cope? This can be easier said than done. There are a huge range of reasons why people may not be able to do this on their own, and some of them are quite out of our own control, for example a very busy work environment.

If you'd like to try to reduce your stress, here are some ideas that seem to help a lot of people:

  • Scheduling activity: Have a look at the low mood self-help section of this page. Could you follow this advice, but with a focus on improving your stress bucket? This might involve reducing activity which makes you feel worse e.g., delegating some household tasks to others, or putting a time limit on your social media usage, or ensuring you get a break at work. Hopefully this leaves you with more time for activities which improve your stress, whether that be physical exercise, a chat with a friend, reading a book, whatever helps you.

  • Working on your assertive communication: Could it be that you have too much going into your stress bucket because it's hard for you to say no? Sometimes we find this particularly difficult in certain areas of our lives, for example we're really assertive with our partner but not with our manager, or vice versa. Being assertive does not mean being really harsh or aggressive! It's just about making things fair, which is all part of good self-care. If you think this is a difficulty for you, find out about how to work on it here: Assertiveness workbook.
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