Before you ever feel the effects of anxiety or depression, the brain is hard at work. The portions of the brain that process and interpret sensory signals are what warn the remainder of the brain that a threat may exist, thus triggering a potential fear or anxiety reaction. With depression, a similar process exists, causing a domino ripple that in turn affects everything from the way you feel to sleeping, eating, and working habits. Of course, there are treatments such as medication and therapy to help sufferers cope and learn to gradually overcome issues such as anxiety and depression. But can the brain be retrained to avoid these negative reactions and restore itself to health? Is there a way to essentially reboot the mind and teach it not to experience these reactions?
How You Can Reboot
Anxiety, depression, and other similar mental conditions are becoming increasingly common. Along with those come new and innovative ways to treat and deal with them in this ever-stressful world we live in. Many of the mental health issues of today begin with and are triggered by stress, and even for those who may not experience clinical anxiety or depression, stress still exists. Virtually no one would say that they have no stress or would refuse an opportunity to relax. Thus, finding ways to relax is key to retraining your brain, among other things. Some of these ways to reboot include:
- Being aware
- Tracking your mood and energy
- Scheduling appropriately
- Taking breaks
- Employing relaxation techniques
- Finding ways to reboot daily that work for you
The first step to improving any situation is to be aware of the current one. Ignoring any issue and remaining in denial never fixed any problems, so the best thing you can do to begin is to try to be aware of negative thought patterns. Keep a journal and notice triggers that lead to anxious thoughts or depressive behavior. Recognizing these patterns can help you deal with them and learn to respond in a more healthy manner. In fact, when you see and expect certain things to happen, you’ll be able to anticipate and formulate a response beforehand, thus warding off the anxious response.
Track Your Moods and Energy
In addition to your thought journal, keeping track of your moods and energy can help you to identify triggers that cause mood swings and energy highs and lows. Being aware of your moods allows you to determine when you’re at your best and when you could use a little reboot. Paying attention to your energy levels can also help you learn how the two are related and when you function best. For example, you may be a morning person who has a lot of energy and loves to work out in the mornings, but you may crash in the afternoons and need a boost. When you learn these things about yourself, it can help you to plan when to do certain things and when to take a break.
Part of tracking your energy levels is monitoring your sleep habits as well. Sleeping is vital to the reset of your brain, as nighttime is when your brain rejuvenates itself. If you deprive it of that restoration time, you’ll quickly build up a sleep deficit and the issues that go with it, such as brain fog or irritability, which can contribute to depression and anxiety. Lack of sleep has been proven to contribute to many health problems and has a direct correlation to energy and mood as well. Proper sleep is necessary for health on both a daily and a long-term basis.
Once you establish a pattern of energy highs and lows, determine a bedtime that will give you enough sleep and at the appropriate time. Once you establish a habit of going to bed around the same time every night and getting the amount you need, you’ll find that your mood and energy levels both improve.
Once you see your thought and related mood/energy patterns, it can be beneficial to rearrange your schedule to accommodate them. If you’ve discovered that you do have lower energy levels in the afternoons and thus a more anxious or stressed mood, then you’ll want to plan your tasks that require more energy for the times your energy levels and mood are higher. Trying to get high-energy tasks done in a low-energy time window is a recipe for disaster, thus adding to the stress and anxiety you’re trying to avoid.
Everyone deserves a break now and then; isn’t that the reason weekends exist, after all? Not to mention, that’s the reason most states have laws for employees requiring breaks every so often. It has been proven that productivity increases when periodic breaks are allowed. A break, in essence, forces you to reboot your brain temporarily, and sometimes a change of scenery refreshes you so you can tackle the rest of the day. You may be a hard worker who is driven to get things done, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you want to avoid mental burnout, which can lead to stress and anxiety over time. So don’t feel like you need to be constantly working just to get things done. If you’ve completed the previous steps and know your patterns, plan to take a break when you have a history of less energy or productivity. Take a short walk or nap if you can, or switch to a less intensive task and focus your thoughts elsewhere.
Employ Relaxation Techniques
These days, the business of relaxation is a big industry, and rightfully so. With so many methods of relaxation, you can surely find at least one that works for you—or several. Do what you like, and you’ll find your brain resetting itself automatically to clear away the anxious or depressive thoughts and patterns. There are several ways to relax, some of which include:
- Breathing techniques
- Prayer, meditation, or visualization
All of these are excellent tools to help you reset your brain when you find yourself feeling anxious or depressed. Some of them can certainly work better in situations than others, so find what’s appropriate. Obviously you can’t run screaming out of your office and into a massage clinic in the middle of your workday, so if you find yourself stressing at work, breathe deeply for a few moments or imagine yourself in a relaxing environment. Just a few minutes of a similar practice will give you a break and help you to refocus. Exercise, of course, is beneficial for so many reasons and is best employed long term. Whether you find yoga the most relaxing or you’d rather run on a treadmill or a country road, find what you enjoy and make it a priority a few times a week. Not only will you get that break and reboot you deserve, but you’ll also find yourself feeling happier naturally and sleeping better overall. Your mental stamina will improve along with your mood, energy, and your anxious thoughts.
While these are all things you can do on a daily or weekly basis to help retrain your brain and overcome anxiety or depression, they complement the training or therapy you’ll receive with a professional. Visiting a therapist for cognitive training will be your best bet for progress, as the therapist will guide you and encourage you to employ the brain-reset training that works best for you on a consistent basis. Therapy and maintenance combinations will expedite the reboot process, helping you to overcome anxiety or depression faster and promoting a happier, healthier you.