The term self-care can invoke feelings of selfishness. But just like on every airline flight, passengers are encouraged in case of emergency to put on their own oxygen mask before assisting others, we need to prioritize self-care in order to continue caring for the needs of those around us. In a day and time when it’s not feasible to book a spa day to de-stress, there are relatively easy, practical things we can do for our own self-care that can have huge payoffs in terms of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
8 Self-Care Tips to Decrease Anxiety and Depression, Calm the Mind and Regulate your Mood
1. Focus on Breathing
As a neuropsychologist, I can tell you that it’s physiologically impossible to be relaxed and anxious at the same time. So when we feel anxious, one of the easiest things we can do to effectively combat anxiety is to focus on our breathing. Breathe in deeply through your mouth to the count of three, then exhale through the nose slowly to the count of ten. Repeat this several times and you’ll begin to feel the anxiety subside and be replaced with a sense of calm and peace. Breathing like this tells the brain that the anxious emergency is over, and it’s time to relax.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
2. Physical Exercise
As little as 10-15 minutes of physical exercise helps regulate and improve our mood and lessen anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins into the brain which tell the body that all is well. While general practitioners and internal medicine doctors would like us to exercise 30-60 minutes a day for our physical health, just 10-15 minutes of exercise will improve our emotional health. Getting outside and taking a 10-minute walk during lunchtime will not only improve your mood, but also increase your energy for the remainder of the afternoon.
“A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might.” Proverbs 24:5
“She girds herself with strength; she exerts her arms with vigor.” Proverbs 31:17
3. Maintain a good consistent sleep schedule
During stressful times, our sleep can often become erratic. This works against our moods, our ability to stay motivated and optimistic, and our ability to problem solve and logically manage our stress. Maintaining a good consistent sleep schedule is crucial for stabilizing your mood and helping you manage your stress because that allows your brain to naturally regenerate the neurotransmitters that are crucial for stress management and mood control like Dopamine, Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, and Cortisol. When we skimp on sleep, often thinking we just need to get one or two more things done, we’re actually doing the worst thing we can for our mood and stress levels.
“When you lie down, you will not be afraid, when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” Proverbs 3:24
4. Shift your perspective
Shift your perspective. During particularly stressful times such as this COVID19, it’s very easy to feel like all sense of control has been stripped out of our hands, and our comments reflect that. We tend to think and say things such as, “I have to work from home,” or “Now I have to homeschool my children.” I’ve found that that perspective leads to worry, fear, anxiety, and panic. But we can shift our perspective from “I have to…” to “I get to…” such as “I get to spend quality time with my children that I may never get again,” or “Instead of running from one terminal to the next traveling for work, I get to sleep in my own bed at night.” If we will shift our perspective from “I have to…” to “I get too…” then we have much less anxiety and a much greater sense of peace.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8
5. Take care of your thoughts
No list of basic self-care tips would be complete without also mentioning that we need to take care of our thoughts. To a very large extent, our emotions are the outward manifestation of the thoughts we believe. So if we spend a lot of time thinking things such as “I may not be able to pay my bills this month,” or “my boss never treats me fairly,” then our mood will be more anxious and negative. But if we take care of our thoughts and speak a positive reframe to the situation, like “I’ve gotten through every other difficult circumstance in my life 100% of the time, so I’ll get through this too,” then we will have a more positive mindset and be less prone to depression, anxiety, or stress-induced medical conditions.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
6. Play music/dance tunes
Put on some dance tunes. We all can think of at least one song that when it plays, we start to move and let joy just wash all over us. When we’re stressed, music can either bring us further down (think of the sappy love songs), or can cheer us up and energize us. Those are the songs, that we need to put in a playlist and put them on repeat during those days that we are struggling to maintain an optimistic outlook.
“Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp.” Psalm 149:3
7. Help someone else
Help someone else. A famous psychiatrist, Karl Menninger, was once asked in front of a large group of people, “if someone is really down and on the verge of suicide, what would you tell then to do?” Most assumed he would tell them to take medication, but instead, he told them to “go across the street, over the railroad tracks, find someone less fortunate than you and do something to help them.” Dr. Menninger knew that helping others actually helps ourselves. It brings joy and comfort to the person we help, but it also takes our focus off ourselves and helps us to feel better as well.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
Pray. What we’re going through didn’t take God by surprise, and He already knows how He’s going to get us through it. But if you’re concerned, worried, or weary, tell Him. He’s not afraid of your feelings, and He wants to help. If you need wisdom, ask Him. He promises to lavish it liberally upon His children.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6
I’d love to hear any other tips you might have, in the comments below.
Resource to Break Anxiety’s Grip
No question, we have a lot to worry about. Children, jobs, homes, health, finances, and more. The solution isn’t to rid ourselves of the sources of anxiety – as if we could. Instead, we need to recognize that anxiety originates from a spiritual influence and that we can fight back using the God-given weapons of power, love, and a sound mind.
We can discover true peace in an age of anxiety.
In Breaking Anxiety’s Grip, Dr. Michelle Bengtson shares her own story of emerging from the battle with anxiety as well as the stories of others. She reminds you of your identity as a follower of Christ and of the peace he promises you in spite of everything.
She provides tools to cope with the crushing emotional burden of anxiety now and, more importantly, shows you how to reclaim God’s peace as a way of life so that you can break anxiety’s grip.
Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBooks.com, Books-A-Million, and other fine book retailers.
Click here to learn more: Breaking Anxiety’s Grip.
Thank you. As usual, your wise words give not only good solid information, but also encouragement and hope. God bless you!
These are wonderful very practical tips on relieving stress!! Thank you for your daily help through your posts and blogs. This whole situation right now with COVID19 has everyone on edge and if we do not care for ourselves then how can we care for others in so much need. Plus our own mental health and stability is at stake. Father uses you so mightily to give this very needed and practical insight into issues that affect all of us each day. You have learned over so many years of caring for others and also learning to care for yourself. I love so much your compassion for us and your love for us. Thank you isn’t enough but it is all I have plus my love and appreciation.!!!
Yes, Karen, the world’s current situation seems to be heightening a lot of people’s anxiety. My prayer is that these posts and the recent podcast episodes, as well as my latest book, Breaking Anxiety’s Grip, will help people realize how to defeat that anxiety.
Thank you for scriptures as well. The Holy Spirit brought to my mind as I was reading, Proverbs 23:7 as a man think, so is he… And 1 Thessalonians 5:17,18 pray continually and give thanks whatever happens. That is what GOD wants for you in CHRIST JESUS. What a blessing!
My daughter’s constant music is driving me crazy, but knowing it’s really a tip to help with her anxiety give me much more patience and compassion for it. Thanks!
Such great tips! I will keep these handy. The scriptures were also very useful in reaffirming these truthful words.
Thanks so much Shaune. I pray this post encourages you. You’re not alone.
Thank you for these helpful suggestions! I just finished your book, Breaking Anxiety’s Grip and I want to say it was one of the best books I have ever read on the topic! It was so helpful, I am re-starting it again as it contained so many gems! The addition of Scripture only made it more helpful and beautiful. Your RX sections were the best! From those, I came up with an idea to have scripture with me at all times….I bought a small card deck (in the office/school section at Walmart for $1.88) called Myndology which holds 75 blank small cards attached together with a ring you can open and close in order to attach to your purse, running belt, etc. I spent a couple of hours today writing out the RX scriptures from your book onto these little cards. I intend to have them with me at all times to review for memorization and just simply to be reminded that God is with me at all times. Reading his words is bringing such comfort to me. I now I have few new ones to add from above! : > )
Finding your book and this website has been a true blessing Dr. Bengtson! God Bless you!
Rosierunner, I just wanted to tell you how much your comment on this blog meant to me. I have followed Dr. Michelle for several years and have read all her books. I agree with you that Breaking Anxiety’s Grip is one of the best books I have ever read on anxiety. As I read it I felt like she was just talking to me and she was sharing her heart from the pain she had suffered and I felt her compassion for us who have suffered with anxiety, fear and worry. Thank you for sharing such encouraging words for her. They encouraged me too!!
Hello Karen! Thank you for your kind words. I hope you’re having a wonderful day. God Bless!
I cannot tell you how much it blessed me and my whole publishing team that you took the time to write and share your encouragement. I shared your comment with my publishing team at Revell because they helped me get the book out into the public, yet too often, they don’t get enough encouraging words for the work they do. They were all blessed by you.
Secondly, I’m SO PROUD OF YOU for doing the hard work. I love that you got the card deck and are using it to carry around the Your Rx Scriptures! I believe that because you are willing to do the work, God is going to bless you for your efforts.
I wanted to be sure that you also knew that we have a FREE study guide for Breaking Anxiety’s Grip on my website: https://drmichellebengtson.com/breaking-anxietys-grip-study-guide/, and recently, we did a several episode series on defeating anxiety during these stressful times: https://drmichellebengtson.com/podcast/
I would be so honored if you’d consider leaving an honest review of Breaking Anxiety’s Grip on Amazon so that others will know your thoughts when they are trying to decide which book to help them with their worry, fear, and anxiety.
Hope Prevails, Dr. Michelle
Hello Dr. Michelle! I just found my comments I wrote in May with today’s article. I thought I had done something wrong submitting it because I hadn’t seen it before today. I am so happy you read it – and thrilled you replied! Thank you so much. I am the one that’s blessed Dr. Michelle for people like you out there making a such big difference. I have told so many people about your book and how much it has helped me. Thank you too for letting me know about the study guide to Breaking Anxiety’s Grip (and the podcasts). I am heading over to Amazon right now to write a review on your book! It’s the least I can do for what you’ve done for me. : > ) I can’t believe I hadn’t thought to do that in the first place. Have a beautiful day and God bless you over and over again!
Rosie, your sweet comment and your willingness to write a review encourages authors like me to keep doing what God has called us to do, AND helps other readers determine if our works are right for them. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I love how you match such practical practices with scripture. God’s Word is just as relevant in everyday life now as it was the day it was written
Thanks so much Valerie. I pray it is an encouragement.
Good afternoon! Your advice is now more than ever needed. In connection with this situation, it is important to understand yourself and be sure to choose something for yourself that will not only help to alleviate the alarm, but also really make you a little happier. This is really a sport for me. It is important to understand that sports not only distract from the general mood, where you yourself know what should give everything in full. And also brings your body into tone, to always be fit and beautiful.
These are great, practical tips. Thank you for combining them with beautiful insight. This topic is always needed and especially amid recent events. I’m visiting today from the Inspire Me Monday link up. Have a great week!
Hey Michelle, this is such good stuff. I’m slowing down and focusing on breathing today. These are all such great reminders of the importance of self-care.
true and needed suggestions, especially in this hard year with no doubt a hard season of holidays ahead. thank you for always sharing practical tips that help our mental health so much!
I’ve really been concentrating more on my breathing lately. It’s amazing how much more relaxed I can be when I take a few mindful breaths and try to calm my anxious thoughts. It doesn’t always work unfortunately, but it usually helps. Thanks for all these tips. Taken together, they can make quite a difference.
These are wonderful tips for controlling anxiety. I have pinned your list to share and refer to others. Thank you!
These tips are timeless and so helpful! I have noticed more tendency towards anxiety in these past few years and I am so very thankful you shared these again. I forget to do self-care and how important it is when I am focused on caring for my hubby and praying for others. I truly needed this helpful reminder. So LOVE all your wonderful tips about grief, anxiety, worry, depression and fear. Thanks for caring for others, Dr. Michelle.