October 12, 2009

An Immediate Cure for Anxiety and Depression

Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.  — Thomas Jefferson

It sounds almost too simple.

Yet if you study the processes of anxiety and depression for a few years you will discover an interesting truth:

Action has the power to shift reality.

No matter what is happening in your life right now, take any useful action and watch your attitude and circumstances change. It happens every time. What’s especially interesting about taking useful action is that it does not appear to matter who or what benefits from it.

I suffered from anxiety and depression for over 30 years. The things that helped me recover were simple in concept. Discovering the power of useful action delivered a breakthrough in my life.

And yet I remember how difficult it was to put action to work.

I remember bleak days when it seemed as though I barely had the energy to move. I can still feel the tunnel vision of free-floating fear. You know what it’s like. Getting up, eating, doing anything at all seems like a struggle. Then of course there is the endless march of black, destructive thoughts.

That’s one of the challenges of anxiety and depression. Inertia.

I’m grateful I don’t have to give into inertia anymore. Why not? I developed the habit of action. You can, too.

Developing the Habit of Useful Action

If you want to be able to use action in the middle of a severe bout of anxiety or depression you must have a simple habit of action to fall back on. Create a habitual sequence of action and your body will fall into it as soon as you make the first move.

The first simple action habit I created for myself was stretching. Don’t laugh. Stretching opens the body and gets more oxygen-rich blood into the tissues. It’s easy, simple to do, and it feels good. By creating a sequence of stretches I found I could snap myself out of anxiety attacks or depression and back into the present.

Remember: You cannot be depressed or anxious when you are completely present.

I ran through the sequence regularly, knowing that repetition would program my body to move through the sequence automatically as soon as I put myself in the starting position. Even now, all I have to do is raise my hand — a tiny expenditure of energy — and my body runs through the entire stretch program automatically.

My Simple Useful-Action Stretching Routine

Here’s the sequence I created:

  1. Left wrist rotation, fist closed. Counterclockwise first, then clockwise.
  2. Left hand finger stretches, from pinky to thumb and thumb to pinky.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the right hand.
  4. Left arm stretch to the ceiling.
  5. Right arm stretch to the ceiling.
  6. Both arms up to the ceiling.
  7. Gentle head rotations, drawing horizontal figure 8s with the chin.
  8. Both legs out in front of you. Point the toes for a count of 10, then point the heels for a count of 10.
  9. Stand and stretch everything.

Turns out the sequence doesn’t matter as long as you do it the same way every time. all I have to do is flex my left hand and off I go.

I know what you’re thinking. It seems almost ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet it works, and I’m all about using whatever works in my life that moves me forward in a useful direction.

Stretching is only one example of how useful action breaks anxiety and depression trances. Other useful actions I employ include:

  • Picking up the trash in the street.
  • Ironing. No, really, I was surprised to discover how helpful ironing is.
  • Exercise. Yoga is good. So is boxing.
  • Playing the guitar. Playing it vigorously, too.
  • Cleaning house.

Physical Action Leads to Mental Action

I find that taking physical action first also helps me take mental action and stay mentally fit. My business planning process, for example, always seems more effective when I first do something physical that opens my body.

What action habits can you create for yourself in the next 30 days? Focus on action habits that come naturally for you. What works is what works, the simpler the better.

What happens to your attitude and life as a result?

Comment Below ↓

There are no comments yet, be the first!

You must log in to post a comment.