I’ve dealt with depression/anxiety/ADHD for most of my life (they tend to feed on each other) and I’m wondering what coping mechanisms people find useful. I’m specifically after non-medicating forms of coping. My usual routine works most of the time, but I’m interested in hearing what works for other people.
My go-to things:
- Listening to music
- Picking up an instrument and playing something fun
I’m also big into introspection and trying to figure out why I’m upset. Sometimes the answer is obvious, sometimes it’s not so obvious. This works pretty well if I’m able to refocus my attention on the issue rather than the anxiety, but I can’t always do that.
As bad as it sounds - alcohol. It’s a short term fix as there’s a 50% chance that I will feel even worse the next day (although a 50% chance I’ll feel better). I don’t get depression so much as very bad anxiety, so bad that I can’t stop thinking about it even with normal distraction techniques. I try very hard not to drink too often and will only use this to break my anxiety cycle if it’s a night where friends will be out as it’s as much the social interaction as the alcohol.
I’m lucky that I recognise the symptoms very early and I can mostly head the problem off at the pass by cycling (the excercise weirdly really helps). Also video games help me if I need distraction and the grip isn’t too strong yet.
I have ADHD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and I sometimes suffer from Depression. Mostly I end up coping with anxiety issues, but sometimes also ADHD-related focus problems.
Here are things that often help me cope. They might help you, or might not.
Drinking enough water. I take meds that tend to dry me out, which makes this even more important. I definitely feel better when I’ve had a lot of water.
Making sure I eat. I often am not great at this. Eating enough, and eating well (I try to avoid high-carb stuff like potatoes and pasta) tend to make me feel a lot better, and give me more capacity to handle stuff.
Taking a walk outside, especially in the sun. I feel so much better in the warm sun. It also is a major environment change, which helps me immensely. Stuff seems a lot less catastrophic, usually.
Eating dark chocolate. This stuff helps me a ton. A couple squares really do help. It’s not just the sweets – chocolate has other stuff in it that mellows me out.
Taking my meds. I have meds I take every day, but I also take klonopin as needed. When stuff gets really bad, I take one and it helps a lot. I generally only do this if I feel like I’m getting really out of control.
Writing things down. This has been a struggle for me because I have often felt like writing to myself was… stupid, for lack of a better word. But it helps a lot.
Speaking comforting things out loud. Saying to myself that I’m okay, that I am strong and everything will be alright, is way, way more effective for me than just trying to tell myself in my head. It’s much louder than the negative thoughts.
Working with my therapist. Having a “coach” to help with my anxiety is massively helpful. She’s taught me good techniques through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and it’s just really helpful to have someone with a background in how to help folks like me to talk to.
Do the CBT work. It’s basically breaking down what happened in a situation into what happened, what I felt, what I thought, and what I did. Then I examine each step and examine if my thoughts and actions were reasonable, and what I could have done differently. By doing this I gradually have been able to identify what’s going on and often stop the pattern of trigger->reaction I have. It’s been very helpful for me.
Watch or listen to light, distracting stuff. I don’t listen to podcasts about tech shit, except maybe video games. Mostly I listen to sports radio because I find it interesting but not emotionally involving. When I’m stressed I listen to comedy or sports podcasts, or I watch a lot of light comedies. Low emotional engagement and light mood is key.
Probably I’m missing some stuff, but these are what I can think of now.
I’m mostly in the severe stress/anxiety camp. I drink too much - which ‘helps’, for varying definitions of ‘help’… Other than that, I find :
Listening to old radio thrillers - usually British stuff from the 1940/50’s. Mostly involving posh people swanning around cocktail parties and thwarting blackmailers and ‘dope fiends’ (who are almost invariably German - who’d have thought!). It’s just such a different world (apart from just the cocktail parties and posh-ness - no tech at all apart from the occasional ‘gramo-phone’ And it’s great that every single story has a satisfying conclusion, unlike almost everything to do with IT…
On a similar note, watching Scandinavian ‘noir’ (The Killing, etc). It has the same kind of ‘different world’ feel as the radio thrillers, but with the additional distraction of subtitles which keeps my brain occupied just enough.
Trying to go for walks. Sadly, its cold & rains here quite a lot - but I find even a half hour walking through greenery is hugely helpful.
I also have quite a bit of back pain due to years of sitting with bad posture and taking zero exercise - so I started going for massages which are great for relaxing. Relatively expensive way to relax, but being stuck on a table while someone pummels your back is really relaxing and takes my mind off pretty much everything. Also helps that the woman I go see giggles when-ever she does something especially brutal that makes a ‘crack’ noise - it’s hugely endearing
Throwing bouncy-balls for my cat to chase (then invariably stare at in disappointment when they stop moving). Cats (and I guess dogs - but meh) are great. If nothing else they’re someone non-judgemental to talk to about crap ("Yes, that was a rubbish bit of code, wasn’t it puss?’). Well, admittedly my cat stares at me like I’m an idiot most of the time, but that goes with the territory
I’m trying to get better at going to bed at a reasonable tame - and making sure it’s about the same every day. I try and wake up about the same time too - though at the weekends I’ll happily doze in bed with the radio burbling quietly for a while. At the moment I seem to be waking up at about 3am - which is less than ideal though
Other than that - I’m trying hard to stop caring so much. I know that sounds bad - but having spent years and years worrying about details, the big picture, other people’s work, how that will change X, seeing the knock-on to Y, the possibilities of Z, taking on Q as no-one else spots it needs doing or would be useful - just learning to be able to ‘yeah, whatever’ is helping (I think). I don’t mean totally slacking off or not doing ‘the stuff’ - but learning that I can’t do it all and being ok with that.
My ‘toolkit’, so to speak, has expanded a lot in the past few years. The mileage might vary depending on where I am in a spiral. A few things that come to mind…
Reading. I love reading so I often can be found nestled in a corner. It can be a really lovely form of escapism that I also find enriches my own creativity and imagination. I nerd out on Goodreads. Murder mysteries. Dystopian. Memoirs. Self help. My local library branch is a vault of distractions. & when I can’t focus for long enough to read a book, their magazine section is a great Plan B.
Podcasts Another distraction. Non-tech. Applicable for on walks or if I’m just curled up in a ball. Some of the ones I dig are: “Two Dope Queens”, “Pop Culture Happy Hour”, “Call Your Girlfriend”, and depending on who the guests are, “Nerdist” or “WTF with Marc Maron”.
Fruit. Especially true in the summer months when it is plentiful and less expensive but generally a piece of fruit will help somehow.
As much as I often loathe to admit it, movement helps. That being said, if I’m too far down a spiral, movement won’t be possible. Often times I’ll make up a ‘goal’ of the walk, like to take a photo of something in particular en route.
I also write a lot. Poetry, journalling, sometimes short stories. Most of it never sees the light of day. My writing also often morphs into list making. I love lists. It is one of the things from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that I consistently utilize. Often times this is the step in helping me let go of things that I have no control over but that are persistent in my head.
Music. Anything with a banjo. But I also have sad sack playlists for when I know I just need to indulge the feels and the darkness.
I forgot to say, which @lambfruit brought up: My habit of avoiding the next day by staying up way too late and not getting enough sleep often really reduces my capacity to handle things. Getting enough sleep is very very helpful to me.
(Firstly, sorry if I have errors, English is not my first language)
The only way I found out was boxing. At the beginning was difficult because of my depression, but when you have the gloves on your hands and start to hit the punching bags, all the anxiety disappears. All the problems and worries fade.
When I finish my routine I feel that I can do whatever I want. I can fight with my anxiety easier. Even when I get hurt I feel relief.
Seriously, for me this is the best therapist.
I totally understand what you’re talking about. I’ve been under pressure lately and it’s been hard to go to bed before 1am… even on friday nights… because I’m anxious about what the next work day will bring and whether I’ll be able to handle it.
It’s not that I don’t like my job… it’s the lack of closure that make me anxious. I’m never really “done”. If I fixed bugs during the day, there will be new bugs to fix tomorrow. If I delivered a new feature, I’m already late on the next one.
We do scrum meetings every morning and to me they are like going to the dentist. It makes me feel like I have to deliver every day.
Managing expectations has always been challenging to me.
I’ve been seeing a therapist about my anxiety and we’ve discussed that problem at length. I’ve been trying to better manage my workload but it’s been tough.
One thing I’ve been trying to do is to establish worry free zones. It’s a time and place where I should not think about work. So for example, it’s ridiculous to think about work from 10pm to bedtime. I won’t get anything done anyway. So I try to unplug from slack/emails and disconnect.
On weekends, if there’s something really important to deliver next week, I might schedule some time on sunday afternoon to review my priorities for the week, but saturday is off limits.
And one last thing…
For me, exercise is the most important thing. When I’m active, I feel much less depressed/anxious, I feel more motivated about cooking and eating right and my sleep is better.
When I don’t exercise, I eat more take out and my sleeping patterns get messed up. Even CEO’s like Zuckerberg schedule time for exercise.