[Excerpt from Ask Michael: March 2014]
[Larissa] Anxiety seems to be a growing struggle for many these days. I understand that anxiety relates to fears/focus on the future while depression is a focus on the past. For a person who has difficulty identifying that they are in fact competent and understanding ‘why’ they feel overwhelmed/anxious/fearful, what tools can we use for ourselves or to assist a person in uncovering contributors to anxiety and help to shift our/their anxiety from a negative and debilitating concern to one that can be more easily understood and navigated, and eventually leads to our/their “recovery” (for lack of a better word), neutrality, or and/or healing? Any additional insight you can share on the topic is welcome and appreciated.
First, we will say that Depression can also be about the future, but is a more resigned position from that of anxiety. Anxiety would like to regain control, while Depression may have resigned that there is no control. In both cases, an underlying issue is the same: one cannot find themselves in any position of beneficial influence in their internal stories, images, possibilities, etc.
The conditions you describe could be more of a syndrome than a mood, so it is also important for us to note here that a response from us in broader terms may not be able to address the mix of issues that contribute to one's anxiety or depression.
In general, the healing measures that can help would begin with a return to some semblence of control. Since both Anxiety and Depression are about helplessness, it can be beneficial to direct the attention toward some area in which that person can rekindle his or her sense of control.
Often that redirection of attention can be in the most surprising of ways that then cascades a return to confidence across the spectrum.
For example, arranging a bouquet of flowers in a vase. This may seem useless, but that focus on such beauty and how one can enhance it with some nurturing moves, can be quite healing.
Or an effort to smile. This can seem useless, as well, but making the concerted effort to smile, and then holding that for 30 seconds, can help ignite the sense of levity and energy that would be useful for dealing with the anxiety or depression.
So, as a general response, we can only suggest here that ANY return of participation in ANY action that brings a sense of contribution and control is useful here. We would suggest not dismissing even the silliest or most "useless" of efforts.
These add up.
Add 5 of these little events to the day of one who is depressed or anxious, and it can turn around that day.
Other suggestions: petting of animals; playing with children; repairing something minor; singing the "abc song;" counting; making time to sit under a tree; etc.