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Behavioural Strategies

Practical steps that may help

In contemplating practical steps, it is important to take a patient, accepting and compassionate attitude toward ourselves and our problems otherwise, we simply trigger the negative thought patterns that maintain these problems and lose motivation. If we can simply observe unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour and interrupt them from time to time, this may be enough.

For example, if we can recognise that withdrawal from formerly pleasurable activities and people, maintains depression (by confirming the belief that the world has nothing positive to offer) and that avoidance of anxiety provoking situations maintains anxiety (by confirming the belief that those situations cannot be mastered) then, we may become motivated to change these behaviour patterns.

It may be helpful to focus the first step on one or more of the following areas:


Gradually increasing your activity level can be helpful with both depression and anxiety.

There are many good reasons for increasing your activity level:

  • Activity makes you feel good.
  • Activity motivates you to do more.
  • Activity reduces mental clouding and helps you think more clearly.
  • Activity will help you sleep better.

It may help to plan activities a day in advance and to start with just 2 or 3 short, simple tasks and build up gradually with a balance between those focused on pleasure (e.g. lying on the beach; having a massage; going for a walk) and achievement (e.g. washing the car; writing a letter; ironing). If you sleep-in or miss an activity don’t worry… just go on to the next one and reschedule the missed activity for another time.

Controlled Breathing

Rapid, shallow breathing often occurs in anxiety and depression. This results in an over-supply of oxygen to the brain that can aggravate a range of symptoms including light-headedness, dizziness, fogginess, mental and physical slowing and palpitations. People with anxiety or depression often breathe at around 20 breaths per minute. The recommended rate is around 10 breaths per minute.

Controlled breathing involves breathing on a 6-second cycle. That is to say, you count out three seconds as you breathe in and, another three seconds as you breathe out. If you do this 10 times you will have done controlled breathing for one minute. If you can do this exercise 3-4 times per day and apply it whenever you notice your breathing to have become rapid or shallow, you will have taken an important step towards managing your symptoms rather better.

Goal Setting

Setting realistic, achievable goals is important in helping to maintain motivation and perseverance through the ups and downs of recovering from anxiety and/or depression. Having goals helps to maintain a sense of purpose. Achieving goals helps to build self-confidence and improve mood.

Goals can be short, medium or long-term and, may cover such domains as finances, work, recreation, family, friends, learning, health and spirituality. Most people find it difficult to contemplate their goals, more so if they are troubled by anxiety or depression. Start by writing down the smallest steps you might take toward a short-term goal and build in plenty of rewards along the way.

These behavioural strategies may help with the hardest part: Getting started … things tend to get easier after that …

Find a new perspective and the motivation to change
Take the first step by speaking with us today

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