Anxiety and depression affect more than 18 percent of the national population. Anxiety has been a huge part of my life ever since I was a little kid. I constantly feared and worried about what could go wrong, no matter what the topic was.

"What if I don't finish my homework?", "What if participation is required in my class?", "What if I forgot to turn off the stove before I left?". 

Everyone experiences some level of anxiety but the degree to which it interferes with your life is the major difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and it is categorized by being overly worried about work, school, health, etc.

I've always been this way but it was not until recently that I did something about it. At first, I was skeptical about seeing a psychologist due to the stigmata surrounding mental health but I knew it was something I had to do if I wanted to live a more satisfying life.

I learned that being honest and open with my therapist was key. I also found out by going to therapy that I had dysthymia which is a fancy word for long-term depression. Anxiety and depression in the mental health world are said to go hand in hand.

If you can relate to what I am saying, you are probably looking for different strategies to cope, relax, and be happier. Here are a few strategies recommended to me by my therapists that have helped me. I hope they can help you. 

Please note, the information provided is based on my personal experience. If you are in need of professional assistance, check out the American Psychological Association to find a psychologist in your area.

1. Journal, Think, Reflect

Many of us are tired of writing due to overload in college but journaling about your feelings and thoughts can be very beneficial in letting out stressors that can trigger your anxiety/depression. Some examples of what you could journal include how you are feeling on a specific day, 10 things that you love about yourself, or 5 things that you are grateful for.

Journaling helps us keep a dialogue with ourselves. This is important as we often pay too much attention to the outside world and not enough on ourselves.  Journaling not only allows for self-reflection but can also lead to self-discovery.

2. Focus On Your Breath

You are probably thinking that you are constantly aware of your breath but the truth is, most of us take shallow breaths and don't take the time to breathe deeply. Deep breathing is one of the many techniques that help us transform our breaths from being small and shallow to deep and full. Deep breathing is not meant to get rid of the anxiety but rather help take the edge off of it until it passes. 

You want to start by laying down flat on a bed or sitting up straight. Put one hand on your stomach and inhale through your nose for 3 seconds, trying to make your stomach rise before your chest. After you have taken a deep breath in, hold it for 2 seconds and then exhale through your mouth. 

Repeat this for 1-2 minutes to start. As you become more comfortable, you can gradually increase the time. This exercise is shown to be most effective when done on a regular basis.

3. Fight Against Irrational Thoughts

Anxiety is commonly linked to many destructive thoughts. If you are like me, you've probably never stopped to think about what is actually going on inside of your brain when your anxiety sets in. 

Instead of thinking things like "What if I fail this exam," try thinking more along the lines of "I studied as hard as I could and I am going to do my best on this test." Telling yourself negative thoughts will only increase your anxiety and make it harder to cope with as the situation arises. Instead, you should try to fill your brain with rational, positive thoughts. 

This type of rational thinking, known as REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy), was started by Albert Ellis and is shown to be effective in treating many different mental illnesses

4. Participate In Fun and Engaging Activities

When depression reaches a high point for me, I find it difficult to do anything except lay around in bed. Even though this feels like the best thing to do when you are depressed, it is the worst. Doing the opposite action of what you want to do is shown to help decrease the symptoms of depression and make you happier. The activity does not have to be costly or time-consuming. It could be anything from baking, to running, to playing board games.

5. Stay Away From Caffein

Most of us are in the habit of grabbing a cup of coffee before we head off to class or work in the morning but studies show that caffeine can increase anxiety— and the same goes for sugar. If you can't cut out coffee or sugar cold turkey, try to limit yourself to one cup of coffee or one sweet treat per day.

Dealing with anxiety and depression is hard but manageable with the right support and resources. It is important to remember to take time out of your busy schedule to take care of yourself and prioritize your mental health.