You can take the first step to enjoying life again

It’s good to have a range of ways for dealing with the feelings, thoughts or behaviour that can come with depression and anxiety. If you’ve noticed problems appearing in particular aspects of your life, it might be best to start by working on them.

Look after your body and your brain

Looking after your body with physical activity, good food and sleep will also help you look after your brain.

Try taking one of these steps:

  • go to the beach or bush, listen to the sounds of nature and smell the fresh air
  • get out and do something physical, like going for a run, walk or to yoga
  • get your hands dirty in the garden
  • sleep in your bed (and not in front of the television)
  • keep a bottle of water in your car or handbag 
  • cut back on alcohol and recreational drugs
  • eat healthier meals.

How does this help? Since childhood, we’ve all been told to think about what we put in our bodies and what we do to them. It’s with good reason. Keeping physically active, eating right, sleeping well do make a difference to our mental health. 

Take some of the stress out of life

Depression and anxiety can make it hard for you to deal with everyday situations. By using some of these strategies you can take some of the stress out of your life.

Choose one of these steps:

  • get back into your daily routine, by doing little things like, showering, making your bed, hanging the washing out. Choose one thing to start with.
  • postpone major life changes such as moving house or changing jobs until you’re feeling better
  • help someone else who needs support
  • remember to take holidays from work and get away from your everyday life
  • learn to relax. Try yoga, meditation, muscle relaxation or a breathing technique 
  • download a mindfulness app, a range of them can be found here on the Mental Health Foundation website
  • Check out the Small Steps website for a range of simple tools you can use to manage your stress, anxiety & low mood.
  • find a counsellor you can trust and work through issues you’re facing.

Taking care of your mental or emotional health is important. Your mental health won’t always take care of itself, especially in the stressful times.

Being strong mentally means you’re better prepared for life’s challenges. There are many ways we can protect our mental and emotional health as we go about each day. These same strategies can help prevent mental distress from developing in the future. It might take time for the positive feelings to return, but keep at it. Things will get better!

Image: Self help

Connect with friends or whānau

Connecting with people can help you feel better faster and stay well for longer. Try some of these ideas if you haven't been keeping in touch with friends or whānau for a while.

Find one of these occasions to get in touch:

  • meet up with friends for a coffee 
  • help out at the local community centre or marae
  • spend more time with the children (tamariki) or grandchildren (mokopuna). Maybe you could take them to their kōhanga or childcare. You might like to stay around to watch them play or have a casual chat with any other adults who are there. Facebook some friends or whānau you haven’t caught up with in a while
  • go to whānau birthdays, anniversaries and holiday get-togethers
  • make a meal with a friend
  • go for a walk or a swim with friends
  • join online forums or chat groups
  • get help from a friend or counsellor to begin to work out any difficult relationships.

We know that when people are feeling low and anxious, they often withdraw from their whānau and friends. It’s a natural response but actually, strong connections can help you get well faster and help you stay well for longer.

Your whānau and your community can be your strength, providing a strong sense of belonging and support (tautoko). Getting involved, spending time with them, and even doing things for them can give you a feeling of purpose and wellbeing. 

It’s good to get out in public, even if it’s just down to the shops or to a sports match. If you’re getting together with people, keep the visits short if that makes it easier. You don’t have to talk about the way you’re feeling. 

It might help to plan your outings. Decide what you’re going to do and write down when you’ll do it. This makes it easier to ignore those negative feelings that stop you going at the last minute.


Find a sense of meaning

If you’ve been feeling like you don’t ‘belong’ anywhere or that life has lost its meaning, these ideas might help you find your place in the world again.

Choose something that feels right for you:

  • Spend time in nature – go for a bush or beach walk, or swim in a river
  • Go to places that you know nurture your soul, such as a church or a temple
  • Give yourself permission to reflect and grow
  • Learn what it is that keeps you peaceful and content
  • Go 'home' - spend time in the place you’re from
  • Talk to a spiritual adviser, such as a priest or a tōhunga.

Your wairua is one of the most important yet most overlooked parts of your wellbeing. Your spiritual wellbeing is about who you are and where you belong. For some, having faith in a higher power is a big part of wairua.

A strong wairua means knowing your own identity and being content with who you are.  

You can increase or strengthen your wairua by spending time reflecting on life and doing things that you enjoy.


Learn self-help with The Journal

Check out our Small Steps toolkit

Visit Small Steps

What next?

Once you've started taking small steps, you might like to try some bigger ones or share your feelings with someone.

Learn more

Other people's stories

I started training

I celebrate my successes

I make music

I got into Waka Ama