Doing something about depression and anxiety can seem impossible. If we have physical pain, we know what to do – go to the doctor, find out what the problem is, treat it and take painkillers. When we have emotional pain, there is no well-known path of treatment.

Here are some simple actions you can start right now.

  • Go Online

Keeping emotional pain to yourself usually magnifies the problem and does not help it to go away. Websites are instant and private.

MoodGYM https://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome is a scientifically proven, university based online help site that is open to the public and free. It teaches skills 24/7 and is ideal for those not wanting to confide in anyone, who live in remote areas and are unable to afford professional help.

The British Medical Journal evaluated MoodGYM and showed that users who accessed the programme weekly ended up with markedly reduced depressive symptoms, so offers similar benefits to face-to-face treatment.

  • Exercise

Take a walk for at least one hour per day, or more. Exercise of any kind stimulates ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins and is well-known to relieve anxiety and depression. It often helps to improve sleep too.

  • Write about it

Writing things down may not change the problems, but helps to relieve the emotional pain. Doctor James Pennebaker, author of Opening Up and Write to Heal  recommends writing down your deepest feelings for 15 or 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. He says that this helps to improve mental health and improve performance in life. Research has shown that short-term focused writing can have a beneficial effect on people dealing with serious abuse, illness and stress.

Pennebaker’s basic writing assignment is:

Over the next four days, write about your deepest emotions and thoughts about the emotional upheaval that has been influencing your life the most. In your writing, really let go and explore the event and how it has affected you. You might tie this experience to your childhood, your relationship with your parents, people you have loved or love now, or even your career. Write continuously for 20 minutes.

That’s it – instant and free, requiring just pen and paper. See www.utexas.edu/features/2005/writing/

  • Eat well

Ditching sugar and carbs helps to stabilise moods. Fresh food like fruit and salads are instant. Try these mood boosting foods: Salmon, tuna, chilli (releases endorphins), plain yoghurt with fresh fruit, fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies (there are heaps of recipes on the net).

B vitamins are essential for the nervous system to function well. If whole grain foods, dark leafy greens, seafood, bananas, chicken, eggs, almonds and avocados aren’t your thing, take a multivitamin and mineral supplement.

  • Try gardening

You can literally buy a gardening box at the supermarket or hardware store if you don’t have anywhere to start a garden at home. Even using milk cartons as containers on your kitchen windowsill is a start. Planting herbs, flowers, succulents or other plants that you love, is known to have a mood boosting effect. If buying plants is not an option – a community garden may have some. Your neighbours might have some extra plants to offer – most gardeners do.

  • One New Action a Day, Every Two or Three Days, or Each Week

Try one or more of these actions as you are able. This is no prescription that a doctor can write, but see your doctor as well if you can.

More online support is available at:

Panic Centre http://www.paniccenter.net Aimed at sufferers of panic attacks.

DepressioNet http://depressionet.org.au Created by Australians from a variety of backgrounds who have had personal experiences with depression.

Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au Tailors approaches for specific population groups, such as young mothers, children, men, women, teenagers and older adults.

Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre www.youngandwellcrc.org.au Designed for teenagers with depression and other mental health problems.

These sites are Australian, but offer help to anyone, anywhere. If you want online help in your own country, ask online through one of these sites, or at your local community health centre, doctor or social services.