If issues with anxiety, depression, stress, anger, insomnia, etc. are long-standing, familiar patterns that go back some time, then it is a good idea to get professional help to understand and learn how to change these patterns. It is possible to change how you feel about yourself, as well as patterns of negative thinking, emotional reaction and ineffective behaviours – even if they have been with you all your life and you have felt helpless to change them. This is what psychotherapy is for, and about.
If, on the other hand, these issues are fairly new, then it is useful to explore whether there is an identifiable cause, a stressor, a situation or an event to which you are reacting. This may be already obvious to you; if it is not, it is worthwhile to take some time to reflect back to when you first began to notice these issues or feelings, and to reflect on what was going on in your life at that time. What were, and have continued to be, major sources of stress or distress? Sometimes, just by taking a moment to bring your attention to your feelings, and asking yourself with an attitude of open curiosity what this is about, the answer will come to you quite clearly.
If you are able to identify the cause, or stressor to which you are reacting, try doing the following:
1) Write down all the facts of the situation – not your thoughts, perceptions or feelings; just the straight facts.
2) Write down how you are feeling about the situation and all of its aspects (including people). Note that we sometimes phrase things such as: "I feel as though he/she…" But these are not feelings, they are thoughts and perceptions. When you write your feelings, write only about yourself. Mention your physical feelings of stress, anxiety, etc. as well as your emotional feelings. You can also mention your subjective feelings such as: "I feel attacked."
3) Now write down all your perceptions and interpretations of the situation: how do you see it? What are the thoughts you have about this situation or people involved, that cause you to feel the way you feel?
4) Check whether the simple facts of the situation support this interpretation or not. If you base all your thoughts about the situation entirely on the facts, can you come up with more reasonable or rational explanations, or interpretations, that can help change how you feel?
5) Notice whether the way you feel in the situation, the way you perceive yourself in relationship to others, or to the world in general, is part of a pattern. In other words, notice whether it is a way of feeling that you are familiar with, and that you have felt in different situations at different times. This is an indication that your own patterns of thinking and feeling, and possibly, beliefs, are contributing to causing the feelings and reactions from which are suffering.
Seeking professional help
If working through these steps does not lead you to being able to resolve these issues, it can be useful to seek professional help to better understand and to change these patterns, as well as to learn new skills for managing stress reactions, emotions or negative thoughts, to feel more empowered and to be able to act more effectively in challenging situations.
In addition to seeking help from a qualified therapist, I highly recommend a holistic / integrative approach that may include:
Diet can have a significant impact on your mental state. Particularly when dealing with any significant issues of stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, or insomnia it is useful to avoid caffeine and sugar as much as possible, as well as alcohol and recreational drugs. A good healthy, balanced diet, and eating regularly, will help your body to deal with the stress you are under; lack of good eating habits creates more stress on the body and leaves the mind less resilient to cope with stress of any type.
Mindfulness has been shown to be generally beneficial for overall mental well-being, as well as effective specifically for anxiety, depression and trauma. It can be a very effective way to develop skills to reduce and/or manage negative thinking and emotional reactions, as well as to become more comfortable and calm "in the present moment."
Forms of yoga that are focused on "flow," or on slow, mindful approaches of holding postures - i.e. forms of yoga that are not "high intensity" or intended as some form of physical workout - can be highly beneficial to your overall mental and physical well-being, as well as to many types of mental health issues. Our minds and bodies are not separate, and the practice of yoga can help you to develop a state of mind that is helpful for anxiety, depression, stress, trauma/PTSD, as well as many other issues.
QiQong / Tai Chi:
The same as above applies for QiQong and Tai Chi.
Body-focused therapies and approaches can also be helpful for many issues, including consulting alternative/complementary medicine practitioners, such as:
Homeopaths can offer you treatment of a wide variety of mental, emotional and physical symptoms with medications that are not "chemical" in nature, and that are completely safe and natural and produce no side effects.
Naturopaths can offer you treatment of your symptoms with natural remedies and supplements, as well as counselling you on how changes in your diet could make a significant change to how you feel. Symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression can sometimes be very strongly related to dietary issues such as food sensitivities, or nutritional deficiencies. Naturopaths are experts in this field.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): TCM is based in science and practice that goes back thousands of years. It can involve acupuncture as well as herbal remedies and other forms of treatment. TCM can be used to treat physical as well as emotional/psychological issues and can be highly effective.