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13 Quotes to Help You Overcome Depression and Anxiety

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Mental illness is a hard battle to face alone.

These quotes give us inspiration for our fight to overcome depression and anxiety. They let us see that others have been just where we are.

On my own journey of building stronger mental health, I’ve found these wise and inspiring words to be truly comforting and compassionate. I hope you too find strength in them for your own journey!

1. “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

It sometimes feels that overcoming a mental illness is one defeat after another: another depressive episode, another panic attack, another bout of anxiety.

It’s discouraging — more than discouraging, sometimes. We work hard to build our resilience and coping strategies, only to have our mental illnesses rear their ugly heads yet again.

We mustn’t let ourselves believe these setbacks are more important than our progress. We are moving forward, and we will keep moving forward.

2. “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” — Confucius

My psychologist once told me something that I’ve never forgotten: resilience isn’t never falling; it’s the ability to stand up and keep going after we fall. Every time we recover from a low week, an anxious weekend or a bout of panic attacks, we strengthen our resiliency.

And when we do fight our way forward from a setback, we must recognize it for the victory it is.

3. “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” — Buddha

Such a cliché, but it’s true: every morning is a chance to do better than yesterday, to feel better than yesterday, to become stronger.

And in my case, all my worst demons come out to play at bedtime and at midnight. I’m learning to ignore them, because I know they’ll disappear when the sun rises.

Waking in the morning is a chance to start fresh each day. 

4. “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” — Confucius

Of course, the work of each day — each new morning — is immense. Coping with mental illnesses every day — overcoming depression and anxiety — often seems like an insurmountable task. Too difficult; too complex. Especially when you’re so tired, so low.

That’s why this inspiring quote means so much to me personally. A man moving one stone a day; a steady trickle of water; the gradual effect of the wind.

However you choose to look at it, mountains do fall — in time. Slow progress is infinitely better than no progress at all.

5. “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside of you that is greater than any obstacle.” — Christian D. Larson

This is a very difficult idea to accept, or even to consider. Those of us with depression or anxiety often don’t have a very high opinion of ourselves, or of what we’re capable of.

And yet, we’re still here. Coping with mental illness every single day? That takes immense strength and bravery. (Of course, that’s the reason I named my blog The Brave and Strong.)

We’re fighting a war with our own minds and even though it often doesn’t feel like it, we are winning.

6. “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.” — Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

And all that work you put in, all those battles with mental illness you win? It doesn’t just make you strong; it makes you beautiful.

There are some hard-won gifts that mental illness gives us — empathy, understanding, compassion, sensitivity.

Yes, even sensitivity is a gift: we see others and recognize we may never know all they’re going through. Just as we ourselves have faced secret battles, we know others are doing the same.

7. “Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” — St. Francis of Assisi

Change and progress are difficult. Overcoming depression and anxiety takes work and time. We need to be patient with ourselves and take one step at a time. It’s no good pushing too far or too fast; slow and steady wins the race.

When I look back over the past 10 years, I can see that I really have come a long way. There are things I can face now that I truly thought would always be impossible for me. I still have many challenges, but my progress gives me hope of what things might be like in another 10 years.

What is difficult for you now can be overcome; one day, it might not be difficult at all.

8. “Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

Have truer words ever been spoken?

Battling mental illness is constant; we can’t just take a holiday from it all, as much as we’d like to. But we can be gentle with ourselves, and give ourselves the time to face our challenges slowly.

Pause. Take a breath. Take stock, and then continue.

9. “You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” — Dan Millman

There are certain realities of having a mental illness that we have to face. I know that, for me, unwanted thoughts and rumination are my biggest challenges. It may never be possible for me to simply not have these thoughts, but I am trying to build barriers between them and my true self.

We don’t have to feel we’ve failed just because we can’t control our thoughts. Forgive yourself for the dark images that come into your mind. Don’t see it as evidence that your mental illness is winning.

Instead, see how you can have these thoughts and not act on them; have the thoughts, but don’t give them control over your emotions and actions. That is the true victory.

10. “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” — Albert Einstein

Hope is a hard thing to have, especially when we’re in the middle of a depressive episode or anxiety relapse. And it’s also hard for those of us with a mental illness to “live for today.” Instead, we dwell on the past and on what is coming in the future.

So perhaps Einstein’s message here might be hard for us to put into practice. But we can try. It may be that hope is a skill we need to learn, and with practice, we will get better at it.

11. “There are far, far better things ahead than anything we leave behind.” — C. S. Lewis

Yet another in this collection of quotes about overcoming depression and anxiety that is hard to believe — or, at least, to truly believe, in our hearts.

In my darkest moments, I’ve believed the future didn’t hold anything positive for me. Perhaps you’ve been there too. Maybe, like me, you decided to keep going anyway, all while believing that “just getting by” was the best you could hope for.

While it’s true I still have a lot of fears and anxieties about the future, I now believe my future is positive — at least somewhat positive. I’ll have to fight to make it that way, of course.

The difference now is that I’ve been through the dark and come out the other side enough times to know I can do it again. You can, too; and we’ll all building a better future for ourselves because of it. 

12. “You are not your illness.” — Julian Seifter

If you take nothing else away from this collection of quotes, please take this one. Write it on your heart, as cheesy as that sounds. Believe it.

It might feel like mental illness is the biggest part of you — that having depression and anxiety is the most significant part of your daily life. I’ll be honest: it does for me, even now.

But it does not define you. “You” — your true self — exist beyond mental illness.

You are not your illness.

13. “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” — Misattributed to Buddha

And to end on a positive note:

Always remember that you are brave, strong, and worthy of all the good things in life.

Did any of these quotes stand out to you? Let me know in the comments below! Or, let me know some of your favorite quotes about overcoming depression and anxiety!

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Originally published: April 14, 2023
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