Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional and do not claim to be. The advice given below is based solely on personal experience. If you feel that you may be suffering from depression, anxiety or any other mental or medical condition, I recommend you contact a medical professional or therapist for help.
I’ve been on meds off and on for my depression and anxiety since like for almost 15 years now. The last thing I want to do is increase my medication in order to keep the symptoms under control. So I’ve been on this quest to find natural ways to fight the disorder. I know there are millions of pieces out there providing advice on natural/alternative treatments, but many of these are written from a medical or “professional” standpoint.
But I’m not a doctor. I’m a person – searching – searching for something that will help on days that it’s horrible and even days when it’s not so bad…almost seemingly nonexistent. You know, the good days. So here I go…I’ll even include what I’ve incorporated, what I think works, and where I wasn’t as obedient.
I don’t pass on this information as a medical professional to 1) say you’re not going through this alone and 2) to let you know what’s been working for me and 3) provide resources in one place. So please bear with me if this is long. This may be a post that prompts a YouTube video – for those you who would rather watch/listen vs. read a really long post.
- Eliminate caffeine. Nope. Not gonna do it. Caffeine is actually a mood booster for me. BUT…I did trial cutting back on caffeine and that worked. I found it a good practice to determine when coffee took a turn for the worse. 1-2 cups a day is good for me. 3-4…not so much. And drinking too late does affect my sleep so I try to not drink coffee after 7-8 pm. (I was drinking coffee this late due to a work project.)
- Took time to rest. This was kind of hard for me because I started missing church, choir rehearsal, choir meetings and even singing on Sundays. BUT…I shared what was going on in my life with people who needed to know, and they were VERY understanding. The caveat is that I do still attend church quite often, but in the midst of depression, I had to slow down, which meant taking time to take care of myself.
- Reduced unnecessary stress. For example, when my day turned hectic, I would kindly contact my hairdresser and ask if I could reschedule my hair appointment instead of stressing about how I was going to get it to fit into my day.
- Aromatherapy. I’m a faithful user of Bath & Body works stress relief body wash and hand lotion. I’ve also just incorporated the candle into my “treatment”. Frankly, I use the hand cream throughout my workday. Sometimes I just put my hands up to my face and inhale. (You know like the guy did on Superstar after rubbing his pits). And since I work at home, I sometimes shower with the body wash during my lunch hour.
- Camomile tea. I drink the Celestial Seasonings Honey, Vanilla, Camomile tea. This has worked for me when I’m not in the middle of an anxiety attack, but just feel a little stressed. I like it though. It does help by producing a calming effect.
- Sleepytime tea. Also by Celestial Seasonings, this is super helpful if you have a hard time going to sleep. I simply drink the tea and partner it with relaxing music (white noise station or nature station on Pandora); a great combination for sleep.
- St. Johns wort. I’m literally afraid of this. I recall trying this earlier on in my depression journey. I don’t recall any horrible side effect, but there are warnings out the butt about using it if you are on other depression meds. I just don’t trust it. Please refer to your medical professional before going down this route.
- Yoga. I was opposed to yoga for spiritual reasons, but I decided to give it a try. I’m not into all the meditation and stuff, but I do have a DVD that I like to do at night when I’m feeling particularly stressed. In fact, I’ve included as part of my weekly workout routine. I noticed a significant difference with yoga, to the point that if I’m stressed, I’ll just try to do a couple of poses and breathing exercises at night without the DVD. That’s how much I believe in it for relaxation.
- Exercise. Cardio to be exact. I don’t do this enough, but I can’t stress the importance of getting your blood pumping. This, along with the tea, is at the top of my list. It’s not gonna cure your depression…none of this will, but it will help treat your symptoms. Maybe it’s because I’m a quite aggressive person…so literally working out my frustrations works for me.
- Know your triggers…and ELIMINATE them. This is why I’m single again. The relationship I was in was pushing me to depression (and my mother reminded me that my emotionally abusive relationship did the same to me toward the end). A depressed person who allows triggers to dictate their life is about as bad as a person with high blood pressure to continue eating copious amounts of salt. You have to do what you have to do to be well.
- Pay attention to what makes you happy…then duplicate it. For example, I’m elated when it’s sunny out. Though I have no control over the sun, I do have a sun lamp (which I frankly think is crap) and am going to change to a super high wattage light bulb. This was advice I found in today’s research. But ultimately, I try to take notice of sunny days and bask in them. I’m also in the process of finding dance classes and thinking about teaching cheer. These are things that make me happy.
- Stop doing things you don’t like, but don’t go dead to the world. This was my mistake. I stopped doing things I didn’t like doing, but I didn’t replace the hole with something I enjoyed. So I was left with a hole. Don’t make that mistake. Instead, if you enjoy cooking, take a cooking class or maybe start a cupcake business. I LOVE CUPCAKES. I’m literally thinking about starting another “business.” Well, I actually have a couple of things up my sleeve, but for the purpose of this post, I’ve though about something lighthearted; like selling handmade scarves in the winter. It’s low risk and low pressure. I can always say no; I don’t need the money. Most of all, it fills the hole with something I really like doing.
That’s my personal list. Now for resources I’ve come across:
Foods That Fight Winter Depression – Pay special attention to page 3