Manage Your Depression Naturally
How to Manage Your Depression Naturally in 11 Simple Steps
Living with depression isn’t easy.
Being riddled with self-doubt, disengaged from life, wondering if you’ll ever be able to shake it off. It can be emotionally crippling. But it doesn’t have to.
In many cases, you can alleviate depression by safe, natural means with no adverse side effects. Doing simple things like thinking proactively, being mindful of what you eat and drink, and embracing your inner self can help you conquer depression and send it packing.
Two types of depression
One problem with depression is that we use the same term to describe two related yet different states of mind. There’s the depression people deal with daily. And then there’s the more clinical definition of depression that suggests a psychiatric disorder. And between them, there’s a grey area where it’s hard to tell any difference between everyday depression and disorder depression.
In its most common state, depression is when you feel low. Not as outgoing as usual. It affects your thought patterns, your behavior, your feelings. It insinuates itself into your very sense of well-being.
We sometimes call this situational depression as it’s a response to actual events in your life. A loved one passes, and it’s devastating. This is perfectly natural. It can also be a side effect of certain medications. But it can also be a symptom of something bigger.
A doctor can diagnose clinical depression—or major depressive disorder (MDD)—if you’ve been depressed in almost every situation for a period of at least two weeks. This form of depression expresses itself in a feeling of low self-esteem and a lack of interest in things you used to enjoy. You may feel drained of energy and feel pains you can’t figure out. Some people experiencing MDD hold false beliefs and may experience visual or auditory hallucinations.
Some people experience short-term major depressive episodes separated by symptom-free stretches that could last for years. For others, the symptoms are almost constant. MDD can disrupt every element of a person’s life. It has a negative impact on work, school, and personal relationships. It can affect sleep and diet, and a patient’s overall physical health.
Perhaps the most serious side effect of major depression is suicidal thoughts. Most people who take their lives have a mood disorder like MDD. It’s estimated that anywhere between 2 and 7 of adults with MDD will commit suicide.
The problem with antidepressants
There is medication available to treat depression. Antidepressants can be lifesavers for people with severe depression, especially those contemplating suicide. A problem arises, though, when some doctors are too quick to reach for their prescription pads when a patient appears depressed.
Studies show that antidepressants may not be effective for people with mild, moderate, or acute forms of depression. An unfortunate potential side effect of some antidepressants is an increase in thoughts of suicide. It’s not unheard of for someone who has never contemplated suicide to have such thoughts after they begin taking antidepressants.
While antidepressants are great for helping pull people back from the brink, we must consider that they may be over-prescribed.
Sometimes being sad is natural. Healthy, even. Not everyone who’s sad needs medication. Some do. No one’s disputing that. But if your depression is mild to moderate or even acute, you have other options that don’t involve dangerous side effects.
1. Consider the source of your depression
Many people with depression suffer in silence without taking the time to wonder why they’re depressed. Sure, sometimes depression results from a biochemical imbalance. But there are many cases of depression with circumstantial causes. Cases where something’s unbalanced—not in your body, but in your life.
Perhaps your job isn’t fulfilling. Or maybe there’s something unsatisfying about your relationship. Possibly you’re afraid to admit the relationship has run its course, and it’s time to move on.
Are you in the throes of a spiritual crisis? Having creative struggles? Wish you were in better health? Tired of carrying debt?
We tend to ignore a lot of legitimate worries. Depression could be your subconscious telling you to face a challenge head-on rather than put it off anymore. And finally taking control of those problems can break that cycle of worry that’s been weighing you down.
2. Get active
Exercise triggers your pituitary gland to release endorphins—the feel-good hormone. And the good news? You don’t have to run a marathon to do it. Just a little vigorous exercise can do the trick. Plus, if worries about being out of shape are a contributing factor to your depression, taking that bull by the horns will work wonders for your self-esteem, too.
Want another great way to boost your endorphins without getting sweaty? Laugh. Watch a funny movie or go to a comedy club. A 2011 study suggests that laughter may trigger endorphins as well.
In truth, you can have a lot of fun trying to trigger your endorphins. Our advice? Go for it!
3. Keep an eye on your blood sugar
Fluctuations in blood sugar can trigger mood swings. Sometimes what might appear to be bipolar behavior is just a sensitivity to blood glucose. So, don’t skip meals. And avoid sugary foods that will eventually lead to a sugar crash.
4. Eat yourself happy
The aim of some antidepressants is to increase your serotonin levels. Serotonin makes you feel happier and improves your sense of well-being. But did you know you can also stimulate serotonin naturally simply by eating?
A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) like coconut oil, and protein will naturally boost serotonin levels in your brain. And try celebrating Thanksgiving more often. Food high in tryptophan—like free-range turkey—is an ideal protein source for this diet plan.
5. Cut out the caffeine
While turkey boosts your serotonin, caffeine reduces it. But if the mere thought of cutting out your morning coffee bums you out, you can try getting an energy boost from an L-Tyrosine supplement instead.
6. Let the sunshine in
Exposure to sunlight triggers your body to produce vitamin D. Clinical trials have shown vitamin D supplements to have moderate effectiveness treating patients with significant symptoms of depression. You can get your vitamin D in capsule form, from a therapeutic light box (SAD light), or straight from the sun. Just don’t let a window get between you and the sun. Glass filters out the wavelength that stimulates natural vitamin D production.
7. Consider a mood-enhancing supplement
If you know what you’re looking for, a lot of over-the-counter supplements can help give your mood a boost. The trick is to consult with a professional who knows all the potential side effects and risks of drug interactions—especially if you’re also taking antidepressants.
Patients have reported positive results with 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, SAMe, L-Theanine, and Fish Oil.
8. Become one with the universe
Breathe. Let go. Repeat.
Sometimes depression results from excessive rumination. Meditation can help you control those thoughts, calm your mind, and finally find inner peace. And all it takes is a few minutes a day paying attention to your breath.
9. Re-balance your hormones
As mentioned above, some cases of depression are biochemical in nature. You don’t seem to have a reason to be depressed, and yet you are. In these cases, hormone production can be out of whack, negatively impacting your mood.
The three main culprits in situations like this are hormones produced by the thyroid gland, adrenal gland, or your sex organs. Fortunately, if you suspect this might be the cause of your depression, three simple tests will determine if that’s the problem—and get you on the path to correcting it.
10. Let your true self shine through
Want to know what’s really depressing? Faking it.
Every day, we wear the masks others expect us to wear. We assume the roles others want us to play, keeping our true selves under wraps. Perhaps for fear that others would disapprove if they found out who we really are.
But the truth is we’re all freaks. And trying to deny our essential freakiness is just asking for depression.
Embrace what makes you awesome and unique. Cast off the shackles of playing roles written for other people. Make a practice of being authentic in your daily life. It’s a high unlike any other.
11. Get selectively chatty
Admitting depression to yourself is a huge step. Admitting it to others can be transcendent.
The universal constant of the human condition is we all have our moments of doubt. Times when we feel small. Alone. Realizing that feeling on-the-outside is par for the course can be liberating.
Finding someone trustworthy that you can talk it all out with is empowering. Talking to a therapist or a psychiatrist could change your life. Or even a life coach. And sometimes, finding that one friend with an empathetic ear you can share secrets with is better than anything therapy can offer.
Take control of your depression today
Depression can be hard. But getting out from under it will set you free. In many cases, simple adjustments can work wonders turning your mindset upside down, opening your life up to a whole new world of possibilities.
To see how naturopathic medicine can help you conquer depression, make an appointment with Dr. Tara Andresen today.