If you have been reading my articles, then you also know about my personal struggles with chronic depression and anxiety. In 2000, I was prescribed anti-depressants and even though I took them on-and-off for over 15 years, medication in combination with traditional “talk therapy,” I never had any long-term relief. I got stuck and couldn’t see the way out of it, so I decided to take things into my own hands. I started reading more research and following alternative and holistic medicine findings.
Fortunately, there is much more information out there even though the traditional Western approach is lagging behind, and insurance companies continue to enforce conventional medicine approach that is based on pharmacology and symptom reduction. Functional medicine, on the other hand, is concerned with finding the root causes. I am not saying to quit your medication overnight; it has to be properly discussed and managed by a qualified medical professional. My goal was to alert you that there is a better way.
My recommendations are based on the findings of the functional medicine and my ongoing healing journey.I believe in personalized and customized approach and many of my clients for the first time in their life have experienced lasting relief following these recommendations DAILY.
5 Natural Remedies for Chronic Depression:
1. Optimize your nutrition. I used to think I eat pretty healthy by eating lots of fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts/seeds. I did always have cravings for sugar/carbs and have always been an emotional eater. Yet, I never understood the extent of the inflammation in my gut, frequent UTI’s and yeast infections and how that played a role in my health, including my mental health. Most people have some kind of food sensitivities, especially for gluten, dairy, and peanuts.
For decades, we were advised we need to eat carbohydrates to give us fuel/energy. I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism in 2008 and then acute gastritis in 2012, all caused by stress and poor nutrition and not enough exercise. Then, on the recommendation of my functional medicine doctor, I changed my diet to a low carb, ketogenic diet, where the fuel comes from healthy fats, such as avocado and coconut oil. It’s also important to take supplements, detoxify and find out if you have mercury poisoning.
2. Get Daily Exercise. I was never keen on exercise and when I lived back home in Slovenia at least I used to go hiking. Moving to the US for many years I had to work hours and hours at the desk working 2 jobs to make ends meet so my exercise suffered even though I tried to go to the gym 3x a week. Then I got into a car accident in 3/2016 and this caused another relapse as I watched too much TV, had to minimize my work hours, which also created isolation. Watching “Broken Brain,” a series by Dr. Hyman really inspired me to do what I can to get my heart rate up. He suggests interval training.
3. Get Enough Sleep. Anxiety and obsessive thoughts kept me awake for decades. My solution was guided meditation/self-hypnosis. Sometimes you need to try different things, like getting a good night’s sleep. The key is that most of us need about 8 hrs of sleep. It’s important to disconnect electronics at least one hour before sleep and to get out in the sunlight early in the morning (vitamin D!)
4. Manage Stress. Stress might be inevitable in today’s fast-paced and information-loaded society, however, the key is HOW we manage it. Do we indulge in substances, develop habitual reactive and anger responses, triggered by fight-or-flight response; or do we find ways to calm our mind?
To me, some kind of meditation is key and even though I had not always been 100% it probably saved my life. Key is to find something that you will stick to and preferably find a community or meditation group so that when you are tempted to skip, the community of others will help you stay on track. You can start very simple just taking 10 minutes in the morning and just breathe!
5. Social Connections. We are social creatures and the need to belong is as important need as the need for food and shelter. Isolation worsens depression and this especially becomes a problem when you are older. I used to make new friends easily when I was in school or at work however being self-employed can create isolation. One of the best resources to get more engaged is to sign up with meetup.com they have a variety local groups based on your interests. Another suggestion is to volunteer. When I have a tough day seeing my clients or grabbing a coffee with a friend makes a big difference.
I hope these suggestions were helpful. Key is to do this DAILY! If you can, I suggest working with a professional to customize an approach for you, or at least find a friend to help you stay on track and keep you accountable.
Wishing you good health and happiness!