I don’t feel like I’m living my passion
I just don’t want to get out of bed in the morning
I feel as though a part of me is missing
Is this all there is to life?
Whether you have the winter blues, postpartum depression, or you’re simply feeling down-in-the-dumps: How sad do you have to be—and for how long—before you think, “Maybe I need some help?” Roughly 7% of adult Americans suffer from some form of depression, a trend that shows no sign of decreasing. And while race, age, gender and lifestyles certainly have an effect on your chances of experiencing a mood disorder, the truth is that it can happen to any of us.
Depression diagnoses can vary based on the severity and causes of the symptoms. Hormonal imbalances contribute to the “baby blues,” a period many new mothers experience after giving birth, which can lead to postpartum depression. Certain drugs, like those used to treat high blood pressure and corticosteroids, can also result in depressive symptoms. Grief and sudden loss are common elements in cases with a very sudden onset of depression. Losing a loved one, a pet or a job can contribute directly to mood, sleep and personality changes—all factors used to identify depression. And let’s not forget seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which affects many during the cold winter months, making sleep patterns and energy levels seem utterly unmanageable.
Whatever the cause or type of despair you or someone you love may be experiencing, most of us feel the hurt and want it fixed—now. While modern pharmaceuticals seem to provide some quick relief, they come with real risks. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and Lexapro are among the world’s most widely prescribed medications. Some patients taking SSRIs develop insomnia, headaches, weight gain, joint and muscle pain, stomach upset, diarrhea and even reduced blood clotting capacity. Natural and alternative methods for combating depression can be very effective, but may take longer to work than prescription medications. They may not work at all if other interfering lifestyle factors aren’t addressed at the same time.
Roughly 7% of adult Americans suffer from some form of depression, a trend that shows no sign of decreasing.
If you feel as though you’re simply not yourself, and you want to do something about it, there are lots of avenues to explore. Some of the modalities and suggestions below can provide a quick—sometimes temporary—respite. The key is to try and find what works for you, your type of melancholy and your lifestyle.
- Bodywork. Most touch therapies—such as massage—are based on the concept that the mind and body are interconnected and that physical health and emotional well-being are closely linked. For best results, treat yourself to a series—as opposed to a single appointment—of massage or energy work sessions. Investigate alternative methods such as trigger point therapy, reiki, structural integration, emotional freedom technique and others. Try several practitioners to find the one that’s right for you.
- Meditation. Promoting relaxation in an altered state of consciousness, meditation can be a powerful tool to help ease symptoms of depression. Don’t let the concept of traditional meditation scare you off if you’re new to the practice; there are many forms of “active” meditation, such as walking in nature, journaling, etc. You don’t have to sit cross-legged on a pillow!
- Movement. Exercise enhances the action of endorphins, which are chemicals that circulate throughout the body to increase natural immunity, reduce the perception of pain and also improve mood. Regular body movement offers other health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, protecting against heart disease and cancer and boosting self-esteem. Try to get half an hour to an hour of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, on all or most days of the week.
- Music therapy. There is a very strong connection between music and emotion. Listening to music has been shown to be an effective non-drug alternative in combating the symptoms of depression. Matching your personal moods and tastes to music is a good way to relieve tension and stress without using powerful—and possibly harmful—medications. Try at least 20 minutes per day of listening to instrumental or light vocal music. (Conversely, if your world is overrun with noise, try silence: drive to work and back without the radio or any sounds, for example.)
- Diet. What you eat (or don’t eat!) can have a strong effect on your disposition. Lowering your sugar intake helps avoid plummeting blood sugar levels—which can result in sudden mood changes. Caffeine and alcohol cause short-lived mood and energy alterations and can worsen insomnia or anxiety. Some scientists suggest increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids to promote serotonin and dopamine messages in the brain (sources of omega-3 include chia, hemp and ground flax seeds, hummus and walnuts). Greasy foods—particularly those high in saturated fat—are linked to both depression and dementia.
Listening to your body is essential to learning what methods of symptom relief are right for you. While you explore the best ways to find relief from depression, it is important to keep perspective. Remember, the beginning of every successful well-being journey is fueled by the desire to be the healthiest you can be.