For seven years, I suffered from debilitating depression and anxiety. During that time, I tried many treatments. I spent years in and out of therapist offices, psychiatrist offices, and bouncing from medication to medication. Ultimately, the thing that changed—saved—my life was cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). I often describe my journey from darkness to light as crossing a river. I was on one side, and now I am on the other. Yet, what is incredibly important to remember, is that while I am on the other side now, I must fight—every single day—to stay here.
Depression and anxiety are not things that just go away. They stay with you. While I often say that I overcame depression and anxiety; the truth is that I overcome depression and anxiety. Every day I make a new choice. Every day I choose light.
In this post, I am going to share natural treatments for anxiety and depression. Some of these treatments I use, some have been recommended by friends, and others I would like to learn more about. In any case, I hope that they may be helpful to you.
What Works for Me
It has been years since I’ve been off of Zoloft (the medication that helped me more than the others) and out of my therapist’s office. Still, I am continually looking for buoys to help me stay afloat. While CBT continues to be my number one tool of choice, there are a few things that take me from feeling just okay to feeling amazing.
- Sleep – Hands down, sleep is the most critical element to my happiness. Without adequate sleep, I am miserable. Some of the most difficult days (and nights) of my life have been caused by a significant lack of sleep. When I do not get enough sleep, I cry easily, become irritated easily, pick fights, and overreact. These characteristics are not the real me; but lack of sleep brings them out without fail.The amount of sleep needed to “feel good” varies from person to person. Research shows that the amount of sleep necessary to each person is genetic. Personally, I need at least seven solid hours of sleep, anything less than that and symptoms of depression and anxiety rear their ugly heads.
- Exercise and Stretching – Exercise and stretching make me feel amazing; but I too often fail to make time for them. I know how wonderful it is for my spirit (and body) yet… Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t include it in this list.We underestimate the power that even a quick, simple routine can have. If you suffer from depression and anxiety and are not exercising or stretching for at least ten minutes per day, you are doing yourself a major injustice! (Pot calling the kettle black, I know!) To start, just take five minutes in the morning to stretch. If you are not flexible, do your best to touch your toes. Hold yourself there for as long as you can. Repeat three times. Then, reach up. Do your best to touch the ceiling. Hold yourself there as long as you can. Repeat three times. That’s it! Do this every morning. By the end of the week you will notice a positive change in how you feel.
- Diet – Now that I’ve beaten myself up, it’s time to pat myself on the back. My diet of late has been incredible. I’ve lost 8 pounds since the end of my fitness challenge simply by making positive changes to my diet—limiting portion sizes and cutting out junk food. It’s been years since I stopped eating fast food, too. Since implementing these changes, my mood has consistently improved. Do not underestimate the power that your food choices have in affecting your mood and your feelings of depression and anxiety!
- Aromatherapy – This is something that I’ve only been experimenting with very recently, but I’ve been amazed by the results. I’ve long-heard about the benefits of aromatherapy but I never understood why. I did some digging and found out that as scents are inhaled, the smell travels across the olfactory nerves located inside the nose and then up into the part of the brain that controls our moods, our memories and our ability to learn. This area is called the Limbic System and when stimulated it releases endorphins, neurotransmitters and other ‘feel-good’ chemicals.I’ve been experimenting with lavender (amazing!), coconut, and peppermint. Essential oils and bath/shower soaps are a good place to start.
What Works for Friends
When I reached out to my Twitter community for suggestions, I got some great feedback.
Danielle said—Vitamin B and D and getting proper exercise help me kick my depressions. Relaxing scents like lavender help my anxiety.
Lauren said—Omega 3 or fish oil pills. For me, they’re just as effective as the depression/anxiety meds I used to take.
Kelli said—When I choose to take 5-HTP regularly, it makes me feel more stable, healthy & normal. I feel less overwhelmed by my feelings & more capable of leading a normal, day-to-day life, not crippled by suffocating depression, able to wake up out of bed each morning, and less loathe to clean & exercise.
A few people mentioned that avoiding alcohol, simple sugars, and caffeine majorly help to eliminate feelings of depression and anxiety. (I can attest to this!)
Herbal Remedies & Other Ideas
(Side note: It’s best to consult with your doctor before you start a new herbal supplement regimen. However, if you notice that your doctor is hesitant to have this discussion be aware. I’ve had doctors intimate that herbal supplements are foolish/placebos; yet they were very quick to write me a prescription for a pharmaceutical/chemical medication. Point being, make sure that your health care provider is looking out for your best interest, period.)
There are a bunch of herbal remedies that are said to help improve mood. Some of the most popular are: St. John’s Wart, omega-3 fatty acids, SAM-e, folic acid, ginkgo biloba, and 5-HTP. I’ve heard amazing things about some of these options, but again, do your research and check with your health care provider for potential drug interactions if you are on any other medications.
While I haven’t tried these, many people have also had success with acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, and hypnosis. A few final ideas, which I have tried—and love!—are massage therapy, meditation, and yoga.
In closing, I want to state very clearly that I do not believe that natural treatments are the only appropriate options to treat depression and anxiety. I strongly believe that traditional therapy and chemical medication is very important—and critical— for many people. For example, after years of trying different medications, I finally landed in a good place with Zoloft. I believe that Zoloft bolstered me through some very difficult times. Without it, I do not know if CBT would have had the incredible transformational effects on my life that it did. Sometimes you just have to keep trying (& trying & trying!) until you find what works for you. The key is to keep trying and never give up so long as breath is in you. ♥
I hope that this post has been helpful to you. Whether we are suffering from depression and anxiety or not, we should all strive to be our best selves.
If you have other ideas or suggestions about what makes you feel amazing, please let us know in the comments!
In love & light,