Everyone feels a bit blue from time to time. Some of us often feel sad and depressed, however, and for little or no reason. It’s a good idea to consult with a professional if your depression is severe, but for mild depression and anxiety there’s a lot you can do to help yourself feel better.
You don’t need to go the drug route first – here are some tips to help bring sunshine back into your life the natural way.
Anxiety is an emotional response, a fear reaction, to perceived or imagined threats. It is characterized by feelings of fear, worry, and unease, which can stem from an anticipated or imagined adverse event or trigger. The intense and persistent nature of anxiety can result in physical symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, and insomnia, and can negatively impact an individual’s daily life. Depression is often associated with unfulfilled expectations and a sense of disappointment of yourself or others.
Depression, on the other hand, is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities that once brought pleasure. It is often associated with unfulfilled expectations and a sense of disappointment, either in oneself or in others. Both anxiety and depression can be treated through a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
In my opinion, prescription anti-depressants, tranquillisers and sleeping tablets should only be CONSIDERED as a very last resort to treat severe and chronic depression, anxiety or insomnia, i.e. when day-to-day functioning is badly affected and the problem doesn’t respond to any other forms of treatment.
Often, however, prescription drugs are the first line of treatment, and they often become an obstacle in the road to health and empowerment. In extreme cases drug treatment can lead to addiction and more problems than the patient started off with. As for prescription sleeping tablets, the majority are addictive if used for longer than two weeks. After a while, more and stronger medication is needed, as the body ‘gets used’ to the drug and ‘forgets’ how to go to sleep without them.
This sets up a cycle of insomnia and dependence that is very difficult to break – and would have been entirely avoidable if the patient have been encouraged to seek counselling to overcome problems, rather than resorting to prescription drugs.
What is missed way too often, is the side effects of anti-anxieties and sleeping pills on our emotional wellbeing in the days that follow taking these. Watch for major mood swings and erratic behaviour. This is not a reason to take more anti-anxieties but a sign to stop and rethink your medicine. The good news is that there are alternatives.
Regular exercise (at least half an hour of brisk exercise three times a week) makes you feel healthier, increases the production of natural ‘feel-good’ chemicals (endorphins) in the body, boosts self-esteem and significantly reduces the symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. If you can manage to exercise every day, better still.
Walk, swim, jog, dance, whatever – as long as it results in a bit of sweat and an increased heart rate.
MEDITATION AND DEEP BREATHING
Mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises can help to calm the mind and reduce feelings of anxiety. See the article by Dr le Roux on Meditation & Well-being for Young Adolescents.
TALK ABOUT IT
Talk therapy is one of the most effective way of relieving depression and anxiety. Share your problems and ‘externalise’ them, rather than bottling them up. You’ll be amazed at how relieved you will feel and how things will begin to come into perspective. Speak to friends, family or a professional person such as a licensed counsellor. Writing about your feelings is also therapeutic, so keep a journal or write a book – a professional can give support here too.
DO NICE THINGS FOR YOURSELF
Nurture and spoil yourself. Relax in a bubble bath, play your favourite music and sing along, have an aromatherapy massage. Learn how to say ‘No’ to others when it’s appropriate and ‘Yes’ to yourself when you need it.
No, not the starvation kind! Enjoy your food and eat healthily. Some foods help to fight depression and anxiety. Special serotonin (the feel-good hormone) foods are oats, whole wheat, bananas and other carbohydrate-rich foods. Make sure you are supplementing with a good vitamin B complex, magnesium, zinc and iron – a deficiency in any of these can lead to depression and anxiety-type symptoms and insomnia. See the article by Tracy Wood: The A to Z of Nutrition can Calm our Anxiety.
There are many natural alternatives to prescription antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication and sleeping tablets. The recommended dosages for natural remedies can vary depending on factors such as the specific product, the person’s age and health status, and the severity of their symptoms. It’s always best to follow the instructions on the product label and consult with a healthcare provider to determine the right dosage for you.
There’s good evidence that herbal remedies can reduce anxiety.
- Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis sativa plant. Make sure it has very low (if any) THC as that appears to increase anxiety at higher doses. CBD appears to decrease anxiety at all doses that have been tested and can also be used to support sleep and reduce stress. Try them in oils and tinctures, which come in dropper bottles and are consumed by mouth. Gummies are chewable, sweet and often fruit-flavored. Sprays, which come in bottles with a nozzle to be sprayed in the mouth. Capsules, softgels or tablets, which are taken individually by mouth like a pill. I wouldn’t recommend the vapes or flowers, which are dried hemp plants that are typically ignited and smoked.
- Tea can become a coffee substitute as coffee may give you the jitters. Try organic chamomile, valerian or passionflower tea.
- Sceletium (Sceletium tortuosum) or Kanna is a traditional medicinal herb used by the San and Khoikhoi people and can be chewed, brewed into tea or smoked. Tinctures and capsules are available on shelf from Dr Boxall’s, Calm Life, Manna Calmer, Elev8, Core, Big Tree, and Willow. Our readers claim that sceletium boosts their mood and alleviates some of their symptoms of depression, tension and stress. Sceletium is non-addictive and non hallucinogenic. Do not take it with other psychiatric medications or with cardiac medications.
- Ashwaganda (also known as Indian ginseng) is made from the leaves and the stems or mature branches as well as the fruit, but in the European and Asian pharmacopoeias and prescriptions it is mainly the roots and leaves that are used. This powerful adaptogen is a grounding and nourishing herb and helps the body recover from stress by supporting the adrenal glands. Make sure you buy bioavailable forms such as the ones made by fermentation or freeze drying. Available in capsule and tincture form. Some of our favourites include: Phyto Force, Terranova Ashwagandha Fermented , Coyne Bio-Shoden, and Sfera. Ashwaganda has the effect of stimulating the uterus, so do not use it in any way during pregnancy.
- Support adrenal function with Rhodiola, another popular adaptogen, in the morning to feel its energising effects. Studies indicate that rhodiola has a positive effect on mood and demonstrates its use to reduce symptoms of depression. Rhodiola also contains a number of powerful antioxidants, and flavonoids. Its unique array of phytonutrients allows Rhodiola to adapt to stressful environmental conditions, and consuming it helps us modulate our ability to withstand daily stressors. We recommend the following: Viridian, Ultima, Nutrilife and PrimeSelf. Scientists have found that Rhodiola enhances serotonin, dopamine and endorphin activity in the brain.
- St John’s wort, also known as Hypericum perforatum, is well-studied and recommended worldwide to relieve symptoms of mild anxiety, depression and stress. St John’s wort should not be taken with other psychiatric medications, or if you are on the contraceptive pill. St John’s wort often takes a couple of weeks to work. Pre-clinical studies suggest that the remedy Remotiv, containing a specific extract of Hypericum perforatum called Ze 117, may work indirectly on chemicals in the brain that can be linked with stress, tension and mild anxiety.
Homeopathy, Tissue Salt, Aromatherapy and Flower essences
Homeopathic remedies prescribed by some doctors on our with great success for calming and sleep aids, include Pegasus Calming remedy as well as Boiron’s Sedatif PC.
Natura’s Kali Phos No. 6 tissue salt (a mineral salt) is one of my personal favourites when I feel anxious or nervous. Just dissolve under the tongue.
The much-loved Bach Rescue Remedy is another must-have in my opinion to treat stress, anxiety and panic attacks. Other flower essences for anxiety include Aspen and Cherry Plum.
I need to include the essential oils vetiver, lavender and frankincense. I often used them on their own or I mix some together in my diffuser at the office to relieve anxiety, reduce stress and lift mood. We recommend SOiL’s organic oils. They actually have specifically formulated blends to aid stress, anxiety, mood swings and depression. Look out for SOiL’s De-Stress and Balance essential oil blends. De-Stress is a calming, enlightening and uplifting blend offering grapefruit as the high note with Cedarwood, Clary Sage and Cypress encouraging a state of calm for one to take control of their anxiety and stress.
Balance is a stunning combination of Lavender, Clary Sage and Rose Geranium, all well-known as ‘women’s’ oils. This floral aroma opens the mind, offering a more calm and balanced mood, bringing joy back to the mind and strength to the adrenal system. Simply gorgeous scent to fill any space, be it the office or at home.
- In terms of vitamins, B vitamins are commonly associated with reducing anxiety and improving mood. B1 (Thiamine), B3 (Niacin), B6 (Pyridoxine) and B12 (Cobalamin) has all been linked to anxiety and depression.
- Amino acids helps the brain produce the feel-good chemicals. L-theanine found in green tea reduces stress. 5-HTP makes serotonin and Griffonia is one of a small number of natural sources for 5-HTP.
- Many women have an undiagnosed magnesium and/or zinc deficiency, which can contribute to anxiety. We like Natroceutics liposomal magnesium citrate.
- Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is extensively studied for the support of cognitive and neuronal health, reducing anxiety and depression. We love the Sfera Bio Nutrition and Medi Mushroom products.
When you are depressed, you tend to isolate yourself and avoid company. Mixing with people is not always what you feel like doing, but loneliness is one of the major causes of depression.
Get out there and join the world! You may hate it at first, but do it anyway. It will ultimately help to lift your spirits, and you will not feel so alone. Address your fear. Looking at it and talking about it is a way to reduce anxiety. Volunteer organisations, mothers’ groups, churches, sports clubs, hobbies and crafts are all good ideas. Be creative! Try out different alternatives until you find something that you like. Don’t give up.
Editors Note: We have published other articles on depression and anxiety such as Identify and Beat Depression Naturally, Saffron for Emotional Health, Energy Psychology for Depression, The A to Z of Nutrition can Calm our Anxiety and Stress & Anxiety Accelerate Ageing.