If you are diagnosed with depression or living with someone who is struggling with this mental health condition, you should know that there are a number of treatment options available to you. The most common treatment plan involves a combination of medication and therapy.
Doctors usually prescribe antidepressants and anxiolytic drugs. These drugs help stabilize the chemical imbalance that causes depression. However, taking care of oneself in addition to taking medication is also an important step in the road to recovery. The following are just some of the natural remedies you might want to take into consideration to help you manage the symptoms of your diagnosis.
1. Exercise, exercise, exercise!
It’s no secret that working out is good for both our physical and mental well-being. Doing cardio and aerobic exercises help our body release dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins which are also dubbed as “feel-good hormones”. Hit the gym or go out for a run at least twice a week. Make it part of your routine and you will surely notice a difference in your mood as soon as you break a sweat. However, we should acknowledge that getting on a fitness routine is much easier said than done for people with major depression. So here’s a piece of advice: Choose an activity that is fun for you so working out could feel less like a chore. It may be dancing to hip-hop music, basketball, or even gardening! Find a hobby and make it into your own personalized workout.
2. Light Therapy
Some types of depression are associated with changes in seasons. This is what they call SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. For those who experience episodes of depression during the winter months, getting as much sunlight as there is might be just the thing for you. Wake up early and go for a walk outside. Take in the sunshine and help your body raise your serotonin levels! If you live in areas with extreme winter weather conditions, signing up for bright light therapy is a good alternative. Bright light therapy involves exposure to a certain level of light intensity ranging from 3,000 to 10,000 lux. The process is usually a choice between using a lightbox or visor and it lasts for approximately half an hour. They are relatively costly with rates going up to $500 per session but depending on your insurance, your treatment might be covered with little to no copay.
Diet always goes hand in hand with exercise not only in weight loss but also in managing depression. Some of the food you should avoid are those with high sugar content. Satisfying your sweet tooth cravings can make you feel really good as blood sugar rises but it may change your mood for the worse come two hours later when it drops. You should also stay away from coffee and alcoholic beverages. Caffeine and alcohol intake provides an instant kick of energy and helps us relax but these effects usually last for a short period of time. It has been proven that these substances can be partially responsible for some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety. They were also linked to more intensified mood swings and insomnia.
4. Relaxation Techniques
There are several methods you can try to take your mind off the things that stress you out. For some people, it’s binge-watching their favorite sitcom or playing video games all afternoon long. This type of activity, however, is not recommended for people with depression. Staying in all day doing pretty much nothing is only going to make your depression worse. Instead, you can try listening to calming music while doing mindfulness exercises like tai-chi or yoga.
Get into meditation. Start by finding someplace quiet where you can be free from distractions. Empty your thoughts and focus on a single word or image. Try imagining yourself in your happy place may it be in the middle of a sunflower garden or an empty beach. Concentrate on the sensations you feel in your body as you contract and relax your muscles starting from the toes on your feet moving north to your head. Run a bath or take a long, steamy shower. You may also want to treat yourself to a massage. What works for others may be different from what works for you. It’s just a matter of knowing yourself and finding what you love to do.
5. Plan your day
Depression makes someone feel lethargic and unmotivated. If you’ve been through this phase or are currently in it, you will know how easy it is to lose track of time when all you want to do is curl up in bed and sleep. Writing down a schedule using a daily planner may bring back structure to your day. Try your very best to stick to that schedule. It’s going to be a real challenge at first but believe me, nothing feels better than ticking off the last item on your to-do list. Spending your energy into something productive brings a sense of fulfillment and it gets things done!
6. Get an Emotional Support Animal
We are all familiar with service animals and therapy dogs but have you heard about Emotional Support Animals? Emotional support animals or ESA for short play a big role in the lives of people suffering from mental health disorders such as depression. They offer good companionship which has been scientifically backed up and proven to effectively reduce anxiety and stress levels. Having an emotional support animal gives an individual a sense of purpose.
For those who are living with depression, designing a structured daily routine can be a challenge. Having an ESA to care for may be the motivation they need to start the day early. Emotional support animals serve as a helpful distraction from negative thoughts and feelings. If you’re interested in having an ESA, you will need to talk to a licensed mental health professional and find out if you qualify to have one.
Doing all these things may not immediately cure your depression but that’s not to say that they will not work. Escaping depression is a process and it is going to be a tough journey but better days are up ahead for sure. Hang in there!