Treating depression without medication is the way to go. I did the drugs, for six years. And I did the non-drug way…trust me when I say natural remedies are better.
While your family doctor will likely prescribe pharmaceutical drugs, you can easily fit natural treatments in as well. This way you don’t go against your doctors advice, but you won’t require the prescription for as long.
Natural treatment options are usually easier and have better results, because you treat the depression and the cause.
Hello and welcome to Fearlessly Holistic
My name is Irma and I want to share my journey to improved health by eating whole foods, moving my body and eliminating stress as much as possible.
It is my hope to inspire you to make daily changes.
Why? Because eating fresh, seasonal food and getting some sunshine is the best way to increase longevity. But you do not want just a long life.
You want a quality long life.
My blog posts are my opinion and the results of things that I have tried that either worked for me or didn’t. My opinions are for informational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. Medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them. As well, there may be affiliate links in this post. Read more here.
What is Depression?
Depression is different for different people.
In my case, my depression started because I was not facing how I really felt about things in my life.
In retrospect, I hated my job and I wanted to live a different kind of life.
But I felt stuck. I did not know how to get what I wanted or even how to figure out if I really wanted what I wanted.
Add to that, all my friends, family and co-workers telling me how lucky I was to have full-time work, year ’round.
I didn’t feel lucky. And whenever I shared what I really wanted to do, I was told that I was being irresponsible. Sigh.
So I buried my feelings, deep.
But life doesn’t let you get away that easy. Several sets of circumstances cropped up, heaping more depression on top of what I already had.
Eventually I hit a wall and had no choice but to find a way out of the dark.
I was already on 2 anti-depressants and sleeping pills. Nothing was working. Duh.
My life did not need drugs…it needed me to take action.
There Are Two Main Types of Depression
Like the name suggests, circumstantial, or situational, depression happens when we get overwhelmed by life. This is the depression that I had.
This can happen due to:
- A death in the family
- Moving from one home to another
- Changing jobs
- Troubles at school
- Moving into a nursing home
- Prolonged health issues
You can have more than one of these events in your life at the same time (like I did).
This compounds how you feel and makes prioritizing fixing your depression issues more challenging, but it is doable.
People also experience periods of sadness, feeling out of sorts, a bit blue, detached and other variations of mood at different points during their life.
Related Post: Do I Have Depression? Depression Explained
Symptoms of depression can be mild to extreme and physical as well as mental:
- Irritability and anger; angry outbursts with little provocation
- Unexplained aches and pains; headaches; backaches
- Low energy; small tasks sap energy
- Extreme weight gain or weight loss
- Disengaged from daily activities especially ones previously enjoyed
- Changed sleeping patterns–from excessive sleeping to insomnia
- Poor concentration and memory
Depression can occur for a variety of reasons.
- Some cases of depression are caused by nutritional deficiencies.
- Others cases of depression are the result of environmental factors, such as lack of sunlight in the case of seasonal pattern depression.
Depression occurs when these feelings become a persistent state of being rather than a passing mood.
How I’ve seen it written, and this makes perfect sense to me now, is:
- The situation causes you to to become disappointed
- Because of a lack of action to fix the disappointment, it turns into discouragement
- Discouragement progresses into despair, and despair morphs into depression.
As I look back on how my situational depression started, I can see a clear path of weird random events that drove me right into my depression.
Clinical depression is more severe. The depression has moved beyond “the blues” and into clinical depression. The usual treatment for severe depression is professional counselling with monitored pharmaceuticals.
Clinical depression can eventually affect a person’s physical health and ability to perform regular daily activities.
A depressed person may eventually experience suicidal thoughts and exhibit self-destructive tendencies if their depression remains untreated.
How are these depressions assessed?
When a person visits their doctor or therapist and receives a diagnosis of depression, the medical practitioner attempts to prescribe the best remedy for their patient’s type of depression.
In most cases of depression these days, medications are prescribed.
How They Treat Depression with Medication
Call the DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Association) at (800) 826-3632 if you need immediate help.
Many Doctors go the pharmaceutical route because that is how they are trained to deal with mental health issues. What doctors learn about depression comes from the companies that sell the depression medications. Capitalism amiright?
One point on medicines for depression – if you don’t like the side effects or think you’re “all better now” and don’t need them, don’t just stop taking them on your own.
Quitting any prescription medication “cold turkey” can result in unpleasant and life-threatening side effects.
There are various drugs available that are used to treat depression. The first step is to do a standard depression checklist. Your doctor uses this list to determine treatment.
Unfortunately most people, depressed or not, could score high enough to be prescribed medication for depression.
The reason for this is because these types of checklists are written by pharmaceutical companies.
The test is designed to put you on the program or pills.
In cases of severe depression, medication may be needed to enable the patient to seek other forms of treatment.
Most sources agree that you should seek other forms of treatment in addition to your medication.
For depression that is mild or moderate, psychotherapy can help some people.
Professional psychotherapists work with depressed people to help them talk things out and focus on the thought processes and habits that contribute to the patient’s depression.
Psychotherapists sort of “explain” the depression to the patient so it seems less frightening and overwhelming
Tragically, if your depression stems from not dealing with issues in your life, psychotherapy may not help.
Psychotherapists seem to like to make depression “treatable” but not “curable”. I had one therapist who wanted to link my depression to my “lizard brain”. #nothelpful
Best Natural Remedies For Depression
Aside from following your doctor’s orders, it is important to be proactive in your treatment and that means using various natural remedies that can help improve your condition on a day-to-day basis.
Remedies may be as simple as making lifestyle changes or dietary adjustments.
Your Options In Natural Remedies For Depression:
Increase physical activity.
You need some fresh air and exercise, even if it’s just a few minutes at a time.
Exercise was my biggest challenge, because I had Agoraphobia with my depression. Being outside was scary to me. I had to force myself to walk around my back yard for a few minutes daily.
Fresh, quality whole foods are key. Avoid processed foods whenever possible.
This is also a challenge when you are depressed, but try to work in what you can.
Try herbal supplements.
There are plenty of good supplements to help boost mood. Read more below.
Establish healthy sleep patterns.
This may be a challenge because depression comes with sleep issues, either insomnia or over-sleeping. Sometimes both.
What you want to try to do is set up a routine: go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. Work with supplements from this point.
Sometimes our naturally occurring sleep chemicals get depleted, so products like Tranquil Sleep by Natural Factors can help. It took me two full bottles of this product, but I was able to establish a workable sleep pattern.
Stay engaged in daily activities and set goals.
Depression has physical components, but is primarily a mental illness.
In order to combat mental illness, the mind needs to be engaged in ways, which offset the symptoms of depression.
Sticking to a routine of daily activities and setting small goals alleviates some of the cyclical negative thinking.
It keeps people from “getting down on themselves.”
In other words, maintaining routines and attaining daily goals counter the negative self-talk that can accompany depression and make it worse.
Explore various mind-body connection practices.
Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation, Biofeedback, Aromatherapy, Acupuncture, and other alternative therapies offer relief from the symptoms of depression. They offer relief from fatigue, anxiety and scattered thinking.
You can also try: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to help get rid of unhelpful thinking.
Writing in a journal is a great way to get thoughts out of your head.
I dare you to try 5 minutes of “free writing” – writing any thoughts in your head.
Also called a brain dump, it can be helpful to look at your thoughts on paper.
Try to stay ahead of the issues in your life
We can get overwhelmed by the different issues that crop up. If you have a dining table with bills, notes from school, new work programs and other “stuff” just waiting to be dealt with…deal with it asap.
Becoming resilient starts with having a plan. And part of that is assuming that things will happen and to be ready for it.
- Know who to call if the hot water tank explodes.
- Understand your insurance if you get in a fender-bender.
- Find appropriate programs to help your kids tackle being bullied.
- Surround yourself with supportive, positive thinking people who can give you useful advice.
- Don’t follow any advice from someone who doesn’t have to deal with the outcome.
When you are somewhat prepared for life’s emergencies, they are not as scary. And once you get through one “trial of life” you will have the skills to get through more of them.
If your depression stems from overwhelm of everyday life, you might want to look into programs available from your local mental health association chapter.
When I was at my lowest, I could barely function.
- Being around people was scary so I avoided shopping, aka Agoraphobia.
- I didn’t pay bills or even look at my mail.
- All phone calls went to voice mail because I had no answers for people, about anything. Even how I was doing.
I got lucky because a co-worker mentioned a program called “Bounce Back“, which is a free skill-building program.
It helped me prioritize what to focus on, so that I could get back to normal. I took baby-steps to sort out my stuff.
If you have a program like this available to you, I encourage you to use it.
Consider attending some free courses on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), or other education put on by your local mental health departments.
It helps you develop the skills you need to cope with life’s messes.
Exercise for Depression
Research has shown the effectiveness of exercise in treating depression.
To get the most benefit do your exercise outside. Spending time around nature has more benefits than just fresh air. Being outside:
- Boosts energy
- It keeps you busy when exercising because you look around, watch for traffic, and check out your neighborhood.
- You get Vitamin D from sunlight
- It boosts your immune system. Chemicals from plants, phytoncides, help your white blood cells fight infection
- There is something called “earthing” which restores balance to your body.
Exercise helps boost “feel good” brain chemicals and helps improve overall health and fitness, which may boost self-esteem.
Exercise brings balance to your life, balancing activity and rest; a balanced lifestyle itself can be very helpful in dealing with depression. This may be due to the ability of exercise to boost brain chemicals that make you feel happy.
Most sources are consistent in pointing out that exercise need not be strenuous, but that it should be regular. Start with 15 minutes outside, twice a week if you can manage it. Increase to 30 minutes, three times a week.
Chiropractic and other Body-Oriented Treatments
Techniques like chiropractic adjustments, massage, acupuncture, and others may help relieve depression symptoms, and help get you moving.
This may have to do with improving circulation or the elimination of toxins from the tissues of the body.
Other body treatments include:
- Dance therapy
- Martial arts
Supplements For Depression
Studies suggest that supplements may help depression.
Vitamins, minerals, and certain herbs may relieve the symptoms of mild or moderate depression.
Interestingly, many supplements for mental health are “fat based”.
This suggests that we need more quality fats, like the Essential Fatty Acids that are in fish oils.
Vegetable oils are heavily processed and do not contain the good fats that our brains require for health. So our brains are not getting their required nutrients.
Related Post: 24 Healthy Fat Foods
St. John’s Wort is probably the best-known herb that may combat depression.
Other supplements that may help include:
- Fish oil
- Evening primrose oil (said to be particularly helpful for depression in women and hormonal issues)
- B-complex vitamins
- Magnesium is another mineral that tends to be deficient in many people, and that is important for proper nerve and muscle function.
- Flax oil
- Valerian (a mild herbal sedative)
- Chamomile, which can be drunk as a tea, as can another tasty sedative herb – lemon balm.
A good vitamin and mineral supplement that is high in B12 and B6 is said to be good for alleviating depression.
Always check with your doctor before supplementing with any herbs to avoid any adverse drug/herb interactions. And if you know a qualified herbalist, you can get advice from him or her, too.
A healthy diet may help boost mood in depressed individuals. Many processed foods contain “non-food” ingredients.
Related Post: Clean Eating Menu for Beginners
Nutrient-dense foods can provide your body with the necessary substances that it needs to fight depression.
Top Depression-Fighting Foods
Natural health experts generally agree that diet is important in managing depression symptoms. Some dietary changes you can make include:
Eat nutrient-dense foods.
This helps make sure your body has all the vitamins and minerals it needs for proper brain function. Fresh produce, nuts, and whole grains tend to be rich in vital nutrients.
EFAs, or essential fatty acids
These may help boost mood in depressed individuals. EFAs can be found in healthy oils like olive or wild salmon, and in fish and nuts.
Cut back out refined sugar and corn syrup.
These refined sweeteners tend to cause blood sugar spikes and slumps, which contribute to the symptoms of depression.
Eat whole foods, such pastured meat and fresh, local produce.
This not only provides depressed individuals with much-needed, healthy carbs; it also minimizes artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives from the diet. These artificial substances may contribute to depression in some individuals.
Did you know that what you eat may have an effect on your mood?
Here are some of the top depression-fighting foods:
Have you seen L-tryptophan and L-tyrosine supplements in health food stores? Some people supplement with these two amino acids because they are said to boost mood. Your body needs these substances to make the important brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine.
Rather than supplements, which may or may not be absorbed well in your body, experts suggest foods high in these amino acids as a better source. Turkey is one of those foods – it contains L-tryptophan.
Other foods with these amino acids include:
- Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)
- Lean Beef
If you can find lean, grass-fed beef, it may be better and more nutritious than corn-fed, factory-raised beef. Why beef for depression? Beef contains B6 and B12, which are extremely important for regulating mood.
Other sources of B6 include:
- Garbanzo beans
Have you heard about the benefits of “good fats” in treating and managing depression? There’s a good reason for that – essential fatty acids, the good fats, may play a significant role in regulating mood. Salmon is high in these important fats. It’s also a good source of B12, another mood-booster.
Other foods with brain-boosting B12 include:
- Clams – These little bivalves contain that wonderful B12, too.
- Crab – Oysters and crab also contain an important depression-fighting nutrient: zinc.
- Cow’s milk
You may have heard about how important folate, or folic acid, is for pregnant women and their unborn babies. It may be important for depressed people, too – folate may have a profound effect on important neurotransmitters.
Specific foods that have the most folate include:
- Leafy greens (is there anything leafy greens can’t help?)
- Citrus fruits
- Brussels sprouts
Another helpful supplement is magnesium, an important depression-fighting nutrient.
Other foods high in magnesium include:
Oysters contain the helpful supplement, Zinc. Other zinc-filled foods are beef and chicken.
Other foods with zinc include:
- Turkey (once again!)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are rich in healthy fats and vitamin E. According to various sources, the best nuts for combating depression include:
- Macadamia nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds (these little seeds contain a lot of depression-fighting nutrients!)
- Filberts (Hazelnuts)
Tomatoes – In addition to vitamin C, which is necessary to process B12 and iron, tomatoes provide antioxidants and vitamin E.
Tomato sauce and fresh tomatoes both provide beneficial nutrients for depression.
Depression can induce carb cravings, which in the modern world means cravings for sugary snacks.
But your body is probably trying to tell you something – healthy carbs are said to be a key factor in fighting depression. So give your body what it’s asking for, but in a healthy form.
Have a big salad, with leafy greens, berries, protein, sliced red onion, sunflower seeds or any other foods from the above list. Mix ‘n match whatever is in season, adding in grilled meat or other protein.
Fill up on fresh, quality food to improve your mood. It’s visually appealing as well as healthy.
Living with Depression – Life’s Not Over
For those living with depression, every day can be a challenge. If you know someone with depression, help them by being available.
- Be supportive
- Be informed
- Set boundaries
- Don’t offer advice unless asked
- Don’t avoid them
Here are some suggestions if you are asked:
Encourage Them To Get the Best Treatment
The first step for a depressed person is to get treatment – but it’s equally important to get quality treatment, say experts.
This means taking the time to find the right kind of help – either natural or prescription, or a combination.
Include Family in Therapy
A depressed individual may not want family members present in every counseling or therapy session. However, it may be a good idea to include some family members at least some of the time.
The therapist can then see a slice of the family dynamic, and the family members can gain a better understanding of the issue.
Some family members are more likely to believe a therapist’s “take” on things than take the depressed person’s word for it.
Including family may also help other family members to better understand how to treat the depressed individual, and what things they can say or do to support the depressed person.
Parents of Teens with Depression
Because teenagers are a high-risk group for developing depression, sources say, the parents of teens may benefit from some tips on living with a depressed teen. Here are some suggestions.
Develop a tough skin.
Teens who are depressed may yell at you to leave them alone, to go away, or to stop talking to them.
For teens, this may be a sort of test of your parenting – the teen may be testing to see if you care enough to press through the anger and continue trying to reach them.
Parents who truly do care may miss this aspect and just give up after being yelled at. Instead, remember it’s not personal and your teen still needs you.
Busy parents often forget to listen, and how important it is.
Parents sometimes need to stop running and take a break to listen and talk.
A parent-teen “date” or retreat can help – maybe a mother-daughter shopping trip or father-son fishing excursion.
Encourage your depressed teen to problem solve.
As parents, we just want their struggles to go away; but giving them the tools to cope is a gift that will last a lifetime.
It’s okay to help, encourage, and prompt your teen; but experts say your goal as a parent is to get their brains working on solving their own problems.
As a depressed person, it may be hard to maintain friendships. But supportive friends are important for your depression management and coping.
Try to make a point of nurturing these relationships; it will help you break out of yourself and focus on someone else.
I think a lot of depression stems from not taking care of things. We don’t examine what we really want and we don’t prioritize our wants ahead of others in our life.
We give up what we want because of other priorities. And the answer to that is to make prioritizing ourselves mandatory everyday.
It’s too bad that elementary schools don’t teach “coping with life” as a part of curriculum. Everyone can benefit from figuring out what they really want, and figuring out how to get it without disrupting the rest of life.
Holism targets overall wellness, and when we are well, we only get better with age.
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Until next time, here’s to our health!