As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life, I have experienced many different treatment styles and coping methods.
I have gone through the standard psychotherapy and have taken antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety medications.
Over the past year, I have gone through the worst depressive episode of my life and bounced back from it. I really had to re-evaluate everything that was going on in my life, and figure out what would work best for me.
This meant thinking outside the box of medications and therapy. At one point in the past year, I was taking over 7 different medications in a day, and seeing my therapist twice a week. This just wasn’t working for me.
I started researching alternative, holistic ways to treat my own depression. I found things that would work best for me, and eventually added them to my daily routine in addition to my medication and therapy:
- Vitamin D – I realized I needed to get more vitamin D exposure, and that meant more sunlight. However, I live in upstate, New York. I mean so upstate that I live just a few miles from Canada. So for most of the year, it is cold and dreary, and the sunlight is lacking. I found out about an alternative way to get Vitamin D in my life, other than using a supplement, and that was using a lightbox. It’s important to do your research on light box therapy to find which type of lightbox is best for you (full spectrum, UV, etc), but this has really helped to prevent my seasonal depressive symptoms!
- Exercise – As difficult as it is to find the motivation just to get out of bed sometimes when you are depressed, something that has really helped me keep a balance in my mood and overall health has been movement and exercise. This doesn’t have to mean vigorous or intense exercise. It could just mean getting out for a ten-minute walk once a day, or exercising thirty minutes a day, three to five times a week. It’s so difficult to find the motivation when you are depressed. I have been there. However, the endorphins that are released from the movement during exercise can really help to boost your mood.
- Eat Regularly – Make sure you are not skipping meals! Eating regularly throughout the day will keep your blood sugar stable, and will ensure that your moods are stable as well. This is so important for someone with depression or a mood disorder. This has been extremely helpful for me over the past year.
- Eat Foods that Boost Your Mood – There are certain foods that will keep your mood stable, such as Avocados and berries, which are full of antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins, or dark chocolate, which has proven to be helpful in reducing stress! Getting enough healthy carbs and healthy fats will keep your moods stable as well! Check out the full article on foods that boost your mood for more info! REDUCE your sugar intake. This is especially important for those struggling with depression. Increased amounts of sugar will only spike your blood sugar, causing your moods to be unstable!
- Reduce Your Caffeine Intake – Caffeine can have a negative effect on your serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that you need to be balanced in order to keep depression at bay! Try to reduce your caffeine intake to 1-4 cups of coffee (or tea) per day! Don’t drink caffeine after 2PM if you have a hard time falling asleep at night.
- Meditation, Yoga, Mindfulness – Meditation has been proven to have great effects on the mind and other amazing health benefits as well! Try some guided imagery before bed to help with sleep, or to reduce stress. Practice mindfulness daily. There are apps such as “Head Space,” that have proven to be useful in reducing stress and anxiety through mindfulness and meditation. Something I have found to be quite useful during my own journey with depression and especially anxiety is yoga. It doesn’t have to be advanced. I practice beginners yoga. I recommend “Yoga with Adriene,” which can be found on youtube, and there are numerous videos targeted toward depression, anxiety, and mood!
- Routine – Getting into a routine has really helped improve my mood and my daily life. Getting to bed and waking up at the same time every day has not only helped me get enough sleep but has set me on a path for more productivity, made me feel like I am accomplishing something, even if it is small, and helps me to feel more organized day by day, especially in my mind. When you are depressed, you can often feel very cluttered in your mind. Having a routine helps to declutter a bit of your headspace, and get you feeling a bit more positive about something.
- Essential Oils – There are a variety of essential oils that have helped me with feeling a bit more balanced, and less anxious during times of stress. My favorites are Clary-Sage, Lavender, Ylang-Ylang, and Peppermint. Check out my article on Essential Oils for Depression and Anxiety for a longer list and more detail!