I've been really open about my issues with depression and anxiety and how it's so important to have conversations about it, especially with your teen. Mental health awareness is important to me. The more we talk about it, the more we can reduce the stigma surrounding it. Mental health isn't something shameful that we should feel the need to hide from others. Being open about our struggles can have such a positive impact on our lives and the lives of the people around us who see that they aren't alone.
Before I get into how I treat my own depression naturally, I want to talk a little bit about traditional medication. Take it if you need it. You aren't a failure if your type of depression doesn't respond to natural treatment. Not at all, not even a little bit. Different things work for different people and that is perfectly okay. You are not a failure if natural remedies work for awhile and then stop working. If you need meds to get through especially hard periods of life that's okay. We all need to take care of our mental health in a way that works for us. I'm pro-meds, pro-doctors, pro-therapy, pro-you taking care of you.
As always, treat/manage your depression under the supervision of a medical professional. If you're on medication already it's important to talk to your doctor before taking vitamins or supplements. Some of them can even induce mania in people with bipolar, so always do your research and let your doctor know how you're doing.
This is a blog about self-love, of course, this is number one. Let me tell you why. When I didn't love myself I had no motivation to take care of my mental health. It wasn't a priority. I filled myself with food to make myself feel better. I actively hurt myself to make myself feel better and I surrounded myself with people who didn't love me because having someone, anyone, was better than nothing. Healthy coping mechanisms? I didn't have them.
That's why self-love is important to me. It was the turning point of me caring about myself and my mental health. It's hard to take care of someone you don't like. It's harder to take care of someone you're actively loathing. That's why learning how to love yourself as a person and then taking care of you is so important. Nothing works long-term without it.
So dig deep into those reasons why it's hard for you to love yourself. Do the work to heal those wounds. There are a lot of worksheets in the Self-Love Workbook that are all about uncovering those reasons.
And if you already love yourself? That's wonderful, now you have to start making time to put those feelings into action.
I can only speak for what has personally worked for me, and again, do your research and talk to your doctor because I'm not one.
My favorite supplement for depression is SAM-e. I take 400mg once a day and it has been extremely helpful to me. I usually notice a difference in about a week and a half. SAM-e, actually called S-Adenosyl-L-methionine is naturally produced by your body, so if you aren't producing enough, taking it as a supplement can make a world of difference. There's also evidence it helps with joint pain, fibro, and liver issues. Taking it for me has also had the bonus effect of helping with my tendonitis. As long as it doesn't give you an upset stomach you should take it on an empty stomach.
St. John's Wort is another one that I've taken off and on for the last 10 years. It's best to give yourself a break from it because prolonged use can cause sun sensitivity, especially if you're already sensitive to it. It also causes me to break out. When I'm going through a period of worse-than-normal depression I take 300mg a day for about two months and then I stop taking it. St. John's Wort can interfere with a lot of medication, including birth control, so keep that in mind before deciding to take it.
L-Theanine is an amino acid and it relaxes you without making you tired. It's a recent addition to my supplements and I take it before bed when I'm unable to wind down and easily fall asleep. It helps me relax enough to sleep and it helps with my waking-up anxiety. L-Theanine pairs well with caffeine because it can counteract the jittery feeling that caffeine gives you and it helps you focus.
Magnesium is my favorite.
It's more for the anxiety end of things but since anxiety and depression usually go hand-in-hand I wanted to mention it. I can feel it calming me down usually within 30 minutes. I started out taking Nerve Tonic but now I just buy Magnesium Citrate from the health food store, 100-300mg a day, based on how anxious I'm feeling. Epsom salt contains magnesium sulfate. If you like long soaks in the bath with your favorite epsom salt you can absorb it through your skin and it will have the same effect.
Update! Recently I've changed things up and started taking Vitamin D. Whether it's the fact that it's winter time, or I have a deficiency, it has worked amazingly well. My current regiment is Vitamin D, Magnesium, and Flaxseed (to help with absorption).
Using my Self-Love Workbook to journal about my mental health has been a really positive experience. One of the things I've been doing is keeping track of my moods and my levels of depression and anxiety every day. I really want to be aware of my emotional cycles and the things that trigger those episodes of emotional upset. I’m also keeping track of taking all my mood vitamins.
I also write a few sentences every day about how I’m feeling and if there's anything that's actively causing depressed or anxious feelings. If I need more space to write, there’s a journaling page at the end of each month that I use in the Self-Love Workbook. It helps me see that when I'm not making the time to practice self-care, even if it's only for a few days, it has a negative effect on my mental health.
Meditation has always been one of those things that instantly makes me feel better but that I am horrible at making time for consistently. I'd love to be one of those people that meditate every day, but I'm not. I meditate when I'm depressed and/or anxious. Either way, I do it because it works. Guided meditations are recordings that you listen to with your eyes closed and allow your imagination and your mind to be transported somewhere else. You can imagine yourself in the ocean, or in a meadow, or deep in a forest. When I’m having an anxiety attack and I first hear that soothing voice or that calming music – my anxiety instantly reduces by 25%.
Mantra is the repetition of certain words, phrases, or sounds that are powerful and because they are powerful they can shift and change the feelings inside of you. You can do mantras in English or in different languages. You can create your own or use ones that have been around for hundreds of years. The trick is finding the right mantra for you.
I recommend the app, Insight Timer!
Moving Your Body
When people say exercise helps depression they're not wrong, but that advice annoys me (and here I am including it, I know). There are times when I am so depressed that I can't even crawl out of bed, or the only thing I want to do is lay on the couch for hours with a video game. Chores cease to exist. Any moving that's not required for my basic existence doesn't happen. So yes, exercise helps depression but often you're too depressed to exercise so it becomes a catch-22.
If you can find the motivation and energy for something simple - do it. I always try to trick myself. I tell myself that I'll only do a five-minute walk around the block, but once I get moving I usually do feel like doing more, and before I know it, I feel better. Same thing with yoga. I tell myself to just do a five-minute video or a few poses really quick, and the act of starting helps me get the motivation to do more.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a behavioral treatment that was created to treat Borderline Personality Disorder but is now being used to treat a lot of mental illnesses. It’s a therapy that is designed to help you change thought patterns and so much more. It teaches you how to re-program your brain. I’ve found it to be extremely helpful in improving my thought process and giving me good coping skills. You should definitely research it and get a few books on it to see if it's something that can help you out.
Here are the four main points of DBT.
Mindfulness: How to be in the moment instead of what happened a month ago/ year ago/ decade ago. Focus on the present and separating yourself from past baggage. Don’t let how you were treated or felt in the past color what’s happening in the moment.
Distress Tolerance: How to cope with super strong emotions that you feel like you are never going to be able to control. How to get through those feelings without losing your shit.
Interpersonal Effectiveness: How to have good relationships with people without driving them away with your out-of-control behavior that usually manifests itself in extreme neediness and then anger when your needs aren’t meant. Also, how to set boundaries and realistic expectations.
Emotion Regulation: How to identify, then deal with, and eventually change the emotions that you’re feeling in the moment. It also teaches you how to understand your impulses related to each emotion.
The foundation of self-care is asking yourself, "What do I need right now?" and then doing that thing. It can be anything. Anything that makes you feel better. The more you practice asking yourself that question the greater that list becomes so when you are going through a period of depression that list of things pops into your head, and you're like "Let me try that and let me try that and let me try that." and you train yourself to actually do it because you have undeniable proof that it will make you feel better.
Call your therapist. Talk to a friend. Use essential oils like lavender. Read your favorite book. Drink a calming tea. Go outside. Watch something funny. Get a massage. Have a chick-flick movie night with chocolate and popcorn and cry your eyes out. Make a playlist of happy and empowering songs to pull you of your dark times. Don't ever stop searching for things that make you happy. Even if it's only an increase of 2%. Those points add up.
Do you have any tips to manage depression naturally?
Here are some worksheets I made to help you track your mental health. The easiest way is to color in each box in colors that relate to your moods or the meds you take. Enjoy them!