Managing depression symptoms naturally should act as a supplement to other depression counseling, therapies, or support. Mental health can decline quite rapidly in the face of a crisis or challenging life event. This could be due to a sudden onset of said event, or because it is difficult or impossible to gain immediate access to resources such as anti-depressant medications, or psychiatric treatment. Knowing ways and how you can manage depression symptoms naturally can be very helpful when you not able to access other options. It is also helpful to incorporate these techniques into your normal routines to ensure managing your symptoms of depression isn't solely reliant on external factors.
Gottman Therapist and couples counselor, Jenny TeGrotenhuis, states, “Where there is stress, we regress.” Stress is inevitable. Life is ever-changing and you will be faced with circumstances beyond your control. What is most beneficial to avoid depression and anxiety during these stressful life events is resiliency. Resiliency is the ability to adapt to change due to a set of habits that foster a healthy mood, positive mindset, and good mental health. How do you build a foundation of resiliency around your own mental health?
Start by thinking of your mental health as you do your physical health. It doesn’t simply appear. You have to work for it. Even if you seemingly have genetics stacked against you, it is up to you to commit to healthy habits and do your best to be well. Mental health is something that must be nurtured like a growing plant. For this beautiful plant of potential to thrive, he needs the appropriate environment. Right now, most of us are in lockdown, dealing with this worldwide pandemic, meaning that our mental health needs a little (or a lot of) extra attention.
1. Sleep: Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Pay attention to what your sleep needs are and take care of them. Try to go to bed around the same time each night and wake up around the same time each day to create a healthy sleeping pattern because sleep is extremely important in managing depression. Lack of sleep can even cause depression, and deep sleep can heal depression. Studies have shown that those with depression who have resolved their insomnia significantly reduced their depression symptoms.
2. Getting Ready: Take a shower and get dressed. This may sound simple to some, but it can be quite difficult when you’re feeling depressed. Commit to getting ready everyday even if it seems pointless to you right now. Dressing in the morning is like saying to yourself, “This day matters”. It also gears you up to interact with others if you do see them. For example, if I’m looking disheveled, wearing pajamas at 3 pm, I’m less likely to engage in dialogue with my roommates or that acquaintance at the grocery store, and these interactions are often what make our day enjoyable!
3. Morning routine: Gratitude, meditation, breathing, and journaling are some great activities in the morning to set the tone of your day. This way, you can start your day with an intention. Ask yourself, “What do I want this day to be about?”, “What would really be helpful for me to do today in terms of my overarching health and wellbeing?”. I suggest staying off your devices at the start of the day, so you are in the driver’s seat- not the voice of the media. Write personal goals for the day, which may include relational goals as well as individualistic ones.
4. Nutrition and exercise: Take your vitamins, eat your meals, and incorporate inflammation-reducing foods like fruits and vegetables into your diet. Inflammation in the body is strongly linked to depression! Exercise goes hand-in-hand with nutrition. Even 5 minutes a day can make a difference, so don’t get stuck in the trap of creating an exercise goal that is unrealistic, or too difficult to start with. There is SO much research to show that regular exercise boosts mood and reduces depression significantly. Make exercise enjoyable so that you keep coming back to it without so much struggle. You can begin to enjoy movement by doing activities that are fun for you. It may be useful to think of it as moving your body, rather than exercise. Don’t make it a struggle, and you’ll find yourself actually craving it.
5. Nature and Sunshine: Research shows that being out in nature decreases heart rate and stress. A healthy amount of sunshine is necessary for regulating mood. If you can’t get outside and are completely shut-in due to the Coronavirus, watching nature films or landscapes on video can also have a calming effect. Open your windows to get fresh air if you can.
6. Evening routine: Find relaxing activities that you like before bed to help get settled into sleep. Consider taking a bath, reading, journaling, yin yoga, having a stress-reducing conversation with your partner, or whatever calming activity you may enjoy. Limit screens before bed because it may affect your sleep negatively, but if you do choose to watch TV before bed choose something short and calming.
7. Fun and Learning: You may choose 1-2 hours a week to set aside for personal hobbies, or more if time allows. If your hobby doesn’t include new learning, also be sure to invigorate your brain with new knowledge through reading or listening to educational content on a topic you find interesting.
8. Socializing: Use technology to stay in contact with friends and family during this time of the Coronavirus. When this pandemic does pass, continue to make time for friends and family. If you don’t have friends, consider what it will take to start making some- maybe you join a group. Social interaction is one of the very most important things for your well-being, so make it a priority.
Depression therapy requires a combination of depression techniques for the best mental health. You can not solely rely on one thing to make you feel better. When you’re depressed, the best thing you can do is engage with life, even when you don’t want to. Little by little, the clouds part and the sun begins to peak through the darkness of your depression. Remember the light. Let the light guide you into better mental health, while gently forgiving yourself when you fall into old habits. Managing your depression symptoms naturally and seeking Orlando counseling work together to give you better mental health. If you would like more information contact the author of this article, or call 407-592-8997.
Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.