Depression isn’t something most of us like to talk about, and ways to overcome depression are even harder to come by these days. Depression affects millions of women every single year, including teenagers. I began suffering depression when I was as young as 13 years old, and didn’t understand what was going on inside of me, or how to stop it. I thought it was my hormones, and I'm sure some of it was. However, the waves of depression lingered until I was 19 years old, in small pieces throughout my whole entire teenage life. When I went to college my first year, I was so overwhelmed with the changes, loneliness and uncertainty of my future, that I found myself in a full blown state of depression for two years, causing me to suffer panic attacks, extreme sadness, and the inability to cope with the loss of my friends moving away, a recent breakup, and my parents' divorce, which all happened the same time I moved to college. I was terribly embarrassed and had no idea how to cope. At first, I began to take medications prescribed from my doctor, until I found none of them worked for me and only made me feel worse. I felt hopeless until I began to seek alternative, natural treatments instead, on my own. What I discovered amazed me and ultimately saved my life. While I can’t say these will work for everyone, I can tell you that they are definitely worth trying. I discovered true happiness, strength within myself, independence and an incredible zest for life after implementing all of these natural ways to overcome depression into my life. Ditching prescription meds for natural solutions was the best thing I ever did for my confidence, health and my mind. I wanted to share these with all of you so that if you ever find yourself in such a state, you can feel empowered with options to try before seeking medication. I am not a medical doctor, so as always, do what works for you, and talk to people you trust, including a trusted physician.
Trust me, I know what it is like to not even be able to pick yourself up out of bed or off the floor in tears, much less to think of exercising as one of the best ways to overcome depression. In fact, I gained 20 pounds my first year of depression, and it wasn't from the “Freshman 15.” I gained my weight from sadness, not from the cafeteria dining hall. I had never exercised much in my life outside of playing high school sports, and had just never seen the point. However, when I found myself overweight, I knew I had to do something. I started just walking 30 minutes a day and adding a few weight training exercises. Pretty soon, I found that it became a wonderful outlet for me to release anger, stress and even get an endorphin boost from something outside of food for once. Try to incorporate whatever exercise you can into your day. Don’t expect overnight results, but what you’ll find is that, over time, you begin to take pride in yourself because you’re exercising, and it rolls over into other areas of your life. Finally, I stopped seeing the need to diet and binge after I started exercising. It made me want to be healthy again, and it also warded off my bad moods. Sometimes I walked twice a day if it meant taking away my sadness. Do whatever you can, just do something.
2 Eat Regular Meals
I never ate regular meals, especially during my darkest days of depression. What was the point? Well, for starters, eating regular meals, and healthy meals such as protein, healthy fats, fruits and veggies, provide your brain with natural medication to fight depression. Protein and fat are excellent for your mood, and veggies and fruits are key for nutritional support. Your brain can’t work efficiently if you’re not fueling it properly. During my worst, I was eating nothing all day and binge eating at night. If I did eat during the day, it was a diet protein bar, which was basically training me to live off processed diet foods. Don’t buy diet foods; just eat real food. Eat a piece of fruit and some yogurt for breakfast, or my favorite, a fun, pretty smoothie! Also, eat a large salad for lunch with some protein, or a healthy wrap with some protein and veggies in it. Snack on almonds, fruit and yogurt, and for dinner, make sure you get in some veggies and protein. Food can be medicine all by itself, especially when implemented with exercise.
3 Write Things out
When I was depressed, I really didn’t want to talk to anyone about what was going on. My mother was so worried, it clouded her ability to talk to me like an adult, and my school counselor didn’t know me well enough to know exactly what I felt inside. What I could do, however, was write out what I felt, even if just to myself. Sometimes I didn’t even know exactly what I felt until I wrote it out. When writing my words down on paper and seeing what I felt inside, I was then able to deal with what was going on inside me. I took out my feelings through exercising, writing and focusing on taking care of myself, even when I didn’t want to. No one ever read my writings except me, but just knowing that I had expressed them somehow did wonders for me. Later, I was able to talk to my mother about what I felt, because I knew exactly what was wrong, by being able to write things out.
4 Consider Fish Oil
Not to sound like a crazy gimmick, but taking fish oil has done wonders for my mood and ability to fight depression. The Omega 3 content in fish oil pills is one of the best of all sources, and one of the most bioavailable sources. Omega 3 fatty acids have been proven to fight depression naturally. Fish oil is a wonderful source of these fats. I remember hearing this from Dr. Oz, and as crazy as it sounds, it worked for me, along with everything else I was doing included in this article. At the time, I didn’t like eating fish, but I was willing to take 4 fish oil capsules per day. Fish oil has been linked to diabetes prevention and heart disease prevention, but I found it worked extremely well for my depression by lifting my mood, and even improving my metabolism, which was terribly low from disordered eating. If you’re considering trying fish oil, which is also great for your skin by the way, then be sure to buy a nontoxic formula to avoid mercury exposure, such as Sundown Naturals brand. If you’re vegan, consider a plant-based Omega supplement, or try flax oil or hemp oil instead. Flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds are also wonderful foods to add to your diet for the same reasons. I eat all of these every single day.
5 Ditch the Sugar and Refined Carbs
I used to be so addicted to sugar, I might as well have been a spokesperson for Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies and Baskin Robbins ice cream. I couldn’t get enough of the sweet stuff, or the processed carbs. I had no idea what I was doing to my body or my brain by eating these foods. Sugar and refined carbohydrates are not only terrible for depression because they alter your mood and hormones, but they are also terrible for your weight and skin. My acne was out of control, as was my metabolism, and my mood was everywhere all the time. Once I took out the sugar and I started exercising, I noticed I felt like a new person. I had never felt so energized, and my mood had never felt so stable. I stopped craving junk food and started craving healthy foods like veggies, fruit and protein. It was a very strange feeling for someone who previously wouldn’t touch anything green. I finally felt like a whole person again and I haven’t looked back sense. Now when I want something sweet, I enjoy a little piece of dark chocolate or a fruit and nut bar like a Larabar to cure my sweet tooth. Ditch the sugar and refined carbs. Your body and mind will thank you for it!
6 Consider 5HTP
If you’re new to what 5HTP is, then let me introduce you to a natural supplement that has done wonders for me. 5HTP is a chemical in the human body that naturally elevates your serotonin levels, much like antidepressants do. However, our natural levels of 5HTP can be depleted through anxiety, the foods we choose, or simply that our bodies don’t manufacture enough to help us beat depression. This is where taking a supplement has helped me. Natural brands that make 5HTP supplements such as NOW and Natrol are completely safe, and even can help you sleep better, which is always hard to do when you are depressed. I find that 5HTP is much cheaper online at sources like iHerb or Vitacost instead of in stores. I take one capsule in the morning with my breakfast everyday, and it has made a huge difference in my entire day, energy levels, and comes with no negative side effects. I noticed the changes in small ways, such as things didn’t bother me as much as normal, and my mood was just generally better. If you’re concerned with taking 5HTP, then be sure to research it before implementing it to make sure you are comfortable with it. I found out about this supplement through Doctor Julia Ross, who wrote The Mood Cure book, which even helped me overcome issues with disordered eating as well.
7 Don’t Isolate Yourself
This was one of the hardest things for me to learn how to do. I wanted nothing more than to be by myself when I was depressed. I learned quickly that I wasn’t getting anywhere by doing this for very long. Being by myself only made me feel more depressed about the state I was in at this point of my life. I had three people who made a huge difference in my life during this time, and without them, I wouldn’t have been able to make it through my depression. I have my mother and two co-workers to thank for getting me through the worst times of my life. Even if you don’t realize it at the time, just spending time with someone can help you feel better about life and your personal situation. Someone else may be able to give you insight that you may not have thought of before too. Don't fight depression alone. Life is too short!
Depression is a very serious health condition that you should take action upon immediately. If you notice depression continuously lingering or lasting more than two weeks, please consider some of these natural options and also consider talking to a trusted physician about your depression. Have you ever struggled with depression or overcome it naturally on your own?
Sources: mayoclinic.com, moodcure.com