It has been estimated that over 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Most people have a combination of symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is like a coin; one side is heads (depression) and the other side is tails (anxiety).
Often the same medications can be used to treat either depression or anxiety. Modern medicine has developed many medications that can help. SSRIs are popular medicines used commonly and are very effective and have few side effects. But what I would like to focus on today is natural ways to help you deal with anxiety or depression.
I believe one of the best ways to begin working on anxiety or depression is to learn to control your thought life. Too many people are captive to their thoughts and let their minds drift in any direction. The Bible has some good advice on this in Philippians 4:8 where Paul tells us “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.”
Every thought we have has an emotion tagged to it, and we become a product of our thoughts. If someone is depressed or anxious, you can bet they are having many depressed or anxious thoughts. So one of the keys to naturally getting better is to learn to control your thought life.
Most of us will dwell on things that are out of our control. I would estimate that over half of the things anxious and/or depressed people are thinking of are things that are out of their control. The research is pretty clear on this. We have about a minute to deal with a thought when it comes to mind before we start to ruminate on the thought. Human nature is to take a thought and go to the darkest corner. This is one reason solitary confinement is the worst punishment for prisoners. They are left alone with their thoughts.
One strategy is to stop and give yourself about one minute when a thought comes to your mind. If you can influence the outcome; think about it, pray about it, and come up with a plan or get some advice. If, however, you cannot influence the outcome of the thought, do not allow yourself to think about it. Actively move your mind in another direction. Lift up a quick prayer but do not dwell on the thought.
Often when people are depressed or anxious, they withdraw from family and friends. They want to be left alone. While this may be helpful at first to gather thoughts and gain perspective, it can become part of the problem. I encourage my patients to get back to doing the things they know they enjoy. This can seem a little artificial at first, but our emotions usually follow our actions.
It is like a train. Our actions are the engine and our emotions are the caboose. Eventually the caboose gets to where the engine was. If you start acting a certain way, you will eventually start to feel a certain way.
Sleep is a great remedy for anxiety. It is amazing how much better the world appears after a good night’s sleep. Cut back on your caffeine and be sure to get 7–9 hours of good sleep.
Exercise is my favorite way to deal with stress. It has an immediate and lasting impact on my mental state. It is amazing to me how much better I feel after a good, vigorous workout. I think it also helps me sleep better.
St. John’s wort is a common supplement taken by many with some proven results. Another supplement often used is SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine). It is made from naturally occurring proteins in our bodies and has had some proven benefits. I take a product from Thorne Research called Methyl Guard. It is full of B vitamins that can improve mood and boost energy levels.
Eat whole foods, get some good sleep, exercise, hang out with family and friends, and control your thought life. I bet you will start to feel better!