Guest post submission by Jayna Nickert, MFT on behalf of Focus Essentials:
It’s no secret that depression rates are on the rise across the globe. In Canada, 5.4% of the population reported symptoms that met the criteria for a mood disorder diagnosis in the past year, with 4.7% of the population meeting the criteria for depression. The rates in the United States are even higher, with 6.7% of the population experiencing at least one episode of depression in the last year. Of these populations, a staggering percentage will not seek treatment… a sad reality. Of those who do, the typical first lines of defense include prescribing an antidepressant (typically an SSRI—selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and sometimes pairing it with therapy. Research shows that medications are most effective when pairing them with therapy, but also that 50% of people suffering from depression do not respond to SSRI medications whatsoever. This leaves us to wonder if there’s perhaps a better alternative to treating depression than medications can offer.
As a marriage and family therapist with an integrative theoretical orientation, I can say with confidence that there are other ways to treat and manage depression symptoms aside from relying solely on meds. It’s important to note that there are a variety of medical conditions that can cause depression, so it’s always a good idea to rule those out first. In terms of alternative solutions for treating depression, I opt for a more holistic approach that takes a comprehensive look at a person’s daily lifestyle, social and community support systems, personal values, goals, etc. while treating and managing symptoms.
An Integrative Approach Toward Healing Depression
An integrative approach toward healing depression will examine the person who is suffering as a whole; capturing a big picture of their daily lifestyle habits and how they can be improved for greater overall mental health. Such factors evaluated will be sleep patterns, diet, exercise habits, personal and spiritual belief systems, family and social support, community resources and involvement, creative outlets, and the amount of daily sunlight an individual is exposed to. Each of these factors has an incredible impact on an individual’s neurotransmitter levels, as well as their outlook on life, and ability to receive the support and social interactions that will help them to overcome depression.
Sleep: Our neurotransmitters naturally replenish themselves when we sleep. When our sleep cycles are interrupted or arbitrary, this can confuse our body’s ability to sufficiently balance these levels. To correct this it’s important to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (with 30 minutes before and after the time you go to sleep and wake up for wiggle room). It’s also important to ensure the amount of sleep gained each night equals 7-9 hours.
Diet: Our bodies need a certain amount of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids in order to operate at our most optimal level. This includes healthy brain functioning and mental wellness. It’s important to ensure that you’re eating a well-balanced diet full of the nutrients our bodies need.
Exercise: A body in motion stays in motion. Exercise can help us feel better from the inside out by releasing endorphins in our brains that make us feel good and boosting our overall health at the same time. A 30-minute walk each day is all it takes to make a profound impact on overall mental and physical health.
Sunlight: It’s important to get 10-20 minutes of direct sunlight each day without the use of SPF. No more. No less. This ensures you’re getting the vitamin D needed to feel happy. It can be difficult to accomplish this during the winter months for many, but it’s possible to supplement with a sun lamp.
Personal and spiritual belief systems: Are you a glass half empty or a glass half full type of person? Examining patterns of self-talk and worldviews can help determine whether or not retraining one’s brain via therapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy—CBT) can help. Spiritual belief systems also play an important role in how people view the world and themselves in it, as well as how they’re able to find comfort and support during times of struggle and crisis.
Family and Social Support Systems: When a person is depressed it can be very tempting to self-isolate from others socially. Having a strong network of support is very helpful for getting out of one’s own bubble and interacting with others who care. It can also be very healing.
Community Resources and Involvement: This is another factor that ties in with a social support system. Getting involved with the community, feeling supported by those around you, and developing a mindset of gratitude while helping others in need among the community are great healing tools for those who are suffering from a mood disorder.
Creative Outlets: It’s always helpful to have a creative outlet that allows you to explore and express the feelings and symptoms you are going through. This could involve journaling, drawing, creative writing, making music, dramatic expression, etc.
Treating depression from an integrative lens is much more involved than taking medication, and requires some work on behalf of the person who is suffering. This can be difficult for someone who is struggling to find the motivation to get out of bed and seize the day each morning. This is why it can help to supplement this approach with a booster, like a natural supplement. A trusted therapist is also very beneficial. A therapist will be able to help motivate, set goals, and hold an individual accountable for meeting those goals.
In terms of natural supplements, there’s been a considerable amount of research done on the effectiveness of micronutrients for treating depression, anxiety and beyond. One such supplement, which has been a personal favorite of mine, is a formula developed by Focus Essentials. They use only the best, most healthy ingredients to ensure you’re getting everything you need for optimal mental health and clarity. If you’d like to try a bottle, the company is offering a money back guarantee if you take it for a month and are not satisfied with the results.
Everyone who suffers from depression has a unique set of symptoms that go along with it, so there’s really no wrong answer when it comes to finding a solution that is right for you (aside from self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, or addictive behaviors). Some people respond well to medication paired with therapy, but for the 50% who feel no relief, it’s definitely worth entertaining some alternative treatment options. You never know, it could be the solution you’ve always hoped for.
Depression can truly be debilitating and life-threatening at it’s worst, and no one is immune to it in this life. If you’ve been feeling like someone took the bounce out of your step, or you’re struggling to keep up with the demands of life and finding your joy, help is available. Do not hesitate to reach out and seek help, or take proactive actions toward managing your mental health. You’re an important aspect of this world unlike anyone else, and you deserve to live a happy and fulfilling life.