Gray skies and cold breezes rain down on you. As you zip up your heaviest jacket and brave the chilling air, thoughts of heaviness and warm sunshine rays penetrate your thoughts until…
Another cold breeze whips through the trees, runs up your back, and spins your hair out of control— paralyzing you with a face blast of cold air.
It’s Winter time or, at the very least, a colder than expected day where you live.
Some people love this cold weather and thrive joyously all season long. Others, like yourself, feel a stranglehold of heaviness and repressed happiness. Let’s face it, — you feel downright miserable. You ask yourself, “what is wrong with me?” and “why can’t I just be happy?”.
You even swear that THIS year is going to be different. But it isn’t. And you feel worse than ever.
Not only is it cold and damp and you haven’t seen the sunshine in, what feels like months, but now you feel self-defeated because you haven’t stuck to your proverbial guns and just pushed through with a smile and a delusion.
Between seasonal affect disorder (the struggle is real!), sunless days, cold weather putting a kabash on your activity levels, the holiday shopping chaos, the bellringers around every corner, the sugar rush from the fanciest candy canes, and the extra tight hugs from your Aunt Flo — it is enough to rock you to your core.
You are not alone!
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in ten Americans (women and people ages 40 to 59 in particular) suffer from depression at one point or another. That is an alarming statistic that shows just how prevalent it truly is.
In a world filled with so many stressors, seeking emotional balance is priority, or a least a healthy first step. Nor should it be ignored.
But for people with persistent mild depression, are prescription antidepressants the answer?
According to Delicious Living, health practitioners such as Tieraona Low Dog, MD, at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson, questions the overuse of antidepressants, the most commonly prescribed medication for people ages 18 to 44. Antidepressants are now used for conditions that go beyond depression, such as anxiety disorders, pain, and menopausal symptoms, says Low Dog, who serves on Delicious Living’s advisory board. “Some are FDA-approved uses, some are off-label uses. But the number of antidepressant prescriptions for children and adolescents as well as adults is growing exponentially and is a little bit scary.”
Antidepressants can significantly help people with major depressive disorders. That is true. But they typically offer little relief to people with milder forms of depression, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They can also be riddled with unwanted side effects that could cause more long-term problems. Researchers are finding that natural strategies can mitigate depression symptoms and boost mood over time —
- Regular exercise
- Eating a healthy diet rich in omega-3s
- Meditation and stress relief
- Practicing gratitude
- Enjoying a strong community of family and friends
What if you need some immediate relief while you work on the natural strategies above? Here are 4 natural alternatives to help you get started —
- St. John’s wort. According to a 2009 review published in Evidence-Based Mental Health, St. John’s wort extracts used in clinical trials were as effective as prescription antidepressants, had fewer side effects, and were superior to a placebo. St. John’s wort is appropriate if you’re not taking any other medications and you have mild depression, possibly with some anxiety, because it also reduces anxiety. However, it interacts with a lot of medications, including SSRI antidepressants and birth control pills, so only take under a doctor’s supervision.
- S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). SAMe has been called nature’s Wellbutrin. Very good studies show that SAMe, a naturally occurring compound in the body, can be as effective as antidepressants. This is for the person who is what we call dysthymic: melancholic, low energy, fatigued, not motivated. SAMe is considered a stimulating antidepressant, so you would never give this to someone who is anxious or agitated and certainly not to someone bipolar. It’s also highly effective for pain, so it’s the right supplement for people who have arthritis, fibromyalgia, and dysthymia with depression. SAMe is available over-the-counter. Recommendations are to start by taking 200 mg once or twice a day; then increase by 200 mg every five to seven days until you reach about 1,000 mg daily. Older people may need less.
- Rhodiola. Rhodiola has been shown to help people who are under a lot of stress or who have mild forms of depression, fatigue, and anxiety. Rhodiola was traditionally used to help prevent colds and flu, so when someone says, ‘I feel kind of depressed, and I’ve gotten sick five times this year,’ rhodiola may be a good choice. Recommendations start with 150–200 mg daily of extract standardized to 3 percent rosavin and about 1 percent salidroside, the active compounds; using that for five to seven days. Then you can increase the dose to 400–500 mg if necessary. Most people need between 300 mg and 500 mg per day of the standardized extract.
- L-theanine. Some people have depression, but the anxiousness is what really bothers them. Green tea works wonders for that because of the L-theanine. You can use green, oolong, and black teas, but green and oolong have less caffeine. These teas help focus, calm, and quiet you because of the L-theanine amino acid. Or you can take L-theanine as a supplement. Recommendations are 100–200 mg two to three times per day. It’s nonsedating but it just calms you down.
Nutrients that complement SSRIs
If you’re taking an SSRI antidepressant, you may want to consider working with a health care provider to supplement with nutrients that complement your medication. This is very important because medication interactions could cause serious problems and/or cause one medication to not work as efficiently.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil, which is rich in omega-3 essential fats, seems to help an antidepressant work better, but it doesn’t typically cause an interaction. Taking about 1,000 mg EPA per day is typically recommended. Make sure that you take your fish oil with one of your biggest meals and/or one that contains some fat. You need fat to absorb your fish oil.
- B vitamins. Take a multivitamin with solid doses of B vitamins or B-complex stress formula with high-dose folic acid, B6, and B12, all of which are needed for the body to make neurotransmitters such as serotonin. B-vitamins are essential for the cells to make energy, so they need continually replenished, especially if you are under a lot of stress. While SSRIs keep neurotransmitters around longer, if you can’t make enough, you’re only going to get a modest effect from antidepressants. So if you’re taking an antidepressant and you’re not getting the full effect, make sure you talk to your health care provider about possibly supplementing with B vitamins.
Getting caught in a wild state of the blues is no fun for sure, but it is important to recognize when you are there (or when you are about to be there) and begin to treat the situation. Treatment with supplements, foods, and/or behavioral practices may not take away the cold wind or the layers of clothes, but it can better improve your health and your vitality!
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