Holistic Health Diary

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Dealing with Anxiety and Depression in Natural & Practical Ways

 

 

Everyone experiences episodes of anxiety and sadness at some points of their lives, but it is when these feelings are constant companions, start paralyzing you and affecting your everyday functioning that they become an obstacle.

 

Anxiety and depression have been found to often have symptoms and triggers that overlap with each other.

They can be triggered by many things from physical sickness, hormonal imbalances, stress, losing a loved one, conflict with other people, as well as feelings of loneliness, stagnation and seeing no meaning in life.

 

 

Some of the symptoms you may experience include insomnia, constant fatigue, over sleeping, body aches & muscle tension, lack of concentration, irritability, fear, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy doing, worry, and loss of control over thoughts & emotions.

 

It’s important for you to know and believe you can overcome these. Many people across the world struggle with anxiety and depression, there is a ton of research on them along with tools you can use to conquer them.

 

Here are 3 that you can try out:

 

 

1. Mindfulness Exercises

 

Mindfulness exercises are a non-religious form of meditation founded over 2 500 years ago in Eastern philosophy1.

 

When things aren’t going our way we tend to tune out or ignore our situation, mindfulness is all about living in the present moment and being fully aware of your experiences.

Awareness of what is causing you distress and your inherent reactions to these situations will help you in making better choices for your life and learning appropriate reactions that don’t put you in further distress.

 

You can do a mindfulness exercise while you’re sitting there. Don’t try to change the experience, just take it in. So no shifting!

 

 

 

Pay attention to every texture your body has contact with, is it soft or hard?

The temperature, warm or cool?

What are the sounds you can hear?

What is in your sight besides what you’re reading this from?

You can take this a step further by examining your emotions in the present moment, can you identify what is causing you to feel that way?

If you can, determine whether there is something you can change in the experience to make it a bit pleasant, whether it is external or internal. This will help you in learning to react in constructive ways.

 

Now of course with our busy lives it is unrealistic to be 100% present every minute of the day. What you can do is set aside a time each day where you meditate. You can do so by simply sitting down in a still and comfortable position, doing yoga, taking a walk while you listen to a meditation audio (there are plenty online you can download) or simply just taking your surroundings in and being aware of your thoughts and emotions.

 

Most of the time, we find that the solutions to our problems are well within our reach if we pay close attention.

 

 

2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

 

This type of therapy is designed to reconstruct your thinking patterns and behavioural habits.

 

It is an action-oriented practise that focuses on treating the causes and triggers of your anxiety and depression2. It is important to note that it takes time to see results with this practise, you will need to be patient and consistent with it.

 

Due to its nature, you have to execute the exercises during an active anxiety and depression episode. You need to be alert to when you start feeling anxious and depressing thoughts or feelings setting in. You can practise mindfulness if you are struggling to pin point when these emotions arise.

 

Cognitive-behavioural therapy is most effective if you practise its exercises with a licensed therapist, but since many people cannot afford to see one or might not feel comfortable with it, there is a way to do it on your own.

 

  • The first step is to identify the trigger/cause: Analyse your thoughts and trace them back to when the negative thoughts or emotions started to surface.

 

  • Once you have done this, take slow and deep breathes: Inhale while counting up to 4, hold your breath for another count of 4, then exhale while counting up to 4.

Repeat until you feel relaxed. Deep breathing stimulates the body’s relaxing response and helps you out of the fight or flight  mode of the sympathetic nervous system.

 

 

  • Positive affirmations: Whatever your negative thoughts are telling you, say something positive out loud [you don’t have to shout ;)] to counter them. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and your mind is saying ‘I can’t do this! This is too much’, you should say ‘I can do this!’, ‘I have phenomenal coping skills’, ‘I am an overcomer’.

You can make a list of your own personalized positive affirmations and put them where you can see them every day, your phone is a great place or next to your mirror.

 

  • Engage in an activity that you enjoy: this doesn’t have to be something drastic like dancing or hiking (although if you do have the time and luxury you should definitely do these).

Since most of us are usually busy with work or other responsibilities most of our days, it can be hard to even get an hour to yourself. So what you can do is listen to a song you really like, find a small ball you can throw or squeeze, if you’re an artistic person you can sketch, write or sing. Whatever it is that lifts your mood up will help you be at ease.

 

Check out these tips for more ideas of activities you might enjoy: Creating your own happiness

 

 

  •  Visualize your happy place: This is great if you don’t have time to do your favourite activity. The place you visualize should be one you have access to and can go to at some point in time, so you have something to look forward to. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a place, it can be a person or an item. It could be your spouse when they smile at you, your best friend sharing a laugh with you, a parent giving you a hug, driving your favourite car or being snuggled under your blankets. This will help shift the focus of your brain into something that makes you happy which in turn will stir your emotions towards positivity.

 

  •  Once you are relaxed, break down whatever you have to do into smaller, manageable chunks: Sometimes life feels overwhelming when we’re trying to be in control of everything all at once instead of taking it one day at a time.

Instead of worrying about the many things that need to get done, focus on one thing at a time and prioritize your health above all. If you couldn’t get all of it done today, don’t be anxious or beat yourself up about it, tomorrow is another day.

 

 

3. Organic Remedies

 

Nature has provided us with natural remedies for depression and anxiety that have little to no negative side effects. In fact, they are beneficial for a range of things that pass the scope of just helping you to be at ease.

 

 

 

Here are a few you can give a try:

 

• Chamomile: this helps if you’re experiencing general or mild anxiety. It has been found to drastically decrease anxiety in people that took it for 8 consecutive weeks3. You can take it in supplement form or drink it as a tea.

 

If you are someone who has to work or doesn’t like to sleep much this might not be for you, it induces sleep.

 

• Lavender: this is a great alternative to chamomile, it doesn’t induce sleep.

Take a drop of the oil on you collarbone and inhale, you can do this 30 minutes before you go out if you are someone who suffers from social anxiety.

• Green tea: amongst its many health benefits, green tea also contains an amino acid called L-theanine which is responsible for keeping your heart rate and blood pressure regular. Drink at least 2 cups a day.

 

Whichever method you choose to use for dealing with anxiety and depression, be consistent. Results do not come quickly or even easily, be patient with the process of your healing. Also, be patient with yourself. The fact that you’re here reading up on this means you are doing your best, so show yourself some kindness.

 

Disclaimer: These methods might not work for you, people and situations are different so it's important to take every advice you get with a grain of salt and find what works for you. If you feel you can no longer cope on your own counsult a medical doctor or psychiatrist near you. There is no shame in needing help and there is no shame in using medication. Your health comes first!

 

 

Written by Babalwa Mpolongwana

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