Anxiety and depression are so common these days that we tend to consider them almost normal conditions, brushing it off like it’s no big deal when we hear that someone is struggling with one or the other – or both. But if you are one of the many who battle these disorders, you know how seriously they can affect your life.
Anxiety and depression have been present in my life pretty much as far as I can remember. Of course, as a kid I didn’t know what I was experiencing. At one point my parents took me to the doctor because I was constantly calling home from school and waking up in the middle of the night at sleepovers with severe nausea. I was always feeling sick and thinking that I was going to throw up, and I would go into a panic. My doctor diagnosed me with acid reflux and put me on a prescription for Zantac 75. Eye roll.
Now that I’m an adult and fully conscious of my emotional disorders… I know that it was anxiety all along. In high school I had a really rough time. I was considered “popular” and was often labeled as stuck up, but inside I was miserably lonely and riddled with insecurities. That inner turmoil led to me being really misunderstood. The relationships I went through (which you heard a little about if you read my Believe and Receive post) did not help matters. Anyway, high school ended, I was preparing to head off to college, and my Mom approached me about my clearly depressive state. Back to the doctor we went. This visit we knew what was going on. Unfortunately, the resolution was another prescription. This time, for Lexapro – a common antidepressant.
I got to college and began my medication, which ended up being a disaster. After sleeping through class basically every day and nearly failing classes because of it, I took myself off the meds. (Not recommended.) After weeks of some pretty serious withdrawals, mainly severe dizzy spells, I finally felt back to “normal” and was able to get on a decent sleep schedule and focus on school. I knew then that I would never go back on another medication to mask my problems. It was time to face them head-on, and find natural ways to manage the negative symptoms.
Since then, things have been up and down – but I remain drug-free. I know many of you reading this will relate to me on some level, and I want to share with you the things that I have found to be helpful with managing these issues throughout the years. We all deserve happiness, and pumping ourselves with toxic drugs is not the answer.
First and foremost, I have to say that exercise has been (and remains) such a crucial element to my stability. I know it can be hard to get up and do… well, anything at times, when you’re suffering from anxiety and depression. But I can’t stress how important it is to incorporate physical fitness into your life. (It’s obviously important in general, but especially if you have mental illness.) If your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise produces endorphins – the chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. The ones pharmaceuticals try to produce for you. Numerous studies and scientists have found that regular physical activity decreases overall levels of tension, elevates and stabilizes mood, improves sleep and enhances self-esteem. Figuring out a fitness regimen that works for you should be your number 1 step toward recovery.
Here’s a list of some other elements you may want to try when you feel yourself slipping.
L-Theanine / Green Tea
This is a two-for-one deal. L-Theanine is an amino acid found in certain tea leaves and mushrooms. So, you can drink green tea to get some of this stuff into your system. But I’d also grab some supplements – unless you want to drink like 10 cups a day to get the full effect and possibly wet yourself. L-Theanine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and directly affect the central nervous system, by interacting with the brain itself. It’s been shown to increase dopamine levels, increase GABA (Gamma-Amino-Butyric Acid – we’ll get to this next), and increase serotonin levels. All things that anti-depressants are made to do for you – but all natural and without side effects. There are some naturally decaffeinated green teas, and that’s what you should get in this case, as caffeine tends to heighten anxiety. And again, a supplement will probably be more efficient. Talk to someone in the vitamin department about how much they recommend for your symptoms.
GABA is one of the most impactful compounds found in your brain, with the ability to seriously benefit your central nervous system. Supplements have been shown to effectively treat issues relating to overly-excited neural pathways, such as anxiety, depression and insomnia. Once again, you will want to go to a trustworthy vitamin store or department and speak to an educated specialist there about what they recommend for you. I had a great experience at The Vitamin Shoppe here in SLC. Check if you have one nearby.
B and D Vitamins
When it comes to vitamin deficiencies, these two tend to be leaders of the pack. If you’re prone to anxiety and depression, assuring that you’re fulfilled in these departments is especially important. B vitamins are essential to nervous system health, and Vitamin D is essential to brain health. I take both of these, every single day.
Zenify Stress Relief Drink
The past few recommendations bring me to this. The awesome guy at the Vitamin Shoppe lead me to this drink and I have to say, I’m obsessed. This is just a great thing to have hanging out in the fridge for when you’re feeling on edge. You should go here to get the full rundown on how these drinks can work for you – but basically they consist of L-Theanine, GABA, and all those B vitamins that you need. They leave me feeling like I just took a little muscle relaxer. And they’re yummy.
Taken daily, ashwagandha can lower cortisol levels by 28%, stress by 44%, anxiety by 69%, and depressive symptoms by 68% (source: curejoy.com). It can stabilize mood, relieve insomnia, and revitalize your body without any side effects or withdrawal symptoms. It’s been used for centuries to improve physical & mental health and increase longevity. Basically does everything that L-Theanine and GABA can do – plus more.
This is an amino acid that your body naturally manufactures. The supplements are usually produced from an African shrub called Griffonia simplicifolia, whose seeds naturally contain 20% 5-HTP. This stuff is used to relieve conditions including anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, migraines, ADHD, and fibromyalgia.
Along with all of the aforementioned recommendations, I’d finally recommend looking into meditation and yoga. As usual, YouTube provides a wide variety of options for both of these things. Try searching “yoga for depression and/or anxiety” and “meditation for depression and/or anxiety”. I have found some great yoga routines, as well as guided meditations that can work wonders, especially when you’re laying in bed at night trying to fathom how you’ll ever fall asleep with so much going on inside you.
Wishing you all a peaceful mind and a happy heart. Onwards and upwards, my little warriors.