Alternatives to Anti-Depressants
Though anti-depressant medication works well for some people, it is not for everyone. Some people may react poorly to it, and others may simply want to try other methods before adding a daily pill to their routine. Whatever the reasons for seeking alternatives to anti-depressants, everyone should choose the method that feels right for them.
For many sufferers of depression, “talk therapy” helps alleviate symptoms of depression. There are many different types of therapy, and most therapists use a combination of modalities to treat their patients. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is one of the most popular and successful treatments of depression. CBT attempts to turn around negative thinking and problematic behavior that causes or contributes to depression. This type of treatment allows the patient to see his or her harmful and negative thoughts and behavior for what they are and for what they are doing to the patient. CBT can help a patient recognize the patterns of negativity that exist in their life, and can help them identify the triggers for their low self-esteem and figure out ways to help avoid or nullify them.
Often, simply voicing aloud worries, fears, and feelings can help these things dissipate — or can at least allow someone suffering from depression to externalize the issues that plague them. Getting these bad thoughts and feelings out of your mind and into the light where you can figure out where they are coming from can help depression sufferers influence how they react to triggering situations and events. It can also help ensure that the bad things that happen to someone are seen as impersonal events rather than targeted attacks. Talk therapy helps people change their mind about how they perceive the world and the people in it, to move from feeling controlled by negative emotions to feeling in control of negative emotions.
St. John’s Wort
A botanical remedy that is used to treat depression in countries in Europe, St. John’s Wort is not approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a depression treatment. However, some people suffering from mild depression report an improvement in their symptoms when taking St. John’s Wort, which is reported to be especially helpful for people who are experiencing reduced levels of happiness and engagement instead of a total absence of interest in their life. St. John’s Wort helps to balance the neurotransmitters that can affect how we experience emotion, as well as other things like digestion and thyroid function support.
Talk to your doctor before starting St. John’s Wort, as it can interact with other medications such as birth control pills and immune suppressants.
Exercise, Nutrition, and Sleep Hygiene
Sometimes, people experiencing depression just need a push to get back on track. In those instances, really sticking to a routine can help, as well as engaging in mood-boosting activities such as exercise and healthy eating. Experts say that going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each day can help establish a comforting routine that helps your body feel better. This can also help those who suffer from sleep problems to readjust their internal “clock” and set it how they want to improve their day. For instance, though the first few weeks may be tough, depression sufferers who also experience insomnia may see an improvement in sleep hygiene after sticking with a consistent sleep/wake schedule.
Exercise and healthy eating will enhance these efforts. Exercise is proven to help people sleep more soundly because they are engaging in something during the day that helps fatigue their muscles and gives their brain a break from the workaday world. However, it is best not to exercise in the 4 hours before you plan to go to sleep. Since exercise increases your endorphins and adrenaline, it often has the added benefit of giving you extra energy to get through the day. This means it is not at its most effective at night if you are someone who already suffers from poor sleep hygiene. Similarly, not eating a heavy meal before bed helps some people sleep better. In general, eating healthily will help you feel better throughout the day, not weighed down or sluggish from poor nutritional choices.
Finally, sleep hygiene is not just about when you go to bed and when you wake up, but also how you set the tone for your bedtime. Ensuring the room you sleep in is dark and cool and avoiding screens for a few hours before bedtime are all good ways to help you sleep more soundly. Some experts think screens create an artificial daylight that tells our brains it is not yet time to go to bed, and so avoiding them while you are trying to get sleepy helps some people fall asleep more easily. Additionally, a brief meditation before bed may help clear your brain for sleep and help you feel more relaxed.
While there are many alternatives to anti-depressants, it is important to use what works for you on your personal journey. It is important that you learn how to take control back from your negative thoughts so that you can improve your self-worth and leave your depression behind for good.