After the holidays, when there is little sunshine and a lot of cold weather, depression can start or become worse. Here is an article from the American Chiropractic Associations showing a few ways to help alleviate some of the effects of depression.
With stress becoming an integral part of our lives, depression has unfortunately become a household term. Some patients with depression may not be aware of their problems—and may even present to chiropractic offices with musculoskeletal concerns such as back pain. In others, chronic pain and insomnia may trigger depression.
While clinical depression requires the help or a psychologist or psychiatrist, you can aid in patients’ recovery by recognizing signs of depression (see sidebar) and, in addition to referring them to a specialist, suggesting some low-risk approaches for improving their health and outlook on life.
Get Thoughts Out on Paper
When depression is caused by anxiety, confusion, mixed feelings, regret or anger, journaling can be a helpful outlet—and a remedy for insomnia. By listing the thoughts that race through the mind, often keeping us from sleep, we can get them out and allow ourselves to rest.
To start journaling, write anything that comes to mind. If you can’t think of anything to transcribe, write “I don’t know what to write…” and go from there. Once you get the pen moving, more thoughts will flow. Or you can start with a thought, then write about the feelings it evokes, and finally the action that it results in. Yet another approach is to write yourself questions. If there is a problem you are trying to solve, ask yourself a related question in writing. With time, this practice can help you better understand your thoughts, get your ideas out on paper and make sense of your feelings.
Calm Your Mind and Body with Herbal Teas
Teas have been used in many cultures for their healing properties. When dealing with depression, they can be especially helpful in calming the body and lifting the mood. Chamomile, a safe non-sedative option that has been called a “panacea” for a variety of health issues, is especially helpful as a relaxant or a way to prepare the body for rest. Valerian has a sedative effect and may help with sleeplessness or restlessness (avoid if nursing or pregnant). Whatever blend you choose, avoid caffeine, so it doesn’t interfere with sleep.
Boost Your Mood with Exercise
In addition to having a positive impact on physical health, exercise directly affects neurohormone levels involved with stress and emotions. A minimum of 30 minutes at least three times per week is a recommended starting point to combat depression and reduce the risk that it will return.1
Smell the Roses
Aromatherapy has been long used for improving mood and relieving depression and anxiety. Clary sage and ylang-ylang are said to help relieve insomnia, depression and anxiety. Basil may help lift fatigue. Rose and lavender have been used for their relaxing effect on the nervous system. Sandalwood can act as a sedative, relieving both depression and tension.2 (For more about aromatherapy, see the February 2007 issue of ACA News.)
Relax with Yoga
Many yoga poses, such as Uttanasana (forward fold) help to calm the nervous system, reducing stress and lowering anxiety. A practice composed of various poses may help the patient diminish depression and accept a new outlook on life. (For more on yoga, see the October and November 2007 issues of ACA News).
Meditation allows us to observe our thoughts and feelings, learning how our mind works. By allowing us to observe this process and, with practice, to choose which thoughts and/or feelings we focus on, it helps us find a sense of calm, alleviate anxiety, change our perspective, and even lift our mood. As you start meditation, try to sit quietly and simply observe what is happening in your mind without judgment. For assistance with meditation, try a guided meditation CD or attend a meditation class. (For more on meditation, see the September 2007 issue of ACA News.)
Turn the Pressure Off
Especially for those suffering from insomnia—a classical sign and a common cause of depression—it’s important to relieve the anxiety of not being able to fall asleep. Some recommend developing a bedtime routine, to cue your body that it’s time to prepare for sleep. Try turning down the lights, reading a book, drinking a warm cup of herbal tea, taking a warm bath, and avoiding excitement and stimulation—TV, computer, exercise, balancing a checkbook—at least 30 minutes before bedtime. If you can’t fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night, try leaving the bedroom and do a non-stimulating activity, such as reading, meditating, journaling or yoga, until you feel tired.