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Before reading any further, you should be warned that I am not a doctor nor a medical professional. The following is merely a woman-to-woman account of a few things that are currently helping me ease symptoms of monthly depression and anxiety. Like anything else you read on the Internet, be advised to speak with your own medical professional instead of self-diagnosing and embarking on Internet driven mental health treatment. Links to my preferred brands are included where applicable. To read the story behind my desire to find natural solutions to my emotional health, click here.
Treating Anxiety and Depression without Medication
I have always been willing to do whatever is the healthiest solution for my mental and physical well being at any given time. But I believe I am living in a place and time where healthiest is too often replaced with easiest.
Generally speaking, I am successfully managing hormone-related mood swings through these 6 habits: eating right, taking supplements, exercising, avoiding birth control, inversion, and chiropractic care.
The following might not be easy, but it is working.
1. My Diet
– High protein. High fiber. Lots of fresh veggies and fruit.
– Limited sugar. 2 weeks of detoxing finally ended my sugar cravings.
– Limited alcohol.
– 16oz coffee with half and half every morning.
– 16oz Green Tea or Red Raspberry Leaf tea mixed with kombucha every afternoon.
2. Supplements I Take
NOTES: Magnesium has a physical-relaxation effect, which is why I take it before bed. (It was first recommended to me for restless leg syndrome and helped.) A side benefit is extreme bowel regularity. I experienced mild diarrhea for the first two weeks, but that was it. My bowels returned to a new and very healthy normal. I only take vitamin D in the months I am not outside in the sun for at least an hour a day. There is an obvious difference in my mood from summer to winter, and low vitamin D is a main culprit. I take iron because I am anemic; anemia causes extreme fatigue and brain fog. Iron is best absorbed with vitamin C and cannot be absorbed with calcium. Taking this with my B complex at about 2 o’clock actually helps me avoid that mid-afternoon desire to take a nap. Both are energy boosting, and therefore mood boosting.
3. My Work Outs
– Low cardio + low weights, 3 days a week.
– Get outside whenever possible.
– Yoga and/or serious stretching.
NOTES: I’ve always been relatively active and regular about workouts. But hard workouts for me spike cortisol and actual make me angry in addition to ridiculously tired. Adding full-body low weights back into my normal routine actually provides that endorphin rush that I do not get from running, and it sticks with me through most of the day. I also incorporate quite a bit of yoga and stretching to help release toxins and reduce low back pain. A side benefit is that the slowing down and concentration on deep breathing of course creates lasting mental relaxation. This is one that was slow at first, but actually gets better with more practice.
4. Going Birth-Control Free
– Creighton Model of NFP.
– Track my cycle with FLO period app.
Notes: I should have listed this first, because I believe it is the best habit change I’ve made in the last 5 years. I am lucky to be married to a man who was willing to take on the responsibility of permanent birth control now that we are done having kids, but I wish I’d known as a newly wed how many terrible side-effects come with all forms of hormonal birth control. And believe me. I tried several. Letting my body and my cycle reset (amidst 8 years of pregnancy/nursing) seems to be one thing that also grows noticeably better by the day. I would say it took a full 2 years after weaning to begin feeling more like myself. It is truly no joke, what our awesome bodies go through in the name of procreation. I continue to track my cycle now because knowledge, for me, is power. It is so helpful for me to see, based on patterns in my cycle, that my mood is nearly always directly related to a hormone shift.
– Head and/or handstands incorporated into workouts.
– Yoga inversion poses.
– Inversion Table.
NOTE: bear with me, this is a weird one. I stole my parent’s inversion table several years ago to help alleviate lower back pain, and discovered that hanging upside down for a mere 12 minutes a day, a few days a week, actually relaxed me as much as a hot bath. If you can afford the table, do it. If you cannot, go ahead and be that freak at the gym doing handstands against the wall. I promise you, as weird as it sounds, it is another habit that I cannot give up. It is a slow process, but like everything else, the more I do it, the quicker I feel the positive effects.
6. Regular Chiropractic Care
NOTES: I found my chiropractor here in Clemmons when I was pregnant with my 4th child and barely walking due to pain. Regular adjustments throughout that pregnancy kept me on my feet and relatively pain free. I have continued, in the last 3 years, to receive monthly maintenance for pain, but here again, a side-benefit I always notice, is that in the days following an adjustment I’m more clear-headed, I sleep better, and my mood generally improves.
To learn more about managing hormone imbalance, PMS, PMDD, anxiety, and depression, I have read and highly recommend the following books.