Natural Treatments for Depression and Anxiety

DenaNovember 8, 2011

twilight |
For seven years, I suffered from debilitating depression and anxiety. During that time, I tried many treatments. I spent years in and out of therapist offices, psychiatrist offices, and bouncing from medication to medication. Ultimately, the thing that changed—saved—my life was cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). I often describe my journey from darkness to light as crossing a river. I was on one side, and now I am on the other. Yet, what is incredibly important to remember, is that while I am on the other side now, I must fight—every single day—to stay here.

Depression and anxiety are not things that just go away. They stay with you. While I often say that I overcame depression and anxiety; the truth is that I overcome depression and anxiety. Every day I make a new choice. Every day I choose light.

In this post, I am going to share natural treatments for anxiety and depression. Some of these treatments I use, some have been recommended by friends, and others I would like to learn more about. In any case, I hope that they may be helpful to you.

What Works for Me
It has been years since I’ve been off of Zoloft (the medication that helped me more than the others) and out of my therapist’s office. Still, I am continually looking for buoys to help me stay afloat. While CBT continues to be my number one tool of choice, there are a few things that take me from feeling just okay to feeling amazing.

  1. Sleep – Hands down, sleep is the most critical element to my happiness. Without adequate sleep, I am miserable. Some of the most difficult days (and nights) of my life have been caused by a significant lack of sleep. When I do not get enough sleep, I cry easily, become irritated easily, pick fights, and overreact. These characteristics are not the real me; but lack of sleep brings them out without fail.The amount of sleep needed to “feel good” varies from person to person. Research shows that the amount of sleep necessary to each person is genetic. Personally, I need at least seven solid hours of sleep, anything less than that and symptoms of depression and anxiety rear their ugly heads.
  2. Exercise and Stretching – Exercise and stretching make me feel amazing; but I too often fail to make time for them. I know how wonderful it is for my spirit (and body) yet… Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t include it in this list.We underestimate the power that even a quick, simple routine can have. If you suffer from depression and anxiety and are not exercising or stretching for at least ten minutes per day, you are doing yourself a major injustice! (Pot calling the kettle black, I know!) To start, just take five minutes in the morning to stretch. If you are not flexible, do your best to touch your toes. Hold yourself there for as long as you can. Repeat three times. Then, reach up. Do your best to touch the ceiling. Hold yourself there as long as you can. Repeat three times. That’s it! Do this every morning. By the end of the week you will notice a positive change in how you feel.
  3. Diet – Now that I’ve beaten myself up, it’s time to pat myself on the back. 😉 My diet of late has been incredible. I’ve lost 8 pounds since the end of my fitness challenge simply by making positive changes to my diet—limiting portion sizes and cutting out junk food. It’s been years since I stopped eating fast food, too. Since implementing these changes, my mood has consistently improved. Do not underestimate the power that your food choices have in affecting your mood and your feelings of depression and anxiety!
  4. Aromatherapy – This is something that I’ve only been experimenting with very recently, but I’ve been amazed by the results. I’ve long-heard about the benefits of aromatherapy but I never understood why. I did some digging and found out that as scents are inhaled, the smell travels across the olfactory nerves located inside the nose and then up into the part of the brain that controls our moods, our memories and our ability to learn. This area is called the Limbic System and when stimulated it releases endorphins, neurotransmitters and other ‘feel-good’ chemicals.I’ve been experimenting with lavender (amazing!), coconut, and peppermint. Essential oils and bath/shower soaps are a good place to start.

What Works for Friends
When I reached out to my Twitter community for suggestions, I got some great feedback.

Danielle said—Vitamin B and D and getting proper exercise help me kick my depressions. Relaxing scents like lavender help my anxiety.

Lauren said—Omega 3 or fish oil pills. For me, they’re just as effective as the depression/anxiety meds I used to take.

Kelli said—When I choose to take 5-HTP regularly, it makes me feel more stable, healthy & normal. I feel less overwhelmed by my feelings & more capable of leading a normal, day-to-day life, not crippled by suffocating depression, able to wake up out of bed each morning, and less loathe to clean & exercise.

A few people mentioned that avoiding alcohol, simple sugars, and caffeine majorly help to eliminate feelings of depression and anxiety. (I can attest to this!)

Herbal Remedies & Other Ideas
(Side note: It’s best to consult with your doctor before you start a new herbal supplement regimen. However, if you notice that your doctor is hesitant to have this discussion be aware. I’ve had doctors intimate that herbal supplements are foolish/placebos; yet they were very quick to write me a prescription for a pharmaceutical/chemical medication. Point being, make sure that your health care provider is looking out for your best interest, period.)

There are a bunch of herbal remedies that are said to help improve mood. Some of the most popular are: St. John’s Wart, omega-3 fatty acids, SAM-e, folic acid, ginkgo biloba, and 5-HTP. I’ve heard amazing things about some of these options, but again, do your research and check with your health care provider for potential drug interactions if you are on any other medications.

While I haven’t tried these, many people have also had success with acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, and hypnosis. A few final ideas, which I have tried—and love!—are massage therapy, meditation, and yoga.

Keep Trying
In closing, I want to state very clearly that I do not believe that natural treatments are the only appropriate options to treat depression and anxiety. I strongly believe that traditional therapy and chemical medication is very important—and critical— for many people. For example, after years of trying different medications, I finally landed in a good place with Zoloft. I believe that Zoloft bolstered me through some very difficult times. Without it, I do not know if CBT would have had the incredible transformational effects on my life that it did. Sometimes you just have to keep trying (& trying & trying!) until you find what works for you. The key is to keep trying and never give up so long as breath is in you. ♥

I hope that this post has been helpful to you. Whether we are suffering from depression and anxiety or not, we should all strive to be our best selves.

If you have other ideas or suggestions about what makes you feel amazing, please let us know in the comments!

In love & light,

Comments (9)

  • Anonymous

    November 9, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Dena, thanks so much for quoting me in this! I’d like to echo your closing remarks. While Omega 3 works for me most of the time, I would never suggest somebody go off of their prescribed medication. And when I am going through an especially difficult time, I don’t see myself as a “failure” if I choose to bolster my mood with prescription medicine. If you have a heart condition, you would never go off your medicine for that; why should your medication depression or anxiety be any different? Mental illness is just as real as a physical condition.

    1. Dena Botbyl

      November 9, 2011 at 10:22 am

      Thank you so much for sharing, Lauren.  I really appreciate it.  Also, thanks for this comment.  You are absolutely right.  Mental illness is a disease, like any other, and should be treated as such.  xo

  • Mark David Robertson

    November 9, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I found AA’s wisdom through a time of PD in college. I didn’t drink much, but was so much in need of the same things alcoholics need–>surrender, declaration of spiritual bankruptcy, faith-leap, decluttering my past, service…it’s a shame there’s such a stigma…I think it’s a program for 50% of Americans–from teetotaling grandmas to Atlantic City gamblers. You can just translate “alcohol” for anything that keeps you in bondage. I wonder if it can’t just be stretchier (spiritual journey in 12 steps), so more people can enter into the path to recovery. 

    Great list, Dena. Glad to have a soul sister in you. 

    1. Dena Botbyl

      November 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm

      “I think it’s a program for 50% of Americans…”  I couldn’t agree more.  I will never understand why there is such a stigma attached to therapies (of all sorts).  I know that it is generational/cultural.  Still, it is one of those things that simply escapes me. 

      Something that can make your life easier, make you a better person, help you get through pain/difficulties…  How is this a bad thing?  I suppose that there is always that idea that needing help makes you weak.  It’s a shame.  I think that the tide is turning, however, especially among our generation.  I do hope that we become a generation of personal improvement junkies & seekers of light. 

      I am deeply & always grateful to have a soul brother in you, Mark.

  • Caroline

    November 10, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I’m fairly well educated in both herbal and allopathic medicine (i did a year-long community herbalist training and am in nursing school), St. John’s Wort is best as treatment for mild, seasonally related depression.  It can also cause sensitivity to sunlight that looks similar to heat rash or eczema, and interacts with pharmaceutical antidepressants, so use with caution!  But it is effective, and also has an antiviral action so it’s great for winter time flues and blues!

    1. Dena Botbyl

      November 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      Thank you so much for the insight, Caroline.  This is a great addition. 

  • Joanna (Mint Palace)

    November 12, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Hey babe! Another great post!! Love your work!! 😉
    I too find sleep, exercise, diet and vitamins – fish oil mostly, work wonders for me. But I also use breathing techniques as I also get quite anxious and stressed. But the best thing has been psychology and working with dialectical behaviour therapy and of course girl power!! My theme song of late seems to be Spice UP Your Life. lol. But not listening to down and out music helps so so much… And last but not least, connecting with others who fight similar demons, like finding your blog, has helped enormously. Thank you for everything – You have been a godsend.
    xoxo – Oh, and I am off the binge drinking too. Nasty stuff and I feel happier than I have in a very long time!! 😀

    1. Dena Botbyl

      November 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm

      Thank you so much, love!  You are the sweetest.  All of your tips are excellent.  I am hearing (& experiencing!) more positive things about fish oil every day.  I am so happy that we’ve found each other.  You are a gem.  XO

  • Kristinkielar

    November 15, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    I’m so proud of you and how far you have come in this arena of your life, Dena. The control and dedication that you have are admirable, and I think that if more people suffering from depression and anxiety heard your story, they might be inclined to follow your path. I personally know someone right now who is in a very unhealthy relationship – living with someone who is physically/emotionally abusive – and is disappointed that her recent visits to a therapist & use of prescription medication aren’t making it better.

Leave a Comment

Prev Post

Sunday Sweetness: I Can Do This

Next Post

Book Review & Giveaway: You Are Not So Smart