Beating Back the Darkness (Natural ways to lessen depression symptoms)

dscn1562Unfortunately, depression is a far too frequent part of the human experience. Weather it’s a case of the winter blues, a bad case of overwhelming life stressors getting you down, or a chemically generated funk, depression symptoms hit all of us at some point in our lives. Luckily there are plenty of natural ways to lift our spirits and help alleviate depression symptoms.

Before we dive in to that though, repeat after me.
“You are special and important.”
Now, when you read that, did the voice in your head affirm, or did the b**ch disagree and put you down with a nasty negative comment? If you are part of the latter group, do me and you a huge favor. Call a friend for a coffee date, make an appointment with your therapist, get a therapist, or call one of the outreach numbers at the end of this post and talk about it. I promise, you are not alone. There is someone out there who cares for your future. Don’t go it alone. Ignoring depression is dangerous. Don’t do it.

Herbs
There are several different herbs that are traditionally used for treatment of depression. The most widely used is Saint John’s Wort. Commonly found as a supplement and also available in tea form, Saint John’s Wort has been shown to increase serotonin levels and alleviate mild to moderate depression symptoms. Rhodiola and Ashwagandha are both traditionally used to treat mild to moderate depression symptoms in Ayurvedic medicine. Both herbs are available as supplements. Saffron has also been shown to help alleviate depression symptoms, though its cost prevents it from being a realistic treatment option for most.

Fish Oil
Low presence of fatty acids in the body has been linked to mood swings and depression. Taking a fish oil supplement everyday helps increase the fatty acids in your body and may help to alleviate depression symptoms.

Vitamins and minerals
B vitamins, zinc, and folic acid have all been shown to be important in regulating mood and mental function. Eating foods that are rich in these vitamins and minerals and taking supplements can help ensure that your body is getting enough of these vital nutrients.

Exercise
It is widely accepted and understood that exercising causes the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the feel good chemicals released by our brains. Taking a walk or jog daily can help alleviate mild depression symptoms. Yoga is also a wonderful way to both encourage the release of endorphins and contribute to a sense of relaxation and well-being.

Meditation
Meditation has long been used to promote a sense of well-being and as a form of relaxation. Practicing daily meditation has been shown to reduce depression symptoms. Find a quiet calm space, get comfortable, close your eyes, and focus on breathing for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Thoughts will undoubtedly pop into your brain, when they do, gently remind yourself to leave those alone and focus on breathing. There are also many different types of guided meditations available online. A quick search should help you find something that appeals to you.

Light therapy
Particularly for sufferers of a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), getting a bit of sunshine everyday can be very helpful. For those in northern climates who can’t get enough sunlight in the winter, artificial lights have been developed that simulate natural sunlight. Spending as little as 30 minutes a day getting light can greatly reduce SAD symptoms.

Acupuncture
Some research suggests that acupuncture can be helpful for alleviating mild to moderate depression symptoms.

Write about it
It is no great secret that one of our most valuable tools for dealing with life stress is sharing what stresses us out. For some it is easier to be completely honest about what is bothering us when we write. Taking a bit of time to write down the life stressors that are contributing to your depression can help identify problems and work through solutions. Sometimes, just getting them down on paper makes them easier to deal with. One particular exercise that I often use is to write about what is bothering me and then take a piece of paper and set it ablaze! There is something extremely empowering about lighting your troubles on fire! (Please be cautious when burning down your troubles, fire is hot, it burns things!)

Essential oil
Clary Sage is believed to help relieve stress and alleviate tension, thereby helping to improve overall mental outlook. Jasmine is believed to help soothe the nerves and promote a sense of well-being. Diffusing either of these essential oils in an area you spend a lot of time in can be helpful for treating mild depression symptoms. These oils can also be used in an aromatherapy pendant worn around the neck, providing all day exposure. Jasmine can also be used in a warm relaxing bath.

Talk to someone
Hey, didn’t you already tell us that? Yes, yes I did. I was even tempted to put it in a third time. That’s how important this natural remedy is. When it comes to treating depression my number one recommendation is to seek one on one or group therapy. Talking to someone about what you’re feeling can help you gain perspective and feel better. A therapist can also help to monitor your depression symptoms and give advice as to whether or not pharmaceutical intervention might be necessary. Another wonderful resource is online or in person support groups. Generally centered around a particular issue or stressor, support groups are a great way to get the perspective and understanding of people who are dealing with similar circumstances.
Numbers to call for help
U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Kristin Brooks Hope Center Hopeline: 1-800-784-2433
United Way Helpline: 1-800-233-4357
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255

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So you caught the plague, now what?

Natural Relief for the Common Cold

Stuffy head, cough, mucus, yep, you’ve got it, the plague. Common cold to the less dramatic. Before you run out to the doctor or pharmacy demanding antibiotics and medications that dry up the mucus but leave you feeling foggy headed, try these easy natural remedies to help you feel better fast.

Peppermint Oil
Hands down, my favorite go-to oil for many ailments, Peppermint oil can help clear the sinuses and sooth cold symptoms. Unless you are sensitive to it peppermint oil can be applied directly to skin . Apply near temples and sinuses.

Eucalyptus Oil
Found in many commercial cold relief preparations, eucalyptus is known to help break up mucus and provide relief from sore throats and overall congestion. Eucalyptus should not be applied directly to skin unless diluted. Combine 2 tablespoons of your favorite carrier oil (coconut or olive oil are great options) with 15-20 drops of Eucalyptus oil. Apply the oil to your chest or under your nose for best results. You can also add a tablespoon or two of diluted eucalyptus oil to a hot bath for extra soothing relief.

Vitamins
Vitamin C and D are both extremely helpful when it comes to shortening the length of cold symptoms. Since we all want to suffer as little as possible, I recommend increasing both when you feel the ick creep in. Foods especially high in vitamin C include citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. For vitamin D, I recommend a good supplement and a walk in the sun (or seat in a sunny window if it’s frozen outside).

Water
Drink it! I cannot say this enough, water is one of the most important and vital needs our body has. When you are sick, you need more water. Let’s face it, you’ve noticed that there is wet stuff running out of you. If you don’t put more in than comes out, you are getting dehydrated. You don’t want to be snotty and dehydrated. So drink water, lots of it. If you don’t like water…

Tea
Hot and steamy deliciousness, there is nothing that soothes my sick self quite like the right cup of tea. There are many tea blends available specifically for soothing colds. Any blend with eucalyptus or peppermint is always a good choice. Adding honey or lemon (or both) will boost the soothing power of your tea.

Nasal Lavage
I know, we generally try to keep water out of our noses, but a nice warm saline rinse will do wonders to open up nasal passages and sinuses, relieving symptoms and shortening the length of your cold. Use a pre-prepared saline nasal spray or make your own and use a netty pot or bulb syringe to rinse your nasal passages.

Steam
We all know that taking a nice hot shower when we feel positively full of snot helps. Another option for steam, if you don’t wish to bathe is to place hot water in a large bowl and put your face over the bowl with a towel over your head like a tent. Inhale the steamy vapors. To give this treatment or your shower a little boost, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil.

Hot Compress
For stuffy, aching sinuses, use a hot compress. Wet a washcloth with hot water or pop a cold wet cloth in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute. Fold and place across your nose and cheekbones until cool. Relax and breath deeply. If you want to give this treatment a little boost, add a few drops of diluted peppermint oil to the water.

Rest
It’s safe to say that when it comes to recovering from a cold few things will help more than being sure you are getting plenty of sleep. Resting is healing. Taking a little down time now can reduce the amount of time you feel down.

While none of these things will cure a cold, they will all help you feel more comfortable and help your body fight the mucus inducing invaders. Having you feeling like your old self in no time.

Avoiding The Plague

How not to catch a cold.

No one wants to get sick. Short of going full hermit for the cold and flu season, there is not much you can do to prevent being exposed to germs. Luckily there are lots of things you can do to limit your exposure and bolster your immune system to help you not get sick when you have been exposed.
Sanitation 101
If she told the once she told you 1000 times, wash your hands! It turns out Mom was onto something. Hand washing is one of the easiest ways to prevent picking up cold and flu germs. So wash well, wash frequently, bathe in hand sanitizer if that makes you feel better.
What mom didn’t tell you, or maybe she did. Sanitizing public items that you come in contact with such as shopping carts and baskets can also greatly reduce your exposure to the germs left behind by others. Carry sanitizing wipes with you or use the ones provided in the lobby.
Personal Fortification
No I’m not talking about a pillow fort.  Though taking refuge in one during the height of cold and flu season will certainly help you avoid those nasty germs, sadly, a more adult approach is required. When it comes to preventing a cold or the flu your first and best defense is a healthy you.
Nourishment
In a perfect world we’d all be drawn to a well balanced nourishing diet. Let’s face it, we live in the real world, filled with delicious but hardly nutritious temptations. Few of us get all the nutrients our bodies need by eating enough fruits and veggies. So my first bit of advice when it comes to nutrition again comes from Mom, Eat Your Veggies! And since we both know you’re not gonna do that, add a daily multivitamin. I especially recommend getting enough of vitamins C and D during cold and flu season.  Personally, if I know I’ve been exposed to the ick, I double up on my normal dose of Vitamin D for a couple of days.

Hydration
There is no way around it, our bodies need water to function. Making sure you are properly hydrated allows your body to put forth it’s best defensive tactics, keeping mucus membrane barriers lubricated and actively engaged and cells functioning fluidly. So drink it up! Adding lemon, lime, or some other fruit can help entice the palate and adds a touch of vitamin C to your diet too.

 

Rest
Yeah I know, there is so much to do after the kids finally go to bed. Binge watching Netflix, cleaning up the daily chaos, reading a good book, Facebook stalking your closest friends and enemies, quiet (or not so quiet) time with your spouse, watching cat videos on youtube, the list goes on and on and on. Resist the temptation to stay up all night indulging and make a genuine effort to get eight solid hours of sleep each night.

It’s in the Air
Since one of the primary ways to transmit cold and flu germs is by breathing them in, it makes sense to talk about how the air we breathe can help us be healthier or not.

Get Some
By some I mean fresh air and sunshine. There’s no denying that a daily dose of fresh air and sunshine is good for our overall health and well being. So take a minute or 20, take a walk, sit on a bench in the sun, whatever floats your boat, just get out there!  (Bonus points for fresh air and sunshine on a boat!)

Avoid Some
If you are somehow immune compromised or want to be particularly cautious about not getting sick, avoiding breathing the air in crowded public areas is advised. Since we can’t do that and continue to live, I recommend picking up an oft overlooked fashion accessory, the surgical mask. It may get you some strange looks, maybe even a question or two, but you won’t get sick. As a bonus, the lookers and questioners won’t be able to tell that under that mask you’re sticking your tongue out.