We all get the occasional blues–when we can’t fit into last summer’s swimsuit, for example, or after we’ve fallen out with an old friend. As human beings, it’s only natural we should feel our of sorts from time to time. It’s part of the light and dark, the yin and yang, of our nature.
What’s more, these melancholy hours can be seen as a positive time for reflection. Depression, according to many holistic physicians and therapists, is like the proverbial canary in the coal mine–a warning sign that something is out of balance in our lives. “We need to go inside and see what’s happening,” says James S. Gordon, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry and family medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine. “What is disturbing, agitating, and overwhelming you? For most people, the answers aren’t such a terrible mystery after all.”
What follows are simple, side-effect-free approaches that will help you tackle your case of the blahs.
Note: If you are seriously depressed–or suspect you could be–seek the help of a medical professional; you may need the kind of immediate intervention that drugs offer, as well as intense inner work that can be difficult on your own.
Express yourself: Healing can occur only when we allow ourselves to release long-suppressed emotions. Christiane Northrup, M.D., the author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, likens this process to the treatment of an abscess: “Any surgeon knows to cut open [the abscess], allowing it to drain. When this is done, the pain goes away almost immediately and new, healthy tissue can re-form where the abscess once was. It’s the same with emotions. They become walled off, causing pain and absorbing energy, if we do not experience and release them.”
To channel your feelings, you might join a support group, talk to a friend or therapist, or keep a journal.
Get physical: Natural-health expert Andrew Weil, M.D., prescribes aerobic exercise for fast relief from mild depression. What should you shoot for? Weil recommends 30 minutes of continuous activity, five days a week; a brisk walk or bike ride will fill the bill. This regular activity will boost endorphins, the body’s own feel-good chemicals, and distract you from negative broodings.
Get some supplemental help: A natural antidepressant that’s garnering rave reviews is the amino-acid derivative SAM-e (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). It works as well as some prescription drugs do, according to Richard Brown, M.D., an associate professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the co-author of Stop Depression Now. Patients have reported feeling better within 7 to 10 days, he says. Work with a physician to get the right dose (the average dose is 200 mg, three times a day). Be sure to buy enteric-coated SAM-e in a blister pack, because SAM-e oxidizes rapidly and, unless enteric-coated, can be destroyed in the stomach before it’s absorbed. Nature Made is a reliable brand.
Nurture yourself: For those of us in the “sandwich” generation–tending children, careers, and elderly parents–taking care of ourselves is a luxury we rarely have time to indulge. But we may be paying a heavy price for that. Depression is directly linked to the lack of self-nurture in our hectic lives, says Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance: “When I get into funks, I do one thing for my body, like buying a new bath gel; one thing for my mind, maybe finding a fascinating movie or book; and one thing for my soul, like raking a walk or listening to beautiful music.”
Whatever helps add an extra skip to your step, go our and do it today. You’ll feel the weight of the world begin to slip from your shoulders.