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Hey there, my name is Kaiti and I’ve been managing my depression for 6 years. While it is important to note that I am not a mental health professional, I believe in creating a conversation about mental health and exploring a wide range of options to work towards treatment/management. I’m writing today about alternative methods (non-pharmaceutical) that have helped me to manage my own mental health. I have been working on my own management methods for a few years with the assistance of my therapists, and you should discuss alternative management with your mental health care provider before starting anything.
If you need help finding a professional mental health provider call 800-950-NAMI (6264) or if you’re experiencing a crisis please call 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.
*NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness
Seriously. This may be one of the most obvious and yet most difficult things to do. There are a variety of different ways to control your mental health. One of the most important for me is talking to someone… I’m not talking about chatting with a friend, family member, or significant other, I mean a full unload of everything to someone who doesn’t have a personal connection to you! It may sound scary but a therapist has an unbiased opinion that is backed up by years of education and they are there for YOU and your mental health.
Now, I’ve been in two situations when I decided I needed to go talk to someone. The first time, I remember being so crippled by my telephone phobia that I couldn’t physically call someone to ask for help. Luckily, I found an online resource that allowed me to email a therapist and set up the first meeting. The second time, while living with my mom, she suggested a therapist that works in the same office as her own therapist. She arranged the first meeting for me via text.
When I first arrived (in both situations) I straight up told them I wanted nothing to do with depression medication. I’d heard horror stories about addiction, and the ridiculously long lists of side effects… Let’s just say, “Not Interested!” I decided I wanted to fight it on my own and manage it without medication. I decided that I am stronger than my diagnosis.
Many people find that starting with medication pulls themselves up enough to feel strong enough to take control, AWESOME! Do what you need to do for you! Part of talking with a therapist is working out a plan to get you back to a good spot. I’ll say it again, the point of this post is to shed light on the many ways to get back to a more balanced mental state. What works for one may work for some but what works for some may not work for others, it’s a process. But you can get through it!
One thing I found very helpful in my mood management was reevaluating my diet. Recently, I’ve been doing research on foods that are proven to fuel the body and maybe, even combat depression.
I’m a strong believer in food as medicine. While I’m not a registered nutritionist, I do love studying what the body needs, what it doesn’t need, and why it craves certain things. Along with this has come discoveries about the government messing with your food and your health. Protein, for example, which I wrote an article about that you can read here.
When I decided to figure out ways to combat my depression, food was one of the first things I looked into. As it turns out, a diet high in processed foods is AWFUL for mental health! Processed foods are loaded with unnecessary processed sugars and fats. Too much sugar causes an addiction in your body. It makes you crave things with more sugar to get another release of dopamine. Continuing on the path of excess processed sugar causes your body and brain to feel less and less satisfied. In other words, it’s like putting unleaded fuel in a diesel tank, you’re damaging your diesel engine.
BUT, you don’t need those sugars to get a healthy release of dopamine in your body. AND adding other nutrients to your diet can promote the release of serotonin and curb levels of stress hormones. I know we all reach for processed foods for quick meals when there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. But by stocking your pantry and fridge with the right kinds of whole foods, you could find yourself on a path to less stress and better mental health. Since this post is getting long, we’ll talk about nutrients for mental health in my next post.
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands.”
If you’ve seen Legally Blonde… who am I kidding, who HASN’T seen Legally Blonde. Anyway, I love this quote. She’s not wrong. Exercise produces endorphins in your brain, and endorphins are a happy chemical your brain needs. When I look at today’s world, I see processed foods on dinner tables and kids who would rather sit in front of some sort of screen instead of running around and playing. Interesting how now that those are on the rise, so is the number of people with depression, anxiety, ADHD, etc.
Just 30 minutes of exercise or physical movement per day will release endorphins. Now, that said, I know full well that getting up and moving is not exactly what my body wants to do on my supremely low days. But like I said earlier, I’m stronger than my diagnosis. I have to push myself extra hard some days. It can suck but you can do it too! And if you feel silly while doing it, that might help too. Do you have a Fitbit? It’s got an annoying little reminder every hour to move. Get up! Run in place or run laps around your house. Get the kids involved and have them chase you. Guess what, you’re exercising AND engaging kids away from the screen… Two birds, one stone! Find an activity that you like to do, get a buddy to join you (…cough cough… hold you accountable and help push you when you can’t push yourself), and set aside at least 30 min in your day to do it. Make it a priority. The more you do, the easier it will be to add it to your schedule!
Alright, so this post was supposed to be about nutrition for mental health, I’ve been working on it for a few weeks but… In light of two more A-list celebrities taking their own lives, I felt like today’s post needed to be more focused on mental health in general, first. Suicide rates continue to climb. After another person takes their life, Facebook is flooded with posts like this:
“Suicide has been all over the news this week. If you need help, please reach out to someone.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: 741741″
But part of the struggle in needing help is reaching out to get it!
I ask you to please, check on your friends, check on your family. And above all, I ask you to LISTEN! Do not ask someone how they are doing and wait for them to finish so you can respond. Ask them how they are doing and really hear them out. When you respond, avoid phrases like “I know what you’re going through” or “Yeah I’ve been there”. The truth is you don’t know what they are going through! They may barely be scratching the surface with what they are telling you. Here’s a great TED Talk Article about it! Make the conversation about them! After that, ask how you can help them get through something, or if they need additional help, offer to go with them to talk to a mental health professional. Sometimes, just helping someone walk into a therapist’s office is just what they need.