Saturday, February 25, 2012

Healing Depression Naturally Part 1

Disclaimer:  The following discussion in no way replaces medical advice or treatment.  It is for educational purposes only and with the intention of supporting the general well being of your entire physio-chemical-eco system.  Please consult your healthcare practitioner before making any changes to your diet, supplements, or prescriptions.

I know a thing or two about depression.  The world has not always been an easy place for me, and I have worked my way out of a well one step at a time.  And some days I am still working out of that well.  Make no mistake, hard times are hard on the body, mind and soul, and if you have found yourself struggling, let me be the first to validate your experience.  I know, no, really, I  know that you did not land in this deep, dark chasm entirely on your own.  There are other factors, and other influences, and while you are not alone in arriving at this place today, you are also not alone in climbing out of it.

I have been graced with some powerful people in my life and one woman in particular, Rae, of The Art of Collecting Yourself, has managed to be there during some very specific plunges of mine.  And while "laws of manifestation" and the folks that tout the new age idea that I was my own worst enemy, that I was creating my reality, and then, clearly that whatever had happened, was happening, and would happen was my "responsibility" (fault), this woman received every struggle, every whine, every wallow, and validated my experience.  She reminded me recently that the truth about this notion of creating our own reality is that we "co-create" and we are not alone in the reality that manifests around us.  Thank you Rae for delivering me from grief so long ago, and thank you, again, for standing guard while I more recently have been finding my way up the ladder. 

She's right.  We co-create.  And whatever funk you are finding yourself in has a physio-chemical component that may be beyond your control, or at least beyond your control in your present state.  Many would want to address the spirit first.  If that's what you know to be true, if your core says to you "heal your spirit" then please follow through with that.  But what I love about the physical is that it is tangible, immediate, and readily changeable.  As we take that herb for depression, swallow it down, our emotions, mind and spirit take their own symbolic herb, feel the energy beyond the physio-chemical action, and receive the healing that vital life has to offer.  Natural healing IS spiritual healing.  We enlist the help of the plants, probiotics, essence of protein, etc. to build us up on all levels.

The first tool for healing depression naturally has to be to create a basic foundation of wellness.  So much of what is happening in our world depletes us or interferes with us.  The next several suggestions will be about building up that foundation, rather than using herbs or supplements to modify the emotional and mental state, since you really can't put the cart before the horse.  The first set of suggestions will focus on things you can do that are free and easy to implement (hopefully).

1)  Breathe.  Not that shallow, upper chest, anxiety induced sigh that comes from not being able to handle the moment.  Breathe deep into the belly, letting it round out as the diaphragm pulls the lungs down.  Think about that pent-up feeling you get when you hold your breath, that panic that comes from not getting the oxygen you need to survive.  Now imagine how your body responds to not getting enough oxygen on a daily basis.  Chronic oxygen deprivation doesn't help.  That tension in your core might be a protective mechanism, but not breathing only reduces the oxygen flow to your brain and all other parts, which creates tension, an inability to relax and be present, and impairs cognition.  This is not a "be one with the universe and all will be well" recommendation.  This is physiology.  So make breathing your first prescriptive action to help.  If you have time, create space in the morning and evening to lay down and practice breathing, feeling your pelvis rock back and forth as you inhale and exhale.  If your life won't permit that, then every time you think of it, sit up straight, pull the shoulders back, and breathe deeply enough to feel your belly reach out.  Even if you find yourself having to lift those shoulders in order to fill the lungs to capacity in this position, be patient and work at engaging the abdominal muscles.

2)  Drink clean water.  If you have kept up with all the goings-on of what's in our water, you know that the prescription drug your nextdoor neighbor is taking is being peed down the toilet and makes it downstream where the local water supply is collected.  Does that drug affect you?  Absolutely.  If you can afford a whole house filtering system that is your best bet.  Remember that there are no pitcher filters that will filter fluoride and fluoride is an endocrine disrupter (among other things), but other than that, pitcher filters are a great tool.  In our house, since we rent, we choose to get reverse osmosis filtered water from a local fill-station and we store that water in glass bottles.  All plastic leaches, and while drinking from a plastic cup might not impair what's going on in your endocrine glands, drinking water that sat for hours or days in plastic (that is not BPA or phthalate free) might create some interference.  Most filter pitchers are supposed to be BPA free, but check on yours with the brand you use.  If you have no other options but to drink your tap water straight, check with your local city officials to find out what the additives are and then consider boiling your drinking water.  Not only will that kill microbes that might be present, it may also evaporate quite a bit of the chemical residue.

3)  Get sunlight.  And don't wear sunglasses.  Allow the light to hit your eyes and soak it in.   Roll up your sleeves and let your skin receive the Vitamin D that the sun provides.  Both these things will significantly improve you body's ability to rest, heal, revive, and ultimately thrive.  Vitamin D is essential for normal functioning of the body and is implicated in a number of disease and dirsorders, including depression.

4)  Move your body.  No, I'm not talking about running five miles or even walking around the block.  If you are sedentary, now is not the time to try to pressure yourself to create an exercise regimen.  That will come later, but for now, stretching in the morning and in the evening will do what we are looking for, which is to increase circulation, move toxins, and remind your tissue that you are alive and whole.  Again, I'm not talking about getting out and doing a hot yoga class every morning.  Just do more than what you are doing now.

5)  Rest.  Let your body be horizontal.  This allows the adrenal glands to start to replenish themselves.  If you are suffering from depression then you are likely suffering from chronic stress, which depletes the adrenals (particularly if you use caffeine or other stimulants at all).  I often feel that adrenal fatigue wave at around 3pm.  As a mother of young children, I'm pretty depleted, and I find myself needing to just move into the girls' room and lay on their bed while they play.  This helps tremendously.

6)  Seek out friends.  You don't have to share your story with them.  Trust your intuition on that.  But being with people is an inherent need for the human species.  If you are isolated it clouds judgment, weakens your ability to use those social muscles, and alters our perception of ourselves in a very short time.  Obviously, friends who are positive and helpful are preferred, but even just getting out and going to the grocery store, being courteous to the cashier, and looking people in the eyes as you walk past them will turn on some of that sense of not being so alone.

7)  Use the alone time you have.  If you are a mother of small children, then your isolation is not as much about physically being alone, but also about not being able to connect with other adults who value you beyond your mother role.  And you are one of the adults that you need to connect with.  I find myself not knowing what I think or feel until I can have 15 minutes of quiet and time to choose what I do with my day.  Remember that computer time is great to stay connected to those friends that don't live close by, but quiet time to stretch, meditate, or just read a real book, is often more valuable and more effective at letting you settle back into a grounded, alert, and aware position.

Pass this along to anyone you know that might need it.  Next time I'll address nutrition and foods your body can't do without when you are depressed and need something to help you rise up out of it.

Much love to you all, dear friends!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Celebrate Yourself

Several years ago, more than a decade actually, I worked in a little health food store in East Texas that sat next to a flower shop.  On Valentine's Day, many a desperate man came searching in our neighbor's shop hoping to pick up a last minute gift for the lovely lady of his life, and much to my dismay (and I'm sure his lovely lady's) many a desperate man left with house plants and tied red ribbon since the supply of roses, carnations and other flowers were long since sold out.  This was like a behind the scenes peak for me.  My own husband, at the time, was not so good at getting himself together enough to come home with flowers and chocolate on Valentine's Day, and it was at this time that I made a decision.  I would no longer celebrate Valentine's Day.  I would no longer make anyone jump through hoops to prove their worth, or  more importantly, to validate mine.

That was more than 15 years ago and much water has passed under the bridge since then.  My first husband rests in peace, I have remarried to a man who is ever devoted, and I am watching my oldest daughter begin to engage the mainstream culture as every holiday passes.  For an almost 5 year old who loves pink, red and hearts, Valentine's Day is a hard one to ignore.  So this is how I came to contemplate, after almost 15 years of refraining from celebrating in this red-heart day, whether we might need to join in on some of the hooplah.

I have to admit, I love all the red and pink hearts too.  There is something really intoxicating and celebratory about love for the sake of love and sweetness for the sake of sweetness.  Passion for the sake of passion is not a bad idea either.  And as I came to the realization that we would have to, no, WANT to let the girls enjoy this day along with the rest of the culture, I had to admit how nice it would be to be a part of that.  Robert, my husband and the girls' dad, is much better at preparing for these kinds of things, so I let him know that I would enjoy partaking in a little love celebration this year and he complied wonderfully. 

But as I share my yummy chocolates with Jetta and Jade, I am asking myself a few questions today, and I invite you to ask them with me.

What would I be doing if I chose to celebrate and love myself the way I want someone else to celebrate and love me?  What choices would I be making if I knew without a doubt that every step I took I would take with full conficence and joy for being who I am?  Who I am can be controversial, but what if I just let all that go and let others worry about the controversy while I celebrated what is so great about myself?  And what if I was first in line to buy, for myself, those flowers and chocolates to celebrate the true worth and wonderfulness of who I am and who I can be?  What if I knew that no matter where life takes me, I am there because someone else needs a dose of the magic and medicine that only I have to give?

I have been facing some serious road blocks lately and decisions have to follow, but making these decisions would certainly be shaped and influenced if I lifted myself up and remembered the value and worth I have, if I celebrated the sum of who I am, instead of worrying over how much they limit me.  There is no judge but ourselves.  And beyond this life there might not be chocolate.

So celebrate now, and be that awesome you.  I'll be that awesome me, and maybe we can meet up and be awesome together.

Happy Valentine's Day!