With the holiday season upon us, many people start to feel the pangs of depression. It could be the memories of a lost loved one, the stress of shopping, or just the general feeling of loneliness. There are a lot of things you can do to prevent a depressive period from getting worse, and avoid taking prescription medication.
The following supplements and suggestions may be just what you need to beat the temporary blues. While they are not intended to be a replacement for traditional medicine, many of the remedies listed below can also enhance the effects of anti-depressants.
1. St. John's Wort
The herb St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) has long been used in folk medicine for sadness, worry, nervousness, and poor sleep. Although, studies suggest that St. John's wort is not effective for major depression, it may be just the boost you need to lift you out of a funk.
St. John’s wort is available in the form of capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, and teas. You can find it at most grocery and health food stores. It may take 4 to 6 weeks to notice the full effects of St. John’s wort, so give it time to begin working.
St. John's wort is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing, children, or people with bipolar disorder, liver or kidney disease. Side effects may include dizziness, dry mouth, indigestion, and fatigue. St. John's wort increases photosensitivity, so extra caution should be taken to protect skin and eyes from sunlight. If you are currently taking prescription medication for depression, ask your doctor before trying St. John's wort.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of "good" fat needed for normal brain function. Since our bodies can't make omega-3s on their own, so we must obtain them through our diet including cold water fish like salmon and halibut, as well as flax seeds, walnuts and tofu.
Studies have linked depression with low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids, and some suggest that omega-3's together with antidepressants may be more effective than antidepressants alone.
Omega-3s are also available in fish oil. Don’t forget to store these supplements in the refrigerator to prevent the oil from spoiling.
3. Folic Acid
Folic acid, also called folate, is a B vitamin that is often deficient in people who are depressed. By increasing your intake of foods high in folic acid, like green leafy vegetables, fruit, beans, and fortified grains, you can help to reduce the blues. Researchers at Harvard University have found that depressed people with low folate levels don't respond as well to antidepressents, and taking folic acid in supplement form can improve the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Folic acid is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies due of poor diet. Besides food, folic acid is also available as a supplement or as part of a B-complex vitamin.
4. Lay Off the Sweets
There are many reasons people should reduce their intake of sweets. Extra calories aside, did you know that sweets can actually affect your mood? When you have a sweet snack it causes your blood sugar to soar. While this may initially perk you up and make you feel great, after a short period of time your blood sugar plummets, and this can cause your mood can also move rapidly downhill.
According to another article on Organic Authority, consuming large quantities of chocolate is linked to depression.
5. Reduce the Caffeine and Alcohol
Yet another reason to drink more water! Caffeine and alcohol can both wreak havock on your mood. While alcohol may relax you, the effects are short-lived. It can increase mood swings, anxiety, and also insomnia.
Similarly, caffeine gives you the initial jolt of energy, but as it wears off, there can be an increase in depressive moods.
6. Keep Moving
All types of exercise can impact your mood and state of mind. While cardiovascular exercise increases endorphins, your body’s natural mood enhancer, it also circulates oxygen to all the organs in your body. Commonly referred to as an exercise high, your body can reap the benefits of cardiovascular exercise throughout the day.
In contrast, stretching, Pilates, and yoga can reduce tension, relieve tightness in your muscles, and help relax your body. As a mother of three, I don’t realize how much stress I carry around in my shoulders until I start to stretch. These types of exercise also allow time to relax your mind, which few of us take time to do as we try to balance work and family.
Exercise can also increase your energy, balance, and flexibility. In general, exercise is a safe, effective, and easy way to improve your well-being. Check with your doctor before starting a new program.
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Image by: Amy Wilbanks