7 Steps for Beating Anxiety & Depression Naturally

anxiety-depression-natural

I’ve written quite a bit about my experiences with post-partum depression (here, here, and here), and I’ve received quite a few emails and messages from readers who have had experiences with all forms of depression and anxiety symptoms. I’ve hesitated writing what I’ve been doing lately – I’m doing a lot better, but as anyone who has struggled with depression knows, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for it all to go ‘bad’ again.

First, if you think you have some sort of depression, you should go talk to a doctor. I turned to google and researched the hell out of it before breaking down in tears at my doctor’s office when I couldn’t find a cure for myself. Why did I even go to the doctor? There was a point where I was constantly living in the ups and downs of emotional highs and lows. When I felt good, I felt great – life was great! Family was great! Nothing could go wrong! And then the next day I’d wake up and just not feel good, bickering with my husband, talking down to my loved ones, yelling at my children – I never was “suicidal”, I never wanted to cause physical pain to myself, but I would often think of how much happier my family would be without me. How they would be sad at first but they would survive without me. These weren’t good feelings to have, and I really couldn’t hold them in anymore.

Why did I wait so long to talk to a doctor? Because I didn’t want to be another statistic. Yet another person – another woman – on mood-altering drugs, on medication that is supposed to be temporary but ends up as a permanent way of life for people. I didn’t want to be “one of those”. But sometimes you can’t do it alone. Sometimes there are hormone imbalances at play and life becomes difficult. I know this now, and I know there is no shame in asking for help or admitting ‘defeat’. This is life. We can’t always do it all, nor should we.

I was put on low-dosage medication, and after a couple of months I went back and upped the prescription. My doctor’s main goal was my health, but that I would still feel like myself on medication, that I could be a good wife and mother and person in general, and we had spoken of a plan to get off the medication. He recommended summer as a good time but he ensured that there was never any deadline to remove the medication out of my system and that it would all depend on how I was doing.

After a few months on medication I felt better. I felt I could talk about my problems without the weird shameful feeling I always used to have. My overall intention was to eliminate the need for medication altogether, but I knew that it wasn’t time yet. So instead I researched. I read books and watched documentaries and read others’ experiences and talked to many, many people.

A book that intrigued me straight off the bat was ‘The Depression Cure‘, which intends to ‘beat depression without drugs’, but there were more books too: Vitamin Cure for Depression, Self-Coaching, and Mindfulness. The main goal of all these books is to use alternative methods to medication in combating depression, anxiety, panic attacks and the like.  You might not like these books, and you might find other books more helpful, but it’s good to start somewhere and see what speaks to you. Another vital resource was Postpartum Progress, this website and the creator, Katherine Stone, who is also very helpful on her Twitter account, helped me immensely.

To get down to basics, a healthy lifestyle (eating well, ensuring you get vitamins, physical activity) mixed with social activity, enough sleep, and removal of perfectionists’ syndrome

7 Steps for Beating Depression & Anxiety Naturally

The first six steps are based on Stephen Ilardi’s book The Depression Cure, with my own information and links to research added.

  1. Vitamins, Vitamins, Vitamins. Specifically Omega-3 (in fish oil capsules), Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Folic Acid, and multi-vitamins. More and more research (here, here, and here) is proving that omega-3 supplements are very important to ensure the brain functions properly and can help reduce depression symptoms. More information about treating depression with supplements: here, here, here, here, and here.
  2. Natural Light. Try to get as much natural light as possible, most important is the first hour of the day. Open the blinds, take a walk outside, and even if it’s a cloudy day, you can benefit from the natural light. Read more about sunlight impacting your mood and biological clock, seasonal depression, and light therapy.
  3. Physical Activity. This could be scheduled workouts at a gym, yoga, outdoor activities such as hiking, golfing, paddle boarding, cleaning your house, dancing (even on the wii!), gardening or simply going for a walk. There are many reasons why exercise helps with depression and anxiety, mainly due to endorphins being released, but also because it takes your mind off of your problems. I even found a study that stated that vacuuming can really help with anxiety issues. My house is now usually very clean.
  4. Engaged Activity. This is similar to the above step except that it doesn’t have to be physical, it simply has to engage our minds and our bodies so we don’t have the time to think negative thoughts. Blogging, reading, writing letters or affirmations, meditating, having a cup of coffee with a neighbor, just doing things, preferably in social situations. To quote Stephen Ilardi: “The biggest risk factor for rumination is simply spending time alone, something Americans now do all the time. When you’re interacting with another person, your mind just doesn’t have a chance to dwell on repetitive negative thoughts. But, really, any sort of engaged activity can work to interrupt rumination.”
  5. Social Support. Discuss your issues and problems. Every single mother I talked to, who I previously feared speaking to because they seemed to always be happy and “have it together”, all – every. single. one. of. them. – have had experience with depression and/or anxiety. Some of them were even living similar lives to what I was at the same time. Speak to your partner about it, which I personally found difficult but I did it!, speak to your parents, your siblings, find online and in-real-life groups (there are many post-partum support groups in my small, small town, I’m sure in a larger city there would be many to choose from). Speaking about what you’re going through helps, as does speaking about anything and finding friendships in unlikely places. Even an off-topic gossip session will do you good.
  6. Sleep. There is a major link between depression and sleep problems, but not allowing your body and mind to be fully at rest can cause further anxiety and depression issues. My baby still doesn’t sleep through the night, but when I feel over-tired, I get to sleep earlier instead of staying up to watch tv and even napping when I can.
  7. Cut Yourself Some Slack. Perfectionism can be a disease that leads to low self-esteem, depression and anxiety problems. Nobody is expecting you to be perfect. Nobody is expecting you to have a full face of makeup, perfectly blown-out hair, a thin and strong body, the most stylish clothes and the cutest shoes, as well as be the perfect mother by making all-natural and organic meals for all, not allowing television or iPads as a form of entertainment, only allowing educational fun – and get all the laundry done, dishes clean, have the house spotless all. the. time., ensure your husband has delicious meals every night waiting for him when he gets home and be exciting in the bedroom in your impossibly sexy yet tasteful lingerie. HA. It’s okay to NOT be all or any of this.  But isn’t this what housewives look like on tv? Isn’t this what my husband and kids expect?  NO. No, no, no. I think your family will prefer a happy, mindful, and loving mother and wife, pajama pants be damned.

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I want to provide you with a full disclosure. I am not a doctor, nor a therapist of any sort, or even a homeopath. I am not licensed in any health care facility, I do not know everything there is to know about vitamins or pharmaceuticals. This is a learning process for myself as well and I simply wanted to share what has been working for me at this point. This is what I’ve done for MYSELF, this does not mean that it will be right for you, and if you have any concerns I would recommend speaking to your health professional before embarking on anything that you feel might not suit you.

I posted this because I know how it is to feel helpless and overwhelmed by the aspects of a mental illness. Anxiety disorders, depression, ‘baby blues’ – these are all things that are difficult to speak about, or even put into words. Hormones and emotions overtake us and we’re not sure if we’re even thinking clearly – is it just a bad day? Is it just a passing mood? Or is it something that you deal with on an almost daily basis? Do you have days where you are happy and feeling well-adjusted, then days where you just feel like garbage and you have no idea why?

I’ve felt all of these. I’ve questioned myself. I’ve googled to my hearts desire. I spoke to my doctor. I went on medication. I researched some more. I took myself off of medication. I tried different things and am trying my best to stick to them.

I also want to note that it wasn’t UNTIL I got on medication that I could even begin to think clearly about my issues and problems, and what I could do to help myself. I am not advising you to get off medication against your doctor’s wishes. I am not advising to NOT go on medication – talk to your doctor, involve him in your thought process, allow him to understand any fears you may have about going on prescription medication.

These are simply my experiences and I am only hoping that someone can take something from it, to know that they are not alone and perhaps it can help them as well.

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The Zero Waste Home

Bea Johnson

the ever chic Bea Johnson

I moved to the West Coast in the Autumn of 2009. It wasn’t quite the cultural shock some would have you believe, say if you suddenly moved from Toronto to Istanbul, now that would be a culture shock, but moving from Toronto to Vancouver is quite a bit easier.

First, the country is the same, so everything that could possibly make things difficult – ie. language, currency, food – isn’t quite as shocking as one might think. The first true shock came to us in terms of real estate prices – we couldn’t afford a single damn thing. The other major difference I took note of is that people in Vancouver seem to work to live, instead of the other way around.

Case in point, in Toronto at 6 pm you will see the lights in office buildings still on, you will talk to friends who are finishing up their office work, their construction job, they will put in the extra work, even if it means staying until 7 or 8 pm on a Friday, and then they’ll go out and play hard. Toronto = work hard, party hard.

Try to make a phone call to most major offices in Vancouver at 6 pm on a Friday – and NO ONE WILL ANSWER THE PHONE. You will listen to the message and realise they close at 4:30 pm on a Friday??? How the hell is anyone supposed to get any work done? And of course these people are off kayaking, and doing yoga on paddleboards, rock climbing, playing golf, even shooting guns at the range – they’re doing stuff, not just going to some club and getting their drank on, which is why the city is dubbed ‘NoFuncouver’ because of the lack of selection in nightlife activities. Vancouver = work well, play hard, usually outdoors.

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This is a whole year of garbage. In one jar.

In order to help adjust to this West Coast lifestyle, I started reading Sunset Magazine, which claims to be my guide to living in the west. I adored it for restaurant recommendations, featured indie shops, yummy recipes using seasonal and local ingredients – and generally skimmed over the rest of the magazine. I don’t garden (yet), or kayak (yet), but I’m sure when I come around to it I will also find those sections interesting.

Anyway, a year after I moved to British Columbia, I came across an article in Sunset about a family in the San Francisco area that produces ONE JAR OF GARBAGE… PER YEAR! The ‘Zero Waste’ household was inspiring, but I didn’t feel like I could achieve it, not even close.

But how I lusted over her minimal (white!) interiors, her efficient and pretty pantry system, and the idea that buying used clothing for her children cost her $10 twice a year.

pantry

her pretty pantry

That was a couple of years ago, and since then I had loosely followed Bea Johnson’s blog, but really found inspiration for minimal living in other books and documentaries and websites. I think simplifying your life is a mental thing first. You can’t achieve it without having the proper mindset. You need to reason with yourself, give yourself a thesis and a mission statement and figure out what benefits you can achieve for yourself with a minimal lifestyle (and there are more than a few, thankfully.)

Since that first article, The Johnson family have become ‘Green Celebrities’, proving to people everywhere that even a “normal” family, 2 adults + 2 kids + 1 dog, can be so green it almost hurts!

And now, reading Miss Johnson’s book, Zero-Waste Home, I am happy that she is willing to share her tips with us, her attempts and her fails, and the life she used to live compared to how she lives now – yes, she was a major yuppy, with 2 cars in a huge house and living the American dream. Now this French transplant has gone back to her roots and realised the impact of living excessively and doing her best to overcome it. And hopes that we’ll all join in with her.

The book is easy to read, has no sense of pretension or judgement, and truly reads like your good friend giving you valuable advice.

I am no closer to having a couple handfuls of garbage per year, mind you, but our garbage per week has dropped down to one small bag instead of the sometimes two big black garbage bags that seemed to come out of thin air.

How achievable do you think a ‘zero waste household’ is? Do you think it’s feasible for most people? For yourself?

 

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The summer is gone!

pineapple

Summer went by in a fast blur, and it seems autumn has already fallen upon us, literally. It has been pouring for 4 days straight, monsoon-like rainfalls that stop for an hour or so at a time and then continue all night long. I really don’t mind the rain, but since we’ve moved into this tiny apartment it gets hard entertaining the children. They are literally bouncing off the walls all. the. time.

Our lease on our old place came up at the end of July, and because of construction delays, we aren’t able to move into our house (because there are no windows on it… or walls, or plumbing, or electrical…), so we’ve rented a tiny apartment of 750 sq ft. I realise that’s not SO tiny, I realise there are smaller places in the world and that we are lucky to have a roof over our heads… but squeeze a family of four into a one-bedroom plus den apartment, (we sleep in the den, which doesn’t have doors) and the kids share the master bedroom, and suddenly you start to understand how sardines feel in their tin cans.

To combat the feeling that this space is too small for us, which it really isn’t, only we’ve grown accustomed to a larger space, we’ve left most of our items in storage. I’m slowly going through the boxes in our storage unit to find more fall-appropriate clothing, but the kids toys will be limited and they will be allowed to ‘swap’ them occasionally, the only kitchen appliance I have is my Breville Keurig coffee brewer (which I absolutely adore!) and it works as a kettle for hot water as well.

The less stuff you have, the more room you have.

I am turning that line into my new mantra.

Living in this tiny apartment is a good exercise in ‘minimal living’, where keeping clutter under control is a never ending chore.

I am looking forward to the next couple of months living here, seeing what stories come about, what my children learn from ‘downsizing’, and eventually moving into our own-built home.

How has your summer been? Anything new?

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Depression

Depression

Depression is such a boring topic. It’s not even an accurate descriptive of my feelings. I am not sad. I don’t have the “baby blues”. I’m just stuck inside of a bucket deep in a well of my own making, there are times when the bucket rises and I can see blue skies and butterflies and then other times the rope seems to slip and I delve deeper into this dark pit of nothingness.

The horrible part of all of this is that I KNOW THIS IS HAPPENING. And I can’t seem to pull myself out of it. I shake my head at myself in constant amazement that I cannot seem to “level” myself out.

A big problem for me lately is my anti-social behaviour.

Tied in part to my weight gain, tied in part to who-knows-what – I just don’t want to go out and do things in social situations – but when I do? I have a great time! Nothing bad ever happens, I don’t think anything bad ever happens, but when Jay tells me we’ve been invited to a dinner at a relative’s, and then to a wedding for some neighbours this weekend – TWO SOCIAL FUNCTIONS IN ONE WEEK! – I have this urge to feign illness and jump under the covers and sleep until it’s all over with.

I tell him I don’t want to go because I’m tired, which is partly true, but I’m always tired because my baby doesn’t sleep through the night. I am used to this situation, I can survive on four hours of broken sleep and twenty espressos. He knows this. I tell him I’m fat and don’t have any clothes to wear and I don’t want to go anywhere because of that, he says he’s fat too, let’s just suck it up and where what we have and not worry about it. I keep making excuses – the baby! my tummy hurts! I have a migraine! Chanel’s not feeling well! I have too much to do! – and he always finds some kind of solution to my “problem”.

I just don’t want to go.

I don’t know why.

I just don’t.

It drives me batshit crazy that I know that this is all in my head. I don’t think anything bad will be happening to me. I love talking, so that’s not a problem. I’m not shy, not by any means. I would just rather slump on the sofa, watch tv and eat pizza and drink wine. Not alone! With Jay. Which makes it all okay….

Ugh.

This whole post is depressing but I will not apologize for it or for making you read it (if you’ve even gotten this far).

You know, if you met me, if you came to my house for a tea or some coffee, I would give you a snack (maybe some cheese, a croissant, or oreos, whatever you wish) and we would watch our kids play (or just mine if you don’t have any), and we would discuss life and love and tv shows and events in town and the house build and shopping and on and on…. AND YOU WOULD NEVER GUESS I’D BE SO MESSED UP!

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Saying Goodbye to our “Home”

Living Room

With three weeks left in this house, I keep stealing glances at my surroundings and thinking of the memories that happened there. The cuddles on the sofa, Holland’s first steps in the living room, the playtime in the bathtub, the hours in the sun playing on the deck in the backyard.

Although this place was a rental, I still attempted to make it feel like home as much as possible. I wanted my children to grow up in a “temporary” house that felt like our own. We didn’t paint or spend too much money on the interiors – Jay, the practical one in our relationship, didn’t want to invest in a place that we didn’t own. I agree with him, but I still feel that you can add your own personal taste into a space without compromising budget or making it a permanent change.

 

Dining Area

We’ve spent almost three years here.

Three years of bears traipsing through our backyard, Chanel biking on the pump track, pizza movie nights where we cuddled on the sofa until our eyelids would close on us.

Living Room

We’ve celebrated numerous birthdays here, baked a ton of cupcakes and cookies, and recycled more pizza boxes than I can count!

Kitchen

Living Room & Kitchen

I know it hasn’t all been good times, life isn’t always full of champagne and roses, but the awesome times definitely outweigh the bad.

My Bedroom

It makes me laugh, but our bedroom has changed quite a few times since the picture above was snapped! The bed is on the opposite wall, the sheets & duvet cover are changed, there is also new side tables, PLUS a crib, a dresser and a desk in there now!

Crib

Desk

It’s always a little sad to say goodbye to a place that was your home, even if only for a short while. But knowing that the future holds so many great possibilities for us is something to look forward to! I hope you enjoyed our little home tour!

Next month I’m taking the kids and we’re going to visit my parents for a few weeks while Jay finishes the house up, and we’re hoping to move in by the end of August, fingers and toes crossed it will be done on time!

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