Tips for Overcoming Anxiety-Based Depression

In my last column, I talked about depression. There is a distinction between two types of depression: one type that causes a debilitating sadness and fatigue and one type that includes sadness and lack of interest, but also anxiety. Last time I addressed the debilitating kind of depression; in this column I’ll address the anxious type of depression. With this type of depression, you are still able to carry out your normal activities, but you feel sad or numb, lacking your usual enjoyment. You also feel anxious — this may feel like muscular tension, indigestion, aches and pains, racing heart or many other bodily sensations. Your thoughts dwell on negative repetition.

You can still carry out your normal activities, but you may not be functioning as well as you could. And who wants to go around feeling sad and worried all the time? Here are some suggestions for overcoming this type of depression.

Try herbal and supplemental ‘anxiolytics’. ‘Anxiolytics’ are a category of remedy that decrease the activation of your ‘fight-or-flight’ response. They range from very mild, like chamomile tea, to very strong, like passionflower tincture. There are many amino acids that can promote relaxation, but I recommend getting the help of a health-care professional before taking them because some of them can have serious side effects if used incorrectly. Using anxiolytics can take the edge off while you develop some of the other techniques listed here.

Activate your relaxation response. This simple, free technique has been shown to decrease anxiety and improve mood among many, many other benefits. Find a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe in such a way that your stomach puffs out instead of your chest. While breathing, repeat a word or phrase that has a peaceful meaning for you (e.g. ‘peace’, ‘serenity’ or ‘the Lord is my Shepherd’). Give yourself at least five minutes. When you first try this you may not feel the results, but don’t worry, you will get better at it. The key to getting a benefit from deep breathing is to do it every day.

Take your fish oil. Taking supplemental omega-3 fatty acid EPA has been shown to do all kinds of good things for the mood: it decreases anxiety and depression and increases focus and concentration. You probably won’t notice the effects of the fish oil right away — give it at least a three-month trial. Please refer to my past article about fish oil to learn how to pick a good brand, which is crucial to seeing results (http://www.natural-route.com/the-biggest-fish-oil-mistakes/).

Turn to the things you know you enjoy and make a goal of getting a daily dose of those things. This can be as simple as watching a YouTube video of your favourite musician every morning, or as complex as setting aside time each day to engage in a favourite form of creative expression. If you can’t think of anything that you enjoy, substitute a daily dose of natural surroundings. Take a walk through a nearby park or, if that’s not possible, just sit by a tree for a bit. Or stare at one out the window. Do what you can.

Take a look at your responsibilities and priorities. Is it possible that you have too much on your plate? Or that you need more support or recognition for your contributions? Depression is not just a physical state — it involves your thoughts, emotions and social context as well. I often see people who have been working very hard and have a lot of responsibilities who have burned themselves out and literally do not have the energy to feel upbeat any longer. There is no easy fix for having too much to do, but you can make changes, one step at a time. The first step is to assess whether or not you might be taking on too much.

Practise cognitive behavioural therapy. CBT, as it’s known for short, is one of the most well-researched treatments for depression. You can use it with a professional or you can give it a whirl on your own; check out the book Mind Over Mood by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky. It is a fantastic workbook that walks you through the process of CBT in easy, bite-size chunks.

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With some changes, you can get to feeling better. Of course, sometimes all it takes is the tincture of time. Do what you feel is right for you.