June 15, 2018

Depression and Mindfulness

If you wake up with the sniffles, you might decide to stay in bed, see your doctor or go to an acupuncturist. However, if you wake up with depression, often one gets bogged down in the “Why is this happening to me, even if parts of my life are going great?” This kind of thinking - asking “why” does nothing for the healing process, and indeed can often cause a downward spiral. Instead what is important to ask is, “What am I feeling? And what can I do about it?”

When we are stressed, we go into the traditional fight, flight or deer in the headlight (freeze), but there is another response - nesting. Often depression can linger much like a low-grade fever. You don’t feel crappy enough to go to bed, but you struggle to get through the day. Simply taking 30 seconds to practice the Simple Self Hypnosis technique is a way to relax, calm yourself, check in with your needs, and proceed with more confidence.’

I’ve written about Seasonal Affective Disorder before, which sometimes is easier to manage because it is predictable as it is seasonal. so it can be easier to set up your ducks, much like taking extra vitamin C or echinacea in the wintertime to build up one’s immunity. These holistic remedies are an excellent adjunct and are well worth repeating here.

1. St. John's Wort - While does not make me euphoric by any means, gives me an even keel. I find it most effective taking it at least one month before my regular symptoms appear in February.

2. Sleep - Hibernation is my friend. I sleep anywhere from 9 to 12 hours plus take naps during the winter time. Way better than checking out on drugs, alcohol or any other escape mechanism. Plus, I look so young with all that beauty rest!

3. Sunshine - There is a reason why I live in California. However, I remember when I was a kid living rainy, cold Luxembourg my parents buying a tanning lamp to give all of us a seasonal boost.

4. Vitamin D - Of course is naturally produced by being in the sun, but what with global warming and polar vortex conditions, consider supplementing your regime. Vitamin C is also our friend, boosting immunity.

5. Aromatherapy - Orange, bergamot, and lemon all uplift the spirits. Combine with a carrier oil and use as either a room spray or body spray. Check for allergies first!

6. Stop drinking alcohol - Quite simply it is a depressant. Again, like taking herbs, I find it most effective if I stop drinking one month before I usually experience my winter blues.

7. Wear bright colors - I find myself reaching into the closet for the grey and black clothing, reflecting my inner landscape. Deliberately choosing to wear purples, reds, yellows, and other bright colors helps me "fake it until I make it."

8. Have an Orgasm - I went to a workshop on tantra and what I remember the most is to engage in self pleasure, even if you do not feel like it. The hormones and neuro-transmitters released are the same for happiness and feeling in love. Apparently sex is better than valium!

9. Receive Reiki/Massage - Intrinsic touch is crucial to human happiness, especially if you are single or choose not to engage in tip number 8.

10. Smile/Laugh - another "fake it till you make it" technique, I schedule a lot of lunches with colleagues and make an effort to hang out with my friends more, as being isolated simply leads to that spiral of depression. Watch funny movies/tv shows/internet sites, avoid the news/radio/facebook, be super selective.

11. Do some Hypnosis /Meditate - I have discussed this before in my post "Meditate, Don't Medicate". Taking the time to set your intentions, experiencing deep relaxation, letting go of stress and simply allowing yourself to be present are soothing, healing and comforting. Check out my YouTube video "A Simple Self Hypnosis Technique" for more information.

12. Be Active/Exercise - another way to release those feel-good endorphins, a twenty-minute walk can do wonders for your mood. Start small - just five minutes, once around the garden or the block. On rainy days I do the "Just Dance" program on the Wii. Shake it up!

It has been said that “whatever you resist, persists.” Not only does it persist, the feeling often gets stronger. If I hear a gentle rumble in my tummy telling me I’m hungry, I can ignore it at first. However, it will get louder and even painful if I don’t attend to my body’s needs by feeding and hydrating. Same is true of depression - if we don’t pay attention to the earlier red flags, it can explode into anger or implode into feelings of crumbling self-worth, hopelessness, and despair. So don’t resist depression, recognize it must serve some evolutionary purpose, and invite yourself to discover ways to feed your mind, feed your soul, in order to feel your needs are met and you can operate from that place.

Caroline Myss says that “all illness is an initiation”. What initiation could you be experiencing during times of depression? Does the caterpillar ask itself this during metamorphosis, or does it weave its cocoon and be willing to go through an intense transformation? How is the depression like a cocoon for you? What are you doing in there, besides for stewing in your own juices? Being depressed can mean having nothing to do but really, really focus on yourself, heal those old wounds instead of picking at scabs, and truly heal and deal.

If you had a broken leg, you’d go get a cast and give your body time to mend before going dancing again. Often depression is a broken heart, a broken spirit, a broken home. Use the cocoon of depression to be your cast, give yourself not just the time to heal, but the resources. This could mean time to yourself, with a loved one or a healer. This could be receiving unconditional love from your pet.

Zora Neal Hurston said, “There are years that question and years that answer.” Allow yourself to enter the answering years. Again, instead of asking why, ask how-how will this help me grow, what can I learn from this, what would I do the same, what can I do differently?

Being mindful simply means being aware. How can you be more aware of depression, treat it with velvet gloves, invite it in for tea and conversation, feel wiser as it leaves? Start simple: play music - could be uplifting sure, but that adds to persistence - delve into opera, heavy metal, country music - listen to all of the other broken hearts and recognize you are not alone in these feelings. Find the rhythms, the lyrics to express your anguish, emptiness, and bafflement. If you can’t sing, at least hum.

Notice light - are you hunkering down in the dark? Wearing sunglasses to avoid eye contact? If it feels like too much to sit outside and absorb some beneficial sunlight, simply visualize light - light in your heart or around your heart, light in your belly, feeling light on your feet, cultivating more lightheartedness. Stop reading the news and feeding your mind with other people's tragedies, this just adds to your burden. A while ago I deleted my Facebook personal account as I found reading about my friend's getting divorced or their pets dying just added to my feelings of helplessness. While I have a business page, part of my personal mindfulness practice is to only post positive stories, to help others feel uplifted or inspired. Ask yourself, is social media part of what's keeping you down?

Notice color - are you wearing black or grey every day? It’s okay. Maybe wear some bright yellow underwear underneath to remind you that there is sun behind the clouds, the fog will lift. Or use an uplifting aromatherapy oil like lemon, orange or bergamot, all which are sunny and soothing.

Notice smells and tastes, what are your healthy comfort foods? Chicken Noodle Soup? Notice any self-medicating with coffee, cigarettes, beer, wine or recreational marijuana, which often have the opposite effect of numbing one’s emotions and indeed often seem to heighten the emotions, adding to the downward spiral of depression, combined with feelings of shame, guilt, and remorse. Again, if you had a broken leg, would you partying every day or sipping bone broth? The choice is yours.

And you do have a choice. While you might not feel that you have a choice in being depressed any more than a choice of catching a cold or getting cancer, the truth is you must mindfully question what purpose does depression serve? Why am I willing to stay depressed? What do I get out of it? Attention? An excuse to procrastinate?

And since you do have free will and free choice, what are you going to do about it? Suicidal feelings are a reason to note that it is not that you want to die, but you want the feelings that you are going through to die. Get professional help, realize you are worth it. I certainly know that you are.

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 15, a label I have struggled with ever since. In the last couple of decades, I have boiled it down from year around symptoms to the month of February, mostly the last two weeks. The first of March has become to signify the beginning of Spring, not just on the earth but truly the rebirth of my psyche. Rather than resisting the dark of winter, I have created a way to move through. Much like knowing it is inevitable that I will get a cold or the flu, I strive to bolster my immune systems - physical and emotional. I accept this time much like accepting being premenstrual, however, I know there are ways to alleviate the symptoms and create better mental health.

And if I can do it, you can too!

Please note: This is not meant to be a substitute for any medical or therapeutic advice. Do what is best for you, but please, create a support system for your self. You deserve a healthy happy life and can manage your emotions without having them manage you!