10 Natural Treatments for Depression and Anxiety
July 12, 2013
By Sarah Schwager
Natural Treatments for Depression and Anxiety
Having suffered anxiety for as long as I can remember, I know firsthand just how debilitating the effects of anxiety and depression are. And I'm not alone. Around 3 million people experience depression and/or anxiety in Australia every year.

It is also heavily prescribed. Australian taxpayers funded more than 13.6 million scripts for antidepressants in 2010-11 alone under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. According to research conducted at the University of Sydney, there was a 95.3% increase in the use of antidepressants from 2000 to 2011 across Australia.

A threefold increase in the prescribing of antidepressants was also recorded from 1990 to 1998, according to a report by the Department of Health and Ageing. The Australian researchers also found that 85% of prescriptions for antidepressants subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme were written by general practitioners, while just 11.2% were written by psychiatrists.

As one of the authors of the University of Sydney report, Professor Iain McGregor, points out: "These drugs have been relentlessly promoted by the pharmaceutical industry but meds are not the only answer, and anyone with emotional problems should consider diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and psychological therapy."

Meanwhile, the use of antipsychotic drugs also doubled between 2000 and 2011. Professor McGregor says this is largely to do with antipsychotics being prescribed for conditions other than schizophrenia, such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, ADHD and dementia. He says some antipsychotic drugs can have major side effects, including obesity, diabetes and loss of interest in life.

When I finally realised a few years ago that what I was feeling wasn't normal, I sought help. I also did a lot of research. Despite being offered a number of antidepressants and other drugs, I decided to take natural methods to recovery. You can read more about why I decided to stay away from antidepressants in this article: Side Effects of Antidepressants.

Below are my tips to get you on the road to recovery and help control the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

1. Address emotional issues

Instead of passing depression or anxiety off as a disease that can't be cured, it is important to address the underlying emotional issues causing the symptoms. Try sitting with your emotions and reflecting on them rather than trying to ignore them.

The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is one form of emotional cleansing that can be very effective. Using psychological acupressure, it can be conducted by an EFT practitioner or you can even learn to do it on your own.

2. Exercise regularly

Exercise is great for combating depression as it helps normalise insulin levels and boosts endorphin levels. Dr. James S. Gordon actually found that physical exercise is as good as antidepressants for helping with depression. However, if you suffer from anxiety, you might want to try more calming types of exercise, such as yoga.

3. Improve your diet

Processed foods and simple carbohydrates, including sugar, bread, pasta, biscuits and white rice, can take a great toll on your mental as well as your physical health. These foods mess with your insulin and leptin levels, cause inflammation, and suppress a growth hormone found to be critically low in depressed people, called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor).

Instead, eat foods rich in protein, fibre and health fats, including omega-3s, which are highly important for brain health, memory and to prevent depression. However, make sure you go about dietary changes gradually as radical changes can also have emotional effects. For some more diet tips, check out this article: Discover 10 Healthy Ways to Lose Weight.

4. Get in touch with nature

Whether it's a walk through the park, sitting in your garden, swimming in the ocean or hiking up a mountain, getting outdoors and spending time in nature has countless benefits. It can help improve your vitamin D levels, reduce inflammation through grounding, and improve your mood.

5. Regulate your sleeping patterns

A common symptom of depression and anxiety is either not sleeping enough or sleeping too much. Both are just as harmful. No less than 6 hours and no more than 9 hours is ideal. In order to regulate your sleep patterns, go to bed and get up at the same time every day, remove all electronic devices from your bedroom, including mobile phones, and keep the room very dark and not too warm.

Not stressing about getting to sleep really helped me (a long-time sufferer of insomnia), as well as understanding that waking up in the middle of the night was perfectly natural. See more on the topic here: How to Sleep Naturally.

6. Meditation and breathing techniques

Other ways of coping with stress and emotional triggers include meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises. By meditating for even 10 minutes a day you can become calmer and more focused. I've never been great at meditation, allowing yourself even a few minutes to switch off has been ingrained in us as almost sacrilege, but if you're dedicated you will get there! Practicing breathing techniques through meditation or yoga can also be great in the event of a panic attack. If you're new to meditation you can try apps such as the popular Meditation Oasis.

7. Get creative

Release your emotions creatively. Paint, write down your thoughts, play music, dance, draw or take part in whatever other creative outlet you most enjoy. It's great therapy and a great release when your emotions get the better of you.

8. Talk about it

Try telling someone how you are feeling. This doesn't mean you have to go into great detail about your emotional problems, but even just getting it out there can be a good way to release whatever has been building up inside you and allow you to start dealing with the cause. You'll probably even find that you're not alone and that many of the people around you have also dealt with anxiety or depression at one time. This sense of knowing you're not alone can be very therapeutical.

9. Holistic treatments

Alternative medicines offer a great deal of treatments for curing anxiety and depression. You might find that your balance in certain vitamins and minerals is out and by improving your levels, your mood improves as well. By adding magnesium and vitamin B complex supplements to diet, my mood started to improve. A therapy known as Total Body Modification (TBM), which certain doctors, chiropractors, osteopaths and other therapists utilise, has also been particularly useful for me. Others speak wonders of energetic healing. There's even an app for it! This app incorporates meditation and chakra clearing into your daily routine.

10. Switch off the computer, turn off the phone

That idea of constantly having to be connected can be exhausting for people dealing with depression and anxiety. Constantly checking emails, social media and mobile phones for responses and the constant interruptions in your daily life can be very stressful. Try removing these stressors for a whole night or weekend.

This might even give you time to focus on your thoughts, and rather than ignoring your negative thoughts, allow yourself to absorb them, think about what you are feeling and why, and what needs to be accepted in order to move on.

Disclaimer: These are suggestions only and shouldn't be taken as professional advice. While these methods can be very helpful for people with mild or moderate symptoms of anxiety or depression, people with more serious symptoms or who are having suicidal thoughts should consult a healthcare professional.
"Meds are not the only answer, and anyone with emotional problems should consider diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and psychological therapy." - Professor Iain McGregor