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“Do not worry; eat three square meals a day; exercise; go slow and easy. Maybe there are other things your special case requires to make you happy; but these, I reckon, will give you a good lift!” – Abraham Lincoln
Like many, I have always had a natural affinity towards Abe Lincoln. As 16th President of the United States, he endured one of the most tumultuous periods in our nations history. Not only did he have to contend with the weighty responsibility of his office – but he also had to deal with some major internal conflicts – most noteworthy, was his abiding depression (or melancholy, as it was commonly referred to at the time).
Depression is no picnic. In the winter of 2001, I was diagnosed with the “black cloud” after trying to shove it back in the recesses of my mind for years. But it’s easier said than done. For those with depression know all too well the ways it can affect your daily living – even altering your want to live.
I’ve tried to explain it to others (who’ve never experienced it) that depression is a pervading “heavy heart” – an overall sense of heaviness or sorrow. While it does lift from time to time – it seems to be a constant companion; a “thorn in the flesh” as Paul talks about in the New Testament.
I accept my thorn – but I also do my best to avoid it getting the better hand. I am not a doctor – nor do I offer these suggestions as prescriptions – but merely as things that have helped me along the way to better manage my own black cloud so I can move on with life. I trust they might provide a ray of light shining through some heavy clouds.
- Seek out a mental health professional. I’m all for ending any stigma attached to depression. There is no need to suffer in silence. Depression has affected some of the greatest minds in history and our time. If you have it – you are not alone and things are not as hopeless as they seem. Trust me. And, there are many around you who can help navigate your way out of the pain. It was one of the first natural treatments I sought out after my diagnosis.
- Get your sleep. One of the best natural ways to help deal with depression is to get sleep. Depression seems to have a stronger hold on me if I’m weary and unrested.
- Diet is important. I ignored this one for a long time. Never a fan of the “green stuff” (fruits and veggies) – I have started to snack more and more on vegetables and the like that provide a natural boost to my mental health.
- Exercise. While not a big fan of working out and running – I take brisk walks and get out in the fresh air. There are natural energizers that are released into the body / mind when we move and are active.
- Take supplements. For a period of time, I took anti-depressants that helped me to live more fully with depression. I have since replaced these pills with more natural nutrients and supplements – like Omega 3 (or EFAs) and vitamin d. Some foods you can find these in are fish and mushrooms (Note: I am not poo-pooing the idea of anti-depressants; only know there could be other alternatives).
- Talk to someone. When I came to a place where I knew I wasn’t impressing anyone by “sucking it up” and not talking about the depression – I took a big a step in dealing with my illness. It didn’t take it away – but it helped me get out from under the shadows.
- Pray. I think hopelessness can be one of the biggest fuels for depression’s fire. Prayer – talking to God about my concerns, despair, worries, anxiety, fear, whatever – helps me to revive hope. Hope can quickly douse those flames.
I would love to know any natural ways you deal with depression – if you feel comfortable in sharing.