Last week we looked at the prevalence of depression in today’s society and how it is being overmedicated as a quick fix. In this second part, the emphasis is on finding solutions for this challenge to our health and happiness. It’s important to know that our natural state is to be healthy and happy. Therefore, the approach from an integrative, holistic counselling perspective, is aimed at restoring this natural state.

Diagnosing depression

The first step is awareness of the fact that you might be experiencing symptoms of depression. Most of us will feel ‘down’ or anxious at times in our lives, especially when we’ve been overdoing it, after intensely stressful or traumatic events, when we’re having trouble with our relationships, or when experiencing financial problems. This is part of the human condition when dealing with life, and not necessarily depression. Losing a loved one, for example, leads to the grieving process, which is normal. It is not depression and should definitely not be medicated for years.

If you are going through a difficult time, you can consult a medical doctor who specialises in holistic integrative medicine, to support you using holistic health counselling. Before you start using any form of medication, whether it’s prescription antidepressants or a natural remedy like St John’s Wort, it’s important to first rule out any other causes of depression such as low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) or low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). Certain prescription medication (including antidepressants, blood pressure medication and statins), OTC (over-the-counter) drugs, recreational drugs, caffeine and alcohol abuse may also cause depression.

Never stop your prescribed medication without medical support from a doctor also informed about natural, holistic therapies, even if you are feeling better – most medications need to be gradually withdrawn (tapered) to give your cell receptors time to adjust, and to prevent rebound depression. 

Disease as teacher

An integrative approach to ailments and illness offer many options and hope for resolution. Read about and explore these options, and consider the suggestions and recommendations listed below. Look for the soul lesson hidden in your disease or health challenge. 

While using natural remedies to support your physiology, ask yourself if this health problem has a deeper message. It might be a subtle or loud message from your soul asking for recognition and attention, or a signal that your needs are not being met. Look for guidance and answers in all your close relationships. The struggle, strife and strain of troubled relationships will often show you your own shadow characteristics, long buried and claiming attention though physical symptoms. Also contemplate your feelings around job issues and life in general. 

We are so tempted to suppress symptoms of disease as fiercely and quickly as possible with any means at our disposal. Maybe the time has come for us to become quiet within and turn our attention inwards, reflecting and contemplating, and regarding disease as a wise friend and counsellor, rather than a vicious enemy.

Paint, draw or write down your dreams, reflections and feelings, try to feel the depression in your body – where do you feel it, how does it feel, what is your body saying to you? Depression often develops from feelings of disempowerment, of not feeling in control of your life at all. If painful, traumatic emotions arise from your unconscious mind, be with them, allowing and acknowledging them, then releasing the ones that do not serve your health and wellbeing, using your superconscious mind to support you. 

This can be a very painful process, but also very liberating. Consult an empathetic, knowledgeable holistic counsellor, spiritual coach, psychotherapist, or other health care professional for guidance and advice, to help and support you to become your own facilitator on your journey into healing. Regard the opportunity for deeper healing that presented itself as a gift to be grateful for. 

Food as medicine

  • Support all your neurotransmitters, heart, brain and nervous system by consuming the following ‘feel good’ and brain food: 
  • Oily fish like salmon, pilchards and sardines, at least three times a week
  • Whole raw food, with fibre, vitamins and bioflavonoids, such as fruit (especially bananas), vegetables, whole grain (e.g. brown and basmati rice, whole wheat pasta and flour, and low GI whole wheat bread, provitas, oats, bran, muesli), seeds (sesame, pumpkin, chia), beans (legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and speckled, sugar and kidney beans), nuts (almonds, macadamias, walnuts and pecans – which even look like the brain! – every day. 
  • Dark chocolate (70–90% raw cacao)
  • Oils of lavender, rose, sweet orange, rose geranium – 5 drops in burner with water
  • Use food supplements:
  • High dosages of the B-complex vitamins
  • Antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, bioflavonoids, and co-enzyme Q10  
  • Omega 3 essential fatty acids as found in cold water salmon oil capsules  
  • Calcium and magnesium (together in a 2 to 1 ratio of calcium to magnesium and in an amino acid chelated form) combined with vitamin D, boron, potassium taken at night to also help nerves and muscles relax
  • Nature’s pharmacy – herbal remedies:
  • Hypericum perforatum (St John’s wort). Do not use it with prescription antidepressants. St John’s wort works best for dysthymia, mild to moderate depression. SJW is currently being investigated for the effective treatment for major depression.
  • Gingko biloba is an excellent choice (not only for depression, but also for high blood pressure, memory and concentration, low libido, dementia and Alzheimer’s). Ginkgo can be used with prescription drugs, especially while you’re tapering off the medication, and together with SJW in younger people for more serious depression.  
  • Herbal teas of lavender, chamomile, valerian, hops and passionflower are all very safe sleep remedies and mild tranquillisers, even if used with prescription antidepressants and tranquillisers.

More healing strategies

  • Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol, nicotine (in cigarettes) and other stimulants. These elicit the stress response and may exaggerate anxiety and depression. 
  • Drink 8–10 glasses of water a day – 1 glass for every 10 kg in body weight. 
  • Set aside time for reflection and meditation – preferably walking or dance meditations for those with depression. If painful emotions and traumatic memories rise, don’t be afraid. Write them down, reflect upon them, talk to a spiritual or soul coach, a psychologist or friend. 
  • Participate in creative activities – painting, sculpting, gardening.
  • Spend time in nature! Walk on the beach or just sit quietly watching the sunset.
  • Sound healing: listen to music and nature sounds such as birdsong or flowing water.  
  • Use your outer and inner senses: visualise how you flow with, rather than against, the life current. Tune into your senses and experience the positive energy of your environment.
  • Use aromatherapy oils of chamomile, lavender, lemon, rose and thyme in a burner, in your bath or as a massage oil. These will help you relax, tune into your senses, and lighten your mood. 
  • Different breathing techniques and regular aerobic exercise like dancing, swimming, walking and the sun salute of yoga, allow the release of the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters like serotonin. Do it regularly.

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