As a nation, we are experiencing unprecedented events that have recently placed a great burden on our collective mental health. In fact, health officials are increasingly voicing concerns about the psychological effects of the pandemic, the economic fallout, and growing civil unrest. As difficult as these events have been for adults to process and deal with, imagine how they are impacting teens and young adults.
Young people are being introduced to more strife than they are emotionally equipped to cope with. In addition to the effects of the strict social distancing policies, many teens and young adults have missed out on significant events they have been looking forward to for years, such as prom, grad night festivities, and graduation ceremonies. Young adults just entering the workforce have been blindsided by a deep economic recession and many stark realities of adulthood that they weren’t anticipating or prepared for.
Depression is a serious condition that should never be ignored, no matter what the person’s age. Experiencing these mounting disappointments can trigger depression in a teen or young adult. The sooner a young person learns effective methods for coping with the signs of depression, the more prepared he or she will be for facing the challenges that come their way in life.
About Major Depressive Disorder
Symptoms of depression may include a cluster of the following that has persisted for more than two weeks:
- Sadness that persists for most of the time
- Loss of interest in pleasure or activities once enjoyed
- Mood swings
- Irrational feelings of guilt or shame
- Feelings of hopelessness or despair
- Slowed cognitive and motor functions
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Angry outbursts
- Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or hypersomnia
- Unable to concentrate or make decisions
- Thoughts of suicide, obsession with death
While the standard protocol for treating depression continues to involve antidepressant drug therapy, doctors are less enthusiastic about prescribing these medications to young patients. Forging a safe and effective path to treating this complex mental health disorder requires thinking outside the box. Fortunately, there are several efficacious therapeutic solutions to managing the effects of depression that do not rely on pharmaceutical interventions.
5 Ways to Manage Depression Symptoms Naturally
Charting a fresh course to overcoming depression involves rethinking the approach to treatment, shifting from a medication-based protocol toward a holistic-based solution. An integrative strategy can help manage the symptoms of depression by treating the whole person in the following ways:
- Exercise. Establishing a habit of engaging in regular exercise at a young age provides a lifelong depression prevention strategy. The “Exercise Effect” refers to a landmark study conducted by James Blumenthal that demonstrated the mood enhancement effects of sustained physical activity. This effect is caused by the production of neurochemicals, such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.
- Nutrition. While young people may gravitate towards fast foods and handy prepackaged meals, the need to address their dietary habits is essential in treating depression symptoms. Processed foods and sugary beverages should be limited, while foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna and salmon, and whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and foods high in folic acid (avocados and spinach) should be emphasized.
- Supplements. Natural dietary supplements can be effective as replacements for antidepressants. Supplements such as St. John’s wort, SAM-e, B vitamins, vitamin D, and fish oil can have powerful antidepressant effects. A naturopath can safely prescribe the products that are appropriate to the individual’s age, general health status, and mental health needs.
- Holistic activities. Young people can learn how to regulate feelings of distress through holistic movement therapies, including Hatha yoga and tai chi. Hatha yoga combines physical postures and breath control to increase energy and boost mood. Tai chi is a form of martial arts that features balance and mobility work and has also been found to have mood-enhancing effects.
- Cognitive behavior therapy. CBT is a short-term psychotherapy intervention that can help a young person identify current thought distortions or negative self-talk that keeps them stuck in repeated dysfunctional thought patterns. CBT guides the individual toward shifting these thoughts towards more positive self-affirming beliefs that can act as an effective coping skill to manage depression.
Although it may be necessary to prescribe antidepressant drug therapy in more serious cases of depression, why not first explore these natural solutions as safer drug-free alternatives—you might be pleasantly surprised.
Alliance Experiential Provides Natural Strategies for Managing Depression
Blake Ruble, LPC, NCC, is the founder of Alliance Experiential, a movement-based mental health therapeutic approach serving the greater Denver metropolitan area. In addition to providing experiential therapy for ADHD, Blake also holds a CMHIMP certification for holistic and integrative treatment. For more information about the program, please reach out to Alliance Experiential today at (720) 990-5033.
By Blake Ruble, Alliance Experiential