Before I had my breakdown I'd tried many things to lift my mood. I felt I may be depressed for some time before this but thought I could manage it myself and wanted to do everything before medication. The only thing I've never wanted to try is counselling. That's a personal choice and I know a lot of people find help from counselling and therapy session. So here are all the non medication routes that I tried first and during my medication. I still try to eat healthier options, keep active, write this blog, concentrate on sleep and try my best to stay calm and relaxed. Here's what I tried...
Getting in a routine and sleep- this sounds obvious but your mood isn't going to be great if you're always rushing around unprepared and feeling tired. I've struggled with my sleep for a long time so I made sure the night before work I laid out my uniform and things for the morning and made a to do lists everyday to make sure I got things done. I've always been organised but get very lazy when I'm tired.
Hugs- I believe in 'hugging it out' I read that a 20 second hug with someone can both reduce stress levels and release your happy hormone Oxytocin. When I was really down I told my husband "I need cuddles" and I cuddled into my pillow when he was at work to make me feel more secure.
Keeping a diary- I've known a few people who put all their thoughts into a diary, I used to express feelings by writing song lyrics and poetry as a teen and now I write my blog. I didn't do this before my medication though but I did make sure I had time to think and reflect at some point each day. When I first lost my dad I used to write him letters and still write him cards at special occasions.
Exercise- I really got into swimming at one point and Zumba. I found swimming very relaxing and freeing. There was something calming and cleansing about being in the water. I found Zumba gave me energy and really raised my mood. When I fell into a deeper depression I had no motivation for exercise but eventually started taking walks and found the fresh air helped raise my mood. I then tried back care pilates and that helped keep me calm and was a light form of exercise and stretching. I would recommend a light relaxing exercise to anybody with depression.
Healthy eating- loss of appetite linked to depression meant my eating habits were shocking, then I started to snack more on fruits. I found salmon, spinach, fruit, warm milk and fresh vegetables all lifted my mood a little by giving me that little bit more energy. It seemed to help with my confusion and I would recommend boiled water. It has many health benefits but it detoxes your body and clears your head.
Meditation and Relaxation- pilates helped calm and centre me (as long as I went) I only did a short course but found when I needed to try and understand my thoughts that some yoga positions and breathing exercises really helped me to relax more. I laid on the floor, arms out with palms up and stretched out to my sides with my feet against a wall and closed my eyes. I nearly fell asleep in this position a few times!
Music- some people attend music therapy for relaxation. I have always played music everyday, especially in the car and sang along. I need to be in the mood for certain genres and found my music often reflected the mood I was in. If I needed to cry and couldn't I put something sad on, if I was mad I put something heavier on, if I was happy I'd put something energetic on. It helped me express and unwind at times.
Yoga and Tai Chi- I haven't tried yoga or Tai Chi as a class I just found a few positions to copy on youtube. They helped relax me and clear my mind. I would like to try something like this now to give me a little time each week to unwind fully.
Hot Kava and Relaxing Herbal Teas- I have heard about hot kava but never tried it, I was recommended herbal teas to help my sleep by a friend, I found them great to drink when my head felt fuzzy but found some gave me a little indigestion alongside my tablets once they started. I would recommend hot water instead if you get indigestion. If not try Camomile tea to relax with.
Being by the sea- this is my happy place! Being by the sea no matter what the weather and running into it no matter how cold just made me feel free and alive. A great stress relief and calming time.
Animals- being around animals calms and relaxes me as well as cheering me up. They are a love of mine.
I've noticed how these alternatives focus on reducing stress, a healthy lifestyle and relaxation. Although they may not be proven to help severe depression and some aren't suggested as a 'cure' for depression there is no harm in trying these. If you can get yourself into shape physically and mentally and look after your stress levels you are halfway there. You have a better chance if you stay calm, focused, rest well and fuel your body. Whatever works for you, DO IT! And whatever doesn't replace it with something else. If you find healthy living isn't helping your depression there is no harm in carrying it on. Healthy body and healthy mind seem to go hand in hand. Most importantly, if you can, stay positive! You can do this :)