The global pandemic has brought many challenges and stressors to our lives. There are concerns that social distancing, financial struggles, quarantine restrictions, and virus fears will lead to a mental health crisis.
Challenging times can bring out the best and the worst - while some people experience increased fortitude and resilience, not all are adopting this way.
Anxiety and depression, which were common before the start of the quarantine, can be magnified by the pandemic.
In the United States, 10% of the adult population struggles with depression in any given year. It’s also the leading cause of disability throughout the world.
Clinical depression, as opposed to having the blues, is marked by feeling a lack of interest in any external activity and/or a continual feeling of sadness for more than two weeks.
It’s hard to tell who may be suffering from depression - many people appear fine. It can take a person 10 years to ask for help.
In this month’s article we are going to talk more about depression - the ways it affects us, how the pandemic may be making it worse, and ways to prevent and treat depression naturally.
Read time: 6 minutes
Soaring Stress levels in 2020
The 2020 global pandemic is a difficult time for many of us:
- Isolation and loneliness
- Fear and anxiety
- Financial uncertainty
- Disruption to our routines
One study looked at Americans’ stress levels on a scale from 1 to 10. In 2019, Americans scored 4.9. In March of 2020, it rose for the first time since 2007 to 5.4.
Parents are facing sustained levels of stress as many areas have continued remote learning into the new school year.
Even as some areas have begun to re-open, not everyone feels safe venturing back out into their community.
It is important to recognize what is causing stress, where it is felt in your body, and take responsibility for your emotional well being.
Prevalence of depression in American Life
Blue Cross Blue Shield reports a 33% rise in clinical depression diagnoses among its 41 million members in the past five years!
While depression rates have increased among every demographic, it's spiked in younger Americans:
- 65% among adolescent girls
- 47% among adolescent boys
- 47% among millennials
It appears the majority of people struggling with depression are also dealing with at least one other chronic health condition such as anxiety, diabetes, or heart disease.
It’s a good time for us to talk about depression. Open conversations can help.
If you are suffering from depression, confide in a person you trust. And if a friend or family member is suffering, ask them about their experience with non-judgmental curiosity.
Loneliness - a public health threat
Loneliness is considered a public health threat. Some consider it as harmful to health as obesity. The highest rates of loneliness were found in Gen Z (18 to 22) and millennials (23 to 35).
A survey conducted by the insurer Cigna found that:
- 50% respondents said they sometimes or always feel alone or left out
- Just 53% have meaningful social interactions on a daily basis
- 27% feel people they are rarely understood by people
2 in 5 said their social relationships are not meaningful and they feel isolated from others
It is worth noting during the pandemic, some individuals report increased social support. People seem to be finding creative ways to stay connected. Knowing that you are not alone and everyone is going through the same restrictions and challenges may be enough, in the short term, to keep loneliness at bay.
Mental health is as important as physical health
Depression, anxiety, loneliness and other mental health conditions are prevalent. It’s important to treat your mental health with the same importance as your physical health. There is a strong link between the two, known as the mind-body connection.
For example, those with depression have a higher risk of:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
You may start with an illness that could bring on depression, or you may start with depression that can lead to a physical illness.
Problems with antidepressants
Studies show a 33% increased risk of death for those on antidepressants compared to those who do not take them.
Researchers also noted a 14% increased risk of cardiovascular events such as strokes and heart attacks.
While these drugs may be beneficial, there is still much unknown how these drugs can affect us. If you are on an antidepressant, stay on it and work with your doctor to incorporate some natural remedies into your routine.
Make self care a priority
Self-care generates positive emotions: engaging in a hobby, exercising, journaling, and relaxing among others. It’s important to make time to unwind, especially when feeling burned out.
Studies confirm what we already know: spending time with loved ones leads to positive emotions, which lessens your risk of depression.
Since in-person interactions may be difficult right now, voice and video calls provide the benefit of connection.
In the research, text messaging did not boost connection. Passively browsing social media is associated with negative feelings and anxiety.
Showing empathy and supporting others can boost our own emotions.
Natural Treatments for depression
Breathing Exercises - Your breath affects your mood. Try taking a 4-second breath in, holding it for a moment, followed by a 4-second out-breath through your nose. Keep your mouth closed.
Limit Electromagnetic Field Exposure - Turn off your cell phone or keep it away from you while you are sleeping. Avoid sleeping near routers and other devices that give off a signal.
Emotional Freedom Technique Therapy - Also known as tapping, this form of therapy can be helpful.
Therapy - Any therapeutic activity that promotes relaxation and mind-body awareness will be beneficial.
Exercise - Daily movement is necessary for optimal health. Try taking a 20-minute walk when you first wake up, before you begin any other activity.
Gut Health - The gut may be responsible for more than we know. New research keeps coming out about the gut-brain axis. An unbalanced gut can affect our brain health. Eat healthy whole foods and fermented foods such as sauerkraut. We have an amazing recipe here.
Consider taking a probiotic supplement targeted for brain health. Our favorite for gut-brain health:
- GbX Mood Boosting Probiotic -
Target GB-X is a specialty probiotic formulation targeted to provide robust gut-brain axis support. It is the first probiotic clinically demonstrated to reduce cognitive reactivity to sad mood, decrease rumination, and diminish aggressive thinking.
Nutritional imbalances - Lack of omega-3s, B vitamins, magnesium and Vitamin D among other essential nutrients can contribute to mental health issues.
Mindfulness & Meditation - 15 minutes a day of mediation can change your life. Incorporating this practice into your life can help integrate the connection between your mind, body and emotions. There are many phone apps available, Calm is a great starting place.
Sleep - Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality sleep each night. Sleep has a direct effect on your cognition, memory, and mood.
Your mental health is important and requires your attention. Make your mental and emotional health a priority.
Supplements we recommend for naturally treating depression:
Stress, anxiety, depression (SAD) as well as negativity, low energy and low self-esteem are all symptoms that may stem from a nutritional imbalance or deficiency in the brain and nervous system.
LGUT is formulated to support tight junctions and the intestinal mucosa, promote a healthy G.I. tract integrity, and support a healthy epithelial barrier.
- Happy Happy Drops -
Holistic Haven's own formula created for the temporary relief of symptoms related to depression, sleep dysfunction, nervous anxiety, weakness, and lethargy.
Nutrients and botanicals for healthy emotional expression while providing mood-modulating benefits for individuals with low spirits or emotional lowness.
- DHA -
DHA Ultimate is an omega-3 essential fatty acid dietary supplement that supports neural and cognitive function. The fish oils in DHA Ultimate are extracted using 75% fewer carbon emissions than other methods.
Happiness 1-2-3! It gives your body the nutritional and herbal support it needs to safely and effectively raise serotonin (the "happiness molecule") and other key factors, bringing you back into a naturally happy state.
This formula has been designed to feature plant-sourced vitamin D3 in addition to plant-sourced vitamin K2 in vegetable capsules -- without undesirable chemical tagalongs.
If you’d like to discuss your specific circumstance, we can tailor recommendations for you.
Be safe and stay well.