FIRST RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS.
Make sure you are not missing signs of depression in yourself or others.
Changes in Sleep, Weight or Appetite especially accompanied by:
- Loss of interest in activities
- Persistent episodes of anger or fatigue
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Problems concentrating
- Digestive distress
If there is a suspected diagnosis of depression, it is always recommended to get some form of professional care. As one navigates treatment with a professional, it is also important to incorporate as much self-care as possible. In general Chinese Medicine terms, depression is thought to be caused by a stagnation or deficiency of qi (energy) resulting in an imbalance of the yin and yang forces in the body. These forces can be likened to the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight response”/yang) and parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and repair response”/yin) Here are some suggestions for assisting your body back into balance from this perspective:
Your lungs are a source of qi as they draw in oxygen. Deep breaths can not only refill our qi reserves but deep, slow breathing is actually a form of VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulation), a way to calm the body via the main parasympathetic nerve and improve mood.
Gentle exercise is one of the best ways to prevent qi stagnation in the body. A daily walk can make a huge difference for mental health. Low- intensity exercise sustained over time has been shown to stimulate neurogenesis: the growth of new nerve cells and connections.
Neurogenesis is currently recognized as a major factor in lasting mood improvement. Qi Gong is a meditative movement practice and one of the five branches of Chinese Medicine. A regular practice can be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of depression.
EAT NOURISHING FOOD.
Avoid stagnation by cutting back on excess sugar, gluten, dairy and fried foods as well as over-processed foods with chemical-laden ingredient lists. Source clean, organic grass-fed meats. Choose vibrant colored (antioxidant rich) fruits and veggies, and get seasonal organic produce when possible. Don’t forget to chew slowly (savor the flavors!) to let your body breakdown and absorb the nutrients properly. Let food replenish you.
RESYNC YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHM.
For the correct balance of yin and yang in the body, it is best to be active during the day, slow down in the evening and sleep at night. Disrupted sleep cycles have been correlated with increased frequency of depressive episodes. For sleep struggles, try some chamomile tea a couple hours before bedtime to help the body transition. Practice good sleep hygiene by turning off artificial lights at night and any stimulating noises.
CONNECT WITH SUPPORTIVE HUMANS.
Make time for healthy relationships with trusted friends or family members. If those are limited, seek out a support group where you can connect on a deeper level with others. In Chinese medicine, the shen, or spirit resides in the heart, and the heart energy is uplifted by social bonds and mutual understanding. We need to feel connected to be healthy and happy.
CONNECT WITH YOUR ENVIRONMENT.
In Chinese medicine, our sensory orifices, such as our eyes, ears, nose and mouth are considered external receptors for our organ systems. Healthy organ function requires these portals of perception to be open and receiving information. So, look around! Take in the colors of your environment!, listen to the birds in the morning or healing sound therapy frequencies in the evening (Google it, it’s a thing!), smell the roses, taste your food! Remember all the ways you are interacting with the world around you. This will rejuvenate your organ systems and encourage better overall energetic balance.
Move stagnation by pressing Liver 3: the point in the angle between the first and second toe bones on the top of the foot. Nourish qi and blood with Stomach 36, the point in the dip a few fingerswidths down on the shin from the corner of the kneecap. And send love to the depths of your soul through the “Inner Gate”: Pericardium 6, located on the inside of the wrist, about two fingerwidths up from the palm.