By Kelly Brogan. MD
We all know work can be stressful, even at the best of times. Here’s what you probably didn’t know:
The statistics on adults taking antidepressants is staggering.
Although it is a serious problem for both men and women, 1 in 4 women of reproductive age take medication for depression. Whether you are taking medication, or simply overwhelmed with juggling too much work, followed by the exhaustive demands of home, family, and life, there are things you can do to genuinely relax.
One of the most powerful solutions to anxiety, particularly when it is bodily in nature (racing heart, sweating, muscle tension, stomach discomfort, headache), is blood sugar stabilization. Reactive hypoglycemia masquerades as anxiety and panic attacks, particularly in women.
In the absence of a physiologic driver, anxiety can be important. It is a signal of imbalance. A signal of a need for inner focus. A signal of a need for growth, for change. When we can react less and meet that anxiety with a watching eye, shifts can happen.
3 Safe Ways to Chill
Here are three relatively quick fixes that serve to promote that subtle resilience, to take the edge off, so that this symptom can be better examined.
1. Breathe This Way
An ancient technology for nervous system adjustment, yoga, and specifically Kundalini yoga, breathing exercises offer quick, efficient tools. Here are some simple instructions from kundaliniwomen.org:
Left Nostril Breathing: Relax
Description: Left nostril breathing activates the Ida Nerve Ending in the left nostril, which relates to calmness and relaxation. Left nostril breathing is associated with the moon energy, which is changeable, feminine, yin, giving, and cool. Breathing through the left nostril for five minutes can calm you and lower your blood pressure.
Breath: Sit in Easy Pose. Close your right nostril with your right thumb, your other fingers are stretched straight up as antennas. Your left hand is in Gyan Mudra (illustration) on your left knee. Close your eyes and concentrate on your 3rd Eye. Begin to breathe long and deep only through your left nostril. Continue for three minutes.
2. Drink This
Because our diets are typically heavy in methionine-rich muscle meats, we miss out on the abundant glycine in bones and connective tissues. Studied in randomized trials for sleep, and active at the NMDA receptor, glycine is an amino acid with calming properties.
Use grass-fed gelatin in warm liquids or hydrolyzed collagen in cold. Start with one tablespoon, up to two. It’s flavorless!
3. Soak Often
Who has time for a bath? Half of my Manhattan patients don’t even have a bathtub, or they use it as a guest bed. Structuring a bath into the end of a stressful day is an act of self-care, and can also double as a mineral cure for anxiety. Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is readily absorbed through the skin, getting to work on optimizing detoxification and cellular function. Often called the “relaxation mineral,” magnesium is calming to the sympathetic nervous system.
Add two cups of Epsom Salts to filtered bath water and soak for 20+ minutes.
If You Are Taking Antidepressants
One of my long term goals is to set up holistic rehab facilities for patients withdrawing from psychiatric medications. In my practice, what I have witnessed around bezodiazepine (“anti-anxiety”) medication dependence has been sobering. There is, finally, an emerging acknowledgement that antidepressants are habit forming, but medications like Xanax and Valium have been known to be addictive for many decades. Nonetheless, unsuspecting patients are written prescriptions for months to years on end. There are entire websites devoted to supporting patients in their journey off these medications, which lose effect and incur short and long-term side effects.
A Mind Of Your Own
I have just written a book, A Mind of Your Own – The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives. Although my primary professional specialization is women’s health, there are many aspects of self-care that apply equally to men. Relaxation techniques and good nutrition are in this category. You can learn more about the book here:
You can sign up for a chance to win in the book launch raffle, with $2,500 worth of healthy product prizes including a 1 year subscription to Butcher Box, a Vitamix S55 Blender, and more. You will also receive a discount for Vital Mind Reset, the online companion program to the book, and get an instant download of my complete “Better Than Xanax” guide to feeling better now.
Depression is a Message
Supporting your body and mind through dis-ease offers you the opportunity to take a mindful look at symptoms and states, so that necessary changes can be made and that which is not serving us can be willfully released. Don’t fight yourself, because the body and mind fight back. There’s a gentler way.
Kelly Brogan, M.D. is a Manhattan-based holistic women’s health psychiatrist, author of the book A Mind of Your Own, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from MIT in Systems Neuroscience. She is board certified in psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, and integrative holistic medicine, and is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. She is on the board of GreenMedInfo, Functional Medicine University, Pathways to Family Wellness, NYS Perinatal Association, and Fisher Wallace, Medical Director for Fearless Parent, and board member for Health Freedom Action and the peer-reviewed, indexed journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. She is a mother of two.