As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression for almost 15 years, I’m all too familiar with the negative effects both can have over someone's life.
I was originally diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 14 years old. Due to my mother's “anti-pharmaceutical” mindset, I was never placed on any anti-anxiety or antidepressants as a child.
It wasn’t until my adult years that anxiety and depression once again showed up on my doorstep. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder a few years ago, and not long after, I suffered with an extreme bout of depression. This time I didn’t take heed to my moms advice, instead opting to accept medication as treatment.
After battling with drug dependency, addiction and an overdose, I finally decided to find alternative ways of coping with my issues.
I was able to not only kick my dependence to medication but, I was also able to remove the shackles that anxiety and depression had me in. As a personal trainer, writer, and health advisor, I’m often asked how I was able to defeat this dynamic duo—here’s how I did it!
1. I tried yoga.
One of the first things I did was shed the identity of victim in exchange of becoming a yogi. I had wrestled with the idea of trying yoga for about a year before I actually decided to do it. I consulted with my best friend Google and discovered that yoga helps with anxiety, depression, migraines, self-esteem and stress. It also improves strength, range of motion, and posture. All of which I desperately needed.
My first yoga experience was via a YouTube video by Tara Stiles (one of my biggest yoga influences to date). I didn’t have a yoga mat so I followed her free-flowing style in my living room on the carpet. I was surprised how amazing I felt after a 7-minute video. From that point on, I was hooked! For the next six months I was practicing along with Tara’s videos about three to four times per week.
Now, not only do I practice two times per week at Charm City Yoga in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, but I also practice privately.
Yoga is a lifestyle, not an exercise, and I’m proud to have adopted that lifestyle. It has positively affected every area of my life and I look forward to leading others into a lifestyle filled with the abundance of benefits that yoga offers.
2. I started a meditation practice.
I believe that meditation is one of the most important yet overlooked practices of modern civilization. Meditation allows you to find a place of relaxation and solitude within reality. It taught me to redirect my attention to my intentions.
I first encountered meditation in my yoga practice. Savasana, or corpse pose, is said to be the most difficult pose in yoga, but is also considered a form of meditation. Two of the most important components of this pose are (1) stillness and (2) breathing. The ability to redirect your attention away from your thoughts to allow yourself to be submerged in the idea of just being present has been proven to help lower blood pressure, decrease stress, anxiety and depression.
3. I cleaned up my diet.
Studies have shown that a diet consisting of raw fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy fats found in foods like raw nuts, avocado and coconut oil, may also have positive effects on mental health. Also, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, sugar and processed foods can reduce your risk of mental health problems.
My daily dietary consumption consists primarily of organic fruits and vegetables. I’m a huge advocate of “superfoods” like chia seeds and flaxseed, which contains omega 3s, which help with depression.
I also drink at least two green juices per day. Vitamins A, D, E, and K play a vital role in mental health. They can be found in foods like kale, spinach, carrots, lemons, oranges, and beets. Often I incorporate them as well as parsley, cilantro, ginger and turmeric into my juices for added health benefits.
I encourage everyone to get out of their comfort zones and explore. Climb a mountain, go hiking, run a marathon; do something that brings you closer to nature. Get out of the confines of your office and explore the garden of your origin. We all deal with anxiety and depression in some form and the only way to defeat it is to find comfort in your discomfort. Be the example that you want to see in others, be the exception to the rule, but most importantly, be well!