Living in Sydney is stressful, many people are juggling jobs and caring responsibilities, whether its for children or elderly parents. Over time these responsibilities can become overwhelming and one in five people will suffer from mental health problems at some time. This often manifests as either anxiety or depression.
There are a number of strategies which can be used to manage anxiety and depression and often people will ask which one will be most effective? The realityis currently there is no one strategy which will help resolve symptoms however a combination may actually prove most useful in resolution or maintenance.What five interventions do we recommend ? In terms of current evidence, through both research and clinical practice, our top five are as follows;
1. Diet – a lower carbohydrate Mediterranean style diet. Build on a base of up to six serves of vegetables a day, one to two pieces of fruit, a handful of nuts and seeds as well as a small serve of lean protein at every meal. Inaddition include 1-2 serves of grains if you tolerate them well and particularly wholegrains like oats and brown rice.
2. Exercise – there are over 49 Randomised Controlled Trials showing a benefit for exercise similar to that of anti-depressants. What type of exercise is less relevant it just needs to be one you enjoy and do on a regular basis, so it could be walking for up to 30 minutes a day five times a week or a combination of that with a couple of yoga sessions.
3. Counselling – Having someone who you can speak to about your stressors and developing strategies to deal with them is an essential part of managing anxiety. Often simply identifying the triggers can be really helpful. You may not be able to able to change the situation but you may be able to change your reaction.
4. Nutraceuticals – There are a number of herbs which have evidence that support their use for the management of depression and these include Tumeric, Saffron, Passionflower and St John’s Wort. As herbs tend to be active substances it is important that you don’t self prescribe as you need to take into account your other medications and specific requirements. The other aspect that needs to be considered is whether there are other nutritional deficiencies which may be contributing and in this case I would also consider looking at the value of supplement with a Multi Vitamin with a good level of B Vitamins as well as any relevant minerals.
5. Sleep – its really difficult to help if sleep is not adequate and it may be contributing to your symptoms. 7-8 hours a night is ideal but if this isn’t what you are getting at the moment its important to see what you can do to improve it. Generally we would recommend ensuring your bedroom is a relaxing haven, no phones or devices and try to maintain a reasonable temperature. Start switching off a couple of hours before bed and keep at least 3m away. A warm but not hot bed for 20 minutes can be helpful but again its important not to overheat. Regular bodywork in the form of eithermassage or even acupuncture can be helpful for reducing stress levels andassisting with improving sleep.
Ideally each change will contribute to helping manage symptoms and if you thinkabout each one basically resulting in a 16% improvement obviously there is some value in trying to implement more than one of these strategies.
At Elemental Health we have a team who can assist including our Naturopath, Christine Pope and our Pyschologist, Sheridan Mason.