Feeling down once in a while is normal and happens to even the most upbeat among us. But what happens when the blues just won’t go away? One of the most common treatments for depression is medication, but there are other options. We got some insight from Dr. Gregory Jantz, author of Moving Beyond Depression: A Whole-Person Approach to Healing, about using a more holistic method when it comes to treating and managing depression. He suggests that we get away from the quick-fix mentality of chemical solutions and start recognizing that the whole person should be healed.
a whole-person approach for depression
The tricky thing about depression is that it doesn’t just affect one part of a person — for example, just your home life or your work life or how you see your physical self. “Depression affects the whole-person, casting a suffocating shadow over your emotions, your relationships, how you feel physically and even how you experience your world spiritually,” Jantz explains. He likens depression to trying to run a race with shoes that are too tight, knee-deep in sand, without knowing the course and carrying a 50-pound backpack – in other words, extremely frustrating and almost impossible. And just like addressing only one of those issues won’t help you win the race, not focusing on the whole person when it comes to depression won’t get you where you need to be. When you’re depressed, your life is out of balance in so many areas, Jantz sees addressing each of those areas as a crucial part of healing.
The depression medication debate
Drugs are often used to combat the physical symptoms of depression but may do nothing to help a person uncover other underlying reasons behind the depression, Jantz explains. “If you don’t ever look into the bigger picture of why, you could chain yourself to a pharmaceutical weight – one you have to keep dragging around, month after month, year after year,” he says. Most people don’t consider that an ideal definition of healing and recovery, and it often feels more like a Band-Aid approach. “As much as the pharmaceutical industry wants to tell you otherwise, there are very effective methods for dealing with depression that don’t come in an amber bottle with a child-proof cap.” Jantz adds that medication can be effective for some people but if your depression is based on life circumstances or emotional trauma or fear of the future, those are not issues that will disappear with a magic pill.
Healing: Where to start
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, the first step toward healing is just that – making a step. “The need for help has to be something you know in your head, not feel in your heart. Even though you don’t necessarily feel like it, you start by seeking outside yourself for help,” explains Jantz. This can be a significant first step because depression puts a clamp on a person’s desire and motivation, making it hard to get out of bed in the morning, let alone start the healing process. “The first step is establishing forward momentum, moving away from your depression and toward the rest of your life,” he says.
When it comes to the whole-person approach, Jantz says an important step in your recovery plan is assembling your recovery team – a physician to deal with the physical symptoms and contributors to your depression, a mental health therapist to work through emotional and relational issues with directed insight and practical tools, a dietitian to address nutritional causes and support, and a spiritual counselor to help you navigate the life-questions that often are at the root of depression.
Basic depression-busting tips
One of the best things you can do when you’re feeling down is get out and move your body, says Jantz, adding that physical exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on mood. You don’t have to go out and run for an hour to get the feel-good benefit. Moving your body can be as simple as taking the dog for a walk, cleaning out your spare room, mowing the lawn or dancing to music on the radio (our personal favorite blues-busting move). “If you make a habit of moving your body, it won’t just help you look better on the outside; you’ll also feel better on the inside.”
Another way Jantz suggests getting out of a temporary funk is to intentionally think about all the positives in your life now and those you have to look forward to. Grab a pen and paper and write them down, or better yet, start a gratitude journal. Life has a way of knocking you off balance, but countering the setbacks with a look at what is going well can help keep you feeling good. Says Jantz: “When life knocks you for a loop, you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward.”