The holidays are a balance between dopamine highs and serotonin lows. Many people are excited to be with their family, rekindle relationships, make new memories, and reminisce old experiences. Yet, many people dread the holidays and past memories. Past abandonment or abuse reinforces anxiety and depression increases.
One in three people struggle with depression and the holidays provide a catalyst for increased feelings of anxiety and loneliness. It can feel like the world is turned upside down and you are adrift in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. Mike explained that his anxiety was so bad that he could hardly get out of bed. He would have panic attacks and sweat profusely. Michelle said it was so bad for her that she needed help pulling up her covers in bed.
About 40 million Americans have a diagnosable anxiety disorder with 60,000 annual overdoses. Last year there were 40,000 suicides and these numbers are growing. One in six Americans takes some kind of psychiatric drug, mostly antidepressants. Something is wrong with the system for treating mental health. The constant search for the magic pill to cure the ill seems like searching for King Arthur’s Holy Grail. I can picture Harrison Ford starring in a new adventure movie called “In Search of the Magic Pill for the World’s Ill.”
Dr. Jennifer Love shares her frustration with the existing system. Her first job out of her fellowship training was with a large HMO company. Within a short time she found herself coming under pressure for spending too much time with patients. Imagine a severe alcoholic or a patient with a major depressive episode being scooted out of the doctor’s office because the 20-minute time limit had expired. Her supervisor told her to give them Prozac and Trazodone for sleep and move on.
Do antidepressants such as Prozac, stimulants like Ritalin, and tranquilizers such a Valium actually work? Are they safe? What problems and side effects are associated with them? Is there a better alternative to the increasing medication phenomenon known as Pharmageddon and is there an approach that addresses the underlying cause?
Here is a suggested approach to the holiday season that is free of cost and side effects, but heavy in the preplanning and deliberate practice. Depression and anxiety are heavily reliant on inflammation in both the gut and the brain. Inflammation is tied to sugars, carbs, processed foods, gluten, and dairy.
Try this approach for a week and notice any difference in your mood and energy level. Reduce your sugar intake (soda, especially diet soda, energy drinks, coffee, alcohol, processed foods etc.) for a week. Increase your fat intake (unsaturated, mono- and poly-) by focusing on preparing foods rich with Omega 3, 6, 9 fats or taking supplements to boost your intake.
Here is a short list of good fats vs. bad fats. Good: avocados, eggs, coconut oil, raw nuts, olive oil, salmon, and organic butter. Bad: margarine, French fries, doughnuts, cookies, pastries, processed meats, canola oil, and hydrogenated oils.
Chronic illness and pain is more than 90 percent preventable. In other words, you can do something about it, and most of the time, there is no need for medications or magic pills for your ills. I suggest going back to the basics of good health and start with healing your gut by reducing inflammation first. This approach will have a greater impact on your mood and ability to sleep than exercise. After you start the process of healing your gut, improve your exercise regiment.