Stress, Depression, and Anxiety
As a primary care provider, I often find myself counseling young adults who enter my office with a primary complaint of “stress.” These young adults can be as young as 18 years old. I sit and listen to them and observe the worry in their eyes, their lack of sleep, and their hope for an easy cure and answer. I begin to wonder, how can we as parents help our children deal with the inevitable “stress.” I find that these adults are sleep deprived, sustained on a diet of highly processed foods and have yet to learn the art of self-reflection.
I begin to think, what do I really want to say, my natural inclination is to tell them to go meditate, find a yoga class, listen to positive affirmations and eat a healthy diet, a “clean diet.” In an ideal world, I’d probably have them sit down take a few deep breaths and perhaps begin an introduction to self-awareness, the importance of a diet enriched in natural foods, and show them how yoga releases energy and is a great way to release stress, anxiety and emotions through body movements.
Often, instead what I do is grab a questionnaire called a PHQ9 to assess for depression as well as another questionnaire called a GAD7 which assesses for generalized anxiety disorder. Often and quite often there is a combination of both. As providers were taught to refer to psychiatry, psychology and perhaps start the patient on a medication for depression/anxiety. I must admit I have done both. However, in my heart I know that the answer is much deeper; it’s a multidimensional approach. So, I began to create a program in hopes that one day I can really truly help people handle stress, depression and anxiety in a holistic approach. What I came up with was a “program” I termed ME TIME.
M: Meditation, Relaxation Time
E: Exercise, Eating
T: Tea Time (Social time)
M: Music and Movement
E: Enjoyment/ Creative time
Meditation/Relaxation time: This requires intentionally setting time designated for yourself no one else period! This time is non-negotiable and is important in learning to look within yourself for answers. Meditation should be done daily either in the beginning of your day or the end, if you can do both even better. There are many studies on the benefits of meditation to your overall health and well-being. It’s never too early or too late to begin to adopt a meditation practice.
Exercise/Eating: This requires again setting time intentionally for your physical well-being. Your body was made to be active and we should honor that. Set at least 30 minutes daily to physical activity, something you enjoy doing. If you can add yoga please do so. Also, consider your body as holy ground. Consume a diet of clean eating meaning no processed foods. Water, fruits, vegetables and lean meats are ideal. If you want to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet that’s ok too. The main focus is to stay away from packaged foods and foods that can belong on a shelf. These foods are highly processed and filled with preservatives and other harmful ingredients. If you are unsure about food choices download the app I recommended.
ewg.org/apps for more info.
Tea Time (Social Time): This is all about you time but it includes surrounding yourself with other people who make you happy. This is not the time to choose to be around that person who uses your time to vent about their issues. This is about laughing, joking, reconnecting time. It can also be date night with your significant other. Whatever you chose to make it make sure you feel happier after your interaction.
Inspiration/Affirmation: Words have a direct impact on our mood. Affirmations are a way of reprogramming the mind. Affirmations are positive messages and if said repeatedly, they can transform thoughts and behavior to encourage self-empowerment. Affirmations such as “I Believe in Myself and Abilities, I am Open and Ready to Attract Abundance in my Life” are just a few to repeat often. You can immerse yourself in positive affirmations by listening to them daily. I personally enjoy listening to Deepak Chopra Soul of Healing Affirmations A-Z. I listen to the affirmations on my way to work. You can also write affirmations on sticky notes and leave them for yourself in areas you visit often, the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, car etc. Inspiration works the same way. Reading inspirational stories, books, quotes are excellent ways to create an environment of positivity as well. I believe everyone should create a vision board which includes pictures, inspirational quotes and positive affirmations of what they would like to attract in their life, a life vision.
Music/Movement: Have you ever heard a love song that makes you want to cry? Or a Salsa song that makes you want to get up and dance? Music is powerful and persuasive. It is so influential that it has its own classification in healing known as Music Therapy. Music has a direct impact on people and does affect your mood. Try to listen to music that creates feelings of happiness, peace and joy. Now add movement with your music. Dancing also has many benefits such as increased fluidity in your joints, improved balance and stability and let me add is a great fat burner! Music and Movement is an art and a form of expression. So turn that music up and put on your dancing shoes because it’s good for the body and soul!
Enjoyment/Creative Time: This is all about taking the time to do the things you enjoy and nurturing your creative side. We all have something in our lives that brings up great joy and excitement. Whether it is playing a sport, reading a book, writing a poem, or planting a garden; dedicating time to that area in your life is important. We can become irritable if we constantly put our interests in the back burner and then later feel guilty about it. Don’t easily talk yourself out of the things that make you happy. Commit to your hobbies. We often forget that we too as adults require time for enjoyment and creativity.
Overall, stress, anxiety and depression affect us all. If you are having these feelings, please discuss with your doctor but also incorporate some “ME TIME.” I believe your mind, body and soul will thank you!
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