This is a mental health check. How are you feeling today? Have you spoken positively to yourself today? Have you done breathing exercises to get some oxygen in your brain? I’ve been thinking about sharing this information for a while. There is a daunting statistic that we should talk about for a moment. 

Did you know that while positive mental health picks up for many people in warmer months, suicide rates climax between April and June? There are plenty of speculations among medical professionals and mental health advocates. One observation is that truly depressed people and vitamin deficient people form a camaraderie during the winter but when vitamin D – the sun – comes back out, vitamin deficient people are back to their happy-go-lucky lives, while the truly depressed people are still depressed and even lonelier. 

Another consideration is that our circadian rhythms, behavioral, physical, and mental, change that follows a 24-hour cycle, tend to flow with light and darkness. When the seasons shift, our emotions are dragged by our circadian rhythms’ wild spiral. 

There are plenty of ideas swarming about why suicide and mania spike during warm months, and there is plenty of data to study. Today, I want to share tried and true methods to reduce depression and anxiety in your brain. 

What is depression?

Scientifically, depression is inflammation of your brain. You are a person, not a lab rat, so let’s make this a little more humanlike. Depression feels like a deep sadness. It looks a bit different to everyone. When I envision depression, it’s like I’m trapped between two mountains and my feet are stuck in quicksand. I know that I need to climb the mountain. I know how to climb the mountain. Nonetheless, I feel stuck. I need the right person or tools to help me get myself out of the quicksand and up the mountain. 

You might not recognize it right away. Maybe you can’t finish a project as quickly as you normally could because you keep spacing. Your normally peppy routine might be unfulfilling to you. It could be packaged as burnout. It can sneak up on you and try to take you out. I’ve got news for you though; we’re warriors. Even if we don’t feel like getting back up, we have goals to achieve and people we love too much to give up. 

I remember when my mother died. I fell into a deep state of depression. I couldn’t cook, clean, eat or sleep well. My husband was deployed to Korea and it took everything in me to care for my barely 4-year-old child. I was so blessed to have a neighbor come over, help me take care of myself, and look after my child. She recognized that my behaviors were not like they were. I was more recluse. She noticed what was not said. She noticed my silence. If you have people around you, please take the time to notice what they are NOT saying in their multitude of words or lack thereof. 

1. Reduce inflammation.

Inflammation is the chief officer of misery within the body from brain function to joint and muscle pains. Where does it come from? Let’s put it this way; the standard American diet spells S.A.D. for a reason. The most advertised and glorified foods in our culture are causing inflammation, contributing to the multi-billion dollar mental health industry. Don’t get me wrong, seeking help for mental illness is so important, and I am appreciative to live in a culture and time in history where we can be transparent about our mental state and openly strive toward healing. That said, I despise how some of the same big corporations pushing the consumption of their most inflammatory foods are the same ones profiting off the effects through the mental health sector of healthcare. 

One of the most prevalent and dangerous causes of inflammation is gluten. Modern-day gluten is an inflammatory protein that begins to cause intestinal inflammation. As it continues to grow on the lining of your intestines, it will tear a hole and begin leaking into the rest of your body. Your body will begin to confuse parts of your body such as your thyroid and your joints with gluten proteins and will attempt to break them down like it would break down gluten. All the while, inflammation is now growing all over your body. This is where you start feeling your joint pains, experiencing deficiencies due to malabsorption, and mood swings due to improper organ function.  It’s no joke. 

2. Get more sleep.

In a world obsessed with packing schedules to the minute, and getting to “the next level,” you have to pause and wonder why you should consider one more priority. You feel fine enough until you don’t. The medications that patch our symptoms accelerate the damage our sleepless lives race toward. What do I mean by that?

Sleeplessness could cause or worsen countless health conditions in addition to depression:

  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal/Accelerated Heart Rate
  • Inflammation
  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Brain Fog
  • Increased Food/Environmental Allergies and Sensitivities
  • Poor Memory
  • Dull Skin, Hair, and Nails
  • Yellow or Greying Eyes

There are many more warning signs. Why? Because your body heals itself when you are asleep. Your gut, your hormones, your glymphatic system – your body’s housekeeping agency – and your brain are all resting, rejuvenating, and cleansing when you are sleeping. Your breathing patterns change to dispose of the waste your body is trying to purge, resulting in:

  • A Healthier Gut
  • Less Hormonal Disruption
  • More Energy When You’re Awake
  • Clearer Thinking 
  • Improved Gut Health (fewer allergies and sensitivities)
  • A Competent Immune System (less disease and illness)
  • Improved Physique
  • Faster Memory

Relying on medications to help you sleep or wake up is okay as a last resort until you can get your brain into a better place, but the leading side effects of such stimulants and sedatives are worsened depression, anxiety, and extreme mood swings. 

3. Use your words (and thoughts.)

The last bit of advice I will share with you is one of the most powerful things I can tell you. I must warn you, once you make this step part of your second nature, you’ll have some serious power in all facets of life. 

Have you ever tried to clue someone in on your poor mental state and they gave you some excellent advice like “cheer up!” or “think positive thoughts!” You might have thought “Gee, thanks. I’m healed now. What a miracle.” in the most sarcastic tone ever. I see it on a daily basis. I detest when people tell others how to feel. We all have our own feelings, and ways of healing on unique timelines. I firmly believe that there is a season for everything, and if you need a quiet season, girl, take it! 

My word for 2022 has been simplicity. Why? Because I’m refusing to allow anyone other than myself to dictate my schedule. I am determined to maintain a peaceful schedule, not a schedule I have to create vacations from. I can accomplish the big things at a moderate pace instead of taking shortcuts to reach the mountain top as fast as possible. 

By setting my word for the year, I set a goal. I could visualize the goal. Even when pressure set in and it became challenging, I was able to remember what my goal has been and make choices supporting it. Words are powerful like that. 

Whenever I pick up the phone, no matter the mood of the person on the other end, I ask them to tell me something amazing that happened to them this week. We start the conversation on a high note. No matter how they were feeling before, even if they called to tell me something bad, they keep that happy little fact in the back of their mind for the rest of the day. That keeps a light on in their soul, even if it’s dim. 

Depression feels so dark. When the darkness begins trying to swallow you up, it’s hard to find light in anything again. There are all sorts of lies that begin to take over. You might begin to think you’re useless, people would prefer not to hear from you at all since you’re not in high spirits, maybe you should quit everything since you don’t feel equipped to do anything to excellence, and plenty of other destructive thoughts.

Remember, your words are powerful. By asking yourself to name at least one positive thing about yourself that has nothing to do with your productivity or material possessions, on a daily basis you will build a little more light in your soul. 

BONUS: Escape to reset. 

One of the number one questions I’ve received since my husband’s passing is how I survived? How did my family keep our joy in the darkest days of our lives? During that time I was reminded of how hard it can be to care for myself and make good decisions in pools of stress. I had so many new things to figure out while trying to piece my strange and dark reality together. How could I fill the father-shaped hole in my children’s lives? How could I take over all the things he used to take care of? How was I supposed to go through life without my best friend whom I’ve had for my entire adult life?

Whether it’s the sudden absence of a loved one, your job, or just driving down the road, it’s imperative that we know the secrets to approaching stress. On October 6th-9th, 2022, I’m inviting you to join us as we take a deep dive into what peace looks like, how to usher it into your daily life, and maintain it no matter what life throws at you. Sound like something you need? Learn more here!

Bringing the family back to the table,

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Sakinah is an Army Veteran, Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Wellness Advocate, Best Selling Author, Keynote Speaker, and Home Grown Chef.

After the untimely death of her husband and business partner and autoimmune complications suffered by her daughter, Sakinah realized life was no longer business as usual. She made the collective decision to redefine how she and her family approached health and healthcare.   She has a passion for helping families come back to the table by restoring healthy relationships with food, others, and self. Sakinah believes when women, the cornerstone of the family, learn to restore healthy relationships with food, others, and themselves, it creates a ripple effect for the entire family and generations to come.

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