Ways to Manage Depression HolisticallySep 30, 2020 ● By Carrie Jackson
Craig Mead, LCSW, LCPC
Wise Words from Craig Mead
With more than 25 years of experience in clinical settings, Craig Mead, LCSW, LCPC, has helped many people overcome a wide range of psychological issues and personal barriers through counseling, psychotherapy and crisis services. Mead opened his private practice, Upside Counseling, PC, in 2020 and has been offering TeleMental Health counseling services to his clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a depression and anxiety specialist, Mead integrates traditional therapy with holistic wellness practices that honor the important interconnection between mental, physical and spiritual health.
What effect has COVID-19 had on mental health?
It’s important to remember that we are still in the middle of a pandemic disaster, so it’s difficult to see the full picture yet. Everyone has been impacted differently, but for many who have a history of depression or anxiety, the ongoing prolonged stress has triggered a flare-up or relapse. This is especially true if their usual coping mechanisms and supports like family gatherings, churches, sports/gyms, hobbies or other social outlets have been unavailable.
During a time of prolonged uncertainty and stress, prioritizing overall well-being helps people overcome and be more resilient to depression and anxiety. What’s most important now is for people to be able to get back to normal and regain a sense of control over their lives, instead of focusing on uncontrollable events. Excessive media consumption or ruminating about COVID-19, the pandemic, civic unrest and all the aftermath is unlikely to make anyone feel better immediately or improve how they’re feeling in general.
This simply re-highlights the stress and brings it back into our focus, attention and awareness, which tends to increase anxious, hopeless and helpless feelings. It’s also important to evaluate and perhaps limit specific media consumption and be more aware of the energy of it. We tend to absorb the energy that we surround ourselves with, so it’s important to make a conscious choice to engage with people and activities that are positive, build you up and bring joy.
How can holistic approaches complement traditional therapy?
Depression and anxiety can affect every aspect of a person’s life. Counseling and medication are two very effective interventions, but for many, therapy combined with a holistic healthy lifestyle approach is the fastest way to achieve a full return to their true, authentic, happy selves. My therapeutic approach integrates traditional therapy with various holistic wellness mind-body-spirit practices as an adjunctive, but equally powerful treatment approach that helps people re-establish needed balance and grounding.
Widening our focus to include improving physical and spiritual health gives us added tools to improve mental well-being from alternate angles. Improving nutrition, exercise, sleep and encouraging other physical activities like yoga, stretching or massage are important tools to achieve physical health that also significantly improve how people generally feel in a multitude of ways. We can strengthen and recharge our spirit by practicing things like meditation, mindfulness, prayer, connecting to our sense of purpose through meaningful social contributions, focusing on gratitude, building healthy relationships and intimacy, or pursuing hobbies that bring joy and states of flow.
Depression and anxiety tend to keep people lost in their thoughts and feelings, and traditional counseling helps sort that out but, holistic wellness practices are a great complement because it helps bring people’s awareness back into their physical bodies and reconnects them with their spirit in ways that improve overall health and wellness.
What role does mindfulness play in overall wellness?
Mindfulness helps relieve
mental distress and anxiety in a very important way by always bringing our
attention back to being fully present in the now and focused on what we are doing,
what’s happening in the current moment. Mindfulness encourages
us to take a more "helicopter observer" view of ourselves above our mind and thought stream and break free of incessant, unhelpful and unhealthy thought patterns.
Much of the distress we often feel is not actually happening in the present moment. By always bringing ourselves back to the now, we’re refocused away from thinking about the past, which can increase depression, or worrying about the future, which can generate anxiety. Mindfulness offers a reorientation to a more natural, peaceful state of being and can be incorporated into anything you’re doing. Sometimes minimizing thinking—even simply being immersed in a joyful activity, movie or music for periods—is enormously helpful to take us out of our thought stream and worries. When we are in the present moment and being our genuine authentic selves, we are closest to our true spiritual selves, which is enormously recharging and greatly improves overall well-being.
Carrie Jackson is an Evanston-based writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect at CarrieJacksonWrites.com.