During these cold winter months, you may find yourself a little extra tired, moody, or even depressed and anxious. Collectively, even these past two years seem to have us in a different sort of funk, especially for those of us experiencing more clinical or severe forms of depression and anxiety. I do not have a cure, and I cannot fix or change you; only you have the power to do that. I am here, as always, to encourage you to show yourself some love, especially as we embark on a new year, another opportunity to shift what needs to be shifted within ourselves. To assist you in this process, I want to offer you several safe, natural, long-term solutions that can be profoundly effective for relieving pain and achieving healthier levels of those happy biochemicals we often hear about, serotonin and dopamine.
As a massage therapist, I have to geek on the immense potential of therapeutic touch as a complementary therapy and effective tool for addressing depression and anxiety. These mood disorders go beyond just the winter blues for many of us, so it is far from a cure-all. However, one study from the Nursing branch at the International Scholarly Research Center showed that massage therapy proved to reduce anxiety and depression in oncological patients. In other words, massage therapy has the power to reduce the deeply felt depression and anxiety that is associated with a terminal illness. It should be noted that for these patients, it is very important that they receive informed therapeutic touch so they can be as comfortable as possible.
Another study at the International Journal of Sport Studies showed that massage therapy was greatly effective at reducing the stress, depression, and anxiety of adolescent wrestlers between the ages of 15-18. This means that the physical and mental stress that is responsible for quite the phenomenon of depression and anxiety among this particular group of young people demands a balance.
Therapeutic touch on its own is an amazing therapy, but there are complementary natural therapies that exist. Combining touch with herbal remedies such as tinctures can provide us with a powerful one two punch of positive brain chemicals. A few of my favorites include:
- Kava Gold Formula: The Kava plant has its roots in the Pacific Islands and brings to its recipients the energy of those beautiful beaches and soothing ocean waves. Kava is known to reduce anxiety and bring about a sense of calm, relieving nervousness, irritability, compulsive thoughts, and even panic attacks. In combination with other powerful, peace-inducing herbs (Pulsatilla and fresh Lobelia), Kava even works with insomnia, aiding recipients in achieving REM sleep and even deeper sleep cycles where great healing occurs. Even though this formula is curated to calm and soothe, it will not interfere with cognitive functions and the ability to be clear and alert. As Kava Gold also includes St. John’s Wort flowers (more in depth on this powerful herb below), this formula will also work with depression and mood disorders that are results of extreme stress and anxiety.
- St. John’s Tonic: St. John’s Wort is a great option for those experiencing mild to moderate depression because it elevates one’s mood by helping the brain to produce more of the neurotransmitter serotonin. It is also useful for those with a lowered passion or libido who want a safe, herbal solution. Sometimes, recipients will feel the effects of this tonic immediately, but typically it is the most noticeable and effective as a long-term solution (over 1 month). As the St. John’s Tonic also includes herbs such as kava root and gingko leaf, it is ideal for anxiety that is related to depression, bringing about a sense of calm without removing clarity.
- Vitamin D3: There is something special about Vitamin D3. This is the form of Vitamin D that is the closest to the kind our bodies make naturally in the skin with sunlight exposure (as opposed to D2, which plants produce). Many studies show it to be the most effective at increasing the body’s levels of Vitamin D when taken as a supplement. There are several benefits to having adequate amounts of Vitamin D in our bodies, including strong (but not too strong) immune responses and healthy hearts. Additionally, and most importantly for this discussion, D3 supplementation helps our bodies produce serotonin, mimicking those warm, feel-goods associated with sun-bathing. This makes D3 a great option for year-round mood support, especially as our bodies naturally produce less vitamin D during cold, winter months when the sun hides and sleeps.
You can find all these tinctures available at Mind & Body Connection. If you are struggling like so many of us do this season, give these things a try even as a supplement to what you are already doing. You deserve to feel and be well this and all your seasons!
By, Emily Larson, a licensed massage therapist and private yoga instructor at the Mind & Body Connection in Sioux City, Iowa. With a Bachelor of Science degree from Briar Cliff University in Kinesiology and Human Performance, Emily also co-teaches the Anatomy section for massage therapy students at the Bio-Chi Institute. Most importantly, Emily is a mother to her eight-year-old son, Noah.