Sustainable solutions to depression
In my previous post I outlined what causes depression and how drugs might help mitigate the symptoms, but don’t address the cause. Now let’s talk about healing the cause so you not only get well, but stay well.
The core of curing depression lies in addressing the exhaustion that causes it. The depression and its related exhaustion is just the effect of years of being run down. Many of my clients report that they continued to get worse from doing nothing, some were getting worse from spending most of the day in bed. How can you get more exhausted when you aren’t doing anything?
It’s easy. Your survival system, the sympathetic autonomic nervous system, and the related aspects of the endocrine system are working overtime. It’s as if you’re stopped at a red light with your transmission in neutral, but your engine is revving. You aren’t moving, but your engine is working at top speed. Your body might not be moving, but your stress response is.
There are two parts of your autonomic nervous system. The parasympathetic, or the default phase, and the sympathetic, or stress response phase. Over time, from constant stress, your body gets stuck in that survival phase. Even during non-stressful times, your body is still revving.
You can see how this constant stress would wear you out. It wears out engines, why wouldn’t it wear you out? You can stop all physical activity and your body will still be revving.
How do you pull the plug?
Drugs such as antidepressants act much like caffeine; they give your nervous system a buzz. They don’t give your body more vital energy. In the long run they continue to exhaust you more. Have you ever had a hectic few days, thrown back coffee like it’s going out of style, then crashed on the third or fourth day? You end up more tired than if you’d just gone without the caffeine—the buzz—in the first place.
First you need to stop the fight-or-flight response, the sympathetic nervous system, from being on all the time. Your body and mind need to learn to turn that response off. There is no drug that turns that off or relaxes you. There are some that might sedate you, but they are not releasing the tension that causes this constant state of hyper-arousal.
Assuming you’re not in a combat zone and your stress response is based on habituation, you need to extinguish your survival response by unlearning it and learning the “relaxation response”. When I lived in Phoenix, my business partner and I ran a large Mindfulness Stress Reduction company that taught our students to shift from an always-on stress response, to a parasympathetic relaxation response as their default. In the eight weeks of the course, the most important thing we taught was how to breathe.
If you are breathing in a relaxed manner, you can not have a stress response. Simple, right? So if it’s that simple, why aren’t we all doing it? One, no one told us we could, or how to do it. Two, as you breathe, you feel. You feel the physical and emotional experience of stress. None of us like that. The beautiful thing is that as we feel the discomfort, we release it. We release the stress of the moment and a little stress of the past.
After weeks of breathing, students suffering from chronic depression, exhaustion and pain were suddenly well. After decades of Rolfing Structural Integration (SI), coaching and teaching stress reduction, it is still sometimes hard for me to believe it’s that simple. But it is.
An even quicker way to release the stress and unlearn the pattern is to release the body tension. In more than 30 years of my Rolfing SI practice, I have seen thousands of clients heal the “incurable” by releasing their chronic stress. When the body relaxes on a deep level, the chronic stress and tension leave at the same time the body/mind is learning to relax in the face of new stress.
The amazing power of the body to heal
You are hardwired to survive before anything else. Healing is irrelevant if you don’t survive. But once the self-perpetuating stress and tension are gone, all the resources of the body used for “survival” can be used for healing and rejuvenation.
In all the therapies I have used with clients, the key to my work is always to help the client remove the stress and stress response. Once that’s gone, I know the body will be able to apply its resources to sustainably heal the cause of exhaustion, depression and chronic pain.
With the removal of stress and the removal of unconscious habits of recreating stress, you are also able to apply that new energy to generating success. Many men come to me stuck, with their lives not working. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t get traction on creating the life they wanted. Once the chronic-stress response was removed, often success found them.
You can’t heal if you are surviving; so how can you fully create and succeed if you are always spinning your wheels?
Drugs and understanding the problem will not produce the deep change that will transform a man’s life or health. Your depression is not just a chemical imbalance, or a mental defect. It’s a physiological effect of years of stress. You can release the chronic stress and unlearn the survival response to learn how to be relaxed.
How to heal depression, exhaustion and chronic pain
Nothing is a panacea. But there is true hope for these chronic conditions. I will be writing more about all these in the future.
Mindfulness Stress Reduction
The original Mindfulness Stress Reduction program was designed by Jon Kabit-Zinn, PhD, through the University of Massachusetts.
An excellent online program is emindful. Paul Sugar, my former Scottsdale Institute of Health and Medicine partner and Mindfulness Stress Reduction co-teacher, is an integral part of this company. I highly recommend them.
As a significant form of soft tissue manipulation, Rolfing SI releases the chronic stress of the body while realigning it. My site on RolfingSI has in-depth information on how it works and who it can help.
Emotional Freedom Technique is acupressure for your emotions. As you tap on a series of spots on your body while speaking, you release the physical connection to limited emotional beliefs.
Originally developed by an old friend and teacher of mine, Peter Levine, PhD, this form of trauma therapy does not focus on creating a better coping mechanism. Instead, it releases the trauma through allowing the body to complete the incomplete physiological response. Another old friend of mine, Pat Ogden, PhD, has taken much of Peter’s work–and the work of Ron Krutz (another friend of mine)–to create her powerful way of healing trauma.
All these people have developed gentle, yet effective ways to remove the old trauma and its hold on you.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing assist you in erasing the trauma and stress through having you move your eyes as you experience the associated stress of an event. As strange as it might seem, it works. It’s as if it distracts the mind so the body can release what it needs to release.
Homeopathy, developed by a German physician 200 years ago, is seeing a resurgence here in the US. Always popular in Europe and India, more Americans are seeing how simply and cheaply homeopathy can treat acute conditions. Many homeopaths are physicians who moved into homeopathy because it works.
A small remedy can catalyze the body to heal itself. For depression, exhaustion and chronic pain, I have seen homeopathy shake loose old tension.
There are many other holistic techniques people use for healing chronic fatigue and its related illnesses. Most of these I find to be more supportive and not primary in their effects. These therapies included:
Cranial sacral therapy
You can do it
Many years ago, I was so exhausted that driving a mile felt like driving across country. From that exhaustion, I was depressed. Through using all the above techniques, I not only fixed the symptoms, I healed the cause, thereby curing the chronic fatigue-depression matrix. As I mentioned, I have help hundreds of men do the same. It might not be easy, but it certainly is doable.
It takes courage, commitment and often support to transform your health and life on this level. At the end you will not only be healed, you will be given a special gift. That gift is unique to each man. It comes from traveling the path of Evolutionary Change.
I will be writing more about many of the topics of this post. We are working on providing a program that incorporates these techniques. Please let me know what you would like. I want to help you get well and get what you want. I know you can do it!