By: Noah Rue
Medical review by Patricia Salber MD, MBA
Updated on April 9, 2020
These 5 natural remedies can help combat the challenges of mental health issues even when they are supplementary to prescribed treatments.
[UPDATED 4/9/20].Various forms of mental illness, including generalized anxiety disorder and depression, are quite common in ordinary times. However, when you overlay the fear and disruption of lives caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many more people are developing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Although many people with these disorders will require some form of medical treatment (medication, talk therapy, or both) to get relief, there are natural remedies that may support positive mental health, particularly in times of stress.
The global burden of depression
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. It is also a major contributor to the overall burden of disease globally.
They also condition accounts for a hefty economic burden as well. The Center for Workplace Mental Health estimates that major depressive disorder (MDD) is responsible for an annual economic burden of $210.5 billion.
But depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and other mental health conditions don’t have to make such a strong impact on our day-to-day lives. For many individuals, a combination of prescription drugs and cognitive therapy effectively manage the symptoms of mental illness. Other individuals may need additional help.
While technological innovations such as virtual reality have shown promise as treatment options for mental health disorders, the majority of alternative treatments are much more down to earth. There are a variety of techniques and approaches that are natural and that may be beneficial in calming frequent symptoms of a variety of mental health conditions.
Aromatherapy, using various herbs and tinctures, is a practice that dates back to at least 3500 B.C. The ancient Egyptians were some of the first to utilize herbs as a therapeutic tool to promote positive mental health.
Even if you’re a beginner when it comes to essential oils and their benefits, implementing aromatherapy into your life is easy. Some people put drops of various oils into their bathwater. Conversely, you can use a diffuser, which distributes the aromatic scents around the room.
If worrying is one of your symptoms, you may find that calming lavender, sandalwood, and chamomile are ideal essential oils that may help manage your fear and anxiety. To promote uplifting feelings, try lemongrass, peppermint, or invigorating bergamot.
Dietary changes and sipping tea
Studies have shown that your diet and your mood are connected. So, it makes sense that changing your diet may help calm your symptoms. Cut out refined sugars and as many processed foods as possible. If you’re a coffee drinker, consider switching to tea instead.
Tea is loaded with antioxidants and contains significantly less caffeine than coffee. What’s more, all varieties of tea are a staple in numerous homeopathic remedies. The catechins (a type of antioxidant) in green tea may promote healthy brain activity, keeping negative thoughts at bay.
Many people living with a mental health condition take prescription medication that has uncomfortable side effects, such as an upset stomach. Oolong tea, also called “black dragon tea,” may help combat stomach discomfort and promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Sipping tea may also help with mindfulness, promoting a calming effect and inspiring you to live more in the moment.
Mindfulness has been shown to effectively help combat stress. It’s also a great first step towards a minimalist lifestyle, which comes with its own potential mental health benefits.
A cluttered mind can lead to a cluttered life, but it doesn’t have to. There are numerous benefits to adopting minimalism as a life philosophy. According to lifestyle experts,
“by getting rid of the things that matter little in life, we are left with the things that matter most.”
Minimalism is easy to adopt, and it doesn’t mean you have to completely get rid of all of your possessions. Start small, by identifying cluttered areas in your home and putting unused items in storage areas or a donation pile.
Downsizing can become part of your routine: Consider setting aside one hour a week to organize and declutter your home. You may just find that your mind is more clear following your weekly “purging” session.
Related Content: Want to Be Happier? Think with Your Senses, Feel with Your Mind
Journaling and/or blogging
Journaling is one of the easiest ways to de-stress and get rid of negative thoughts. However, you can take your passion for writing a step further and make an impact on others struggling with mental health issues.
Finding a community of like-minded people is integral to those with mental health issues. And that community is growing and sharing their experiences in the form of blogs.
The recent rise in mental health blogging suggests a high readership. It also tangibly demonstrates how honest writing can benefit both the author and the reader.
You can get started by reading articles and blog posts written by others living with a mental health condition. Perhaps their candid stories, self-awareness, and bravery will inspire you to share your own experiences with mental health success and pitfalls.
Related content: Can Journaling Improve Your Mental Health
When you’re ready to share your own story, you can use your social media channels as a writing platform, and grow your audience from there. Or, if you’re computer savvy, consider diving right into blogging by starting a WordPress account and adding “publisher” to your list of accomplishments.
Fill your spare time with activities you love
If you’re not a writer, you can still use your passion as therapy. Whether your interests lie in watching movies, reading, scrapbooking, or bird watching, spending your free time doing what you love is another natural approach in mental health support that has proven benefits.
Idle time can be a figurative death sentence for many individuals living with a mental health disorder. By keeping yourself busy, negative thoughts and faulty behaviors are denied the chance to ruin your days.
In fact, researchers have found that cognitive functioning, memory, and reasoning improve significantly among individuals who participate in sustained activities that they enjoy.
Final thoughts on natural remedies to support positive mental health
Natural remedies, even if they are supplementary to other treatments prescribed by a healthcare professional, can be key to combating the challenges of mental health issues.
Numerous individuals have found successful symptom management using a combination of medication and natural techniques or approaches. The best part of natural mental health support is its individualistic nature. You have the ability to find the right combination of techniques that lead to symptom management.
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First published on Dec. 30, 2018, this post was reviewed and updated for republication on Apr. 9, 2020.