If you use pop culture as a guide, drowning your sorrows in a bucket of beer is the only cure for what ails you. But the truth is that if you’re genuinely depressed, you're much better off without the booze. This is especially true if you're experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety like hyperventilation, nausea, or irritability. I know, I know — many of us experience those all too regularly.
Approximately 40 million Americans are affected by anxiety and depression. Living with these problems doesn't mean you have to suffer, though: there are plenty of healthy choices you can make to alleviate your symptoms and experience better overall health. Staying hydrated and making healthier drinking choices can actually help you feel better from the inside out. By altering your lifestyle, you can take active steps to adjust your mood.
What Anxiety and Depression Can Look Like
We checked in with Dr. Deepa Verma of Synergistiq Integrative Health to learn more about causes of depression and anxiety — and easy ways to manage symptoms. Common symptoms of depression include marked changes in sleep or appetite, loss of interest in people and pleasurable activities, avoidance of social situations, and loss of motivation. On the other hand, symptoms of anxiety can include agitation, nausea/vomiting, restlessness, and body aches.
What about that cocktail we’re always so sure will help us unwind at the end of the day? Reserve that highball for celebrating good times, not self-medicating the hard ones, Dr. Verma tells us.
“Alcohol is often misused or abused,” Dr. Verma says. “People use it as a nightcap, or as a means to forget their problems. But just the opposite is usually the case: if you’re suffering from depression, alcohol will only lead to more problems — and possibly addiction. And it isn’t just drinking alcohol that can compound problems — when depressed, people often turn to processed ‘comfort foods’ and sugary sodas.”
Some periods of stress are normal, and our bodies and minds experience their ebbs naturally. However, sustained anxiety or depression can often manifest as one extreme expression of a particular symptom — for instance, mild panic, or feelings of numbness — rather than a whole range. Many medical professionals say it is worth seeking help if symptoms persist for longer than two weeks.
Anxiety and depression may not be a permanent state, but episodic. With this in mind, consider how lifestyle choices may affect how we feel on a short-term basis. A second cup of coffee might give you energy, but it can quickly escalate into jitters and racing thoughts. A strong drink or two after work might initially relax you, but by depressing the nervous system, those drinks can reinforce existing symptoms of depression. Swap alcohol and caffeine for drinks made with antioxidant-rich berries, vitamin D-packed shakes, and wholesome oat-based smoothies in order to start reaping the benefits of a healthier lifestyle choice.
Lifestyle Means What You Take In… And What You Do With It
So how do you get started on the right track? “A great place to start is by cleaning out your pantry,” Dr. Verma notes. “Clear out anything that’s packed with corn syrup and preservative Instead, start actively consuming a diet rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, and omega-3- fatty acids.”
We always have healthy options for the beverages we choose to imbibe. Don't fret: tasty, appetizing, and nutritious, by choosing these alternatives, you’re taking an easy step to feeling better overall. Supplement these drinks with people and activities that make you feel genuinely good: friends, exercise, enjoying the outdoors, and exploring the delicious world all around you.
Studies show the chemical apignenin in chamomile has anxiety-reducing properties. Steep some tea in hot water, or drink it cool over ice. This drink has a mild and naturally sweet flavor that is easy to enjoy.
Drinks and foods rich in folates can stave off the blues: think dark, leafy greens packed with Vitamin B-12.
Avni Vyas lives and teaches in Tallahassee, FL where she is a doctoral candidate at Florida State University. She is the co-author of Candy In Our Brains, published by CutBank. Follow her adventures on Belles Lettres and Bourbon.