Anxiety and depression are serious topics that are often under discussed. Anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million adults in the US and 300 million worldwide. Why are people are afraid to speak about this topic? If you or someone you are close to deals with mental health, anxiety, or depression, perhaps you are familiar with some of the following terms:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Major Depressive Disorder.
Substance Abuse Disorder.
Who am I?
My name is Evan Transue (AKA Health Coach Ev), and I dealt with one or more of these issues at any given time for over a decade of my life.
What started out as me having a panic attack here and there would eventually turn into a daily battle with generalized anxiety, panic attacks, and depression years later. No longer would the panic attacks be isolated incidents that happened a few times per month, rather they would be expected occurrences that happened on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times per day. As a kid dealing with this, most of the time I didn’t really have any idea what was going on with me. All I knew was that I felt like I was going to die and that I certainly did not want to feel that way any longer.
Right after high school, I was in the worst spot I had ever been in mentally. I felt like I was losing my mind, I was doing things that were very uncharacteristic of who I actually was, and my entire life revolved around battling these issues. Not to sound cliche, but this time period for me was a classic example of “rock-bottom is a great place to build a foundation.” My issues got so bad that it ironically became a motivating factor for me to pursue change. I had no idea how I was going to do it at the time, but I was willing to give it a shot.
The short of it all is that I eventually managed to find ways to manage the mental health issues that I never would’ve thought of when I first started on this journey of change. I had no agenda and no plan. All I knew is that I’d try my best to exhaust all options before I threw in the towel and gave up on trying to get better.
Evan will be speaking LIVE at the Lions Den on November 4th, 2019.
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Read the entire article but here’s a recorded podcast and video with Coach Joe to help understand.
What I eventually found might be something that may surprise you… Out of all the things that I tried, it was lifestyle changes that had the most profound impact on my mental health issues. I am certainly not saying this is going to be the case for everyone who is dealing with mental health issues, however, these changes had such an amazing effect on both my mental AND physical health that I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life (or at least a good portion) pursuing this work, and sharing my message with other people.
Here are my Top 5 Methods For Managing Anxiety/Depression Naturally.
It should be noted before we get into this that while I have studied health extensively and have several certifications in the field of holistic health, I am by no means a doctor. PLEASE use this article for educational purposes only, and always consult your primary care physician before making any changes to your diet/lifestyle for the purpose of supporting any health issue.
Let’s get started!
Your Diet and Anxiety and Depression
Ah, diets. What do you think of when you hear that word? Is there a negative connotation in your head associated with it? For me, I was always very lucky in the sense that I was a very lean and relatively athletic person most of my life. I never had to think about diets or dieting in the traditional sense.
However, as I dove deeper into what was causing my health issues and anxiety the diet was something that came up.
Prior to this research, I was doing, I honestly never realized that food could have such a large impact on one’s mental health! But what I ended up learning about the food I was eating completely shocked (and disgusted me) once I knew the truth.
Assuming you’re currently living in America while reading this (although unfortunately, this applies to many other countries as well), then you are eating some of the most toxic food on the planet. Almost anything you can think of in life has a good side and a bad side to it, and the food industry is no exception. Our fast-paced lifestyles have led to the production and consumption of more “grab and go” types of foods, which place virtually no emphasis on real nutrition. At best, the “nutrition” is added after the processed junk product is created, and at worst, there is really no nutritional value whatsoever!
In addition, we as a country add more chemicals to our foods than anywhere in the world. Artificial flavorings, dyes, sweetener. These are just a few of the many things you will see on the backs of labels in your local grocery store. Worse yet? These chemicals are also abundant in CHILDREN’S products. I understand that diet and nutrition are controversial subjects, and plenty of great minds have had trouble trying to figure out what humans should be eating.
However, does it really take a rocket scientist to figure out that we are not supposed to be giving people artificial sweeteners and flavorings? Let’s take a deeper look at this.
Here’s a candid discussion from 2016 that I had with Coach Joe.
The truth is, I could probably write an entire series of books on how our modern diet, or the SAD diet (standard diet), is completely destroying our health. But since this is just an article, I’ll keep it limited to two quick examples:
Excitotoxins and Anxiety and Depression
“Excitotoxins” are neurotransmitters that can cause brain cell injury or death if it’s action is unabated (left at the same intensity). The name of these things is literally describing the action by which this cell death occurs, in that the neurotransmitter “excites” the cell to death!
The most common example of this and something you may have even heard of before is something called monosodium glutamate, or MSG. MSG has been attacked by health professionals for quite some time now (thankfully), but that does not mean that it is not being used (your local Chinese store most likely LOVES this stuff – ever wonder why it’s so addicting?) MSG has been associated with both physical AND mental health issues 1.
While plenty of more research could and should be done, this is something that has been permanently removed from my diet. I’m not a guinea pig, and I feel a lot better without it. Now keep in mind, this is just one small example of the slew of artificial crud we are adding to our food supply. A funny but very good rule of thumb is “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it!
Nutrition’s Effect on Anxiety and Depression
Well, certainly nutrition is not as captivating of a word as “excitotoxins,” but it is nonetheless a key player in the grand scheme of things.
Since the time of the industrial revolution, we have been all about efficiency. While this has been amazing in many ways (the fact that I am writing this virtually and you are reading it as such is an example of this), again, it is something that came with unintended consequences. We have polluted much of our land, depleted the contents of our soil (good soil = good nutritional value of the food), and engaged in practices that involve favoring the planting of vegetable varieties that get a bigger yield as opposed to ones that provide more nutrition.
As shown in 1999, this has led to huge declines of certain nutrients in our food 2. And if these declines were already this significant in 1999, how do you think we are looking in 2019 at the time that I am writing this?
The even bigger problem with all of this is that most of us, as previously stated, are not eating healthy food, to begin with. These studies that were done on nutritional values were for actual foods, you know, like vegetables?
It’d be hard to come up with precise numbers, but can you imagine how deficient the average person is in vital nutrients considering what the average American consumes on a daily basis? Nutrients, both micro (vitamins/minerals) and macro (fats, carbs, proteins), are ESSENTIAL in the proper creation and regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters. What do you think the consequences on someone’s hormonal and neurotransmitter levels could be if they are living in the most “type-A” society ever, while simultaneously eating the most nutritionally-stripped food humans have ever seen?
Makes ya think…
So, Health Coach Ev, what’s the solution?
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the truth is even some of the best quality food in our country today may not match the average food 100+ years ago. With that said, I speak from the personal experience of myself and my clients when I say it is still absolutely worth it to try to eat the best food you possibly can.
The things that work best for me are eating organic AND local, eating single-ingredient (or “no ingredient,” as in it doesn’t come in a box or can), and avoiding added sugar at all costs. Out of all of these, I would say eating local is the most important in terms of getting nutrient-dense foods. Eating local does a few things automatically that all promote good nutrient value in and of themselves.
It assumes eating seasonally, it does not allow for the food to become “depleted” when it has to travel 100’s or even 1000’s of miles to get to your grocery store, and most importantly, you can actually MEET the person who is selling you the food!
If you’re not sure where to start, your locally owned health food store, farmers market, and CSA’s (community supported agriculture) are great places to go!
Ok, before I get told that I’m a hippy, hear me out on this one.
When I was 18, I started getting into hiking and generally spending more time outside. Mind you, at the time, I was still trying to fully “recover” from years and years of mental health issues. What I began noticing was that not only was hiking an enjoyable experience, but it almost seemed to instantly “turn off” my feelings of anxiety and depression.
I never thought much of this because I figured there was no way this could be the case for anyone else, but years later, science has backed this up as a viable means of feeling better!
A Stanford led study found that participants who took a 90-minute walk in nature showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression!3. In addition, these people also showed lower rates of “rumination,” which in the mental health field refers mainly to repetitive thoughts that are both unwanted and/or negative.
Even more interesting is the idea that not only does time in nature reduce rates of depression/anxiety, but the time spent in highly urbanized settings seems to cause an increase in these things!
Society as a whole is making a continuous shift into living in more urbanized areas, but unfortunately, it is known that city dwellers have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders as compared to people in rural areas (people born in cities are also twice as likely to develop schizophrenia!)
Looking back, I wish I had known about the power of nature during the height of my mental health battle. I would’ve made it a point to be outside as much as possible, and nowadays I spend a significant portion of my day outside.
Healing The Gut
It’s going to take just about everything in my power to not go completely crazy with this topic and write 10+ pages on the gut right now, but I’ll try to keep this brief.
The connection between the gut and our brain was something that was completely foreign to me until about 19-20 years old. Ironically, I had done a lot of stuff for my own healing at that point that I didn’t realize was serving my gut health, and as a result, I was starting to feel a lot better. As time went on, I began to connect the dots that got me to the point that I was at, and I realized just how important the integrity of the health of our gut is to mental health.
I actually ended up getting different certifications that taught me about this topic extensively the minute I realized there were people out there who had understood this for a while and knew way more about it than me.
The technical way to define the “gut-brain axis” is as follows:
“The gut-brain axis (GBA) consists of bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous system, linking the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions.”4.
For the sake of this article, what that definition is basically saying is that we now know that not only is the brain capable of sending messages to the gut, but the gut is capable of doing the same thing to the brain!
Within the gut, we have something called the gut “microbiome.” A microbiome is the whole of the many microorganisms that inhabit a particular environment. Depending on ethnicity, diet, lifestyle, and where you live, the organisms that make up your particular gut microbiome may look quite different from another person’s. What is true for almost all of us however is that when we have a disproportionate amount of good to bad bacteria or a dysbiosis, things can really get out of whack!
Science has a long way to go with fully understanding the gut (it’s actually been said that we are not necessarily a human body hosting bacteria, but rather bacteria hosting a human – creepy), but one thing that is absolutely clear is that if your gut is messed up, you open the door for a lot of health issues, ESPECIALLY mental health issues.5.
In my business, I actually work specifically with people who deal with these gut issues, and it is AMAZING how many people I see that have anxiety or depression but also have extreme gastrointestinal distress or issues. When we run the labs to figure out what’s going on in their gut, sometimes we find some really crazy stuff!
Although the proper healing of the gut is a highly individualized process and usually requires testing, some simple tips to get started are as follows:
Eat single-ingredient, organic foods whenever possible. The gut is a surprisingly sensitive place that is constantly being damaged and repaired. This damage occurs even when we eat a “perfect” diet, so can you imagine what happens to it when we eat processed junk? The other big worry, especially in America, is that our non-organic food is absolutely coated with glyphosate, AKA Round-Up. Round-Up has not only been proven to be carcinogenic, but it also causes increased intestinal permeability, or what’s more popularly known as “leaky gut.”
Try experimenting with intermittent fasting. Considering this article was made especially for Mr. Joey Szatmary himself, I’m assuming if you’re reading this you are probably involved in some type of physical fitness program. If so, it’s likely you’ve heard of intermittent fasting already, which is simply eating what you normally would in a time-restricted window.
The most common way of doing this is through what’s called a “16-8,” or fasting for 16 hours of the day (including sleep) and eating all of your calories in 8 hours. You can literally eat whatever you are already eating now, but you just eat it in an 8-hour window.
Outside of the incredible benefits, time-restricted eating has been shown to have on sleep, body composition, and overall health, practicing intermittent fasting gives your gut the extra time it needs to repair itself on a daily basis. The epithelial cell layer of the gut is home to some of the fastest regenerating cells in the human body!
Try supplementing with L-glutamine! This one is super simple. Not only is L-glutamine supplementation awesome for recovery and building muscle, but it is one of the most useful amino acids in aiding the repairing of the gut. This stuff can be bought in bulk for really, really cheap, and is easy to add into smoothies or post-workout shakes.
Plain Old Exercise
Because of the audience, this article was primarily written for, I’m hoping this is the one tip you are already following on this list!
Regardless, we’re going to briefly cover some key points about exercise:
The primary benefits of exercise are seen when about 2 ½ hours to 3 hours of moderate to high-intensity exercise is done on a weekly basis. 6.
Exercise can release multiple different “feel-good” hormones, such as endorphins which may be released when you are going through a tough workout, or dopamine, which may be released when hitting a personal best!
This third one is just my personal opinion, but I truly believe that doing a little exercise that you LOVE is way better than doing a lot of exercise that you hate. The way I see it, there are so many different ways to move your body (two of my favorites are hiking and biking). There is really no reason to be doing any form of exercise that doesn’t bring you immediate joy. The real benefits of exercise are a long-term thing, and the more you enjoy what you are doing, the higher the chance that you are going to stay true to your exercise regimen.
How to Get Sleep That’s Actually Restorative
Talking about sleep is very similar to talking about the gut for me. It is something that is extremely misunderstood, and that almost no one in today’s modern world is doing properly (whether they realize it or not).
In my experience, this is one of if not THE most important parts of managing mental health issues. In fact, one of the most common questions I get when talking to people is “What is the top thing I can do for my mental health?” this is asked, I always say that the number one thing someone can do is figure out how to sleep properly. Here is the rundown on sleep!
Like most living organisms, we humans have something called a circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are basically the schedule our bodies follow over a roughly 24-hour period, and our sleep-wake cycle is at the center of all of this.
While it’s been proven that a circadian rhythm will still form even if a human is exposed to total darkness, humans are in fact diurnal (as opposed to nocturnal) creatures. We were made to be up and active when the sun is up, and rest and restore when the sun goes down. With the invention and mass-production of the first lightbulb, humans have yet again unintentionally abused one of our most important systems when it comes to health.
Once humans had access to ALAN (or artificial light at night, a coin termed by Dr. Jack Kruse), we took matters into our own hands with our sleep-wake cycle. Nowadays, artificial lighting actually seems harder to get away from than it is to get! One wavelength of light in particular (blue light) is EXTREMELY detrimental to humans’ sleep and thus mental health. When the human eye (and now science has proven certain parts of the skin are included in this as well) comes in contact with blue-light, it sends a message to the SCN, or suprachiasmatic nucleus, located in the hypothalamus, that you NEED TO BE AWAKE. This is normally a great thing when it comes from the sun in relatively small amounts and with the other wavelengths that come along with full-spectrum lighting, but in the mega-doses that our modern tech. serves it in, it is destroying both our eyes and our sleep-wake cycle!
Now, at the risk of losing everyone except the science nerds, I’ll try to sum this up. Artificial lighting, especially at night, prevents you from properly producing the sleep hormone melatonin. Melatonin is an essential part in getting truly restorative sleep, and our chronic use of technology before bed leads us to be a world that is chronically sleep-deprived.
The best thing you can do is reduce or eliminate this lighting before bed.
Here is how:
Wear blue-light blocking glasses. These are becoming a hot item as people are trying to avoid eye-strain on the computer, but you may be less familiar with the ones for sleep. The ones for sleep are dark amber color. One of my favorite brands is found at www.blublox.com, and you can use the discount code “POG20” for 20% off all orders. I do not make any money from this discount. Wear these for at least 1-2 hours before bed and see how quickly your sleep gets better!
If you’re someone who can’t live without your computer at night, or simply have to work late, you can download a free program called “f.lux,” just search it on Google. F.lux is a program that operates in the background of your computer and progressively blocks the blue-light on your computer-based in accordance with where you live (because the sun obviously goes down at different times in different places throughout the year).
This is not a perfect program, and the glasses will still block more blue light, but it’s a helpful tool nonetheless.
Himalayan is also generally useful for keeping blue-light to a minimum at night. My apartment has multiple Himalayan salt-lamps, and it is the only light source my roommate and I use after dark.
As a final note, I truly hope you got value from this article. I feel that many of the topics listed here are ones that we kind of already knows about, but perhaps don’t understand fully how important these things are.
If you have any questions you are more than welcome to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or shoot me a message on Instagram: @evan_transue.