Let the light shine in

Monday, February 25, 2013

I love having a lot of beautiful souls in my life who understand that depression is more than 'just a bad day' and have strategies for how to manage it. In today's Life is Sweet post, Ashley talks about her own personal experience with depression along with some of the ways she found healing in her journey. 

Depression is a hard concept to understand for those who have never experienced it. It cuts deeper than general sadness or grief, nor is it a feeling which comes and goes or passes after a few days.

I experienced depression more than a year ago now, and I still remember the uncontrollable sobbing, the dark fog and sometimes, the stinging numbness. I remember desperately trying to stop the tears and put on a happy(er) face when I had to function in public. At the time, I was finishing my designation to become a holistic nutritionist and was already a practicing yoga instructor. I felt ashamed by my feelings. I was the one who was supposed to have it altogether and be the example. Because of this, I was afraid to share my experience.

I know now, that I was not alone in that fear and shame.  There are so many people who are afraid to share or talk about what they are going through, and instead they plaster on a frozen smile. Depression shouldn’t be something that we hide or feel ashamed about. In fact, mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety are not so subtle clues that something deeper needs to be addressed.

In our current society, mental illness is treated as a shameful disease and the individual is medicated with a ‘band-aid solution’ pharmaceutical drug which can be even more dangerous than the illness itself. I am not saying that medication should never be used, especially in extreme cases, but it shouldn’t be the only solution. Overcoming this illness can take bravery, looking into those dark corners of yourself that are triggering the depression or anxiety.

Listen to Your Feelings:
It is often a much easier to ignore what your emotions and pretend everything is ‘fine’ and you’re just feeling a little ‘depressed’. However, to really understand what are feeling and why you are experiencing these deep emotions you have to go a little bit deeper. Close your eyes and get quiet; look into those dark paces of yourself where the sadness, guilt, shame and anger are hiding. Only in acknowledging what thoughts and emotions you are experiencing, can you heal yourself.

Let Your Emotions Free:
Acknowledge and release that darkness to let the light shine in (or find the lightness and love which already exists within you). Whether it be taking to a trusted friend, family member or professional, let those feelings out without editing them. There is no reason to feel shame for experiencing depression. Continuing to internalize those feelings will only keep them trapped in the same ongoing cycle. If you are not yet ready to talk to someone, write your feelings down. Just keep writing without over thinking and don’t judge anything during the process.

Embrace who you are:
Are you an introvert trying to be an extrovert? Are you in a relationship that doesn’t light you up? Are you working in a career that goes against your true values? Trying to be somebody different than who you really are or not listening to your true values forces you to compromise yourself. Over time this can drain your energy; trying to fill a role that you are not meant to be in. You may feel as if you’re never good enough or can never live up to standards which someone else has set for you. Take time to explore your unique qualities, and what you truly want in your life. Be honest. By embracing what makes you truly unique, you can live by the standards and values which you create. You can get excited to share the best authentic version of yourself!

Move into Freedom:
Activities like yoga and dancing can help to bring movement into those areas of the body where we all store emotions. Finding movement through the torso, hips and chest (heart centre) can begin to free up stuck emotions. This freedom of movement can allow emotions to pass on their own or expose themselves if they were hidden.  Movement also brings the focus of the mind from the constant mental chatter to the physical body. This can distract you from constantly dwelling on stressful thoughts and emotions, bringing you periods of relaxation and peace.

Nourish Yourself:
We often crave unhealthy foods as a way to cope with or suppress unwanted emotions. Eating a diet of unhealthy foods will not provide the nourishment your body needs. Lack of nutrients in and of itself can lead to depression or mental illness. So start to walk away from the coffee, fast and pre-packaged foods. Learn to prepare and eat foods which uplift and strengthen the body. Drink lots of pure, filtered water and incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables and clean protein into your diet. Providing yourself with the essential nutrients your body needs each day can have a dramatic effect on your energy and mood. It is one of the most wholesome forms of self love. 

I share these tips with you as they were all a key part of my healing path. The inner work can be scary and will take time to process, so don’t be afraid to share it or work with a professional. Eventually the light will begin to shine in again, and please, pay it forward. Share your journey and touch the heart of somebody who may be struggling. If I can touch even one person by sharing my experience with depression, it means the world.

As a yoga instructor and holistic nutritionist, Ashley encourages people to walk the path their true nature intended. This is a fancy way of saying that by choosing health you can feel awesome everyday, so you can live a life you love. Ashley left a career in interior design to pursue a more holistic path, knowing she wanted to make a difference in her own life and in yours. Specializing in emotional eating, Ashley thinks addressing emotions are just as important as the food we eat. Health and happiness are not just concepts to strive for, they can become your natural state of being.

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