Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who founded the global humanitarian organization focused on stress relief and wellness, The Art of Living says “A strong mind can take care of a weak body. But a weak mind cannot take care of even a strong body.” This is why building resilience and mental strength is important for those undergoing depression and anxiety. Here’s all that you need to begin on the path of healing from mental health disorders.
1. Understand why you need self-care.
When you are in the throes of a panic attack or grim depressive episode, the last thing you may be willing to accept is that you might need to make sweeping lifestyle changes to get out of this condition. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, on being asked how does one define a good decision, said, “Anything that gives you short-term pain but long-term gain is a good decision and anything that gives you joy in the short term but pain for the long term cannot be a wise decision.” Self-care is that broad decision which may be slightly difficult in the short term, but will go a long way in bringing you out of the darkness. Understanding this tiny piece of wisdom is half the battle won.
2. Be kind to yourself.
It is important to know that self-care begins with being kind to yourself before anything else. What does that entail?
- Take small, easy, doable steps.
- Forgive yourself if you slack off for a day or two and start afresh the next day.
- Take smaller vows of change.
Sri Sri says, “All those habits which bother you, bind them in vows, in samyama. Tie those habits which bring you pain in samyama. Take vows according to time and place. For example, suppose someone has a habit of smoking cigarettes and says, “I will quit smoking,” but cannot do it. They can take a vow for three months or 90 days—importantly it should be a time-bound vow. Don’t take a vow for a lifetime; you will break it immediately. If you happen to break it in between, don’t worry. Just begin again. Slowly increase the duration until it becomes your nature.”
3. You cannot handle the mind from the level of the mind.
This is a golden secret revealed by Sri Sri that has revolutionized the way we look at how the mind operates. This is key for effective healing of mood disorders that explains why medication or psychological counseling alone may fail to completely heal a person from depression or anxiety. “Just forcing positive thoughts on oneself is not enough and more often than not leads to a relapse,” says Sri Sri.
4. Medication is failing to replace self-care.
Self-care is crucial; there is enough evidence to show that medication alone cannot help in full recovery. If anything, strong anti-depressant dependence just makes it deeply complicated to heal. Some of the withdrawal symptoms experienced by long time users of antidepressant medication include nausea, dry mouth, spasms, confusion, hallucination, hand tremors, or depression. This is worrying because according to an article published in New York Times last year, 15.5 million Americans are on antidepressant medication and the numbers have tripled since 2000.
5. The most powerful secret is BREATH.
A basic question that a depression patient may have is how does one uplift oneself from a state of non-action that one gets into while undergoing depression? A powerful and effective, yet underrated, secret that can work tremendously well here is harnessing the breath. A state of non-action or lack of willingness to act is a sign of low prana or chi or life force. When you increase your prana, you have within yourself more energy to act. You may observe that it is impossible to be unhappy or depressed when you have more energy in you, or in other words when you are high prana. Simply by using breath, one can increase one’s prana. You need not even move from your place to practice certain deep breathing techniques that can quickly uplift your state of mind and fill you up with more energy.
This is where spirituality in the manner of tools like deep diaphragmatic breathing, yoga, meditation, and natural healing sciences such as Ayurveda help provide more sustainable ways to deal with mental health without withdrawal symptoms or external dependence.
6. Knowing how to use breath—Sudarshan Kriya.
Breathing techniques like Sudarshan Kriya stabilize our life force and consequently the mind. —Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Depression can cripple your will to even move from your place, let alone do anything else. Such patients may also find it very difficult to still their minds or clear their thought process to begin with.
Even when doing nothing, we are still breathing. Breath sustains life. Yet, we have not been taught how to harness our breath for a healthier mind-body complex. Our breath has the incredible power to transform our state of mind in just a few minutes. One such breathing technique that has been revolutionizing the art of living a happier and healthier life is Sudarshan Kriya yoga (SKY).
SKY is a simple rhythmic breathing technique that launches you in a deeply calming meditative, thoughtless state with zero mental effort. It can be done where you are—all it takes is 20 minutes of your day, and gives you a powerful energy or prana boost along with a calm clear mind.
- Regular practice of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga works just the same way as an activated vagus nerve, the key to any significant depression treatment.
- It activates the “Rest and Digest” (Parasympathetic) Nervous system, and improves the release of Prolactin (well-being hormone) secretion by 50%.
- Increases time spent in deep sleep by 218% and has alleviated many around the world of depression, anxiety and stress.
- SKY training has been useful in non-steroidal intervention to reduce cardiovascular risk in patients with anxiety/depression disorders.