Taking an Integrative Approach to Depression

Depression, anxiety, and many other mental illnesses are on the rise in the twenty-first century. We sat down with Dr. Nigel Lester, Director of Mental Health at PALM, to ask for his insight.

Why are so many people depressed today?

Two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Plato said, “Life must be lived as play.” In many ways the huge rise in mental illnesses in our society, and especially depression, can be seen as a collective forgetting of the potential for joy and awe that human existence offers us. There are many causes of depression that lead us to become psychologically and emotionally stuck. A common scenario we see at PALM Health is that people are living under increasing amounts of both physical and psychological stress, leading to a state of constant tension and anxiety about life. Life stops being like play and becomes more like punishment! Eventually, body and mind suffer, leading to fatigue, ill health, and depression.

How does PALM Health use a holistic approach to depression?

At PALM Health our integrated approach recognizes the need to address all aspects of the being: body, mind, and spirit. Our treatment programs include psychological interventions, diet, exercise, meditation, personal goal setting, and much more.

For example, exercise can be meaningful and joyful. Why force yourself to do 45 minutes on the treadmill while watching the news about all the sad things happening in the world when you can spend 45 minutes walking in nature, gardening, or even doing housework? Not only will you burn more calories in the long run, but you will also reawaken body awareness and rediscover meaning in your daily activity.

Do you recommend supplements in the treatment of depression?

Diet should be tailored to individual needs and be varied over time. At PALM Health our nutritional and functional medicine team assesses your specific nutritional needs and designs a diet and supplement regimen for your individual situation.

Sadly, much of the food available to us today is lacking in nutrients. Even a balanced diet may not be sufficient when you are struggling with depression, so the use of supplements may be justified. Study after study confirms that we simply do not have a correct balance of fatty acids in our diet and the brain needs these essential fatty acids more than any other part of the body. At a minimum, you should take a daily dose of good quality omega-3.

What about relaxation therapy?

It is often the case that the first time we teach relaxation and meditation to a client at PALM Health they will fall asleep. This should tell you something! Sleep is essential to mental and emotional well-being, yet most of us are not getting enough sleep, or enough quality sleep; it makes us highly vulnerable to depression. We make it a priority to help our clients learn how to let go at the end of the day through good sleep habits, meditation, self-acupressure, and relaxation techniques.

What about psychological support?

It is essential that we learn how to be calm in the face of stress. This is achieved through understanding ourselves, and accepting our personal challenges, addictions, fears, and obsessions, without condemnation but with calmness, patience, and kindness. That will allow us to move forward in meaningful ways.

The foundation of our mental health approach at PALM Health is our unique Well-Being Coaching philosophy, which involves promoting neuroplasticity (the biological basis of change), addressing personal life goals, and experiencing a cultural awakening through a unique educational program called “Know Yourself.” Combined with Psychological Therapy and conventional psychiatric practices, such as the judicious use of medication where indicated, this philosophy perfectly encapsulates the truly integrative approach of PALM Health in the treatment of depression.

How do I get started to tackle my stress and depression?

At PALM Health we have devised a comprehensive and intensive Stress Management Program to help clients get started on their journey to mental and emotional well-being. We know that when people have physical symptoms, they want to do all they can to get better. It should be no different for mental health challenges like depression.

The Stress Management Program is an intensive eight-week immersion program in which the client is guided by a personal program coordinator and assisted by a team of multi-disciplinary health professionals under the supervision of a Board Certified Psychiatrist. It is designed to open the individual to a wide range of mind, body, and spirit activities, addressing all aspects of their being. It stimulates their own potential for self-healing and rekindles that innate memory that life can be play! This is how we find a truly holistic path to attaining and maintaining mental and emotional well-being.