Finding a wellness toolbox under the tree – Las Cruces Sun-News

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For years, I found the holidays depressing until I realized that they didn’t have to be that way.
Learning that I am ultimately in control of how I choose to act and react has been a key for me to getting through the holidays. I also put together my very own wellness toolbox.
Of course, if depression is severe, it is important to seek medical treatment and/or counseling. Visiting a doctor for diagnosis and treatment is an important aspect of overcoming depression. A doctor can offer medical treatment, support and guidance and may even prescribe medication. Anyone experiencing severe bouts of depression should see a doctor, and anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should call 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.
Managing depression is an ongoing process, and yes, I have been known to go through the motions to get through by using a coping skill developed over the years. As Ms. Madeira of the Madeira School said, “Function in disaster, finish in style.”
Going through the motions might work, but the most valuable present you should put together for yourself is a wellness toolbox. Everyone needs their own “set of tools” that can help them when they are feeling down. Of course, the tools that may be helpful for me might not work for you, so it is very important to carefully consider what works best for your wellness toolbox. There are no magic fixes for depression, but if you become aware of the triggers that cause you to feel depressed, use your “tools” to turn it around so that life becomes brighter.
Having a clear understanding of what makes you feel better is the key to putting together a top-notch wellness toolbox. Give yourself some grace with your toolbox and realize that creating this list of activities you might want to try when you are feeling down may help you during a rough time.
Here are some ideas for your wellness toolbox to get you started. 
First get rid of the negative chatter in your mind. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge it, but do not let it overwhelm you. Get yourself a mantra or mantras. Recently, I was watching a cousin’s wedding video on Instagram and heard her use a saying she and her fiancé said to each other, “We got this,” which I have to say, I have used a few times since watching. Turn the negative in your mind to a positive. Give yourself a pep talk. You might not feel it right away, but you are ultimately rewiring your brain. Then do some conscious breathing exercises to invigorate your body’s system.
Get out of the house and interact with the world. Listen to your favorite music, put on some music and dance like no one is watching, take a hot shower or soak in a warm tub, do some yoga, read, take a walk, exercise. Did you know that exercise temporarily boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins? Regular exercise encourages the brain to rewire itself in positive ways. Drink water and move. As my friend in her 90s says, “Motion is lotion.” Perhaps cook a meal for your elderly neighbor, or call an old friend and check in, volunteer.
There is no specific diet for depression but eating more of some foods and less of others can make a difference. While I am not a nutritionist, there is evidence that shows foods with omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and tuna) and folic acid (such as spinach and avocado) could help ease depression. Alcohol is absolutely not the remedy.
Make some simple tasks accomplishable. Start very small. Instead of getting the kitchen completely organized, clear and clean the kitchen counters, or wash the dishes every day. Make your goal something that you succeed at, and as you start to feel better, you can add more challenging daily goals.
Give yourself some grace and decide that your mental, physical, and emotional health should be top priority. Choose your attitude and practice gratitude. Notice good things and make a gratitude list every day.
Take some time to put together your wellness toolbox as your “to me from me” Christmas gift. Don’t wait for “the morning of”; untie the ribbons, tear away the wrappings and start using your tools today.
Feel free to share your thoughts with me:
Ashton Graham is an educator, book publisher, photographer, cowgirl and yoga enthusiast. She is currently studying to become a yoga therapist and lives on a ranch in West Texas. Visit to learn more.
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