I have been suffering from severe depression and anxiety for the last 5 months. Is there any way to come out of it?
—RAJESH MENON, India
Depression and anxiety are a symptom of modern life with so much pressure on performance, income, education, social media, conformance, and self-induced goals! Also, the toxicity of air, water, and food plus the increasing awareness of violence and threats of war don’t help either.
First of all, you should seek medical help. First an examination and second with the possibility of taking medication to ease symptoms. There should be no stigma attached to seeking medication assistance. I know many spiritually-minded people who meditate but need the support of medication to stay even-minded.
Second: As Krishna exhorts Arjuna in the Gita – take action. Actions can be divided into different categories:
- Physical health – a healthier diet of fresh fruits and vegetables; engaging in regular exercise (even just walking!); find time to be in nature (even if only once a year!); yoga postures; (Yogananda’s excellent system of tension exercises called Energization (see YouTube))
- Mental health – affirm a positive attitude under all circumstances. Indeed, Paramhansa Yogananda said that “all circumstances are essentially neutral. They seem positive or negative according to the attitude of mind.” Gratitude is the best attitude. There are millions, nay billions, who are worse off than you. Every day think of all the many reasons you have to be grateful. In time, even things like depression and anxiety can be sources of gratitude if they help you become more self-aware and more engaged in life. Find a source for good, clean humor and read a funny article or joke every day. Tell it to others, too!
- Social health – be a friend to all; look for ways to help around the house; with your family; your neighbors; your neighborhood. See something that’s needed: do it! You can pick up trash from the street; sweep the porch; wash the dishes; help a neighbor with chores. Think of the needs of others first.
- Spiritual health – meditate daily; pray; chant; practice japa (using mantra or prayer). At least once a week go to temple, or satsang, or other activity to worship with others of like mind. Study spiritual teachings – read a little every day!
Finally, PATIENCE. “Patience,” it has been said, “is the fastest way to success!” Why? Because otherwise, you might be anxious for results. Instead, be content in yourself; strong in your Self; complete in your Self. Krishna teaches us to practice “nishkam karma” – actions performed without desire for the results for personal benefit.
Yoganandaji wrote: “The minutes are more important than the hours.” Practice mindfulness, in other words. Eternity, in which resides true happiness, exists at the center of each heartbeat; each moment. It is there, and only there, where release and freedom can be found.
Joy to you!
Seattle WA USA