For a short while, I tried alternative healthcare.
I saw a chiropractor who worked with the nervous and brain systems. I was able to go medication-free upon consultation with each of my prescription providers. After a time, however, I needed to return to a low dose of psychiatric medication.
What did this experience teach me? It taught me that there is a different approach to mental healthcare. We can combine elements of both eastern and western therapeutic treatments. I believe where medication stops, alternative therapies compliment. Medicine has a role in mental health; yet, so does integrative healthcare.
A lot of my experience with mental health recovery concerns fluctuations with energy levels – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Anxiety usually means high levels of energy, and depression means low energy. While medication handles the chemical imbalances, I use holistic methods to support healing. This post will highlight my processes for re-stabilizing energy.
Chakras and Energy Centers
Chakra is a Sanskrit word meaning “wheels of light”. In The Chakra Bible, Patricia Mercier describes: “There are seven main chakras (plus a number of smaller ones) that interact with the body’s ductless endocrine glands and lymphatic system by feeding in good energy and disposing of unwanted energy. It is vitally important for our general health and the prevention of illness or ‘disease’ that we nourish our chakras the correct way.” She goes on to inform that chakras are part of our subtle-energy field, a pulsating electromagnetic energy field (aura) that “interacts with our physical body by flowing through concentrated spirals of energy.”
There’s a very sensory connection with my conditions. When I’m anxious, my heart palpitates, I feel physically tense, and I’m attuned to external stressors. If I’m depressed, I’m sluggish and closed-off to my environment. If we study chakra systems, we learn the characteristics of the primary ones: base/root, sacral/navel, solar plexus, heart, throat, third-eye, and crown. Reputable resources will detail the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, physiological, and even colors associated with the chakras.
For example, according Mercier, the heart chakra (located at the center of the chest) has the following characteristics: associated with the key issue of connection, connected with the flow of lymph throughout the body, monitors energy flows, and is revered as a source of inspiration and love. Not surprisingly, this central chakra of the primary seven is a location of psychic conflict as we evolve (yet balance leads to inner wisdom and awareness). As I’ve worked on understanding this energy center through mindfulness meditation and self-compassion practice, I’ve noticed a more open and loving attitude towards myself and others. My personal relationships and vital support network are strengthened.
Crystals and Gemstones as Energy Aids
Judy Hall, author of The Crystal Bible, defines crystals as “a solid body with a geometrically regular shape”. She further writes: “Crystals were created as the earth formed and they have continued to metamorphose as the planet itself has changed. Crystals are the earth’s DNA, a chemical imprint for evolution. They are miniature storehouses, containing the records of the development of the earth over millions of years…Whatever form they take, their crystalline structure can absorb, conserve, focus, and emit energy, especially on the electromagnetic waveband.” We can see how crystals may interact with the human subtle-energy field in relation to our chakras.
A crystal I’ve found particularly useful is lepidolite. Purple and/or pink, this small stone clears electromagnetic pollution and dissipates negativity. “It activates and opens the throat, heart, third-eye, and crown chakras, clearing blockages and bringing cosmic awareness…is extremely useful in the reduction of stress and depression.” Characteristically, it “releases and reorganizes old psychological behavior patterns…soothes sleep disturbances and emotional stress, bringing deep emotional healing.” (Hall)
As we learn about crystal use, it’s important to clear them and dedicate your intention. (This practice is illustrated in helpful books like The Crystal Bible by Judy Hall). I use lepidolite simply by holding the stone in my hand or placing it near a chakra location for at least 10 minutes, while mindfully relaxing or meditating to refocus my thoughts. Once my mind is cleared, I usually find that my emotional disturbance has subsided.
Essential Oils and Sensory Benefits
“Essential oils have been variously described as the ‘life force’ or ‘essence’ of plants. Aromatherapy is a method of employing essential oils to protect, heal and beautify…Our sense of smell is primal and the most evocative sense we possess. It is connected to our limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for memory, breathing, blood circulation and the regulation of hormones.” (Aromatherapy & Essential Oils: Handbook for Everyday Wellness, by Nerys Purchon and Lora Cantele)
One essential oil I enjoy is lavender. Some properties of lavender are: increases energy, quickens the function of glands and strengthens bodily systems; an antiseptic, antiviral, and antibiotic; relieves pain an inflammation; and “creates calm and order from mental chaos to harmonize and balance every aspect of our bodies and minds. It reduces stress and calms the nervous system, lifts depression and eases headaches and insomnia.” (Purchon and Cantele)
I use lavender in an essential oil diffuser, especially during the winter months. It’s a great disinfectant for the air in the home and creates a relaxing, fragrant atmosphere. I’ve also used a few drops in coconut oil for moisturizing. It can also be used in Epsom salt baths for aromatherapy and relaxation.
I’ve appreciated the concept of integrative healthcare. Not only has it helped me manage my everyday stressors, it’s a powerful aid to conventional therapies. I hope we can utilize it more in mental healthcare and practice. Holism in mental health recovery respects the mind as part of a whole, changing being. Alternative and complimentary methods can work in tandem with traditional treatments.