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From Medication to Meditation

Moving Towards More Natural Solutions for Mental Health

Many people may want to make the move from a pharmaceutical solution to something more natural. Perhaps they are thinking of trading in anti-depressants for yoga or benzodiazepines for qigong. In most cases, a shift away from a pill in favor of a practice is a great idea and will be supported by health professionals. That being said, there’s definitely some things you should keep in mind if you’re thinking about making a change.

First and foremost, consult your health professional(s)

If you’re thinking about ditching your prescription medication, don’t make a move without consulting the prescribing health professional. Depending upon how much you’re taking and how long you’ve been taking them, some medications are dangerous to come off of cold turkey (SSRI anti-depressants to name one) and could have severe consequences and side effects. Discussing your desires with a trained medical professional and formulating a plan to come off of a medication is the way to go. If your current doctor or medical professional is opposed to you coming off of a medication, ask why. They may have good reasons or they may have silly reasons and then you’ll know it’s time to find a new doctor. Either way, consulting your medical professional is the first move to make.

Also talk to a mental health professional 

Medical professionals are great as are mental health professionals (psychologists, counselors, therapists).  They specialize in mental health. In addition to consulting a medical professional, it’s highly recommended that you sit and chat with a mental health professional as well. Chances are, if you’re looking to change up your medications, there are also going to be changes to your experience. Thoughts, emotions and behaviors are all areas that could become unsettled or different for a little while during a transition from pharmaceuticals to more natural solutions. A mental health professional can assist in the planning stages as well as during the transition, and may prove invaluable in helping address underlying issues which may surface when medications are being phased out.

Start the practice before you stop the pill

Begin your new practice prior to stepping down your dose or coming off any medication. Commit to the practice. Cultivate the new habit. Get in a groove. Then start the process of leaving the medications behind. It’ll be way harder to try and start a new routine during the transition and having your new practice to lean on will make life much easier.

Be prepared for a transitional period

As mentioned earlier, depending upon what medications you’ve been taking and how long you’ve been taking them, your transition could be challenging at times. It’s very helpful to remind yourself that change is a process. It might also be a good idea to take a look at your upcoming calendar during the planning phase. Trying to trade anti-anxiety medication for meditation during the holidays could prove to be quite a tall order. Finding a time of the year when you might have less on your plate could make the transition quite a bit easier.

Be kind to yourself

Remember to be patient and loving with yourself. A lifestyle change like this is a big undertaking—big rewards, but also big challenges. You’ll benefit greatly from support, from loved ones as well as from yourself. Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t hesitate to treat yourself to something nice after making it through a tough day. Increase self-care practices like massages or flotation therapy or getting your nails done. Positive reinforcement goes a long way in supporting behavior change.

Andrew J. Assini, MA, LAC, LCADC, a holistically minded mental health professional, is the founder of Gocara, a conscious community center, and Conscious Contact Healing & Wisdom, a personal and professional development organization in South Jersey. For more information, visit Gocara.org.

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