Here's how I beat seasonal mood swings and crippling anxiety.
Seasonal Affective Disorder has always been hard, but a few years ago it took over my life.
Every year, as everyone else started preparing for the holidays, I started preparing for my yearly plunge into depression and anxiety.
Around Thanksgiving, as the days grew shorter, I’d start feeling blue. I had a hard time getting up in the morning and didn’t feel like doing anything after work.
I’d turn down invitations to go out and end up watching Netflix alone instead, and by the end of November, I was sick of my own company.
When everyone else was hanging up Christmas lights, I was plugging in my light therapy lamps and praying that they’d help this year…
And by the time the holidays were over, I was a depressed mess.
Everyone gets a little sad after Christmas is over and you go back to a normal routine.
But for me, I felt incredibly sad, disconnected, increasingly anxious, and unable to function.
It was hard to get up in the morning.
I just wanted to throw the blankets over my head and ignore the day ahead of me.
I struggled to keep up with work, and everything felt so overwhelming that every little task on my plate seemed like a mountain I couldn’t begin to climb.
I withdrew from friends and family and didn’t call or text anyone.
A few close friends knew about my problem and stuck around, but a lot of people flat-out gave up on me… and I don’t blame them.
It’s not much fun to be with someone who’s depressed and too anxious to go out.
I tried therapy, and I tried getting outside and sitting by windows and light therapy and exercise and sam-e and St. John’s Wort, and eventually, I even tried prescription medication.
But when your depression is seasonal, meds don’t make a lot of sense. It takes 6-8 weeks for them to really work… and being on medication that has a lot of side effects didn’t make sense for me.
It had always just been something that I dealt with… until last year.
Last year, the seasonal affective disorder became year-round SAD… it just wouldn’t go away, even when the sun came out in the spring. In fact, I found that I was dealing with both depression AND anxiety, and nothing seemed to make it better.
It was so bad, I felt awful every second that I was awake.
Depressed. Anxious. Full of despair. Unable to focus. The simplest tasks threw me into such bad anxiety that my heart would race and I’d feel like throwing up.
I wasn’t able to handle work anymore, and I used up all my sick days before June. They let me go.
Most of my friends couldn’t understand what I was going through and weren’t willing to put up with someone who wouldn’t return their calls anymore.
I’d never felt so alone in my life.
I wanted to get better… but I couldn’t even remember what better felt like.
What finally made me turn the corner was something that someone shared at an anxiety support group that my brother drug me to one day when things were particularly bad.
During the meeting, someone shared that they’d been taking an herbal supplement that was making a huge difference… and, luckily, someone else asked him what it was...
Because in the state I was in, there’s no way I would’ve been able to ask him myself, even though I really wanted to know.
He’d been taking an herb called Ashwagandha.
I went home and ordered a bottle online, hoping that maybe I’d get just a little relief…
Little did I know that my life was about to turn around!
A few days after I started taking Ashwagandha, I noticed a difference.
At first, it was that I was able to sleep better. The feelings of anxiety that had been keeping me awake seemed to fade, and I fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer.
Then, things that had seemed like impossible tasks began to look more do-able. I was able to get up, take a shower, and clean the house. Before long, I was taking short walks…
And by the end of the month, the anxiety had loosened its grip to the point that I could function again!
Not only that, but it was like the fog started to lift and I started to feel normal.
I wasn’t overwhelmingly sad anymore. I felt like getting out and doing things again. It was like my “spark” came back, first a little at a time and then in a rush.
I found a new job. I reconnected with friends. I picked up hobbies that I’d forgotten I used to enjoy.
And the best thing about it is, ashwagandha isn’t like prescription medications.
I’m not worried about getting back off it as soon as possible. Instead, I’m enjoying the extra benefits that this supplement gives me…
Like lower inflammation, faster recovery from workouts, lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol.
This year, when the days started to get shorter? I didn’t have to get out my light therapy lamps.
I cruised through the season without the usual problems, stayed on top of things, and felt calm and rested.
What is ashwagandha and how does it work?
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that comes from a shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and Africa. It’s totally natural, and over 200 studies show that it can help:
- Protect the immune system
- Combat the effects of stress
- Improve learning, memory, and reaction time
- Reduce anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness
- Reduce the potential of neurodegenerative disease
- improve cognitive function
- Stabilize blood sugar levels
- Lower cholesterol levels, and lower inflammation
When it comes to reducing anxiety, studies have shown that Ashwagandha reduces both feelings of anxiety and lowers stress hormones when taken daily.
In fact, people taking Ashwagandha had significantly lower levels of cortisol.
Elevated cortisol levels cause anxiety, as well as a host of other health problems.
Ashwagandha’s ability to help your body balance out important hormones means better sleep, lower stress, and a more balanced mood.
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