Non-Pharmaceutical Ways To Manage Depression, Anxiety and Stress


My work as clinical social worker and psychotherapist has evolved greatly since I started in the late 80’s.  Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has influenced the treatment of mental health. When I began to realize some of the negative impacts and limitations that it had, I started the slow process of learning a new way of thinking about mental health treatment and realized that I wasn’t the only one with limitations.  The Dr.’s and prescribers were limited and dependent in large part to what the medical community was given. My intentions had always been in giving others healthy options to overcome their challenges but found they had fallen short due to my lack of information and misinformation by the culture.  My practice has now developed a more holistic and integrative model.  There are times when medications are needed but far less than before.   The following is a list of strategies, practices and product options that I have found effective in recovery and healing.   This list is informational only as choosing what is best for you is individual and intuitive to each person.


TALK THERAPY – Building a trusting relationship with a provider is the foundation for growth.  Most therapeutic modalities – all those evidence-based ones – have at it’s core a positive rapport with the person.  That is why choosing the right therapist can be tricky.  We all have unique backgrounds with our own personality style and emotional triggers or allergies as I like to call them.  The heart of growth is this connection.   Remember any teacher that you put your trust in?  Trust on any level is powerful.  I base my practice from a background of cognitive behavioral and trauma theories, systemic family and relationship modalities and an eclectic blend of spirituality, natural healing, and psychosomatic healing approaches.  There are so many effective ones out there in this age of technology.  I’ve incorporated apps, YouTube, and other tools that can help learn/understand a current challenge.


RELATIONSHIP EMPOWERMENT – Most of us grew up in a time when roles were prescribed and planned in one way or another.  We survived because our ancestors found some of these traditions were crucial in this survival.  They did their job and now we are evolving!  This is exciting yet can be pretty threatening to the old ways of living.  Embracing who we are as individuals while creating loving relationships is at the heart of this evolution.  I facilitated workshops over the last year called Living from the Power of your Heart.  There is an empowerment wave going on in the world and we are part of it.  This takes education, knowledge, skills and support…and lots of it!  That is one of my roles as a therapist – I find ways to teach, coach, practice and create a positive environment for this evolution.  My teachers have come from the relationship education, attachment theory and a comprehensive relationship skill program called PAIRS.  Lori Gordon developed this program to find real strategies to solve the puzzles that pain and conflict can create in love relationships.   Sue Johnson is one of the researchers and teachers that have helped others understand how critical it is to get our emotional bonding needs met from infancy until the end of our lives.


NUTRITION/SUPPLEMENTS – Science and wisdom are the keys here.  Mood is entwined with how we feed and care for our brain.  We now know so much more about what to eat to function at our best.  When we are feeling anxious or depressed, our old survival centers of the brain tend to take over and we are drawn to comfort food, caffeine, alcohol, sugar etc.  It’s essential to find the supports to overcome these old habits and urges, make the changes and feel the rewards of a healthy, whole foods, plant-based diet.  Hydration is a key.  I’ve added in a large glass of celery juice each morning to help get a good start for the day.  I was skeptical but now I’m a believer and happy that I created a good habit in my morning routine.  There are others such as starting the AM with the juice of ½ to one whole lemon or lime.  Add it to water immediately upon awakening.  It sends a detox signal to your body.  I often suggest this to the clients I work with to help flush the effects of stress from their bodies.  It’s simple but over time very effective.  Dan Amen has done extensive research on nutrition and the brain and specific foods to focus on.   Minimizing or eliminating sugar, gluten, caffeine and dairy are good starting points for anyone to consider improving mood and heal the body.

Finding the right supplements for your body is another key.  There are many schools of thought about all the things you should take to feel better.  The best antidepressants aren’t always pharmaceuticals.  Nature and smart science can help.  In the Jan. 2020 issue of Psychology Today, there are four compounds that can significantly impact mood.  Omega 3’s, Curcumin, Vitamin C and Magnesium.  According to this research it would take about 3 tablespoons of turmeric to equal the dose or 250-500 mg of Curcumin.  I have worked with a Superfood blend of herbs and antioxidants called MIND to supplement as well.


SPIRITUATLITY – One of the indicators for a healthy relationship is a shared spirituality.  I explain this to couples this way:  Most of us didn’t grow up in families where this was safely and freely done.  We usually passed on what we grew up with or a version of its opposite based on what our parents experienced.  Shared spirituality is learning how to discuss what’s meaningful to each other and how they see their purpose for living on this planet at this moment in time.   It’s learning how to create a depth within ourselves given the ancient truth that each of us is born with an essence to love and be loved that goes beyond just mere survival.  We want to grow, thrive and feel safe.  Most of us got stuck in stress which created a shutdown of the heart, keeping us stuck in the old patterns of survival.  There is a wave of change coming.  We now have the tools available to evolve and reach our potentials like never.  The key is finding tools to learn and a place to practice these new skills.  The rewards are great.


GROUNDING PRACTICES – Everyone needs grounding practices to cope with this highly energized and computerized culture.  We are constantly exposed to EMF’s from environment, our devices and screen time.  Daily body breathing, meditation, energetic techniques to remove stress and spending time in nature are so important.  The simple act of shaking your body gently with the intention of releasing stress can help when triggered.  Animals do this naturally.  In my practice we pick out the types of grounding exercises best suited for the individual.  Doing something is the key. Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, are among some of the ancient arts that have stood the test of time.  Developing a basic EMF protocol is new and very important for the brain. Again, temperament, body type and your current situation all play a part in what is best for you.  Recently, I began incorporating Donna Eden’s energy routine to my list of things I do.  Learning to trace your meridians can make a difference.


AROMATHERAPY – I have practiced as an aromatherapist for several years.  I was drawn to the energy of these essences after I experienced a healing using them.  I “woke up” to the plants and to a new relationship with them.  There are several essential oils that specifically help mood and emotional health.  I usually will suggest the ones that may be effective depending on your situation.  My favorites today (and they can change) are Red Mandarin, Eucalyptus radiata, Ravintsara and Lavender Vera.  They help with mood and cold symptoms.  There are blends to motivate, calm, empower and awaken our sensual/sexual selves.


DEVELOPING INTUTION – I once heard the term “Blue sense” when referring to the intuitive abilities of police officers.  There was a training for the officers to help them develop these skills.  We all have intuitive knowledge that is available to us.  These skills have not been taught most likely do to old fears/myths from past connections to “psychics” and witches.  These beliefs are old and do not serve our evolving culture anymore.  Wisdom of the heart is connected to love, authenticity and living to our fullest potential. One tool to help tune in is called muscle testing.  It’s a way to use your own body to connect to your inner wisdom.  It takes some practice but it’s worth it.  Men and women find their own style to tap into themselves.  The Heart Brain Coherence practice is one such way to find these answers.  Check out my earlier blogs for the full exercise.


PHYSCIAL EXERCISE – This is essential for mood health.  You don’t have to run any races or meet some lofty goals.  But you do need something to “Just Do it” The important thing here is finding a way to connect to your body and move.  We are often told to rest if we get injured but the logistics of this is limited.  Rest is good for a brief time only.  Our bodies need to communicate through movement.  Low mood or negative thinking puts a cloud over motivation.  I like to find the tricks to side step this cloud and float through it.  Even marching in place saying the affirmation, I am up and ready, I am up and ready, can start the movement.  Creativity is the anecdote to stress.  If one strategy doesn’t work, find another.  I utilize YouTube often to access some of these strategies so you can try out some of these,



ALPHA STIM – For relief of anxiety, depression and insomnia, Alpha-Stim is a revolutionary tool which helps regulate the body’s own electrical impulses in a safe, easy and comfortable way. The primary distinctive feature in a medical device is the wavefrom, and the Alpha-Stim has a uniquely effective waveform. The application of direct electrical treatment to the brain, along with our treatment protocols for target problems also make the difference that no other device has been able to emulate.

Alpha-Stim is very safe and easy to use. The current is applied by easy-to-use clips that attach on the ear lobes. Used just 20-60 minutes every day, every other day, or on an as needed basis, Alpha-Stim can help induce a pleasant, relaxed feeling of wellbeing. Only one out of 506 people will experience a mild headache, and one out of 910 will have a skin reaction at the electrode site. There are no other significant side effects reported in over 40 research studies.



LIFEWAVE TECHNOLOGY – While on the path of my own healing journey I discovered these patches that facilitate healing through light frequency – “phototherapy”.  These patches use nanotechnology; tiny molecules of oxygen, amino acids, sugars and water that are put together in a homeopathic matrix sandwiched inside the impermeable waterproof patch materials.  Nothing enters the body.  The effect is purely energetic – a signaling mechanism so to speak.  As the patches are placed on the body, it starts to frequency modulate the body’s field of energy, much like a radio frequency modulates the radio waves to get a radio stations signal.   Each patch has a different organic crystalline structure and is designed to balance different body systems through the infrared light spectrum of energy.

Research has shown that you can change a cell’s function by giving it a chemical message or a non-chemical signal.  A chemical message would be a supplement for example.  Life Wave would be a non-chemical signal.  It’s like when you go out into the sun and your skin tans.  The cells of the body respond to the frequency of energy (light) to produce melanin as well as Vitamin D.  When Life Wave patches are placed on specific meridian points, the messaging system is enhanced greatly because the meridians already serve as a superhighway of information.

The patches designed specifically for mood, inflammation, energy, metabolism and immune health.  I have experimented with a variety of patches for health, mood and repair.  I have found them to be effective in my own healing and energy.


This summary is designed to highlight the more natural treatments I use in my practice and my own life to positively impact mood and mental health.  I find the more I practice and tune into my wise heart, the more abundant life becomes.  My belief is that we all deserve abundance in whatever form that will shine.  I welcome your comments and questions.   This is the year of the heart.  May we all find some new ways to let love flow.   Tina M Johnson, LCSW









The Body Remembers – Empowerment through Somatic Experiencing

I recently attended at training that focused  on  Somatic Therapy which is a treatment for emotional and physical issues related to trauma, stress and the rigors of life.  I was amazed once again at the powerful connection between what we experience and how the body processes it.  As one researcher, Bessel van der Kolk puts it “The body keeps the score.”  What does that mean?  For years, since elementary school I remember back discomfort.  In my household, if you were sick, the attitude was “just wait and it will go away”,  “grin and bear it” or maybe  good excuse to miss school, stay in bed and get a little extra attention.   That was my normal and I proceeded on, ignoring my “issues” and stuffing any emotional residue.   Over the years, back pain continued to connect with stressful situations which eventually resulted in some chronic tension/muscle pain patterns and an impact on my life both in my belief systems about myself such as “I’m weak” or avoidance behaviors “I can’t do that right now”   Anxiety was a common emotion woven throughout  body/mind.   This training highlighted the  impact of these stress reactions in everyone’s life.   Ideally we thrive in the zone of balance.

I often refer to the life of a healthy baby with their rhythms of  living – being warm,loved,  touched, fed, cleaned and stimulated in that safe environment of the home.  When early relationship traumas occur , this zone of balance is tipped and our relationship to our world is changed.   We develop from a secure or an insecure backdrop of experience and interpretation.  Since no life is perfectly balanced we can be sure that the body holds many secrets and mysteries of how we came to be here today.  The good news is that the human body and soul wants balance and freedom.  Sandra Paulson, PhD  commented in the training about the potential of Somatic strategies  “emancapation for what has been sequestered”  within us.  In my therapy practice, I often focus on the body’s reaction to a particular trigger/experience.  This isn’t easy for many as we aren’t trained to tune in to our bodies.   Like relationship education skills, we didn’t learn body awareness/release exercises in school.  The good news is that there are strategies and practices that can be learned and practiced by anyone interested in living a more balanced and healthy life.  It’s more than stress management – I’m not exactly  sure what it is but I know it’s available for all if we want to learn.

One exercise to help open this door of awareness to your body is:  Think of  things in your life that create a positive feeling.  It can be an image, a memory, words or a touch.  Dr. Paulson referred to her poodle as a “grounding professional” meaning that when she touched her dog,  her body calmed.  Make a list of these grounding  things in your life and choose one to practice.   For example, I thought of the aroma of one the essential oils I use called Happy.  Just the thought of this aroma of tangerine, spearmint,  and rosewood created a change.  The key here is awareness.  Check in with your body or better yet have a partner to share this with you.  Observe any subtle body signals and if you are energy sensitive you may notice waves of radiant energy. The key is noticing how it feels in your body in that moment.  Each time you practice this, your body will have different responses depending on the state of balance at that moment in time.    With practice, you will begin to tune in to yourself better and that leads to a sense of  inner  strength/mastery.  Somatic Experiencing is an actual treatment to release trapped emotional energy that your body has stored from past trauma or stress and if you are interested in this subject I would refer you to the book by Pat Ogden called Trauma and the Body.    The first step is developing that awareness that our mind/bodies have minds of their own  and many of our everyday problems no matter how difficult are connected to how the body stores stress.   There are many paths to healing emotional and physical pain and unbalance and each individual’s needs are different.  My husband and I recently did a presentation on stress management.  Biologically, there are reactions that we all have in common being human – that is the activation (sympathetic system) and calming (parasympathetic system).  The other new one recently discovered is called the Ventral Vagal  Nervous System and relates to feeling connected with another.  This connection is necessary to make lasting changes in our lives.  We were designed  to grow and thrive within these healthy connection.  With all the world’s challenges and realities living in balance can be a maze.  We were also designed to be intelligent and learn….Let’s  keep learning.

The Brain in Movement – Tai Chi Chih Shines


Stop for a brief minute, close your eyes, and try to feel energy.   Tune out from the outside, and notice any sensations that you feel such as warmth, coolness, tingling, pulsing, heartbeat, emotion, pain or discomfort, ringing or sounds.  The body is one big energy machine and when we are in balance it all works in brilliant synergy.  The image of a happy toddler comes to mind – exploring, sensing and seemingly endless energy to do this with.  Then the memory of the nightly mother routines, the fatigue of the duties that would sometimes emerge.  The”too much on the plate syndrome”.  My child’s energies were burning and bright, mine seemed to dull in comparison.   For many years I accepted this reality and assumed there was little one could do to counteract the effects of aging, parenthood, work and the wear and tear of life.  I believed that, and that belief turned into symptoms of stress which over time diminished my reserves, challenged my health and decreased my creative abilities. Then, I didn’t know about brain health, brain envy or how the brain really works which is still a mystery to medical science even though we have institutes, research and lots of mental health professionals who talk the good talk.  The ancients had some good sense when it comes to keeping that inner light going.  They moved in ways to cultivate the chi, or life energy within our bodies and combine it our environment to bring it together  – the balance of mind and body that is.

I attended a Tai Chi Chih class this morning and experienced the effects of these simple, mindful movements that almost anyone can learn..T’ai Chi Chih is a set of movements completely focused on the development of an intrinsic energy called Chi. It’s easy to learn and usually takes about two months (or eight classes). T’ai Chi Chih (TCC) consists of  19 stand alone movements and one pose   T’ai Chi Chih is not a martial art. T’ai Chi Chih is completely non-violent.  Our experienced teacher, Christeen McLain, seemed to flow with joy through the movements and connection with the students – I felt this joy and the ease of these poses yet knew my muscles were very awake.  These movements can be done standing or sitting.  Because it is a practice, benefits develop more over time.  One year ago today, I was enjoying the sun in the Bahamas while learning the practice of yoga for mood management.  We learned  poses to move the body’s energies through breath and movement to improve mood and treat depression.   T’ai Chi Chih shares many of the same goals yet doesn’t focus on breath strategies.  I believe we need a combination of good breathing and mindful movement to strengthen mind and body.  Sun really helps too but we won’t go there as it is February in Fargo, ND.    Just take your Vitamin D, cod liver oil and visualize your favorite summer scene as you look out the window.

Belief carries with it more energy than we were ever taught in school and the brain is full of beliefs. One positive practice:   Make a list  of 10 beliefs you have about yourself.   For example; I should always eat the food on my plate.  Don’t talk about your feelings, always be strong, when the going gets tough, the tough get going… there are many.  These beliefs hold energy and are zapping your energy if they don’t fit with your heart truth.  What is heart truth?  It is connected with your being…who you were born to be if you really look deep.  Along life’s way we have many choices and forks in the road and every day we have new opportunities to make healthy choices for who we ARE.   Today, Tai Chi Chih reminded me of the magic within each one of us; that it is accessible to anyone who would want it.   Try a class, or better yet get trained and have a class.   My belief is that mind body practices cultivate a healthy brain/body, joy  and love for oneself and our world of everyday life.  Breathe in and experience something new.