Last week we acknowledged that many souls during these uncertain times are experiencing prolonged feelings of the blues – even on days when the weather’s nice. So we opened a discussion regarding depression; the various types and how to identify it. (If you happened to miss last week’s post but would still like to read it, you may do so via this link.) We took a few cues and insights from our friends at Church Initiative, the good people who’ve brought us such great wisdom and healing through their DivorceCare, Single & Parenting and Grief Share series. In so doing, we learned that:
- Depression often shows itself as a sense of deep sadness, but it’s also manifested in other ways like lack of initiative, feeling run-down, unusual moodiness, frequent tiredness, interrupted or irregular sleeping and eating patterns or general malaise.
- This experience, difficult as it may seem as we go through it, can actually possess and present opportunities for healing and growth,
- Depression is fairly typical when going through the types of change, loss and suffering that many have experienced – especially during the pandemic and,
- It is something you can get through and from which you can come out stronger on the other side.
In this blog, we’ll distill and share some additional perspectives from the experts along with their tips for dealing with depression.
To clarify and as a reminder, in these blog posts, we are talking about the type of depression that is most commonly referred to as situational, episodic, circumstantial or reactive; all of which are not as constant, long-lasting or debilitating as more serious forms referred to as clinical depression. If you or someone you know is experiencing regular, ongoing situations where they are totally incapable of fulfilling general functions and life’s regular responsibilities, please reach out to and consult with a certified medical professional.
Is Depression Normal?
Again, going through a period of depression when dealing with significant change, loss and challenge is actually quite normal and typical. It’s our body’s way of telling us that something’s not right and needs to be dealt with. Not unlike some of the other emotions available within our psyches, depression can be both instructive and useful when you engage in the work necessary to reinstate appropriate balance. It can be valuable to remind yourself: you’re not losing your mind; you’re going through a depression. You need to know it is temporary and you will get over it. But in order to do so, you must get through it.
Be encouraged by the fact that we have a God who can, in every way, relate to what you’re going through. Read and consider the following passages from scripture:
3He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. – Isaiah 53:3
38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26: 38-39
- In what ways can you relate to the description of Jesus in Isaiah 53:3?
- The Bible says Jesus became human and experienced the same kinds of feelings and temptations as you. Jesus knew he’d soon be separated from God the Father. Jesus dreaded that loss of relationship. Describe how Jesus was feeling in Matthew 26:38-39.
- As you can see, Jesus can relate to the blackness and depths of depression. How have you found it to be easier to talk with someone who can relate to what you’re going through (as opposed to someone who has never faced depression before)?
Talk with Jesus about your depression. He has been talked about. He’s been misunderstood. He experienced emotional and physical hurt and pain. The Bible tells us He can understand our hurt. We’re going to go through some trials in this life but it will go better if we do it the right way. (John 16:33)
But I Have So Many Negative Thoughts
You’ve maybe heard this before and it’s instructive to remember; our emotions do not always tell us the truth – especially during a time of depression. Be careful of allowing your emotions to control your thoughts and responses. If your emotions are screaming negative thoughts; it’s time to thunder back with some powerful truths. Once again, read and consider the following passages from scripture:
20He sent out His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave. (Psalm 107:20)
7The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. (Psalm 19:7-8)
- What messages have you been hearing from your emotions?
- To avoid getting sucked in by lies, you have to remind yourself daily of what is true. The truth is found in God’s Word (the Bible). According to Psalm 107:20 and 19: 7-8, what can God’s word do for you?
- Since you’ll likely have to counteract negative thoughts daily, what are some ways you can learn God’s truths and get them in front of you when you need them?
Counselor and author Leslie Vernick shares, “When you’re depressed, your emotions and thoughts are covered by this black cloud that covers everything negatively. In those moments it’s important to understand that while those feelings are powerful, they are not (necessarily) true.”
How Do I Keep From Being Destroyed?
When dealing with depression, the challenges of life are exponentially amplified. But that is the time to recognize the need for a new, different approach; to dig deeper than you ever have and force yourself to do the things you just may not feel like doing.
Once more, consider the following passages from Scripture:
8 We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. – 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9 (NIV)
18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:18
26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. – 1 Corinthians 9: 26-27a (NLT)
- The apostle Paul faced some devastating circumstances. How did he maintain a healthy perspective through it all?
- You can look around and see the fallout of your situation. What does God say about things that can be seen?
- In order to fix your eyes on what is unseen, you need to know what the “unseen” is. The necessary spiritual truths and promises for living are found in God’s word. Reading, meditating on and learning God’s word is a discipline. You have to choose to do it, regardless of your feelings. What does 1 Corinthians 9:26-27a encourage you to do?
Pastor and author Dr. Crawford Lortis expands upon this when he shares, “We have to live lives not in a reactionary mode, but by intention. Even while I’m hurting, my heart needs to reach out to God. I’ve got to force my heart to look up above the shadows and hold whatever hope I can, and then get some more. Keep pressing in.”
…want some straight-up practical suggestions for chasing away the blues? Check out the list below:
10 Key Tips for Overcoming Your Depression
- Take Care of Your Body:
- What you put into it – what, how and when you eat.
- How you keep it moving – through regular exercise.
- How you allow it to achieve healthy, restorative, rest.
- Increase Concentration – Memory tends to suffer in a depressed state.
- Take notes, keep lists, and write out instructions for yourself as needed
- Do only as much as you can do as one person.
- Ask For/Accept Help From Others
- We weren’t designed to go it alone.
- Stay connected. Whether you use the phone, online virtual meet-ups, or social distanced small gatherings, there are ways to keep in touch with friends and family.
- Control Your Thinking
- Learn to recognize when your mind is going to those places where you cannot imagine anything good happening and reverse the cycle by saying something positive, giving thanks and reminding yourself of past success.
- Think about what tools you have to help you through difficult times. Engage those healthy behaviors and hobbies like listening to music, spending time with pets, reading, crafting, gardening, woodworking and the like.
- Stay informed but limit your exposure. With information changing regularly, it is important to stay up-to-date, but limit your exposure to the news and make sure you are using reliable sources. It’s also important to limit news and social media right before bedtime.
- Discover God’s View – What Does the Bible Say?
- Meditate; Pray; Listen
- Regularly Surround Yourself In The Wisdom of Other Believers
- Break it Down – When someone asks how you’re doing, instead of just saying, “I’m fine” or I’m depressed; try to use more descriptive words to describe the actual emotions you are experiencing and then begin to brainstorm ways you might be able to overcome or improve those emotions.
- Change it Up where Necessary
- It may sound a bit cliché, but there is wisdom here; if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll likely get (the outcome) what you’ve always gotten.
- That said; changing it up may actually mean creating some better structure for yourself; not just letting the days fly by you.
- Stay busy and find some purpose for each day. This will help your inner clock run smoothly, which will in turn help stabilize any depression. Also, work on a regular sleep schedule.
- Seek Professional and/or Pastoral Counsel; North Coast has Christian Pastors and Counselors who can either help or refer you.
- Don’t Quit.
- If Medication is prescribed; stick with it unless your healthcare provider authorizes otherwise.
- Remember: The Only Way Up and Out is Through It
- God really does have a plan for your life and will provide people in your path every day to help you (directly or indirectly) see it through.
- REPEAT STEPS 1 – 9!
Understanding and dealing with even the situational, reactive and typically more temporary forms of depression can seem daunting. You may even feel pressure to “just get over it.” If so, be assured that those feelings and direction are not coming from God. He is not rushing or scolding you; He understands your pain and is gently supporting and encouraging you to take care of yourself. Remember, too that going through a depression is a process. Being able to talk about it with other (safe) people, even if they just listen and don’t give you any advice, will help you get through it. The people who will provide you with the best support and help you to grow are those who are trained in dealing with depression and those who are spiritually mature.
Don’t be afraid or hesitate to reach out to speak with a pastor, Christian counselor or medical professional for further guidance and assistance. You can (will) get through this.
Right here for you,