The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
– Psalm 34:18
I was talking to a friend the other day, who was telling me about her struggles with depression. The feelings of worthlessness she had were becoming difficult to bear, and she was asking for prayer.
I felt empathetic to her, because I have been there myself, many times. Everything she said sounded so much like my own self at times…the irrational thought processes, the feelings of hopelessness, etc. I’ve been there!
I generally am a happy and optimistic person, but every once in a while, that feeling of hopelessness and gloomy despair just decides to come for a visit -and it sticks around for a while too. I am not sure why. I’ve dealt with it since my teenage years. It’s horrible, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy (It’s as if a lion has been set loose to destroy you from the inside, and many times succeeds).
When you are depressed, it doesn’t only affect you. Unfortunately, it is also destructive to the people you have relationships with. So this makes it an important thing to fight against.
If you are battling depression, there are many reasons this may be the case… and there are many things you can do to help yourself. Even though I’ve been battling this from time to time, each time I find myself falling back into it, It is becoming easier to fight, because I am becoming equipped with more information over time.
Here are some ways that I have used to help me fight depression in my own life…maybe they will help you!
1.) I recognize that sometimes there are real physical causes for depression.
I used to think depression was all about choices we make- and part of it is. But there is definitely a physical aspect of it as well, and I’ve seen evidence of that in my own life. Many things, such as hormonal imbalances, blood sugar spikes or drops, high or low blood pressure, etc can contribute or even cause those feelings to begin. If we don’t acknowledge this, it makes it harder to fight….because we may not realize what it is we actually are fighting!
Because I know my episodes of depression almost always coincide with regular hormonal changes, I have found that I can accurately predict exactly when I am going to feel sad (for apparently no reason) again. And when it happens, I now make a point to remind myself (sometimes over and over) that my emotions are lying to me if I start to think thoughts such as, “What is the point?”, “I never do anything right!”, “I’ll never get it all done!”, “I’m worthless.”, or “I’m a failure!”. It’s much harder to convince yourself that your emotions are lying to you, if you can’t admit that sometimes these feelings are out of our control!
2.) I replace the negative thoughts with positive ones.
This is extremely difficult emotionally to do, because when we get started on the negative thought patterns, I think that the self-pity in us wants to continue thinking these thoughts and doesn’t want to give it up. We willingly nurture and care for these thoughts, allowing them to grow into bigger and bigger negative feelings. In the end, what we have done is only make ourselves miserable….we have not solved one of the problems we have worried about by worrying about it.
Philippians 4:8 says that we should be focusing our thoughts on positive things. “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
I have to face it…thinking thoughts that are negative, hopeless, bitter, angry, hurt, anxious, despairing, etc…I am sinning! So when I think something like, “Nothing will ever get better”, I need to write a list of my blessings, and thank God right away for each of those things. I need to refuse to allow those thoughts to take root in my heart!
Also, when I think to myself, “It’s hopeless!” (for example), I have to replace that mind pattern. Not only do I have to change the wording of the statement – It’s NOT hopeless”- I have to back my rebuttal up with reasons as to WHY it’s not hopeless. (It helps to read the Psalms or new testament epistles such as Philippians). If I do not back up my reasons for not being negative- I will just end up thinking, “Well of course it’s hopeless!”, and then my mind will list off a multitude of reasons that I SHOULD be hopeless! Has this ever happened to you? I know it has for me. I naturally seem to be armed with reasons to be negative, but it takes a conscious EFFORT to find the reasons to be positive.
3.) I get my heart pumping!
One of the best ways to make myself feel better almost immediately when I am dealing with a depressive episode, is to do some cardio exercise…either jogging, running on the treadmill, or working with a workout video…getting my heart pumping is a GREAT way to get my hormone and blood sugar levels back into balance, and as a result, feel happier. There are many other ways, but for me, that is the best way to feel better almost instantly. The only hard part is convincing myself to get up and do it in the first place. 🙂 Believe me, when you’re depressed, the last thing you want to do is get up and move! But you SHOULD. 🙂 If you are not physically healthy enough to do cardio exercise, try going for a walk in the sun. Not only is the exercise beneficial for your mood, and body, being in the sun also helps tremendously.
4.) I ask myself if there is anyone that I am angry with or harboring bitterness toward.
Even if the person you are angry with is not the cause of your depression, holding a grudge can cause you to create reasons that they are. This can cause you to project your problems onto the. Forgive this person, and move on! It will be the best thing you ever did for your mood!
5.) I clean the house.
I find that when I am depressed, my house is usually a mess. Sad, but true. Now, one thing I have never been able to figure out is whether the house being a mess is what helped CAUSE me to feel sad, or if my feeling sad CAUSED me to neglect the house. But whatever the case, there is definitely a correlation between the two. If your house is a mess, you generally feel a little less good about yourself.
If this sounds like you, take a moment and write out a plan of action. Write a list of things that need to be done before the house is presentable. You might not be able to tackle it all in one day, and that’s okay! Start with the rooms that people will first see when they walk in. Also, clean the kitchen sink. After writing your list, start tackling projects one by one. Listen to upbeat music while you work, and sing along. Having a clean house, at least for me, provides me with a sense of relief and accomplishment, taking away a lot of those negative thoughts automatically.
If you feel overwhelmed with how much there is to do, check into a free program such as “Flylady” to help you along.
6.) I get unplugged from social media.
Oh this is a hard one! If you are the kind of person who likes to check emails and facebook a lot (guilty as charged!), well, it’s hard to unplug sometimes. One way to do this (if you have a smart phone) is to remove the APPs for your email and facebook, and only go through the browser. This way you are not constantly being reminded that “You have a new email”, or “Someone liked your comment!” (Seems like that is the way I get sucked in most of the time).
Set yourself a limit to only look at the computer or phone for ___ amount of hours (whatever time you find appropriate for your situation). Then find something else to do when you’re not on it (preferably, something productive).
7.) I encourage someone else.
Let’s be honest…when we are depressed, we are very self centered. We do not recognize that there are other people going through problems, nor do we care much at the time. We are too busy having a pity party for ourselves, right? In order to combat this, we have to make a conscious effort to reach out to others. Take a look at what others are going through…do you know someone who is going through a hard time? Why don’t you give them a call or pay them a visit? Bring them flowers, send them a card? Let them know you’re praying for them? Sometimes, just reaching out to others helps us change our frame of mind from self centered, to others centered- and that lifts our spirits greatly!
Have you ever dealt with depression? If so, why not comment below and let others know what you have found helps you when you are feeling that way? 🙂 Your input is valuable!