Life is full of amazing, beautiful things for us to enjoy. I've always thought this... but a couple of years back I got stuck. Some hard stuff had happened, and the blows were too much for my emotions to deal with. I was sad but I didn't realize it, so I got angry but I didn't realize that either. So I was depressed and that was all I knew.
Depression can be a rare, random occurrence, or it can be chronic or cyclical in your life. It can be caused by emotional trauma, chemical or hormonal imbalances, consistent stress, or even demonic oppression. It can also be caused by sexual abuse. While depression may come upon you for any number of reasons, there are a lot of things we can do to help stem to flow of melancholy. If you are dealing with a serious, ongoing issue, or if you are suicidal, then you need to seek professional input. Medicine is a totally valid option, and none of what I'm suggesting below should replace it... but even with medicine, there are steps we can take to own our journey. Here are 10 things that I’ve found to be really helpful when dealing with depression or anxiety:
1. FIND A HEALTHY OUTLET FOR YOUR EMOTIONS.
Depression is often described as anger aimed inward. After fighting depression for over two years, I realized that there was a lot in my life that made me angry. My family was not an angry family, there was no yelling or shouting or passive-aggressive behaviour. Everyone just bottled it up. So I didn't even know I was angry. But it’s OK to be angry! It’s not a sin! Anger is simply the emotion you feel when something you hold dear has been violated. And underneath anger, is often sadness, the emotion you feel when you have experienced loss. You need to identify what's going on inside you and find a healthy outlet for your emotions. In the early days of my emotional discovery, I spent a lot of time with a punching bag, until I had developed enough maturity to process my anger more gently.
2. DON’T ISOLATE YOURSELF!
We need friends and family around us. Isolation is no good, it makes us feel alone and like we’re the only ones dealing with what we’re going through. Human interaction is important, there are good chemicals that are released in our brains through hugs and simple physical affection, as well as just spending time with people we feel safe with and whose company we enjoy. Get some community around you, even if it's the last thing you feel like doing.
3. EXERCISE AND STAY (OR GET) FIT.
Exercise releases endorphins into your body which feel good, they’re natural anti-depressants. Push-ups or running are helpful for many people. When I run, I find it easier to identify and process all the emotions I'm dealing with.
4. WATCH WHAT YOU’RE EATING.
Sugary, fatty foods may be tasty for a moment, but they’ll give your body a rush that you will later come down from. That sugar crash isn’t helping your depression, and the gross feeling in your body from eating too many Doritos and ice cream is no fun. We often feel guilty too about the things we eat, and those feelings of guilt won’t help your anxiety. Focus on fresh fruit or vegetables, yogurt, nuts and meat. This one is the hardest for me, I think.
5. HOW’S YOUR SIN AND SHAME?
I was addicted to porn for over 10 years. My feelings of shame over the bad stuff I was doing compounded my depression in a big way. The issues of sin in your life will make you feel guilty and shameful. That shame breeds a feeling of fear in our lives, and we try and control things so that no one will know what’s going on. That isolates us, and makes us feel trapped. If there’s anything that makes depression worse, it’s the feeling of being trapped! Pay attention to the sin issues in your life, repent to God, and ask him to show you how to get free. God has a solution for every issue, and it's usually going to be worked out through your community. Find people to walk in the light with.
6. CONTROL YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA INPUTS.
There’s not much that makes me feel more crap about my life than other people’s Instagram feeds. Social media makes us think we’re connecting with people, but it actually doesn’t provide the positive emotional and chemical payoff that face-to-face human interaction does. Not only that, but most of us put pretty, shiny versions of ourselves on social media, so we feel like everyone else’s lives are better than ours. If you feel like your social media life is hurting your emotional state, then take a fast from social media and identify your emotional/psychological baseline without it. When you get a handle on what that baseline feels like, you'll notice when you're straying from it and you'll be able to course correct easier.
7. GET SOME SUN!
I used to laugh about SAD: seasonal affective disorder. But then I realised that I was happier in summer than in winter, and it hit me: weather does affect me. Staying cooped up inside isn’t good for my mood even if it’s the only thing I feel like doing. Sun exposure is healthy and gives us Vitamin D, which helps with mood regulation and immunity. We can’t all go to Mexico in the winter, but we can force ourselves to go for a walk, or just spend a few minutes sitting in the sun. I struggle with this one sometimes, but honestly, even just walking to the mailbox is so good for my frame of mind.
8. DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK.
A big area that I have struggled with is ungodly beliefs. They’re lies that we believe about ourselves or about others. Things like “I’ll always be alone” or “Nobody cares how I feel.” There are real events in our lives that back up these lies, but that doesn’t make the lie truthful. Your feelings are valid. Your emotions are beautiful. You can get free from these ungodly beliefs by asking the Holy Spirit to show you lies that you are believing. Patiently pray and listen, and write down the things that come to your mind. Repent for believing these lies, and bask in God's forgiveness. Since God always forgives you then you can forgive yourself. Now ask the Holy Spirit to give you a new Godly belief to replace the old one. Speak these new truths over yourself every day. It’s made a huge difference in my life.
9. STOP. BE PRESENT. TUNE IN.
We live in a crazy busy world, and we can get in the habit of filling up every second of the day. Like when you sit down on the toilet and grab your phone. Stop and be mindful of your state of emotions. Get in touch with how you feel. Pay attention. In that moment, tap into this truth: the past doesn’t exist, the future doesn’t exist either. The only moment that is real is this moment right now. And in this moment, you are perfectly loved by God. You are floating in an endless ocean of God’s perfect love. I try and spend some time each day meditating on this. You might find it helpful to put on some worship music and soak in God’s presence for a while. Whether you feel anything happen right away or not, I promise you’ll see a difference before long. Over the years I've been practicing this kind of mindfulness it's made a massive different in every area of my life.
10. HAVE FUN.
Hobbies are important. You’re a human being, meant to enjoy things. Make sure you spend some time each week on things that genuinely bring you joy and help your soul express itself in healthy ways. Whether it’s reading, gaming, rock climbing or baking, prioritize a portion of your time for fun, productive things that you love.
At the time I'm writing this, it's been 5 months since my last major bout of depression or anxiety attack. I attribute that to allowing God to deal with some root emotional issues in my heart, and then maintaining healthy equilibrium ever since. You guys can do this!