Most people by now have settled nicely into “the most wonderful time of the year”. The holidays are a time for love, laughter, family and warm memories. Although this is a joyous time for most, it’s important to be aware that this can also be a very sad time for those who struggle with depression. There are various levels of depression but regardless of the severity, it is a real issue that some of your loved ones may be struggling with.
As someone who battles depression on a regular basis, I know first hand how hard the holidays can be. As a Christian, we live with the tension that Jesus has conquered depression and at the same time many of us struggle with it daily.
You may have heard that exercise, serving others, thinking positive thoughts and praying will “fix” your depression. While those ideas are indeed helpful, people don’t always realize that when someone is in the midst of depression they have zero motivation to do those things.
Once depression hits, playing defense is pretty difficult. Let’s talk about some ways to be on the offense against depression. With God’s help and grace we can attack depression before it overwhelms our spirit.
- Make a daily habit of being in God’s word. I know this may sound obvious but every time a deep depression hits me I can honestly say that the weeks prior I had not been spending quality time in God’s word or presence daily. God’s word is alive and powerful, it is literally feeding our spirits. Depression can be a sign of a hungry spirit. Keep your spirit full by “eating” daily.
- Cut down your social media, internet and TV usage. Satan uses lies to keep us down. The media often confirms these lies with images and stories that make us feel unworthy. Social media at its worst can send you in the pit of comparing your life to others and this can be a real downer. You will also tend to get caught up in the “how many likes did I get on my photo, how many people liked my status, did I get any comments on my posts, how many twitter followers do I have now”. This is a vicious cycle that does not lift your spirit.
- Be a social butterfly. People who are depressed tend to withdraw because being alone feels safer than being with people who may purposely or unknowingly confirm your feelings of unworthiness. However, while you are in good spirits, go ahead and fill your calendar with social events, friends and service opportunities. For two months, I made plans every week with a different group of friends, it was wonderful for my spirit! Since I planned in advance it was harder for me to cancel last minute. Being around people helps remind you that you are worth being around and that you are valuable to others.
- Know your triggers. If you have dealt with depression you know that there are some things that trigger your sad moods. These things are not the “cause” of your depression but definitely invite depression and confirm your feelings of unworthiness or being unlovable. People, situations, or things that drive you to that dark place of depression need to be minimized or eliminated from your regular routine until you feel strong enough.
- Have a plan. As mentioned earlier, once depression hits it can be difficult to fight but having a plan in place will help. Are there things that always lift your mood? Do you have a friend who understands? Do you have a counselor? These types of questions will help you develop your plan. Here is a sample plan:
When I start to feel depressed I will:
- Make a lunch date with 3 friends. This will help ensure that you are not alone too much to dwell on your negative thoughts.
- Change you radio station to uplifting music. David played music to free Saul of a “tormenting” spirit. Music is powerful and does affect your mood, be mindful of that.
- Call/Email/Text a friend who doesn’t minimize your struggle to pray for you. Depression can be misunderstood and if you share it with too many people they may feel that you are seeking attention, sympathy or worse they will assume that you don’t have a relationship with Jesus
- Make an appointment with your counselor .If you don’t have a counselor strongly consider one. Depression requires professional help. Your friends can encourage you but they are not qualified to treat your depression.
- Dance in your underwear. I know that sounds silly, but that is the point! Do something that you know will make you laugh, even for a moment!
Even if you don’t personally struggle with depression, there is someone near to you that does. Some wear depression on their sleeve and others have learned ways to cover it up so as not to be a burden or to be judged by others. The best thing you can do for a person struggling with depression is to pray for them, listen to them and be a constant positive presence in their life. Instead of asking them if they are “Ok?” ask them to spend quality time with you or shoot them a note reminding them how much you value them. Do your part to help this be “the most wonderful time of the year” for everyone!