Monday, June 21, 2010

12 Ways to Help Combat Depression

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13MKJV)

Two weeks ago I posted a blog called Depression in the Believer. I’d like to follow that up with some things that I’ve recognized over the years that have helped me when I’m feeling depressed. Most of these things are just common sense, but I hope they’ll be a reminder and an encouragement to you (and to myself) to put them into practice.

Please understand that I’m not at all trying to simplify depression and I’m not negating the need for a professional counselor or medication when necessary. But I believe that these are absolute imperatives in the believer’s life even when further assistance is needed.

1. Pray
Now, I know that sounds obvious, but remember, wishing is not praying, dreaming is not praying, and thinking about praying is not praying. Sometimes it’s hard to hunker down and really pray because my thoughts can be going a million miles a minute, especially when I’m feeling depressed. So set aside a “date” with the Lord each day, time when you will sit down with Him and let it all out and when you can receive from Him. He will give you wisdom IF you’ll put your trust in Him. And don’t forget to put on that attitude of prayer, so that you learn to talk to Him throughout the day about anything and everything that comes up.
     a. Give Thanks
          Do it often and about everything.
     b. Ask for Forgiveness
          I think we let a lot of sins slide, thinking that since we barely noticed God probably didn’t, either.  But He does and we grieve the Holy Spirit when we sin. Confess those sins so that they don’t separate you from a Holy God; so that the enemy does not gain a foothold in your life; and so that the guilt does not add to your depression.
     c. Forgive
          Not only does God's Word say that if we forgive, then we will be forgiven (Luke 6:37), but unforgiveness will turn to bitterness and will eat you alive.  It will steal your trust and faith and joy. Forgiveness isn't saying that what the other person did is okay.  It's letting go so that they don't continue have control in your life.  As they saying goes, forgiveness sets a prisoner free, and that prisoner is me.  Trust God to take care of the other person in the way that only He can.

2. Read the Bible
Again, very obvious, I know. But are you making time for other reading materials, yet little or no time for God’s Word? The Bible is God’s main avenue of speaking to you. Open His Word every day and let it cleanse your heart.  And don't just read it, study it.  Know it like the back of your hand so that the Holy Spirit can teach you and then bring it to your mind when you need it. 

3. Put Away the Secular Music
I know, a lot of you are booing at me right now and saying there’s nothing wrong with some secular music. But, if you’re feeling depressed, secular music can be to us what junk food is to a person who’s trying to lose weight. You get full on that and have no room for what’s actually good for you. So put away the music of the world and drench yourself in music that will glorify the Lord and will encourage you to sing out in praise and worship of your Lord, too.

4. Speaking of Junk Food…
Put it away, too, and eat food that’s going to nourish your body – lots of protein, fruits and vegetables. Chips and 3 Musketeers bars make us feel good in the moment, but in the long run they’ll make us crash and burn. If you have to have some (chocolate is my buddy) limit it to a very small amount. I’m working on replacing refined sugars with fruit instead.

5. Go to Church
I know when you’re feeling depressed that the last thing you want to do sometimes is get out of the house, even to go to church. But do it anyway. Your body is not the boss of you. You need to be spiritually fed and you need the fellowship. And get out of the house during the week, too. Just breathing in the fresh air and feeling the sun shining down on my face can give me a whole new perspective.  If you don't have a home church, please, pray that God will lead you to one.  The Christian faith was never meant to be lived on individual islands.  We were meant to co-exist and serve one another as part of the body of Christ. 

6. And While You’re Out of the House..
Help Someone. Serve at church. Pray with someone. Mail a letter or a card. You never know how the Lord will use you in the life of another person if you ask Him to. And getting our eyes off of ourselves and onto another person will do wonders for your morale and theirs.

7. Exercise
I didn’t say run a marathon (unless you want to!), but any amount of consistent exercise will increase endorphins and help you feel better. Hey, if you wear an IPod you can combine #s 1, 3, 6 and 7! I’m so resourceful.  :)

8. Get Some Sleep
As a chronic insomniac, I know how hard this is. But I also know how much better I feel on a day when I’ve had decent sleep as opposed to a day when there’s been only a few hours. Night and day. Try to get into a routine of getting ready for bed. Don’t eat sweets before bedtime. Try some herbal things if your doctor approves and if it doesn’t interfere with any prescription medications. (Do your homework and double check with your pharmacist on that one.) Just taking magnesium before bed helps me to relax and get to sleep.

9. Take a Shower and Get Dressed
Depression has a way of sapping our energy even to drag ourselves into the shower sometimes. It’s easier to just stay in the jammies. Do it anyway, you’ll thank yourself.  (And I bet your family will, too!) 

10. Laugh
Throughout my childhood and most of my adulthood, people were always asking me why I laughed so much. If something’s funny, I really do LOL. I never knew what answer to give anyone until well into my adulthood. (Most people I’ve known for a long time now and they don’t ask so much anymore.) But I realize that because of the very difficult circumstances in my life, God has given me a built-in survival mechanism, and that’s a ready laugh. Laughing produces endorphins just like exercising does, it helps you get your mind off your problems, if even for a few moments, and it helps you to see the lighter side of life. So all you people who’ve ever asked me that, that’s why.  So watch a funny movie, hang out with your family and friends and giggle it up.

11. Discover Your Own Personal Stressors
Pay attention to your own body, soul and spirit and recognize those things that bring you down, such as certain types of music or movies, being around certain people, eating or drinking particular types of food or drinks, being too stimulated by technology and not allowing yourself enough quiet time, etc.

12. Get Up Tomorrow and Do It All Again
Once is not enough. You didn’t start feeling this way overnight and you’re not going to feel better overnight. Be disciplined and consistent to participate with the Lord in overcoming feelings of depression. Ask Him if there are things you’re allowing in your life that are contributing to your depression. God made your body, mind and spirit and He knows what you need and if you don’t give your body those things you will feel the consequences. But I believe the Lord will meet us more than half way if we’ll partner with Him. I’m in this with you. If you need prayer, please, please, please let someone know. I would be absolutely honored to pray for you if you would leave a comment or send me an email.

I’d love to hear any of your suggestions on what’s helped you with feelings of depression, too. Don’t forget, we serve the Almighty God Who created the heavens and the earth and you and me. He loves you more than you can imagine.

“But it is just as the Scriptures say, ‘What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!’” (1 Cor. 2:9 CEV)

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Thanks for sharing!