Lift the Cloud of Depression
By Patty Andershock, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
“I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heart my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
All of us will feel sad, or experience the blues from time to time. This is normal, and it’s a part of our experience when we go through struggles, loss, or unmet expectations in life. But, if we begin to feel overwhelmed by these feelings, find ourselves challenged in our work, relationships, sleep, eating, or overall health; then we need to take a closer look at what we’re going through and determine if we could be going through depression that needs some treatment and tending to.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, common symptoms of depression may be (see here for more information):
- -Persistent, sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- -Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- -Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- -Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities
- -Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- -Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- -Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- -Appetite and/or weight changes
- -Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- -Restlessness, irritability
- -Persistent physical symptoms
If you are feeling any of these symptoms to a degree that feels unmanageable to you, I strongly recommend that you see your personal physician and request to be referred to a psychiatrist and licensed therapist to help you work through the symptoms of depression.
And if you are feeling suicidal, please call 911 for help; or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the U.S. 24-hours a day at: 1-800-273-8255 for immediate counseling and support.
If your symptoms of depression are mild, the following are six ways to begin helping yourself feel better in your mood and overall life:
- Express your thoughts and emotions.
The opposite of
DE-pression is EX-pression.
Ask yourself, “What am I really feeling and thinking right now?” If you answer, “Depressed!” encourage yourself to go deeper. “I know I’m feeling depressed, but what else am I really feeling and thinking?” You may answer, “Disappointed that I didn’t get that promotion. Sad that my father passed away last year. Feeling rejected that my friends don’t have time to hang-out anymore. Overwhelmed with the deadlines in my schoolwork or job.”
Listen to these answers without judgment. Acknowledge, “Ok, this is how I feel. This is what I’m thinking. It’s good that I know the truth now.” Help yourself to know that it’s okay to feel and think whatever you’re thinking and that it’s healthy to acknowledge what’s going on inside.
- Write it down.
Write down in a journal, on a piece of paper, or type it on you computer. Validate what you’re thinking and feeling by writing it down. This further helps you to feel accepted and it gives you some space to see and reflect upon what’s come up for you.
Some people prefer to rip or throw away the words after they’ve written them down. It can feel empowering to release the thoughts on paper, then take control of the negative emotions by choosing to now rip them up and give them to God in order to move forward with their lives. It doesn’t mean you’re saying those words were bad or you’re mad at what you were feeling. Instead, it’s a way of acknowledging that you know what you’ve been thinking and feeling, you’ve honored the feelings and processed them, now you’re ready to give them up to the Lord and move on with His strength and grace.
Others prefer to keep their words in their journal or in a file, looking back at them later to see how far they’ve come in their recovery from depression. It can be encouraging at a future time to see how the Lord has carried you and healed you. Check-in with yourself and pray about what would be the best way for you to honor your own process.
- Pray, pray, pray.
There is such power in prayer! We all know this. But it’s really true and it’s up to us to exercise this awesome form of communing with God about or troubles and our victories.
A prayer could sound like, “Lord, this has been a difficult morning. I woke up feeling pretty bad and I realized that I have some unresolved sadness towards my parents for the way they treated me over the course of my life. God, help me put their negative words to rest. Help me hear your voice instead of theirs. Help me to move on from this pain and to live in freedom with you. God, I need you so much right now and I ask you to give me strength in this weakness I am feeling. God, take away the pain, the sorrow, the sadness. Help me move forward with you. Help me look forward to tomorrow and today. Help me to no longer feel helpless to this dark cloud in my life. Help me feel your power and healing in my life today. God, I give all this to you and ask that you fill me with your peace, joy, and love right now, Amen. Praise you Lord for your mercy and your love.”
Walking, jogging, going to the gym, doing an exercise video, bicycling, rollerblading- whatever you want to do to move around will absolutely help lift your symptoms of depression.
Exercising can release chemicals in your brain that make you feel better, like endorphins; strengthen your immune system, and your body temperature can raise which can help you feel better, as well.
Your self-esteem and connection with your body may also improve which can always help with depression, as well.
- Make a list of what used to make you happy.
Even if you can’t imagine anything that could cheer you up right now, make a list of all the things that used to make you happy. As far off and irrelevant that this list may feel to you right now, make a list and trust that this list or a new list will be filling your life with pleasurable moments very soon.
Your list may look like:
Reading mystery novels, hiking on the trails, playing with my dog, listening to jazz, country-line dancing with friends, writing a short story at a café with a cappuccino, jogging on the beach, listening to inspiring praise music with a candle, watching comedy movies, visiting Disneyland, crocheting a scarf, looking at pictures of cute puppies, drinking a fruit smoothie on the beach, laying on the grass while listening to your favorite singer from high school.
Just reminding yourself of the things you used to enjoy can encourage you to remember that if you used to enjoy things in life, you can do so again. Also, it can help you to think of new things to try and cheer yourself up with today.
- Forgive yourself.
Check-in with yourself and see if there’s something you’re holding onto inside that’s preventing you from moving forward with accepting yourself in your life. I’ve found that this is often one of the most common reasons many people are living under clouds of depression in their lives.
We know the Bible stresses how it’s important to forgive others who have wronged us in our lives; but how about forgiving ourselves when we’ve felt disappointed or let down by our own selves, our own actions in our lives? Are we to just tell ourselves we’re going to just have to live with this unforgiveness for the rest of our lives? Can you imagine what it would be like to feel you’re imprisoned in your own unforgiveness with yourself for the rest of your life?
That feeling could make anyone feel depressed. Check-in and see if there’s something you’re holding onto that’s keeping you from liking yourself today. It’s imperative to grow in our relationships not only with the Lord, but with ourselves as well, if we’re going to live a life of freedom and joy in the Lord.
If you check-in and discover you’re still angry with yourself for never finishing college, for example, here’s a way you can begin talking with yourself about the situation:
“Hey, I know, I am still pretty mad at me for not finishing those last courses in school and now I’m working harder than others at my job because I never finished that degree. I know I did what I felt I needed to do at the time, and so I choose to forgive myself for judging myself about my decision to leave school early. It doesn’t mean that I necessarily think it was a good decision to leave school. Rather, I accept me and I forgive me for beating myself up all these years about my decision to leave early. It is what it is. If I want to finish up that degree today, yes it would be hard to do, but I know I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength and I can do it now if I really want to. It’s time to leave the past in the past, accept it, move on, and choose to accept myself today. I’m sorry, me, for being so mean to myself about this all these years. That wasn’t good and it never helped me in my life to treat myself this way. From this day forward, I’m moving on and I’m choosing to forgive myself for those judgments and I accept all of me, even the part that chose to leave school early. I accept me as God’s beautiful creation, created in His image, and I choose to love myself as God loves me and has grace for me. Thank you Lord, help me continue to have grace for myself as you do. Amen.”