Depression is real. If you are reading this, you may already know that.
In some cultures, it can be dismissed as a myth or something that doesn’t deserve real treatment. However, if you do struggle with the symptoms of depression, there are steps you can take to make your quality of life better.
Other times we jump to the conclusion that depression only means sad when really, it can affect people in a wide swath of ways:
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable:
- Decreased energy or tiredness
- Unable to concentrate or focus
- Diminished self-esteem
- Thoughts of guilt or unworthiness
- Pessimistic ideas of the future
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite or stomach indigestion
- Lower pain threshold along with increased back pain, aches, and even headaches
Can you relate to some or multiple of these?
Is it hard for you to go to sleep or decide to get out of bed?
Is it hard for you to want to do activities you used to like? Whether it be reading or hunting or sewing or hanging out with friends?
Do negative thoughts sabotage your mind to hinder you from success?
Do you feel hopeless or helpless?
Do you hurt emotionally and physically?
If your answer is yes to any of these questions, there are ways to fight back.
Here are ways you can begin to overcome depression:
Find emotional support
This can be a support group, or it can be having a friend, family member, or mentor who is a genuine listener who can be present with you. Engaging is the key word here. Be proactive in finding friends to go get coffee with or a trip to the city for a show or something fun. Volunteering can also be rewarding as can the emotional support of a beloved pet in the home. If you struggle with depression, it’s important to have someone you can be vulnerable and honest with.
Participate in a hobby
A wholesome hobby could be joining a rec league in a sport you love or attending cooking or a language class. It could be creating crafts inspired from Pinterest or dusting off an instrument that’s been tucked inside a closet or a corner. This is important because it gives you a reason to do something with your day. We’ve been there where we spend hours sleeping in because we don’t have a reason to get out of bed. This just leads to feeling worthless and having an unsatisfactory day. If you have events on a calendar, it gives you a reason to get out of bed, get dressed, and socialize with others.
Make Healthy Habits
The word healthy may also sound synonymous with eating salad, sweating, or staying away from sweets… which are all hard to do. But first, you should examine your sleep schedule. Are you consistently getting eight full, restorative hours of sleep? Are you on a consistent schedule? Do you feel drained when you wake up or throughout your day? If you struggle in this area, you can try several things:
Take a Nap
Brief daytime naps might protect you against the harmful health effects of a poor night’s sleep, a new study suggests. Specifically, naps appeared to restore hormones and proteins involved in stress and immune function to normal levels in the study.
Spend time outside
Spending time outdoors, especially in green spaces, is one of the fastest ways to improve your health and happiness. It’s been shown to lower stress, blood pressure and heart rate, while encouraging physical activity and buoying mood and mental health
Avoid technology before bedtime
Using screens can affect how quickly you fall asleep and for how long you sleep. This happens for several reasons: Screen usage in the hour before bed can stimulate your brain. Blue light from televisions, computer screens, phones, and tablets might suppress melatonin levels and delay sleepiness.
Find something you enjoy doing. Finding a lifetime sport you can be consistent with is the key to success.
You can make a few changes and reap a healthier life. Limiting caffeine and nicotine use can help with sleep and also help your brain. Also, avoiding sugar and refined carbs can help too. B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for stabilizing your mood and fighting off depression. Because of this, eating leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, chicken, eggs, and fish can be extremely helpful.
Think Happy Thoughts
No, it’s not easy to break off the chains of negative thinking. But it is possible to identify patterns of pessimistic thoughts that throw gasoline onto the fire of depression and replace them with reasonable thinking. For example, if you look at things in absolutes, this can lead you to mental destruction as there are middle grounds in life. If you overgeneralize life circumstances, this can keep you from growing as one negative experience can keep you from having positive ones in the same area. Also, if you are a glass-half-empty kind of person, you can spend a lot of thoughts focusing on all the bad things in life rather than the good things. Jumping to conclusions can also be harmful as assuming the worst can be detrimental especially in relationships. Another thing to remember is the way you feel doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. The most helpful thing you can do if you are drowning in disparaging thoughts is to question them. Is there truth to what you are thinking? Is there another way to look at your current situation? How would a positive person look at this situation?
Make a commitment
Changing a lifestyle isn’t easy or more people would be able to complete their New Years’ Resolutions. Anything worth having takes work and effort. If you do decide to take medication for depression, it’s important to know that they work best if you also make an effort for a healthier lifestyle. Also, it’s good to aim to be off of them for the long-term to avoid unwanted side effects. But sometimes they may be necessary for the short-term. It’s also important to seek out professional help if you have made lifestyle changes and your depression doesn’t recede. Depression is a treatable illness and because the causation can be from a wide variety of factors, there isn’t a universal band-aid for it. But if you are struggling, there is help out there.
We’d be remiss if we did not mention another aspect of depression – the spiritual side.
Ephesians six says there’s a war happening every day on this earth against evil and good, light and darkness, Jesus and Satan. And in this war, we can defend ourselves with truth, salvation, peace, and faith. But our offense, our sword, our way to fight back, comes from relying on the Holy Spirit to fight our battles for us. All it takes is prayer. Praying truth is also both a defensive and offensive strategy that can send spiraling, negative thoughts far away and replace it with peace. Here are some scriptures you can pray to feel peace and hope:
- “The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.” (Psalm 9:9)
- “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
- “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:17)
- “Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you.” (Psalm 143:7-9)
- “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 41:10)
- “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
- “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Find courage, find peace. If you need a reminder, print off these verses and put them where you can see them every day. Memorize them and treasure them in your heart.