School ended on Tuesday for the holidays, and I had this wonderful list in my mind about the cleaning, baking, shopping, decorating, and gift-wrapping I would do over my Thanksgiving break.
But then I woke up sad on Wednesday. My body felt like lead, and I ended up putting every activity away. Tired and unable to enjoy doing anything, I kept finding myself sitting down while the tears fell. The next day wasn’t any better, although I worked up a smile and the energy to enjoy our family gathering for the afternoon and evening.
Depression comes uninvited, but it does come at times and can be hard to shake. In these moments, we need to be women who do one thing very well:
Jesus tells us that the greatest command of God is this:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
When we feel depressed, it is an opportunity for us to love God with our minds. We can love him by thinking well about how we feel. So I want to offer you some ideas of good, healthy things to think about when you find yourself depressed.
A Dozen Helpful Thoughts for When You Feel Depressed
Am I at the end of a challenging, exhausting season? I realized that I had been pushing myself as a school teacher since the end of August, and it was time to stop the mental planning for a few days and rest my weary brain. Sometimes depression is a helpful signal that we need a season of rest.
Am I reacting to stress? I was excited about the holidays but finally admitted to myself that I don’t handle spending money very well. Even though we budget and save money for Christmas gifts, there is something about shopping and spending that is wearisome to my soul. Christmas also brings a lot of extra responsibility for the woman of the house. It’s stressful, and it’s helpful to acknowledge this.
Am I sad? This is the third Christmas without my Dad, and the grief is hitting me hard again. Our culture demands happiness around the holidays, but often the holidays accentuate the losses we’ve experienced. Loneliness feels more profound. It’s okay to be sad.
Am I depressed because of something physical? I’m 47 years old, so in the back of my mind I keep waiting for the normal hormonal changes that will happen around my age. I also thought about my lack of exercise. That’s a hard one, because getting blood flowing certainly helps mood, but it’s hard to exercise when you’re depressed! Ugh. We need to consider what is happening with our bodies. Sometimes depression is because of thyroid issues or chemical imbalances that can be helped with medications.
Am I neglecting hope? As I thought about writing this blog post, I looked up definitions for depression. Feeling hopeless is one of the most common symptoms. So I had a good talk with myself. Even in the sadness of missing my dad, I have a living hope in Jesus Christ. I did some mental work to put my hope in God.
Am I meditating on Scripture? When we feel depressed, our minds are very busy but not in the right direction. The day after Thanksgiving, when I woke up I chose to lie in bed for a long time and think through Scripture verses that I had memorized over the years. I chose to think about encouraging, life-giving truth before my feet hit the floor.
Am I sure of my personal value? Feeling valueless is another common symptom of depression. I took time to evaluate if I had built any idols in my life to which I was looking for value. I decided that my job very easily becomes the place where I feel valuable. When that job ended for the holidays, I felt lost. It was an opportunity to remember that I am valuable because God made me and loves me.
Am I forgetting that God values the poor in spirit? Feeling a deep need in our souls is miserable, but it is this very poverty that can bring us on our knees before the living God. When we admit we are lacking, we give God the opportunity to show how good he is at filling the empty heart. Crying out to the Lord that we are depressed and needy is pleasing to him. He is waiting to help if we will ask.
Am I chaffing against slowing down? As Americans, we like to fill every second of our day with work or entertainment. I can feel this when I have a vacation and feel anxious to fill the time. Maybe instead of making a huge list of chores to do over my holiday vacation, I should have written, “Sit for hours and pray.”
Am I forgetting this life is temporary? After the recent election and dark headlines, it’s easy to fall into depression and think that all of the world is bad. But there is a beautiful inheritance waiting for the follower of Christ, and I’m taking the time to think about the eternal joy that is in front of me.
Am I living independently and not in community with others? It was such a blessing to spend Thanksgiving afternoon with precious family and friends. Sometimes the remedy to depression is to get with other people. My little nephews made me laugh, and that was a good mood lifter. I also called and talked to a good friend on Thanksgiving Day morning. It helped to talk to someone who understood and would pray for me.
Am I trying to manufacture a false joy? If you go to the stores during the holiday season, you see signs that say “joy.” The temptation is to paste on a smile and pretend like we’ve got holiday spirit. But we cannot manufacture genuine joy, and isn’t that a relief? Genuine joy comes from outside of ourselves, as a fruit of the Spirit of God, so when we are depressed we can pray and wait for the Lord to fill us with his own beautiful and deeply satisfying joy.
Well, my friends, these are the mental actions that have helped my spirit come out of depression, and I hope they are helpful to you. I pray the Lord will lift your spirits by his grace.
Much love from Montana,