3 Things To Do When Depression Sets In

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That old familiar fog started setting in yesterday. Fog is the most tangible comparison I know of for what depression feels like. Life is going along just fine and suddenly like a thick fog at ground level, the kind that happened in Oregon where I grew up, depression sets in.  You can’t see the hope that compelled you, a day, an hour before. You have to slow down to a snail’s pace and fight the urge to pull over, putting the brakes on life.

I’ve found when that uneasy disdain, sense of hopelessness and vision-choking fatigue creep in, these things help me to pass through the fog of depression and not just stop everything.

  1. Exercise.  Even if that means going for a walk, but preferably, hard, heart-pumping exercises. I’m not a fitness guru, but there’s no doubt that exercise helps people with depression. It helps everyone, but when you’re depressed, exercise produces endorphins which act like a built in dose of prozac for the human body. God knew what he was doing when he made us that way. It’s good to exercise, even if all you can muster is a walk down the street.  Sometimes just walking outside in my yard makes me feel better. But I’ve found when I make myself go to the gym, and I do some heart-pumping workout, I leave the gym feeling like the fog has cleared, and I might make it through the day.
  2. I talk to myself. And that’s not a crazy thing to do.  It’s actually what we all do all the time. We tell ourselves messages without saying them out loud. But when I feel depressed, the voice in my head doesn’t have anything hopeful to say.  So I’ve found when I take the Psalms, which are full of struggles with fear, anger, depression, sadness, hopelessness, grief…all the stuff we all deal with, and I open my mouth to say aloud, “Why so downcast oh my soul? Put your hope in God!” some light shines through the fog.  The poisonous lies of depression’s hopelessness need to be countered with an out-loud challenge to hope in God.  A lot of times when I start feeling depressed it’s because I’ve had hope in someone, or some circumstance, that failed to meet my expectations.  The lie of depression is that there is no hope because… fill in the blank.  But the truth is God will never abandon me. He will always work all things, even depression, for my good to conform me to the image of his son.  I need to preach that message out loud to myself and send Wormwood’s dulling whispers to their place.
  3. Sing or play music.  I’m not a good singer and certainly when I’m depressed I don’t feel like singing.  But the times when I’ve closed my eyes, squeezed the tears that barely want to fall, and started singing an old hymn such as It Is Well With My Soul, or Great Is Thy Faithfulness, the tears are freed to flow and the lament of my heart wells up into praise of the One who has all things under control and cares very much about me.  And when I can’t even open my mouth for the heaviness upon me, sometimes I’ll play the tracks of those hymns on my phone and let the tears fall.

And if you don’t feel like you can do any of those things, maybe reading this you’ll at lease be able to mouth, “Amen.”  You’re not a lone.

Lord hear our silence, see our state and visit us with light and hope in Christ.

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.’

Psalms 42

These articles are also helpful:

10 Resolutions for Mental Health

Battling Depression Together