The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. – Deuteronomy 31:8
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions anyone can face in their lifetime. ADAA.org cites research on Major Depressive Disorder that reveals just how widespread this struggle is: over 16 million Americans will experience MDD in any given year. This is almost 7% of the U.S. adult population.
“In 2015, an estimated 3 million adolescents age 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.”
When you’re in the throes of depression, you often feel cut off from those around you and alone in your experience. The truth is that there are far more people who have been through it than you might imagine. No one has your particular story, but you are not suffering alone.
Besides anyone’s predisposition to depression, there are many life events that can trigger it, such as the loss of a loved one, trauma, divorce, or other kinds of harm.
The good news is that the pervasiveness of depression has led to its being studied a great deal. There are many resources available that can support you as you seek to find help for depression.
Getting Help for Depression: Practical Steps for Healing
When you’re feeling hopeless due to depression, it can be incredibly difficult to accomplish even the simplest of tasks. Focus on one thing you can do today that can help start your process of healing.
Talk to someone
If you haven’t shared your struggle with anyone lately, this is a good first step. Support is essential to recovering from depression since one of its most powerful components is isolation. There can be a stigma surrounding depression, even if it’s just in your own head, but a support system can reassure you that you are safe and loved.
Whether or not you’re able to share your experience with a loved one, a Christian counselor can provide a compassionate environment for you to feel heard and understood and begin to make progress in moving forward.
It’s important to seek a diagnosis because there are many different subtypes of depression, and your specific diagnosis will impact your treatment. The DSM-5 offers the following possible diagnoses:
- Major depressive disorder
- Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Depression due to another medical condition
- Adjustment disorder with depressed mood
- Postpartum depression
- Unspecified depression
Each person’s depression is unique to them, but understanding the general categories is very helpful. Often, clients don’t even know they’re clinically depressed, but after completing a Moods and Feelings Questionnaire, a counselor is able to identify specific symptoms, thoughts, and behaviors that signal depression, such as anxiety, tearfulness, difficulty concentrating, intense feelings of guilt and shame, etc.
Forms like these are good conversation starters to allow clients to share more about what they’re experiencing. Then we can discuss the underlying issues and help clients understand the reason for their feelings so they can move forward without blaming themselves.
Join a community
There are a variety of support groups available for those struggling with depression. Meetup.com (search for depression groups) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) are two resources that offer local meetings around the country. A support group can be an invaluable part of your treatment plan for depression.
Contact a crisis worker
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. There are community and national resources available to you if you feel that you are not safe with yourself. Whether you feel that you are in imminent danger or you just need a listening ear, you can find help through the following resources:
- Call the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
- Text 741741 and you will be immediately connected to a crisis worker at no cost to you. Texting can be much less intimidating than speaking in person, so consider this option if you need immediate assistance.
Read quality literature on the topic of depression.
There are so many valuable resources available on the topic of depression, many of them written by people who have struggled with depression themselves and can empathize with your experience.
Here a few of the best resources on depression:
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
This website compiles reputable resources on the topics of anxiety and depression. You can learn about the types of depression, common treatment methods, and other information about the condition itself. You can also join their free online support group.
This website was created by two spouses, both of whom have experienced depression. They share their journey to healing from a Christian perspective, including the difficult questions related to the spiritual implications of depression and recovery.
To Write Love on Her Arms
TWLOHA is a non-profit organization that reaches out to those struggling with depression and self-injury. The website serves as a center for personal blogs and accounts that can help you realize you are not walking this journey alone.
This website has a variety of articles that can keep you updated on depression information, news, and current research.
Here you’ll find a list of other helpful resources for dealing with depression, including other blogs, information about medications, etc.
There are many books that are written from the Christian perspective to help with overcoming depression, including:
- John Piper – When the Darkness Will Not Lift
- Zack Eswine – Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer from Depression
Nutrition and Exercise
Although depression is primarily a battle of the mind, the inertia it creates can have an effect on how we take care of our bodies. And lack of physical self-care can amplify depressive symptoms.
If you are a close family member of someone struggling with depression encourage them that each day they should focus on five things: eat, sleep, pray, exercise, and read the Bible. This underscores the primary importance of both spiritual and physical health in overcoming mental struggles.
Often, when we are battling depression, the energy it takes to eat healthily and exercise can be almost nonexistent. But nutrition and exercise are proven to significantly affect our brain chemicals related to mood, so considering these areas is vital. What small steps can you take to add nutritious, healing food to your diet and some healthy activity to your day?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
A journal can, in a way, hold thoughts we might not be fully conscious of. It’s a way to practice mindfulness, which simply means paying attention to your thoughts. Mindfulness can allow us to recognize our ability to change our way of thinking.
Journaling is similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the sense that it examines the way our thoughts impact our emotions. Through journaling, it’s as if we have the ability to become the editor of our own thoughts.
Seeing self-criticism or cognitive distortions on paper can shed a new light on your struggles. Cognitive distortions include:
- Catastrophizing (thinking of the worst-case scenario or jumping to the worst conclusion)
- Black and white thinking (ignoring the middle ground and seeing things as all good or all bad)
- Over-generalizing (applying aspects of one situation to all other situations)
- Focusing on the negative (having ruminating, primarily negative thoughts)
When you journal these thoughts, you gain a little distance from them. You can even rewrite them, recognizing that cognitive distortions do not control you.
At its core, journaling is an outlet and a safe place for you to process your emotions and experiences.
Yoga has gained widespread popularity in recent years due to its physical, mental, and emotional benefits. It started out as a spiritual discipline in India and is now seen as a physical discipline integrating the mind and focusing on strength, focus, and perseverance.
Like journaling, yoga is a way to slow down, be present, and practice mindfulness. Unlike journaling, yoga incorporates the physical activity component for a holistic mind-body experience. Research has shown that yoga can help reduce anxiety by slowing the heart rate, pacing the breath, and aligning the posture.
Music, at its core, can be a healing experience. Here are a few bands that convey a message of healing and may be helpful for someone struggling with depression:
- Sleeping at Last (“Saturn,” “Emphasis,” “You Are Enough”)
- Bellarive (“Tendons”)
- Josh Garrels (“Beyond the Blue,” “Farther Along,” “Born Again”)
As more of a last resort, medication can sometimes be necessary if more natural methods prove ineffective. The standard medications used to treat depression are called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). If you feel that you need more help than practical methods can give you, it may be time to discuss medications with your doctor or psychologist.
Ask for prayer
I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. – Psalm 40:1-3
In the Bible, we read that there is an unseen spiritual world in which battles happen for our minds and souls. Joining with other believers in prayer is a way to fight the lies of the darkness and seek God’s truth and healing.
The low moods of depression are often self-perpetuating. Once you have the low mood, you blame yourself for feeling that way, leading to further depression. It’s so important to normalize this cycle and remove harsh expectations that you shouldn’t feel this way or that you shouldn’t be sad.
Writing your struggles down on an intake form is one thing but being able to discuss your feelings with someone in detail can be very validating. And it’s healing just to know that someone is listening, cares about you, and isn’t afraid of what you’re going through. More importantly, in Christ, we are never alone. He offers comfort for our pain and suffering that is more than any human could give.
You don’t have to suffer from depression alone. Reach out to one of our Christian counselors today to allow us to walk this journey with you.
“Depressed”, Courtesy of Alex Boyd, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Down”, Courtesy of Ethan Sykes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Books”, Courtesy of Rendiansyah Nugroho, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sticky Brook Yoga,” courtesy of Matthew Ragan, Flickr Creative Commons