When Christians struggle with depression, the advice they receive can be all over the board. Sometimes it's helpful and lifegiving, and at other times it exacerbates the problem.
The word "depression" covers a fairly broad number of issues and conditions. And they can't all be managed the same way. As we'll cover in this post, getting input from trustworthy professionals is an integral part of the process of identifying the cause, treatment, and ongoing care of depression symptoms.
These are some tips and guidelines that can help, but they're not intended to take the place of professional care. If you have an ongoing struggle with emotional numbness or sadness, you must talk to people who can help.
With that in mind, let's look at some tips for dealing with depression.
1. Take care of yourself physically
One of the hardest things about depression is that it undermines your desire to do what would help you manage it. Depression causes you to collapse in on yourself, and many of the basic things you would do to take care of yourself (spending time with others, exercise, eating well) become a real struggle.
But we must remember that God created us as physical, spiritual, and mental beings. These aren't a bunch of compartmentalized areas operating independently from one another. How we're doing in one area impacts the others. When we treat our bodies well, exercise and diet have a significant impact on our emotional well-being.
If you feel yourself taking an emotional nosedive, invest some time in getting your blood pumping and eating well.
2. Go easy on yourself
Our self-talk has a big impact on how we feel, and sometimes the advice and messages we receive from other Christians can make it hard to keep our perspective. Depression can be the result of physical, chemical, or cognitive problems. So it isn't always helpful to hear that depression is the result of sin or that it's something that you can fix by choosing to rejoice.
When you pick up those messages, it's easy to slip into a self-condemning inner dialogue. But this doesn't alleviate depression; it feeds it. The outcome is that we start hiding from God in our depression instead of running toward Him.
Learning to see ourselves as beloved of God can help us make healthier devotional choices, even in the midst of depression.
3. Seek out community
Depression wants to isolate us. And one of the worst things we can do when we're struggling is put off spending time with others until we feel up to it. The longer we put it off, the harder it gets. In the meantime, the only voice we hear is our inner dialogue—and that's not always trustworthy.
Spending time with others when we're depressed can feel completely counterintuitive, and it might be the last thing in the world you're interested in. Consider doing it anyway. It's helpful to remember that your belonging isn't based on whether you have it all together. You are an essential member of your family, church community, and friends groups apart from your emotional state at any given time.
4. Get professional input
Depression doesn't necessarily have a single origin. It could be chemical. It could be spiritual. It could be the byproduct of our thinking styles. This means that it can help to have input from different professionals.
Spending time with your pastor can offer spiritual insight and suggestions for approaching Scripture, prayer, and other practices that can help strengthen your spirit and draw you closer to God. Your doctor might suggest lifestyle changes or put you on medication that will help correct a chemical imbalance. Lastly, it's helpful to talk to a counselor who can equip you to consider your thinking habits and help you get past some of the depressive or anxiety-ridden obstacles to more healthy thinking.
Depression doesn't have to be a barrier
There's no question that depression is a challenge, and it doesn't impact everyone the same. But it doesn't have to shut you down entirely or stop you from connecting with others. The key is being aware of what you're going through and choosing to be proactive in responding to it.
And while depression isn't necessarily a spiritual condition, it's crucial to remember that Jesus is still there with His unfailing love and He wants to deliver us. If you need a reminder and are hungry for some inspiration, check out this video entitled "Legion."