This past week has been rough. I felt the dark clouds rolling in and overtaking my thoughts and feelings and sucking the energy and passion right out of me. Admittedly, I saw it coming. It's been a rough 2015 so far. I can't get into the details, but there has been enough drama for a Bravo reality show for sure. As I started to climb out of the hole I fell in last week, I was reflecting on how I fight these times of depression and thought I would share some tips with you I've learned over the years. The next time you are feeling down, give it a try..
1. Let yourself off the hook for a bit.
Growing up, I would go through periods of feeling down. There were lots of reasons- some very valid and some I didn't even understand. One day I'd be fine and the next it would feel like I fell in a deep, dark hole where no one understood me, and I felt nothing but sadness and emptiness. I remember my mom trying to help. She would come into my room and say, “you don't have cancer...you're healthy... you have parents who love you...and you have the Lord.” She would try to say every positive thing she could think of, but it didn't work. In fact, it made me feel worse because I felt guilty for feeling depressed. I didn't understand why I felt sad. I didn't want to feel sad. I would try to repeat all the happy things she told me and try to “fix” myself to no avail. I was mad that I couldn't control my emotions and was afraid I wouldn't snap out of it. It's very scary when you can't control or understand your emotions. When I feel this bad, I can't even pray. I try, but the words don't come. For the Christians out there that say I “just need more faith” or “turn it over to God”, I doubt you have ever experienced this vast abyss of depression. It's like an out of body experience where you can't will yourself to do anything. Over the years, I found a secret to climbing out of the dark places much faster. Here's my secret... I let myself off the hook. You can work through your emotions much faster when you don't add feelings of guilt on top of everything else. Yes, I realize I could be in Africa starving without shoes or be homeless or have terminal cancer. Things could always be worse...but that doesn't make your feelings any less real or valid. Letting yourself off the hook means allowing yourself to feel your emotions without guilt or judgement. Acknowledge the feelings, but don't embellish them. Don't feed yourself a bunch of lies that are not truth. Practice catching your thoughts and examine them. When you find lies from the enemy, fight back by saying, “NO, the truth is........” There is one very important rule to letting yourself off the hook. You HAVE TO SET A TIME LIMIT ON IT. Depending on how dark and deep the hole is, allow yourself anywhere from 2-48 hours to just examine your feelings and sit with them. But when the time limit is up, you have to start fighting back and climb out of this place. You won't crawl out instantly. But you have to get up, gear up, and start getting it together.
2. Do something.
So, my time limit is up. Now what? I often start with music and writing and reflect on what propelled me into the abyss in the first place. Prayer is sometimes still hard when you are just working your way out, so I often just listen to the words of awesome music...like “The Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns and pray the lyrics out loud. It requires less effort and thought! I also workout and try to sweat. It kicks up the endorphins and makes me feel alive. Other ideas include cleaning, window shopping, watching an inspiring movie, coffee with a friend, dancing in the living room (yes, I do this) or reading a devotional.
3. Get perspective.
Have you ever thought you were having a bad day and then heard someone else's story that was 10x worse? There is always someone who is going to have less and always someone who is going to have more. We have to practice taking our eyes off of other's paths and focusing on the path that God has for us. It's so easy to wish you had someone else's life... But, the truth is, you have no idea what people face on a daily basis. Try your best to focus on being the best “you”. One non-conventional tip I have found to getting perspective quickly is look up exciting places or things I would like to add to my bucket list. It helps me remember that we live in an AMAZING world with an Awesome Creator. It will remind you how much you have left to experience and it will help you with tip #4.
4. Regroup and get back in the game.
NO amount of money can ever buy you more time. We never know when our last day on this earth will be. I hope these tips give you the motivation you need to get back in the game. You can never get today back. It is important to fight back and try to climb out as quickly as you can. If you have tried to climb out of the hole and nothing is working...go see a professional. If you need medicine, get it. If you need talk therapy, get it. Do what you need to do to get better. You are not alone. Your Creator made you to thrive...not just survive...and he is not done with you yet! And if you need a friend...I'm here. @kellyshiley Phillipians 1:6.