practical things to do when you're falling into depression as a Christian
First of all, friend, I just want to give you a big virtual hug.
I’ve been there…a lot. It’s not fun, I know, but I’m here to tell you that there is light at the end of the tunnel…or whatever dumb cliche people try to ice your wound with.
Depression is hard. Depression sucks. Depression is worse than stepping on a Lego.
I’m not so ignorant as to say that these will heal you or help you as much as you want, but they have helped me when I was stuck in the rut.
And I am definitely NOT saying that you don’t need to get actual help, because you just might. And that’s totally okay. Do not allow shame to eat at you because of your depression, especially as a Christian, because A LOT of devout Christians go through it. Even King David, the guy who God labeled The Man After His Own Heart, struggled with depression a lot. Do not think that depression is something to be ashamed of.
You see, I’ve been down the depressed highway. I know what it’s like to feel numb and miserable, to not want to live anymore, to beg God to kill you…I know.
BUT I’ve also learned that I usually can alleviate the gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, I-hate-my-life-and-want-to-die, oh-and-I-hate-everyone-around-me, and that-bird-is-stupid pain if I do the following tactics. SO I want to share those with you in the hopes that you will put these into practice, rise up from the ashes, and reconnect with God.
Let’s do this together, yeah?
1.) Get on your knees (literally), cry out to God, confess your feelings and sins, and ask for Him to help you.
God is not afraid of your mess.
Let me repeat that. God is not afraid of your emotions and sins, and HE IS NOT MAD AT YOU OR DISAPPOINTED IN YOU. If you have declared Jesus as your Lord, received His forgiveness, and committed to follow Him, God sees you as His righteous, blameless, holy child. Nothing you can do can make Him love you any less.
I’ve found that when I’m all caught up in a tornado of emotions, I tend to push God away and distance myself from Him. I think that I’m too dirty, and shame is usually somewhere in the equation. But here’s the thing. God wants us to come Him with all the baggage and the icky-ness, to tell Him everything that’s going on, and ask Him for help.
We see this all throughout scripture. Here is just one example of King David, the man after God’s own heart:
O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord he is good to me. (Psalm 13 NLT)
Let’s paraphrase that in modern terms:
God, what the heck? Where are you? Life sucks, and it feels like everything is just beating me down. Please answer me and help me. Don’t let me be defeated by this. But, no matter what, I trust you, for you are good. (Psalm 13 Keela’s Version)
You get the point?
You vomit your feelings to God and confess your sins.
You ask for help.
You declare who God is and that He is good, even when life sucks toes.
You decide to trust Him.
2.) Reaffirm your commitment to follow Him.
When you became a believer in Jesus, you promised that you would follow Him at any cost. These feelings might be the cost. (You might be under attack from the enemy.) Promise again that you will follow Him, and recommit your life to Him.
3.) Get in the Word.
(Psalms is a great place to go! A lot of them are prayers from King David in the midst of his struggles with depression so #relatable.)
I know, this one is so hard when you’re in the thick of it, but I promise it is so powerful! Say the verses out loud, pray them, declare them. For reals, this can be such a help. However, your motivation when you dig in matters. Go into it wanting to connect with God's heart so that you can know Him more and obey Him; don't go into it just for an easy fix to your emotions or solely for guidance. Those are selfish motives and not necessarily what God wants. I guarantee that if you go into it searching for His heart instead of His guidance, it makes a world of difference.
4.) Pray for other people, not just yourself.
When I'm getting consumed with my own feelings, it helps soooooo much to be less me-focused and more others-focused. Trust me, this will help.
5.) Repeat “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”
Maybe it’s just me, but reminding myself who God is and that He is victorious really puts things into perspective.
Even when crap hits the fan, He is holy.
Even when you don’t want to live anymore, He is holy.
Even when you can’t find the strength to get out of bed, He is holy.
And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3 NIV)
6.) Go through the alphabet declaring who He is.
You see a trend? Most of the time, when I’m depressed, it’s because I’m being self-absorbed and self-seeking.
Forcing myself to think of God and other people is literally a game-changer. So a practical way of doing this is reminding yourself who God is by going through the alphabet and finding an adjective to match the letter you’re on.
7.) Declare affirmations over yourself.
THIS IS SO FREAKING LIFE-CHANGING!
A few weeks ago, I was at a really low point in my life and couldn’t get out. I was wrapped in and believing a whole bunch of lies from the enemy: that there was no point in living, that I am not good enough, that God doesn’t love me, etc.
I couldn’t live like that, so I decided to do something about it.
I googled “Christian I Am Statements” and out popped so many promises from God declaring who I am in Christ. I literally cried because it was exactly what I needed. Long story short, I wrote some of them down in my journal, and I declare them over myself every morning.
At first, it was really hard to just say the words, but after a couple days, I started really believing them…and I was filled with joy once again because I was standing on Truth.
If nothing else, definitely do this one. Here is a great site to get you started.
8.) Talk to a friend and pray WITH them.
To be honest, this is one that I’m far from good at. If you’re anything like me, talking to other people about your feelings is like your biggest weakness, and you hate doing it. BUT there is power in togetherness.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16 NIV)
Find someone you trust, and just let them know what’s going on in your heart. If there’s a sin that you’re feeling ashamed about, confess it to them. (Unconfessed sins is often one of the biggest reasons why I get stuck in depression!)
Then, pray WITH them. You heard me right. You need to be face-to-face with this person or on the phone or something. Do not text. Something like this needs to be real, and you need to hear them pray for you. Don’t let them get by with a “Oh, I’ll be praying for you!” as they walk away. No, you ask them to pray for you right then and there. You need to hear their prayer for you.
P.S. You can shoot me an email if you can’t think of anyone to talk to, and I will do my best to help you. Though I won’t be able to meet with you or call you, I will write out my prayer for you so that you can read it.
Exercise is so crucial for our overall mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical health.
Exercise releases endorphins that make us feel better, and it takes your mind off of all the gunk that’s going on in your head (source).
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in a funk and just moving my body has perked me up. Going for runs gets my blood pumping and heart pounding, putting me in a state of oh-God-help-me-breathe instead of my depressing oh-God-make-me-stop-breathing. Okay, that was a morbid joke, but it’s true!
If you don’t feel like exercising hardcore, that’s fine. Just get your body moving somehow. WALKS ARE MIRACLES. Seriously, just going for a walk always puts me in a better mood, especially if it’s been a bad day…or week…or life. (Okay, another morbid joke. Sorry!)
Here’s a few things you might try:
going for a walk
running/jogging (yes, you can jog in place and watch TV at the same time)
doing lunges in your living room
I suggest doing some sort of cardio that gets your blood pumping because that releases even more endorphins.
10.) Snuggle a kitty or pet a dog.
Okay, you and I both know that snuggling with animals is one of the most therapeutic and comforting things in the world. Studies show that petting animals also releases endorphins and other chemicals in the brain that make you feel better (source).
This may or may not be why I have so many cats….
If you don't have a cat, go to your nearest animal shelter
or put some tuna on your front porch and steal your neighbor's
11.) Get in nature.
Again, seeing the beauty of God’s creation takes your focus off of the ugliness that is your life. Also, fresh air is good for you.
Being in nature reminds you (1) that God is beautiful, (2) that beauty exists even when life is ugly, and (3) that you need to go back to the basics.
12.) Curl up in a blanket-burrito and watch your favorite movie/show or read a book.
And throw in a pint of ice cream while you’re at it.
Really. There’s no shame in it. Sometimes you just need to relax and numb your brain for a little while. Watch some TV, play a game, read a book, take a nap, whatever.
Just don’t do it for too long because that’s when it crosses the line from self-care to unhealthy.
13.) Combat the lies with Truth.
This has helped me more than anything else I’ve mentioned thus far, so do this. Please.
I want you to grab a piece of paper and draw two columns.
On one side of the column, I want you to write down all of the negative thoughts you’re thinking and all of the lies you’re believing.
Then go find Bible verses that DESTROY those icky thoughts in your head and heart.
Just a couple weeks ago, I wrote on one side of the column, “I don’t want to live anymore,” as tears ran down my face and my fingers shook as the pen etched across my journal. Crying, I googled encouraging Bible verses, and I found one that made me cry all the harder. Isaiah 40:31. My favorite Bible verse.
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)
It spoke to me, and I clung to it like my life depended on it. In the other column, I wrote, “God will renew my strength and restore my joy when I hope in Him.”
I chose to hope in Him. Even when I didn’t feel like it. Even when I wanted to die. Even when life screamed that I was a hopeless cause.
I chose to hope in Him, and He did restore me. Just as He promised.
My sweet friend, I don’t know what you’re going through. I don’t know what kind of battles you’re fighting or hell you’re walking through. But I do know that He is faithful.
He was faithful even when I was faithless. He loved me when I didn’t love Him. He was my light when all I saw was darkness.
He is faithful to renew your strength, restore your joy, and help you soar again. All He asks is that you hope in Him.