The Long and Hard Journey of Mental Health
The term “mental health” is a huge umbrella that encompasses many mental states and conditions. What complicates the discussion of mental health is that it exists on a spectrum. On one end, simple short-term challenges can be worked through with friends, pastoral care, or self-guided education and/or practice. On the other end of the spectrum, some mental health challenges require professional help and medication and involve a long, hard journey. There is no way to write a single resource to cover every subject in mental health or the spectrum each subject spans. This resource is intended to help you in a limited number of areas on the lighter end of the spectrum. If you are struggling with mental health issues that require greater resources and care, please see a mental health professional. A list of couselors can be found at the bottom of our Local Resources page under "Counseling Resources".
What is Depression?
Webster defines depression as a state of feeling sad, low in spirits, or melancholy. More specifically, depression is a mood disorder that is marked by varying degrees of sadness, despair, and loneliness that is typically accompanied by inactivity, guilt, loss of concentration, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.
Depression is also often associated with anger, even being referred to as “frozen anger” or “anger turned inward”. Depression is also related to feelings of hurt, frustration, and grief. If we stuff our emotions down long enough (depress them) we will become depressed. For this type of depression, the solution is always the same. We must find a way to feel and express our emotions in a healthy way.
As believers we never go through this alone as the Holy Spirit is with us, guiding us and comforting us, giving us the words when we do not have them. Mild depression is a normal condition, a sadness brought on by life's circumstances. Clinical depression, on the other hand, is a sadness so deep that it can lead to suicide if left untreated.
— Brenda Lane Richardson
How Do I Deal with Nonclinical Depression?
Don’t isolate yourself. When a person is depressed, it is tempting to avoid others. While some solitude can be healthy, more often than not self-isolation makes the problem worse. God created people to need people. Depression is often a weight that no one should carry alone.
Keep a journal. Often depression is the byproduct of confused and negative thinking. Journaling often helps people work their thoughts out on paper and helps depressed people articulate their own solutions.
Stay active. One of the problems with depression is that we feel like we have no energy and therefore are inactive. This inactivity leads to a greater loss of motivation and energy which then leads to more inactivity. This pattern creates a downward spiral. Even if you don’t feel like it, get up, move around, get outside, go for a walk, etc. Exercise and move your body for better mental health.
Eat healthy and avoid over or under eating. The way we eat impacts the way we feel. It’s important to not eat too much or too little. It’s also important to eat healthy foods for energy.
Avoid escapism. Another major temptation is to try to escape depression through different activities like binge watching tv, playing video games, excessive shopping, pornography, etc. This escapism not only doesn’t help fix the problem, but often makes things worse. It’s ok to have hobbies to relieve stress or to do other things to take your mind off of your depression, but they need to be healthy for your mind and practiced within reasonable limits.
Lament in a healthy biblical fashion. It’s ok to be sad. Christians can and should mourn. It’s important to balance this against negative thought patterns and destructive rumination.
Don’t catastrophize. In emotional times, we tend to exaggerate the size of our problems. This often does not align with reality. Strive to be self-controlled with your emotions, rational in your thinking, and make sure your view corresponds with reality.
Reward yourself. Unlike escapism, there is nothing wrong with giving yourself small rewards when you achieve goals to celebrate and feel better. A responsible trip out, a nice dinner with friends, or purchasing a small reasonable treat can motivate even more positive change in the future.
Create a gratitude list. There’s an old song that says “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done.” When we are depressed, we sometimes focus on our molehill of problems when there is a mountain of blessings just outside our view. It is helpful to reframe our reality by changing our focus. Just take out a piece of paper and pen and write down all ways God has blessed you. Keep it and try to add to it daily. When you are struggling, read those blessings out loud to remind yourself how blessed you are. Read them out loud and thank God for them.
Send notes to friends or loved ones. Sharing with others how grateful you are for them and how much you love them can help you a great deal when struggling with depression.
Don’t neglect spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study are critical to all Christians. There is a major temptation to draft away from healthy spiritual practices in the throes of depression. Stay in the Word and in prayer.
Serve others. People who are struggling with depression can sometimes have an inward focus. Studies have shown that when people with depression focus outward by serving others, it takes their mind off of their own problems and can aid in overcoming depression.
Sleep. Getting enough sleep at the right times is very important for both mental and physical health. Consider getting 8 or more hours of sleep a night, scheduling your bedtime, and keeping a sleep journal to record your progress.
Out of the Cave: Stepping into the Light when Depression Darkens What You See
Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression
Dealing With Depression: Trusting God through the Dark Times
I Changed My Mind: Journey Toward Spiritual Maturity
How Hard It Really Is: A Short, Honest Book About Depression
Out Of The Cave
Smoke From a Fire Series
Care Ministry Podcast
• Episode 51: Anxiety and Depression
• Episode 81: Burnout
• Episode 80: Loneliness
The Village Church
Care Ministry Support Groups
A list of couselors can be found at the bottom of our Local Resources page under "Counseling Resources".