According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (what? Who knew we even HAD that association!), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). Depression is defined as severe despondency and dejection, typically felt over a period of time and accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.
Before I even start, can I just say that I know this is controversial? In fact, I’m not even 100% sure where I stand, as a Christian, on how I should view depression and the medication that typically goes along with it. All I know is that I have struggled with it throughout my life. Since becoming a believer, I’ve only had one experience (post-pardum), and the following ideas are what kept it from getting serious (and God’s grace). My only hope here is to encourage you!
These are some suggestions from my own personal experience.
5 Ways to Fight Depression (w/out Medication)
1. Just do something
A lot of times depression shows up in our inability to face life. We start having feelings of hopelessness, and the hopelessness leads to sluggishness. “What’s the point?”, we might say. Or we may find ourselves in a sort of mental coma without even realizing it. Personally, my biggest temptation for being depressed is when I am feeling overwhelmed. “There is just too much to do!” And I virtually give up before I start. These are the times we need to just do something. It doesn’t need to be big, although it can be. It might be as simple as getting out of the house, or taking a walk during your lunch break at work.
Here are some simple things you might try to just do something:
– wash dishes or another daily chore
– call a friend or family member who will encourage you
– drink a big glass of water
– take a shower
– do some stretches
Try and avoid doing things where your mind shuts off to your immediate circumstances, such as TV, movies, magazines, or books. It’s tempting not to be present in hard times, but trust me, this just exacerbates the issue. Also try and avoid habits that could be harmful, like shopping whenever you feel down or eating foods you know will only increase the fog you feel in your head.
2. Pray purposefully
Ask for freedom. Ask that God will bring an event into your day to remind you how blessed you are. Talk to God about what you’re feeling. Ask Him to show you why you are having the feelings. Ask Him to help you focus on the facts/truth, not just your feelings. Believe He will answer you!
When I have done this, amazing things happen in my life. I have had random phone calls from friends, encouraging me. It’s a rainy day and the sun pops out. My phone sends me a daily scripture that tells me to trust in God and to not lean on my own understanding. A song comes on the radio with lyrics about God’s promises to me. Ask Him! He will help you!
Here are some great scriptural references to some of God’s promises, arranged by topic, if you don’t know where to start. There is one specifically for depression, but I find most of the verses to be very encouraging in hard moments. Or here is a blog that posts a promise of God everyday with a devotional: 365promises.com.
3. Be accountable
Does anyone else know you are struggling? TODAY? A lot of us are willing to say we have struggled with something, in the past (even ‘yesterday’), but are we able to admit it during the thick of the struggle? Find someone you trust that you can share your bad with. Even if it’s a text that says, “Please pray for me, I’m struggling with depression today.” You need outside support. You can’t bear it alone.
And you shouldn’t bear it alone. If you are trying to do that, there may also be a hidden case of pride or an unwillingness to change. Iron sharpens iron; you need to be in the presence of other people who can call you out on your sin. Who can encourage you but in a way that changes you. Not in a, ‘oh, that’s okay. Today is just tough. Why don’t you take it easy and face this issue tomorrow.” I’m not saying that breaks are always bad, but if you’re having a day where you’re struggling with depression, you need a friend that knows what you need. And that is likely a little fire under your rear to get up and do something, NOT a ‘permission slip’ from a friend for a pint of ice cream and a movie.
4. Put God first
Normally I would say this is number 1. But can I be honest? Some days, when in the throes of struggling with negative/sad thoughts, God isn’t always in the forefront. He isn’t an immediate thought. If your brain is not firing on all cylinders, you may not even realize you are struggling. That’s why this is farther down. But it’s so important! I used to roll my eyes when people would say to read the bible when in moments of struggle. Yeah right, I’d think. Like I’m going to find some divine wisdom or comfort from reading ancient history, or Levitical laws, or letters from Paul to a church. BUT YOU WILL. Don’t be naive like I was for so many years. God blesses your efforts in Bible reading. Reading your Bible gives you truth, strength, and hope. And great examples of those who have gone before us who have called on the name of the Lord in these times (Psalm 130). It gives you confidence that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do.
The other way you put God first in your life is by trusting and obeying. It’s not just a hymn (Trust & Obey). It’s how we can actively love God through our actions. I personally find that obeying comes first for me. And then I need to trust that if I obey, He has promised good things for me. Maybe not in this life. At least, I shouldn’t expect that. But I find that He does. His greatest gift to me is eternal life with Him, but He still chooses to give me joy in this life. So practically, what does this all look like? I still struggle with the answer to that question. But obeying isn’t only in the big things, big decisions or situations in your life. In fact, the smaller choices you make continually are more impactful in the end. So consider what things you do where you have a nagging little feeling in the back of your mind about what you should do and you’re choosing the opposite. If you follow my blog regularly, you know one of my biggest struggles is controlling how I eat food. So when the still small voice (Holy Spirit!) says I’ve eaten enough for this meal and I keep eating, I am not obeying. But when I listen to the voice and stop eating, can I just say one thing? It is LIBERTING. To know you’ve done the right thing, by the grace of God, is empowering. And yes, even the little things! You can’t do the right thing in the big issues if you aren’t continually doing it in the small things. Or if you do, you’re heart probably isn’t in the right place. For example (food again.. haha), if I am not making good food choices at home, I can still make good food choices when I am eating in front of other people. But guess why I’m doing better in front of others. Not because it’s the right thing to do, but because I want to look like I’m doing the right thing.
Okay, wow. I’m a bit off the main point here. But it all ties together. God is in control of your life, but you have to get out of the way sometimes. So put Him, His word, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit first.
5. Seek the root cause
I have a hard time believing that a person could be experiencing depressed feelings with no root cause. Is it emotional, physical, chemical, etc? I know I have triggers. Emotionally, feelings of guilt are a trigger. Physically, not exercising for days on end is a trigger. Chemically, eating a lot of sugar, or foods that translate into sugar in my gut, is a trigger. Try and identify yours. And avoid the triggers! If you know that being sedentary makes you sad and lazy, schedule time to be active! And be accountable to someone about your triggers. Ask them to ask you (often!) if you are making efforts to avoid your triggers. Set yourself up to succeed.
Repeat, Repeat, REPEAT!
This is the most important part! And this is the part that seems most difficult. Did you make it through day 1? Great! Start this all again on day 2. And 3. And 4. You get the idea. Just don’t give up. God’s mercies are new each morning. But that also means that each mornig is new. You aren’t done if you made it through yesterday. Focus on today. Or this hour, or MINUTE, if necessary.
Do you agree? Do you disagree? I’d love to hear your perspective on this. Can you share any of your own ideas on how to ‘manage’ depression without chemical dependency?
I am NOT a doctor (obviously), so please take this opinion-based post with a grain of salt. I have not been ‘diagnosed’ with any depression issues since I was a teen/young adult. However, for a short time I took some medication after having our first child, mostly because I was so drained I didn’t think to argue with my Obstetrician. I only took it for one month and realized I didn’t want to be taking it. So I stopped and honestly didn’t see much of a difference from before to during to after. This does NOT mean that I think medications for depression are never appropriate.
I’m also not here to say that any anti-depression medication is wrong, but I think we owe it to ourselves to seek the real issues and not become dependent on chemicals to cover our symptoms. But if you are someone who struggles with typical depression symptoms, like I have, getting through the day may be all you can do right now. So please do what you feel you should. But the above are some things that I will keep in mind for myself in place of medication.