Lately has it been a colossal effort to drag yourself out of bed? Has it been impossible to concentrate on your work? Are you experiencing headaches and sleeplessness? Are you badly out of shape and feel the effects? Do you find that golf used to be fun, but now it’s extremely boring? Do you have an alarming thought: Maybe this misery would end if I never woke up?
These are signs of a common but serious emotional illness: depression—the common cold of emotional illnesses. And, it is becoming a greater problem with our generation. Doctors are reporting that depression, considered a disease of life’s middle or later years, is surging among younger people. Depression is far more prevalent than most people realize.
Depression is a downward spiral, begun by a loss of control and made worse by a lack of energy and negative thinking. It is a feeling of extreme hopelessness. It manifests itself with feelings that all is lost, that I should quit, that I can’t make it. Symptoms can range from insomnia, fatigue and lack of concentration to emotional paralysis and suicidal thoughts.
Depression is no respecter of persons. Abraham Lincoln’s demeanor was marked with prominent moods of achievement alternating with periods of melancholy and depression. Winston Churchill was a bastion of strength during his political career, but at the same time underwent severe bouts of depression and mood swings.
Everybody get depressed at times. I get depressed. You get depressed. In fact, Dr. Jeffrey Lynn Speller, who specializes in depression, writes, “Often it hits the most ambitious, creative, and conscientious.”
What can you do when you are depressed? Here are five strategies for dealing with mild depression.
- Realize that depression is a symptom of something wrong.
Depression is like the flashing warning light on the dashboard of a car. The way to extinguish it is not by smashing the light, but by lifting the hood and finding the problem. When depression sets in it is a sign of something wrong.
2. Restore your physical body.
A doctor was asked, “What do you do when depressed people who have attempted suicide are brought into the emergency room?” Her answer may surprise you. “Well, sometimes the first thing we do is to feed them, often a steak dinner. They are generally low in protein. We often discover that they have not eaten properly for two of three days. . . . their energy level is low, and their depression level is high.”
People consistently neglect the physical area of their lives and then wonder why they are depressed. The first step toward recovery is to get sufficient rest, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly.
3. Relinquish your frustration to someone.
Regardless of how bad things seem never quit talking to trusted friends or counselors. Relinquishing our frustration is a catharsis—a cleansing out, a venting of all the things that have been pushed down inside of you causing your depression. Often as we talk the flicker of hope ignites within us that breaks through the gloom. The depression begins to pass away and life becomes beautiful once again.
4. Redirect your life.
The quickest way to defeat depression is to quit sitting around in self-pity. Depression feeds on inertia, and action is its natural enemy.
Dr. Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, once gave a lecture on mental health and was answering questions from the audience. Someone asked, “What would you advise a person to do if that person felt a nervous breakdown coming on?”
Most people thought he would say, “Go see a psychiatrist immediately,” but he didn’t. To their astonishment, Dr. Menninger replied, “Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and help that person.”
To beat depression, don’t focus on yourself, but rather, get involved in the lives of other people. Maybe it is time you helped a neighbor, volunteered for a ministry position, gave of yourself to a noble cause.
5. Renew a real friendship.
Don’t battle depression alone. Find a real friend who will provide support and encouragement. Someone who will help you see things as they are not as you perceive them to be. Eugene Kennedy said, “The main business of friendship is to sustain and make bearable each other’s burdens.”
The next time you see the signs of depression coming on, take a few deep breaths, examine your current state of affairs. Is something amiss physically, spiritually, directionally, or relationally? Then, take the steps to get yourself back into proper alignment.
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