- Shawna Duvall
Five ways to start climbing out of that pit (especially on days you don't want to)
Some days are diamonds, aren't they? And some days...well...some days melancholy comes knocking at the door. When it does, we have a choice. We can open the door wide, welcoming it on in to stay awhile. Or, we can choose to do what may feel unnatural and take action steps towards sending it on its way.
I had one of those "struggle" days the other day. The kind where I just wanted to throw in the towel, give up and hide under the covers. Lies swirled, emotions bounced all over the map and nothing really made sense. It could have been a waste of a day, but a few small decisive moments made a huge difference.
They might not be the "cure all" for the blues, but these are a handful of tried and true practices that help renew the mind and recenter the soul when you feel the clouds are rolling in. Maybe one or two will resonate and offer a little encouragement or the motivation you might need for today...
1) Do something out of routine. Sometimes just shaking things up helps change perspective and boost creativity. Something new may increase adrenaline and add excitement to your day. If the weather is nice, get outside. If possible, get out of the house. Can you work from a coffee shop or communal space? If you've got kids, run errands or go to the library or park. Try a different grocery store. If you're at work all day, maybe take your break outside. Do something out of the ordinary. Drive home a different way. Light candles or hang twinkle lights at home. Buy a three dollar bouquet of grocery store flowers. End your day in a hot bath with lots of bubbles.
2) Move. Exercise and water are always the Sunday School answer, aren't they? But it's only because they work. God designed it that way. So, yeah...fill up your water bottle and add some lemon. But also...what moves you? What activity do you enjoy? Try a different YouTube workout. If you have little ones at home, have a dance party. Breathe and stretch. Do yoga. Get your heart rate up with a power walk or run. Play loud, upbeat music while driving or making dinner and move to the beat (maybe something nostalgic...I don't know...like ABBA Gold or a little 90s pop? :) If you're having an especially difficult day emotionally, make yourself move physically even though you may not feel like it. Rarely does anyone regret time spent moving and strengthening their body.
3) Journal and lament. You may feel all alone, but God hears every word and collects every tear. That's a promise. So, cry out to him. Be real with him. If you have no words, the Psalms will be your comfort and guide. When I journal my prayers, I am able to pour out my heart in raw offering before God, wrestling through doubts, fears, and sinful flesh until the truth becomes crystallized and clear. We are in an irrevocable covenant relationship with our Heavenly Father through Christ. Because of this, we can draw near to the throne of grace with confidence. Trust him with your heart and believe that as you lament and and focus on the all-sufficiency of Christ and his Word, you will find healing for your soul.
4) Rehearse scripture and preach the gospel. Everyday we should be preaching gospel to ourselves, namely who Christ is and what he has done. Remind yourself of the character of God...his faithfulness, tenderness, steadfast love, grace, mercy and sovereign power. And rehearse the truth of your union with Christ and your identity in him. Here are a few scriptures to write on a card...
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
1 Peter 1:13
5) Reach out and relate. We are hardwired for relationship. Even if it feels safer to hide or handle things alone, reach out. I recently learned from a TED talk how social interaction releases in us the hormone oxytocin. It's like God's warm, fuzzy, comfort-feeling hormone. So, on a difficult day, be brave and let someone know you are struggling. Take off your mask and have a conversation with a trusted friend. If you spend much of the day alone, get face to face. Limit social media; while certainly having its place, it is counterfeit relationship and will end up having a more negative effect on our mental and emotional well-being. Or...perhaps consider a way to serve someone else. Listen to someone else's problems. Help meet a friend's emotional or physical need. This will take the focus off of yourself and help you view things from a greater, eternal perspective.
I realize this is all fairly obvious. Nothing new under sun, right? But, sometimes the most obvious things get overlooked. Maybe a quick evaluation of your personal go-to strategies for fighting off depression will help you identify one area you can work on putting into practice for the next time melancholy comes knocking.
And together we can join in the chorus of Psalm 42, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."