During the coronavirus or other times of major disruptions, parents or teens who know they are prone to depression or depressive feelings may feel like they are sinking. Yet, there is hope. Writer for Plugged In and the book, Beauty in the Browns: Finding Christ in the Darkness of Depression (coming out soon), Paul Asay, shared how he has spent most of his adult life learning how to live with mild to moderate depression. Then the COVID19 quarantine became a reality and Paul realized even more diligence was needed. “Folks who struggle with depression may find their sequestered lives in small ways or big ways mirroring a depressive episode.” However, using Bible verses of hope and specific coping skills can help parents and children. Depression doesn’t have to win. Just keep taking the next right step forward.
Coping Skills: Next Right Steps Forward
I also reached out to friend and licensed counselor, Tim Sanford, about skills to help with depression. “Motion is lotion,” he said. The unusual phrase stopped me. “What?” I asked. He went on to explain that depression is a physiological state. Your brain and body slow down dramatically, and it is hard to do some of the routine things of life. Therefore, motion is like the lotion that brings relief. Motion keeps up the inertia needed for living. It may not relieve depression instantaneously, but it can move you to the next right step which brings hope.
Coping Skill #1 – Routines
Even while in quarantine, keeping your routine the same, as much as possible, helps. When your brain is tired, routine brings a level of familiarity and hope. Keep the routine–not because your feel like it but just because. Get dressed. Brush your teeth. Eat your breakfast. Whatever your routine is, try to stick with it as much as possible. If you have to have a new routine because you are self-quarantining, decide what the routine is and repeat it as many days as possible. This would include a good bedtime routine. Turn off electronics an hour before bed, play mellow music, listen to Bible verses or read; whatever helps to wind down at night.
Stay busy during the day. Paul shared how being busy and marking things off of his to-do list helped him. There is a certain amount of satisfaction that comes from accomplishing tasks. If big tasks are overwhelming, focus on smaller steps. Then make sure to do something you enjoy. For example, read a book or play a great video game with the family — just as long as you enjoy it. A few tasks completed and good down time every day will have a cumulative effect with coping and can bring hope.
Coping Skill #2 – Taking Care of Your Body
Remember the “motion is lotion” phrase? Moving helps the blood flow to your brain. Tim Sanford shared that frequency is more important than how hard or long it is. Try stretching, running, going up and down the stairs, take a walk around the block or any other exercise you enjoy. And if you can get sunshine into your routine, even better. If you are not able to get outside, go to the windowsill or look into light therapy via sun lamps with your family doctor.
Eating plays a big part in how a person feels too. Studies show moods are affected by our gut since serotonin is produced in your intestines, not your brain. Serotonin is one of the chemicals in your body that makes you feel good. Therefore, when we are feeling sad, we may want to eat junk food or sweets. And even though there is an initial rush it can lead to a deeper slide into depression. So, eating healthy food is very important. And if making food seems overwhelming, try and find a good health drink or protein bar. Do what you can to fuel your body well. It can improve your mood.
Coping Skill #3 – Regulation
Too much sensationalized news can overwhelm a brain that is already struggling to keep its serotonin level. Therefore, be careful what you listen to. Perhaps consider only one source of trusted news or talking to a friend who can share crucial information with you. It is not about burying your head in the sand, but managing the news you get.
Anxiety is often coupled with depression even though they are different. Anxiety or worry about the “what if’s” of the future can deplete a person and therefore leave them depressed. If anxiety is hitting you and accelerating the downward spiral, work to keep your brain focused on what is happening right now in the moment. Use simple coping skills to help ground your brain in the present.
“Not many things can give you immediate relief. Getting out of depression is a long process. It is like running a marathon. You don’t feel like running, but you keep moving, one foot in front of the other. Not because you feel like it but because you will it. And eventually, you cross the finish line.”Paul Asay
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Hope Is Found in Thankfulness
While we have talked about coping skills, verses of hope can help with depression too. Try writing down verses that inspire you. Also, a gratitude journal can improve your mood. Write three things you are thankful for every day. Even if they seem little (“I found that missing sock”) or big (“I was able to talk to my grandmother who is in hospice”), each can help you remember what matters most. Studies have verified when you focus on others and giving, you feel happier, more hopeful.
“Look out, not in. Look forward, not back. Look up, not down.”Paul Asay
Verses of Hope Look to God
If we think it is unchristian to struggle, be depressed, broken hearted or despairing–read your Bible again! Our own savior was called “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” in Isaiah 53:3. And David records his many struggles in the Psalms. One poignant verse, Psalm 42:11, quotes David, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” He definitely knew what it was like to feel depressed. However, the verse finishes with this hopeful, upward-gazing phrase, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” He set his will to praise God, even during the hard times. Like Paul Asay suggests, we need to look up. Bible verses of hope help us do that.
Finally, living with symptoms of depression can feel like walking through a stream that threatens your ability to walk. But when the world goes crazy, like during a pandemic, that stream can quickly turn into an ocean. It can feel like you are sinking in the deep with no help in sight. Yet, there is hope. Bible verses of hope and coping skills can help many find a strong rope of support in the deep end of depression. It is not a cure, but an offering of help. Take the next right step forward.