In today’s society, the number of people facing anxiety and depression is growing, compared to that of previous generations. Even though many people fear the stigma that comes with using anti-depressants, their use is increasing, even among the Christian community. While many reasons can be attributed to this rise in use of anti-depressants, I would like to focus instead on some thoughts about depression itself and what we can do to combat it in our lives.
In reality, depression is a combination of genetics, emotional well-being, spiritual life, physical activity, past trauma and other factors.
While some people focus on genetics and I was “born this way” (and there might be some truth to this), there is often a lack of focus on the things we can control. Some believe that using anti-depressants should be the “magical pill” that solves and ends most of their problems. Anti-depressants, when used as a resource to get us to a mental state where we can function properly, are just the beginning of our healing. And then the real work begins. A good analogy I once heard stated, “anti-depressants are shoes I put on that allows me to walk; now that I have put on the shoes, it is my responsibility to move forward.”
Once we are at a mental state where we can function properly (either with or without medication), what are some of the steps we can take to “move forward” and combat depression in our lives?
As previously mentioned, depression can be caused by emotional, physical, spiritual, and other factors. A good place to start is to do an inventory of how healthy we are inward. The following list contains some questions we can ask ourselves to begin the process.
- Is there an underlying addiction that I might be unaware of?
- Are there resentments and anger I am holding on to which are festering?
- Am I surrounding myself with people who encourage me, or are my close relationships a negative burden?
- Do I constantly blame others for my problems?
- Am I taking time daily to connect with God through prayer, meditation, and scripture reading?
- Do I have fellow believers with whom I am close and on whom I can lean in difficult times?
- Is there someone in my life who knows everything about me, someone I can confess to, even my worst parts?
- Am I confessing my sins to God and to another human being regularly?
- Have I identified major character flaws in my life that I need to allow God to come into my life and work on? (ex: pride, ego, self-reliance, envy, jealousy, etc.)
- Am I allowing fears to creep in and unknowingly dictate my life?
- Am I getting enough sleep daily?
- Am I taking one day off in the week to relax? (ex: the Sabbath)
- How are my eating habits? Am I feeding myself a healthy, well-balanced diet?
- Is there physical exercise in my life? (ex: weight lifting, running, biking, walking, etc.)
- Am I taking time during the day to slow down physically and rest?
- Am I consuming excess alcohol or caffeine which can lead to mood swings?
While the above list is not at all exhaustive, it is a good place to start.
One of the great things about 12-step programs is that they address many of these issues head-on, specifically in emotional and spiritual areas. Addicts who have gone through a 12-step program began either completely devasted or pretty close to it because of their addiction, which obviously would have had them in a very depressive state.
Many churches now provide “small groups” which mimic in many ways what 12-step programs offer – community, deep dives into our lives, accountability, less reliance on ourselves, and more reliance on others and God.
While there are many factors for depression, let us focus on the parts we can control. What in your life can you begin to take steps to “move forward” to help combat depression and live a happy, abundant life? Today is a great day to start!
Dr. Jessica Gibbe Fernandez is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Alabama. She is a Certified Sex Therapist, a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and an Approved Supervisor for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Jessica’s clinical interests include marriage and couples therapy, healthy relationships, and family therapy. She sees adolescents and adults with depression, anxiety, stress, self-esteem and personal growth issues, life transitions, gender issues (LGBTQ+), sexuality issues, family adjustment and acculturation.