Today I’m going to switch hats just a little and put on my “counselor hat”. (For those who don’t know, I’m not only a personal trainer, but I also have a Master’s degree in Social Work and professional counseling experience).
I was talking to a friend of ours yesterday, and he was mentioning how he has had two major depressive episodes in his life. The first one left him without even a will to live. Fortunately, he was treated and now knows the symptoms to look for and what to do when he starts to feel them.
I started thinking about how depression is so insidious because it attacks every facet of your life… physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Physically, you usually have problems with appetite, sleep, energy, motivation, and sex drive among others. Emotionally, you may feel weepy or just plain apathetic. You tend to isolate yourself from others. Your attitude is usually negative, and you just can’t seem to pull yourself out of it. You will probably struggle with issues of self-doubt, self-esteem, and fear (ex: fear of inadequacy; fear of intimacy; fear of failure). Mentally, you tend to believe all kinds of horrible things about yourself. You might obsess on the negatives you see all around you (if this is the case – don’t watch the news!) Spiritually, you just feel depleted and drained. You lose your purpose in life and start wondering why you were even put on this earth to begin with. Satan would like nothing better for people to be in this state, and if you look around you – you probably know plenty of people who are.
I started thinking that depression is just like most diseases… it’s probably easier to prevent than to cure through intentional, proactive choices. Granted, some people might be more likely to suffer depression due to a family history of depression; child abuse or neglect; traumatic experiences; etc. However, it is my opinion that if you are not depressed now, then it would be very wise for you to take measures now in order to prevent becoming depressed in the future. Depression can hit any of us any time as is evidenced by the fact of such an astounding number of people on anti-depressant medication in this country.
Here are some tips to help prevent depression:
1) Take care of your physical health by engaging in regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and getting plenty of rest. Studies show that people who exercise regularly are less likely to get depressed than people who don’t.
2) Watch your thought life. There is actually a scripture verse about this: Phil. 4:8 says “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things”. This is so wise! It also includes avoiding things that send you negative messages. I am very careful about what I put in my mind through the media…. I’m careful about the books I read, the movies I watch, television shows, etc. The old saying “garbage in, garbage out” is completely true. If you fill your mind with garbage, then guess what comes out!!!
3) Pay attention to the messages you tell yourself. We have so many thoughts during the day, and we tell ourselves so many things that we’re probably not even conscious of. A lot of these messages are things we’ve internalized from our parents or other significant people in our lives from when we were kids. Unfortunately, a lot of it is also negative. Try to catch yourself in these thoughts… when you do; intentionally reframe that thought so that it conforms to what is actually true (most of the time we end up believing complete lies about ourselves). Your thoughts follow your beliefs; your emotions follow your thoughts; and most of the time, your actions follow your emotions. If you believe the truth about yourself, then you will think positive thoughts, which will lead to positive emotions, which will lead to positive attitudes and behaviors.
4) Spend time with God every day. God loves you and has a plan and purpose for your life. He’s just waiting for you to come to Him and to enjoy your relationship with Him. Jesus died for you so that you can freely experience this.
5) Write out your mission statement and review it regularly. This will remind you of your purpose on this earth and how you are unique and especially gifted to fulfill a special role in this universe. Only you can be you and do what you do. Your life is meant to positively impact the lives of those in your circle of influence.
6) Keep a journal. This will help you process your thoughts and emotions. Over time, you will see patterns emerge, and hopefully growth as you overcome challenges and obstacles in your life.
7) Enjoy the simple things in life. Don’t get so busy that you forget to notice the little things like the welcome breeze blowing in your face on a hot summer’s day; or a baby’s smile; or the smell of a flower. That may sound cheesy, but sometimes it’s the simple things in life that help put everything in perspective.