Depression

Like an ocean wave the feeling of sadness flowed over me, knocking me down, swirling me around until I did not know the way back up; losing all hope, I accepted the end of joy.

This is the season of depression. Cold, dreary days and long nights. Christmas bills and taxes. The holidays are over. Nothing to look forward to until Spring. I can clearly remember elementary school, and how down I felt during the first week back to school after the Christmas holidays. The first week of January has never been a pleasant week for me. But I refuse to allow my down mood to grow into depression.

Depression is a relatively mild and short-lived experience for most people. The common occurrence of depression at this time of year is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is associated with short, gray days and long nights. Darkness oppresses mood, diluting joy, limiting happiness, extending grief, and magnifying problems into hopelessness. Add in the seasonal challenges of weather, and the relational challenges that are often intensified by the holidays, and depression becomes a common problem for many people. And, since emotion seems to be contagious, being surrounded by depressed people is itself depressing. So, if you feel like you are depressed, you probably are, but don’t worry.  Depression is common for this time of year.

There are many things that a person can do to overcome this type of depression. For example, since darkness intensifies depression, you should turn on all the lights in the room as soon as you get home.  I leave a lamp burning in my entry way, so I walk into lit house.  Beginning in the fall, I change the wattage of light bulbs to the brightest that will safely fit in my light fixtures. If you are using the new low-wattage spiral fluorescent bulbs, you need to allow a few minutes for them to warm up to full brightness. I turn on the light in my closet when I first get up in the morning, so it will be brighter when I need it. On sunny days, I try to spend at least a few minutes outside, even if it is bitterly cold. One advantage of living in Arkansas is the warmer, brighter winter days. But even when I lived further north, I sought out the sunshine.

You should also avoid sad shows, sad movies, sad books, and sad songs (no Blues or Country until April). Actively seek out happy people. Exercise regularly (especially walking). Eat healthy. Sleep regularly. Count your blessings. Make plans for spring and summer activities. Read the Psalms. Soon you will be back to normal.

Some people fall deeper into the cycle of depressed feelings, negative thoughts, sad feelings, morbid thoughts, and the feeling of despair that is almost impossible to overcome. There is help! This kind of depression requires a helping hand. Talk to your doctor. There are great medications available to help stabilize your mood. See a good counselor. There are new ways of thinking that will help you to control your emotion. Life does not have to be a burden unless you let it.

For Christians: When a feeling of depression begins, immediately pray, thanking God for as many blessings as you can, and ask for strength to think and feel right. Call a friend. Do not hibernate. Read the book of Philippians or the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Avoid Ecclesiastes.

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