*Guest blog by Aaron Ivey and Abigail Castel
For a lot of reasons, December is such a fun time of the year. Holiday spirit is ramping up, the weather is cooling down, parties and gatherings are in full swing, and your favorite coffee shop probably has a Christmas-themed drink.
But for other reasons, this can be the beginning of a dark few months. The days are short, the skies are gray, energy is low and motivation is fleeting. You’re fighting to find a balance between enjoying a festive time and keeping your head above water.
Seasonal depression affects more than 3 million people a year in the US, and yet it can feel so incredibly lonely. Sometimes the festivities are like a bandaid – a short-term distraction for something that will still be there long after the lights are taken down and your box of decorations return to the attic.
Maybe you’re reading this right now and it’s not you this is describing, but a loved one. Maybe they opened up to you about it last year, and it slipped your mind that it could be happening again. The holiday season is such a special time, but it can also be the busiest time of the year. I think it’s easy to forget that some people are suffering in silence, including the ones who we committed to praying for.
As people who have battled our own levels of depression, we know these feelings far too well. But we also know that there is hope – tools to help you move forward a little more each day, or tools to help you help someone else move forward a little each day.
We wanted to share some of the things that have been helpful to us in fighting the winter blues and navigating seasons that are less than merry and bright.
Try really hard not to isolate yourself
It’s tempting to, and may even feel comfortable to do so, but being alone may not help you get out of mental fog. It may actually keep you there because there’s nothing in your surroundings that will motivate you to step out.
There’s a difference between solitude and isolation: Loneliness. Yes, you’re technically alone in both solitude and isolation. The difference is that solitude breeds peace, whereas isolation breeds loneliness.
Invite people over, not as a distraction, but as a way to embrace community and fellowship. Create a space that’s inviting to yourself and others. Be with nature, as a reminder that God creates beautiful, living things – and you’re one of them.
Have a few safe people that know about this
We know this can feel scary, but it’s important. Not isolating yourself is a great first step, but you can still be struggling in a crowded room. Think about a few people who are safe to share this with. People you feel comfortable checking in with. People that allow you to be your full self, even if it’s not your best self. Ask if they can commit to praying for you, checking in on you, and walking this journey this you.
Stop for a moment and imagine that you’re lost. Your GPS is broken, you’ve been driving around in circles and cannot figure out how to get home. You call a trusted friend and tell them you’re stuck in downtown Austin and need a little help with directions. But what you didn’t tell them is that you’re actually in the Chihuahuan Desert, your car battery is dead, and you need them to come and pick you up. No matter how hard they try, how perfect their directions are, they will never be able to help you get home if they don’t know where you really are.
You can spend every day with someone, never share the truth about where your mind is, and convince yourself that you’re not isolated but on the inside, you are.
This is a step further, a step deeper from not isolating yourself.
This is inviting people into your pain.
Some of the most common symptoms of depression are the loss of interest, low energy, and poor self-esteem. A big way that we’ve fought to combat those feelings in us is to be inspired and stay inspired.
Watch a great documentary like Free Solo or Won’t You Be My Neighbor. Get in a spirit of overcoming and know that you can do that, too. Try out a reading project like The Bible Recap, or simply be encouraged by stories of the Bible through BibleProject.
Learn something new that you can put creativity into. Have you been wanting to learn how to cook? Here’s a great place to get inspired. Want to learn an instrument? There are thousands of videos on YouTube. Maybe pottery, woodworking, painting, or floral arranging to name a few. These things may seem small and unimportant, but they can be a great way to put your energy into a purpose.
Or maybe your journey to overcoming and inspiration is through something much more simple: Sabbath. Resting in the Lord to fill you, inspire you, and remind you of His goodness. Take time to praise Him and adore Him for who He is, and not just what He has done for you.
Conversations for you:
We’re with you, we see you, and we want to support you. We know this is a hard time and waves of hopelessness can rush through. Our prayer is that you find something that is helpful in getting through another day, week, or month – until you can see a glimmer of light in the distance again. And before you know it, it’s close enough to touch.
CONNECT WITH JAMIE
Are you ready to finally bloom where you’re planted? To finally free yourself to flourish? Then jump into You Be You, and you’ll find yourself satisfied and succeeding in ways you never expected.Do you feel like you and your spouse are never on the same team? Do you want a flourishing and vibrant marriage, but wonder how in the world to get there? Then dive into Complement and see what happens.