Hello Online Community. It’s hard to feel like a whole person, much less have the energy to engage out of all we are when depression and anxiety are present. We have been designed by God in His image to be whole people with spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs.
As we go through life our mind, body, or soul experiences internal or external suffering. These are trying times for our relationship with God and others as our suffering often impacts how we see God, others and ourselves. We need help to suffer well without over spiritualizing, causing contempt or increasing depression and anxiety.
This handout specifically addresses living as a healthy whole disciple with specific pointers for those experiencing depression and anxiety.
Keep in mind these tips are most helpful when done in conjunction with a care or treatment team.
Soul Health/Spiritual nourishment. “Our souls are healthy to the extent we maintain connection and receptivity to God.”-Mindy Caliguire, Willow Creek. “The soul is the engine room of our lives.”-Brian Houston, Hillsong Church.
When we are depressed and anxious there are chemical changes in our body that can influence our thoughts, physical body, and our emotions. Our brain has been designed by God to be active but when we are depressed there is very little activity in the areas of our brains which help us think clearly.
Your connection to God is much needed during a regular day but becomes so much more necessary when the voice of depression or anxiety attempt to muffle Gods. The steps you take to honor the limits we all have allow you to be available and approachable for God to speak to you. Take time to help your soul be with God.
There may be times when you don’t hear God even when you do all the praying, worshiping and spiritual disciplines you are able to do as the chemical changes caused by depression and anxiety occur. Taking these steps will help to allow your body to slowly become more in sync with your soul. Continue to help your soul throughout the seasons of life:
- Teach your soul to be quiet. Ps 62:5
- Educate your soul and preach the truth to yourself. Prov 19:2 You can have lots of degrees or doctorates, but ultimately it is what your soul knows that directs your life.
- Fill your soul with hope. Heb 6:19
- Teach your soul to boast and declare God’s love. Ps 34:2
- Teach your soul to be accountable. Accept responsibility and accountability for your choices and invite the Lord to lead you. Ps 119:10; 139:23
- Teach your soul to lament, grieve or mourn with confidence. Ps 42; 130
Healthy eating with nutritional supplements. What you eat determines how you feel and sometimes think, so choose your food wisely and consider being tested for food allergies.
- Eliminate nicotine, caffeine and decrease simple carbohydrates. Also limit refined sugars and processed sweeteners.
- It’s amazing what depression and anxiety can literally “feed on” and sugar is one of the biggest cravings while we feel depressed or anxious, with cravings for carbs a close second. Don’t feed the depression or anxiety; instead fuel your body with food it needs to be restored to full health from the depression and anxiety.
- Vitamin or supplements may be recommended as led by your doctor. Consider asking your primary care physician or your medical doctor about brain healthy supplements you can add to your health regimen. Depression and anxiety do impact your brain and over time can create chemical changes that either medication or quality supplements can re-balance. It is helpful to make sure your body is metabolizing the medication and/or supplements. This means you need to take the proper amounts based on the instructions given and get re-tested to assure your body is making the needed changes.
Life Rhythm or Rule. A rhythm or rule for life is a simple statement of the regular rhythms we choose in order to partner with God for transformation; they are a brief and realistic scaffold of practices that support your heart’s desire to grow in loving God and others. It honors your limits and your God-given longings. (2 sources: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Calhoun, p35; and www.emotionallyhealthy.org )
- Learn to delegate and honor your limits—our schedules can control us and increase depression or anxiety experiences. Learn how to delegate things others could do at least 65-80% as well as you could if at all possible. Practice saying the word “no” to things that don’t line up with your schedule, values, and goals; or consider saying “let me think about it and get back to you” first.
- Practice gratitude—if you want your brain to work better, practice being grateful on a daily basis. A frightened brain looks very different in a brain scan than a brain that has mulled over things it is grateful for. Write down 5 things you are grateful for every day. When depressed patients in Dr. Daniel Amen’s study completed this exercise daily, they needed less anti-depressant medication.
Proper hydration. Water is your body’s lubricant so make sure you get enough for you and avoid an abundance of substances that cause dehydration like caffeine and alcohol.
- Most doctors consider 6-8 glasses of 8 ounces each a proper amount of water for our bodies, but there are other calculations to determine if you are getting enough water.
- Drink purified water or use a high-quality water filter.
- Add flavor to your water by cutting up fruit, or add in some sugar free flavoring.
Restorative sleep. Guard your sleep and plan well to prepare your body for rest; that may mean setting aside time before bed to slow down. Often 6-9 hours of sleep is optimal, but some of us need less or more at certain ages or seasons/times..
Physical movement. Our bodies are made to move, so plan daily exercise and ask your doctor to help you determine healthy options for this season. A general rule is exercise for 20-30 minutes 5-7 times a week. Do you like to walk, dance, run, skip rope….? Here’s some incentive!
- Physical activity enhances cognitive ability at all ages.
- Exercise enhances mood and alleviates depression by increasing the neurotransmitters that balance our moods.
- The antidepressant benefits of exercise have been documented to show in one study that exercise that was consistently elevating the heart rate and strengthening muscle was equally effective as Zoloft when the exercise was done for a full 12 weeks. Talk to your medical doctor and/or a personal trainer about an exercise plan for you!
- High intensity activity, for healthy bodies, such as aerobic workouts, dancing, swimming or such, will soothe anxiety and reduces the incidence of panic attacks.
Social community fun. We are made to be in relationship. Laughter and joy with others have immediate physical, mental and spiritual effects. Some seasons we have less social interactions than others, but we always need to be mindful of our social needs and plan for time with healthy others.
- Consider a healthy activity you want to do and invite others to join you.
- Telling others about Christ is part of who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ so share your story with others.
- Also mourning with others, comforting others and allowing them to comfort us leads to blessing.
- If you are a believer and are currently un-married, abstaining from sexual intimacy is a helpful way to remove depression and anxiety. As a believer your spirit is not made for sexual intimacy outside of marriage so your body may have depression or anxiety experiences if you choose to engage in sexual activity of any form while un-married.
What’s your next step after reading through Living as a Healthy Whole Disciple?
What is one regular practice that helps you live as a whole person with depression and anxiety?
Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She is also a certified Critical Incident Stress Management coach and co-founder of Renue.Me. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com