Are you feeling angry? Exhausted? Anxious? Isolated? Frustrated?
Maybe it’s some combination of all of the above?
It would be hard to find someone that isn’t struggling with aspects of life during this pandemic. But for some people, it’s more than just a fleeting emotion. Something awful is lingering, and it’s affecting everything.
I know that feeling all too well. My name is Ella, and I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety since I was seven years old.
What you are feeling may not be depression — I’m not a doctor. But even if it doesn’t have a label, those feelings suck.
It’s defeating to wake up already out of energy. It’s disheartening to know that it’s just a matter of time before you snap at someone. It’s confusing to want to be with people and still feel secretly glad when no one reaches out.
No two experiences are exactly the same, but the way I experience anxiety feels similar to how the world is dealing with the pandemic. I live in a whirlwind of second-guessing myself, which feels like constantly consuming misinformation and conflicting theories. At times the end can seem nowhere in sight. I’ve had to learn to accept a state of uncertainty.
It has taken me years to develop coping skills for depression. I’ve cried many tears. I’ve self-harmed. I am medicated. I’ve been hospitalized. It has been a painful journey. At times, having a constant battle with mental health has made it hard to see the goodness of God. In my darkest hours, I’ve cried out to God just to make me “normal.”
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is titled “Present Suffering and Future Glory.” It’s in the book of Romans, written by a leader of the early church named Paul. It says that our pain here on earth, no matter how awful, doesn’t compare to the glory that is to come. And Paul knew suffering.
He writes about his hunger, thirst, imprisonment, and persecution. But in this passage, there’s hope: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I know it may sound super annoying, but I have seen Him work through my years of depression for good today. I’m confident He will for you too. It’s OK if you don’t believe that, but stick with me for a minute.
The powerfully unique thing about this cultural moment is how many of us are feeling so much lower than normal. What if this shared experience can actually draw us together?
Maybe it’s an opportunity for stigma to be broken wherever mental illness has been misunderstood in the past—and a chance to stand together in getting through it.
If this is your first experience with symptoms of depression or anxiety, I hope you will allow the hardship to give you empathy for those of us with clinical mental illnesses. I am also sorry that you are going through this. I do not wish the experience on anyone. I have hope that the skills I’ve gained with a lifetime of symptoms will help you in healing right now.
My biggest breakthroughs have come from realizing I do not have to change my circumstance all on my own, and my circumstances don’t have to change for God to be good. God is in control and present.
But you don’t have to just pray and wait. God calls us to care for ourselves and to be creatures of action. There are things that you can do while waiting to see His goodness.
5 Coping skills for depression
So here we go. Ella’s Guide to Kinda Keeping It Together When You’re Falling Apart:
- Take care of yourself physically. There are rules to our body’s design that we all have to live by if we want to feel our best.
- Put down the brewskies and pick up the plain, pure water. Aim for 90 oz. a day.
- Fight against comfort eating. My weakness is a major sweet tooth. Try to aim for balanced nutrition.
- Be routine with sleep. Go to bed at a regular time and get up around the same time every day.
- Keep it simple. This is not the time to start a new health goal or set strict habits.
- Try not to get frustrated with the feelings you’re experiencing. It’s OK to have a full range of feelings. God understands them. Just say them to him out loud.
- We all have thoughts that are sometimes healthy and sometimes unhealthy. Acknowledge it.
- Exchange your entire to-do list for one task you promise to do. Go for small achievements.
- Focus on tomorrow if today is going poorly. Take the L and move forward.
- Pray, even if that means venting. God can handle it.
- Reject shame. Try to lean into God’s grace instead. You’re allowed to have needs and make mistakes and try again.
- Rely on support. We were never meant to thrive independently, all on our own. We need other people.
- You don’t have to tell the whole world. Find a trusted friend or two to talk to about how you’re feeling.
- If you live with others, tell them in advance that you are feeling irritable. It’s not actually their fault. Taking it out on them will come back to bite you.
- Ask someone for accountability on a daily goal. It can be big or small. You don’t even have to say it’s for mental health. Just say you keep forgetting to (fill-in-the-blank).
- Do that “self-care” thing. God said to love others as we love ourselves, which means we have to actually love ourselves well first.
- People don’t explain this buzzword very well. Self-care is finding a way to refresh. Carve out time for it every day and go after it unapologetically.
- Find what gives you relief. Simple, unproductive, and relatively quick activities are best. I’ve been dying my hair or sketching.
- Spiritual self-care is important, too. Journaling, meditation, and listening to uplifting music are good examples.
- Consider practicing Sabbath to refill more deeply every week.
- Seek more help if you need it. Relying on experts is not a weakness. It is smart. God instructs us to look to the wise when we are not sure what action to take.
- There’s no shame if you need more support. Therapy is a powerful tool.
- If you find yourself relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms (binge drinking, bodily harm, or high-risk activities), seek a professional.
- If you’re feeling suicidal, don’t wait. Call for help at 1-800-273-8255 or 911. I have before and would again.
It is OK to rely on God and healthy habits or medical care. Our creator gave therapists and doctors, and chemists the ability to create tools to help us. We are meant to rely on God. Creating a deep bond with your Heavenly Father is crucial to peace and emotional resilience. We are also meant to utilize the world He has given us. Practice both. Get better at both.
You are worthy of whatever change it takes.