Few Practical Helps
Note: No information on this site should be used as medical
Here are some things that people have found helpful in dealing with various aspects of the mental and emotional struggles of anxiety, depression, seasonal affected disorder, and more. Not all of them will necessarily apply to all problems. You will have to go through them and ask the Lord to show you what will help your particular situation, or that of your loved one. The list may also suggest other things to your mind more useful to your specific situation. If you have a suggestion that you have found helpful that is not listed here, please send email.
None of the things listed here are cures for the depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. and are in no way intended to be used as such. They are merely offered as methods to help deal with symptoms and/or side effects of the affliction. The physical helps may not work equally well in everyone since we all react differently to things. Don't let this discourage you from trying. Keep a notebook of what helps and what does not so you know exactly what to do when/if the trouble arises again. If you are having a serious problem and have not yet sought medical help, please seek the medical help you need first.
Lastly, these are not in order of importance. In some cases it would be very hard to determine what was more important. Obviously the spiritual aspects would be very important. However, this does not mean these should be focused upon to the exclusion of others. As a friend of mine has repeatedly reminded me, the spiritual, physical and emotional are all very closely related to each other. At times it is very hard to determine what the "actual" cause is for our trouble. Because of this, it is best to treat all three areas simultaneously. This concept may offend the "deeply spiritual" who believe depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, etc. are "nothing but sin" and "spiritual problems" and should be treated as such. We are not interested in opinions that stem from that kind of reasoning. 1Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul prayed for the whole body, soul and spirit of the Thessalonians to be preserved blameless. If he thought all three were important, we should too.
Find and memorize some verses pertinent to your situation to cling to.
They may relate specifically to the difficulty which brought about the problem,
or they may be more general purpose. Repeat these verses as often as you need
the comfort and support of God's help - every minute if you have to. If you have
trouble remembering them, print them out and put them on the wall or somewhere
where you will be reminded of them often.
2. Cast yourself wholly upon the Lord. It has been a great help to me to just remind myself to "Rest in the Lord" (Ps. 37:7). Just let yourself rest in His arms and be carried along by Him. He is the kind Shepherd. It is His desire to care for the suffering and hurting sheep. But, we must let Him. See: The Everlasting Arms Deut. 33:27
3. Cast your burden wholly upon the Lord. 1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Though it may be necessary to do so every minute at times, it is necessary to continually offer your cares up to the Lord. I often found myself giving them to Him, and then snatching them back to worry over some more. Just keep giving them to Him as soon as you realize you've got them again. As you keep doing this you will be able to leave them with Him for longer and longer periods of time. It may take a while! DON'T Give Up!
4. Read your Bible and pray. Ps. 94:19 In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul. Ps. 119:54 Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. Even when you feel like you are not "getting enough" out of your Bible reading, keep reading it. Physical food is sometimes hard to force down during these times of emotional upheaval. It can be the same for some in the area of spiritual food. But you must keep on with it just as you must keep on with your physical food. If health is such that you cannot read, listen to a recording of scripture being read or ask someone to read it to you.
Pray. Even if all you can pray is "Lord help me." Even if all you can pray for is strength to make it through the next minute. Talk to God. Talk to Him as your friend, father and strong deliverer. 1Thess. 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
5. Read the Bible with a trusted Christian friend or family member. Share your burdens and talk things out with them. Listen to them. When I had the acute anxiety in 2000, my Physician's Assistant suggested we try a counselor. We didn't know whom we could trust in that time and place, so instead my mom and I started reading the Bible together. We read Acts, which is not a "feel good" book, nor is it particularly a "deep searching" book. But it is God's word, and He used it to get me to share my struggles with my mom. She was able to encourage me and remind me of many things I needed to hear. It is, of course, essential to pick a trustworthy person who obeys the law of Christ. Gal. 6:2
6. Eat a balanced diet. Do not avoid carbohydrates, meat, oil. These are necessary for a healthy brain and body chemistry. If you are a diabetic it is very important not to "waste" your carbohydrate portions on "empty" foods. Eat whole grains as much as possible. Mental illness and emotional disturbances affect the digestion very quickly. When you are in a severe state from stomach disruptions, anorexia or some other problem, it may be hard to eat properly. I found that valiant effort, following the guidance of someone else (my mom, in my case), and ginger were very helpful. A simple diet of oatmeal and chicken soup helped much to start with. Later I added in other things, including Ensure (a nutritional drink for the ill). There are more natural alternatives that I'd look up now if it was needed. If you persist in eating a balanced diet, you will hopefully not come to this point to begin with!
NOTE: Avoid caffeine! It can make you nervous and jittery. Avoid alcohol! It messes with your mind and can add complications to an already difficult situation, even if it makes you feel better temporarily. Scrub your diet of MSG as much as possible. It is an excitotoxin which can trigger anxiety and depression type reactions in some people. You might as well find out if you're one of them! If you are, you may improve by getting away from it.
7. Various supplements can be very useful.
Borage oil or evening primrose oil can be quite helpful. The oils help the body produce serotonin which has a calming effect.
St. John's Wort is used to treat depression. It is not effective for everyone and some women have experienced some hormonal complications with this.
Lemon balm is an herb in the mint family and can be taken as a supplement or a tea. It helps many people to relax. I've used it with good results. Some people find passionflower to be helpful for this also. There are other herbs that might help as well.
Rhodiola Rosea helps the body deal with stress. I have found it helpful some years for my Seasonal Affected Disorder. It is important to take it properly, though, as I've read that it can keep you awake at night if you take it too late in the day.
I also use a homeopathic product called Calms Forte which has been helpful in calming me for both sleep or is particularly stressful situation.
Chamomile and valerian root can be helpful for sleep as well. One product I've found helpful to relax and get restful sleep is called Formula 303 by Dee Cee Labs. I get it from my chiropractor, but it is available online and some other places.
Be sure to consult your physician if you are already on any prescription drugs for any conditions. An herbalist may be able to offer other suggestions or tell you if there are interactions also. Be cautious about herbalists or natropaths. Not all are "created" equal. Some are involved in religious aspects of herbalism. Find a Christian one if you can.
8. Get exercise, sunshine and fresh air. Walking is best. This is hard to overemphasize. I, and others, have found it so helpful! If you are too weak to exercise much, go sit in the sun for 10-15 minutes twice a day - or as long as you can without burning. Walk as much as you can and push yourself to build up strength. If a heart condition is present, get the advice of your doctor as to what would be appropriate. When you exercise your body makes these neat little things called endorphins which help you deal with stress. One research I read about said that people treated for depression who walked and took their medication, were much less likely to need more medication than those who did not walk but only took the meds. Truly, we are fearfully and wonderfully made! (Ps. 139:14)
It has also been found by research that looking at trees actually is beneficial to us physically and mentally, so, if you can, walk where there are trees. (Source: Take Bake Your Outside Mindset by Verla Fortier.)
9. Seek Christian fellowship, especially with those who understand anxiety, depression, or whatever you are dealing with, either from personal experience or close association with it. Those who are struggling with it now, though, may make you worse. So may those with grievous problems in their lives. Let others who are emotionally stronger deal with these folks for now. It is not your duty to become an emotional and physical wreck for someone else's problems. If you are not strong enough to bear other burdens right now don't try to. Lord willing, your time will eventually come when you will be able to do that for someone else. Gal. 6:2 & 5, 2 Cor. 1:3-4. You need the comforting right now.
10. Eat foods that help depression, etc. Psalm 103:5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's. Broccoli, cauliflower, black beans, asparagus, sun flower seeds, and peas all contain chemicals and things that can help the body deal with depression. Turkey is supposed to be high in tryptophan, which is good for us as well. One study of women suffering from emotional type difficulties found that eating a high carbohydrate cookie before going to bed helped them sleep better (created serotonin). Look up lists of food that contain high levels of tryptophan (which is converted to serotonin in the body). Try to include as many of these in you diet as possible.
There are other things that can be beneficial as well. I find that foods are much less daunting at times than trying our herbal remedies. If it's a normal food that a lot of people eat, then why not eat more of it and see if it helps. If it doesn't help significantly, at least I was still eating something health.
11. Get enough magnesium and B Vitamins. Magnesium is used to treat depression and is good for the electrical system of the body. A good quality mineral supplement is a good idea as well.
B Vitamins also help the nerves. We knew a man who became depressed when he got low in B12. If he got shots for it periodically, he was fine - his usual cheerful self. The doctor where he spent his summers refused to give him the shots, so he would fall back into the depression. Talk to your doctor about this possibility. If it wouldn't hurt anything, it would certainly be worth a try. (As with all things, it's important to check with a doctor or pharmacist about possible complications with any medications you are on.) If a supplement won't work for you, try eating foods that supply these things in particular.
12. Get some good vanity and recreation (re-creation) in your life. It will help to keep you in the battle. These are things that really are not "necessities" but just make us feel better in general. From reading a fun book or doing word puzzles to snowmobiling or scrapbooking, from camping out or photography to eating at a favorite restaurant or spending some special time with your spouse or kids - all these and much more can be good vanity and help re-create us. People who suffer regularly from these types of problems are usually more creative. Do something to satisfy your creative impulse. See Ecclesiastes for more information on good vanity. Matt. 6:31.
13. Stop dwelling on yourself and "what's wrong with me." We tend to imagine we have some terrible health problem, or that we are too fat or too thin, or that we are irreparably flawed in some way (emotionally, mentally, etc.). We see our problems or struggles as worse than they usually are. Matt. 6:34
If there is a potential health problem it should be checked into, then try to deal with it and not worry that it's something worse. This also gets easier with practice. (Read Hebrews and focus on the theme that Jesus Christ is so much better - better than anything. He is a much more worthy thought!)
14. Try to get enough sleep. This can be hard at times, since many emotional and mental difficulties tend to disrupt sleep. Especially ask the Lord to give you sleep. Ps. 127:2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. If you really cannot sleep, still try to rest. Getting enough sleep/rest helps deal with stress, it also helps symptoms such as heart racing and headaches and maybe others. It helps the body to repair itself as well. Also, there are various herbal teas and capsules that can be very helpful in getting more rest. (See # 7 & 19)
15. Take care of yourself. Don't stay in your nightclothes all day. Get dressed. Comb or do your hair. You may need a simpler style for a while, but keep it clean and neat. Iron your clothes. Shave. Put on your makeup. In severe times these may be difficult, but try to start as soon as you are physically able. It will make you feel better about yourself. I know. I could tell the difference when I started taking care of myself again. I've also observed a couple of women who were going through depression or anxiety and noted that one symptom they both shared was a neglecting of their appearance. When they started to improve they started to take better care of themselves. If you make the effort to take care of yourself, you'll feel better about yourself as well.
16. Learn to say "No" to yourself and to others. Don't commit yourself to more than you can actually do. If it doesn't get done, too bad. We are not called to do all the things "no body" else can or will do. We're called to follow Jesus. Allow yourself to have a little bit of an "attitude" about this in a friendly way. If you can't do this for yourself, ask your spouse, parent, or other family member or close friend to help you decide and to tell people if necessary. Also, try to say "no" in your mind to your body when you feel like reacting to something in a way you know is unhealthy and not helpful to you. Refuse to fret. This will become easier with practice. I know how hard it is to start this thought process. When I first realized my problem, I used to worry that I was worrying too much. :-) But, God's grace was sufficient to help me begin to stop fretting so much, and then He and others helped me learn to break those thought patterns. (I still have that besetting tendency, but it is better than it was at one time. I still have to refuse thoughts at times.)
Learning to say "No" is very important for those with eating disorders. You must reject the thought patterns that lead you to the excesses or deprivations.
Ephesians 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17. Avoid unnecessary sources of stress as much as possible. Avoid the extra stresses you don't need. Don't take on more. What you are dealing with is enough. Try to avoid those people or things that encourage or add to your stress or wrong thinking patterns. If you are anxious or depressed you might want to avoid - the news, sad/morbid music or stories, movies, television and videos in general, computer and video games, stressful or disturbing reading material, people with serious problems, hyper people or children (if they are your own kids or family, this won't work, but maybe find ways to get breaks), things that stir deep emotions, etc. People who suffer from anxiety, depression and their close relatives, are usually more sensitive and need to be even more careful of the things that enter the eyes and ears.
You may not realize the things that are triggering stress and anxiety at first, but when you try to start noticing how you react to things and ask others to help you notice, you will begin to understand things you specifically need to avoid. (I have noticed that movies/videos can be a big trigger since they usually affect both the eye and ear entrances of the mind.) Too much excitement - even in a good way - can also be a problem. If you go to a football game and a wedding in the same weekend, along with all your usual activities, don't be surprised if it triggers an anxiety attack or effects your stress level negatively. You are introducing extra stimuli that is of a strong nature. Make an effort to limit these things. This isn't "fun", but it's necessary to live a more peaceful life. Accept the fact that peace is of more value than entertainment!
18. Listen to godly, comforting music, but only if it helps you. Some people are greatly helped by music while others may be more agitated by it. A friend of mine who had depression is helped by (good) music, while I often find it nerve-wracking. (Quiet, gentle harp music was an exception.)
19. Use exterior sources to help relax or rest. 1 Tim. 6:17b, James 1:17 Harp music can be especially restful. Some is so relaxing to me I can't listen to it when I'm supposed to be working. :-) This might be useful for helping someone sleep. Lavender has an aroma that is quite relaxing to some. (Be careful; a few people are actually put into almost a stupor from the scent of lavender.) I don't seem to be noticably relaxed by lavender, and I used to enjoy it just as a pleasant scent, but it began to give me migraines, so I had to drop it. Be attentive to things that help, and things that are upsetting your system in some way.
Pets are also very useful in this area, but I would not recommend animals with a hyper, neurotic personality. It seems like that would defeat the purpose. But, petting an animal can be very therapeutic for releasing stress and calming down.
Valerian root is also helpful to some and not strongly addictive like the synthetic valium. Some people also enjoy warm milk, hot tea, chamomile tea, mint tea, back and neck rubs, and many other things.
20. Make a comfort zone or quiet place for yourself. Mark 6:31 Find a special place that you associate with comfort, quiet and peace. For several years, for me it was my cushion beside my window where I sat and looked out and read and meditated. I also associate comfort with my bed (which is a great blessing). It may be a very simple thing (in fact the free ones are the best, as we can enjoy them more often) - sitting in your favorite park for a while, a hot bath with a special soap that smells good, a break in the afternoon for tea and a "bicky" (cookie), a spot in the woods or barn, a hammock under the trees - the possibilities are numerous.
21. Don't try to hide it all. Bottled, fermenting things eventually burst if not handled properly. My Grandpa made root beer when he was a kid and fermented it on the top shelf of his mother's linen closet. One time he filled the bottles too full, or made it wrong, and one of them leaked and ran down all over the linen. When the pressure is too great you need to let some off in a safe environment so that something doesn't get marred by an explosion in the wrong place or at the wrong time. The Lord will show you best how to go about this in your particular case. Psalm 102 starts out - A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the LORD. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee. A good place to pour out our complaint is before the Lord. (Friends or family of the suffering: try to be patient and quiet when the complaint is poured out to you. If Job's three friends had kept their mouths shut when Job started talking, Job might have stopped sooner or not become so insistent in his self-justification. Ask the Lord for wisdom in dealing with this. Elihu was not rebuked by God, though he said many similar things. The main thing was that he was not trying to condemn Job or find out his sin. Job 33:31-33.)
22. When a panic attack or anxiety attack comes -
Breath deeply - deep, slow breaths. This gets oxygen into your blood where it can help nerves and muscles.
Force tense muscles to relax. Lying down: tense your feet - relax them; tense your legs - relax them; tense your torso - relax it; tense your hands - relax them; and so forth to the head. Repeat this as needed, but don't exhaust yourself. You will eventually be able to relax muscles fairly easily without going through the whole process.
At night, sit up and turn a light on. Read something interesting and distracting. (You are not trying to read yourself to sleep, you are trying to get your mind going in another direction.) Wake someone else up if you feel like you need it. If there are no other adults or old enough children for this, see if you have a friend who would be willing to have you call them. (In the last case, try not to abuse privileges.) Text someone who loves the Lord and you and doesn't mind being asked to pray at random hours. Turn on a tape or CD of scripture being read - preferably the Psalms. Psalm 56:3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
23. Enjoy yourself as much as you can. A friend wrote this to me when I was still having much trouble with anxiety. The usefulness of it struck me. Don't worry about enjoying yourself as much as others may, as much as you used to in the past, nor as much as someone thinks you should. Strive for as much as you can. Maybe things are bad, maybe you're still struggling, but if you strive to enjoy things as much as you CAN, at least you can get a little pleasure out of them. And, by doing this you may find yourself enjoying things more! :-) I did.
24. Dig in the dirt. A friend of mine once observed to me how you can be feeling badly in the winter time, but as soon as you can go outside and start digging in the dirt "all your worries just go away." There is truth in this. Not only is gardening very therapeutic, there is also the interesting idea among some people that we need to connect to the earth directly on a daily basis in order to discharge electrically. (Take your shoes off and walk barefoot in the grass or dirt too, if you can.) Genesis 2:8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. The first gardener was God, and a garden was man's first home, so there's obviously something good about it.
25. Set healthy boundaries. This isn't just about saying "no." Healthy boundaries can also be allowing ourselves to do things that are useful and that help us - even when we think that we don't have time or that we shouldn't "waste money" on that. It's also ok to limit how much we will do or participate in certain situations. It's ok to push people out of our lives, or to stop listening to friends or family when all they do is drag us down and make our struggle worse. It doesn't mean it will always be that way, but it may be necessary for now. It's ok to refuse to drink alcohol or coffee, to watch a movie, or to go to a certain place or situations. It's ok if people don't understand why we skipped their wedding Saturday so that we could attend church on Sunday. We need health-giving boundaries to deal with these things.
26. If you need medication, it's ok to take medication.
It is hard to overemphasize this. So many Christians have pushed the idea that "all you need is the Bible." Well, Jesus Christ Himself said, ...They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. Matthew 9:12 These problems aren't all about sin, as some people would have us think. There are often very real physical problems or ailments involved. A genetic mutation that inhibits proper absorption of essential vitamins. A surgery that left a person with low digestion of certain nutrients. A head injury. A high fever. A virus. Trauma. Overexertion for a long period of time. Excessive grief and stress that is unavoidable. Chronic illness. Excruciating pain. Abuse. Inability to sleep. These are examples of things that can lead to depression, anxiety, and more. Sometimes medication will help. Sometimes, it doesn't. Some may need to try various medications before they get relief. Sometimes natural remedies and life style changes are what you need to do. But, it's ok to seek these things out and to treat this as an ailment rather than a fault.
27. Remember the good things God has done. Maybe even start writing them down. Psalm 77:10-13 And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?
My family was going through a tough time when I had my biggest anxiety crisis. At some point, my dad decided we weren't focusing enough on the things that were praiseworthy. He put up a card with a praise verse at the top and then we wrote things on it for which we were praising God - answers to prayer, thanksgivings, praises. When it was full, we turned it over and filled the other side. Over a period of a few years, we filled a number of cards before we let that little project go. But, it was beneficial and helped us think about things that we could write on the praise card.