Mental illness is a lot more common than you think.
1 in 5 American adults experiences a mental illness at some time in their life. Currently 1 in 10 Americans is on antidepressant medication. 42,000,000 adults live with an anxiety disorder. 20% of kids aged 13-18 live with a mental health condition.
The question is not will I encounter depression; the question is how I respond?
How do I best take care of myself and others who will face this?
In my many years aiming people toward freedom, I have noticed that depression often paralyzes us. It grounds us deep into the feeling and makes us feel like when can never pick up our feet to move on from it.
But I’ve also discovered two effective tactics that enable us to pull ourselves out of the quick sand of desperation and start doing something about depression.
Here they are:
1. Get Moving.
This is going to sound really basic but it works.
One study took people who suffered from major depression and had them exercise every day for about 20-30 minutes. The intensity didn’t matter, they just had to get moving, preferably outside.
After 16 weeks, 65% of the people no longer suffered from major depression. Even people who were not on any medication!
This is a strategy you can do with a friend or invite someone to join in with you.
Yoga, weight training, even just walking outside on a sunny day can lead to major improvements if done consistently. You can do that right? You don’t have to give advice, you just have to literally walk with your friend.
So get your sneakers on and take a stroll around the block.
2. Treat the Cause, Not The Symptom
Depression is the result of something, or the culmination of things, in a life. It’s not a feeling we just wake up with someday. So if we want to be whole and healed, we have to find out what’s causing the holes and brokenness.
Glennon Doyle Melton puts it this way: “The hole got bigger and bigger till God finally fit in. When you’re all hole. God fits.” We have to move our hope back to the only One who is big enough to fill the gap. The one who can replace the holes with the holy.
In some way, we all know what it’s like to be all hole. We know what its like to taste despair and depression and feel like nothing is left to live for. Be a rescuer by letting those moments lead you as you help others.
As you’re walking this shaky path yourself, remember the times that you have overcome the hardships. Let those hopeless days make your heart tender to the pain of others. And don’t forget that depression is a physical, emotional and spiritual thing.
There are no easy fixes. But you can start moving yourself and others closer to freedom.
So go for walks with your friends who are feeling down. Hold a hand if needed. Remind each other who we are. Listen and love well. And watch the healing of hurting hearts begin.
Mike Foster is the founder of People of the Second Chance and speaks and writes about overcoming life's setbacks.