Tag Archives: Mental Health

Depression During The Holidays, Part One: When Christmas Isn’t So Merry

20150712_210956_resized-1Just 80 more days ‘til Christmas. That may seem like a lot of time. But for many, those days are already being filled with plans. Plans for who will host dinner and who will be invited to dinner, what’s on the menu, who will cook what, what presents to buy for the gift exchange at work, what to wear to the office party, whether to buy a new outfit, whether to shop online for clothes, toys and other gifts or go to brick and mortar stores, whether to drive or fly to grandma’s and pa-pa’s house… Employers and employees are already thinking about closing out the year’s business and taking vacation days during the holiday. Parents who can’t take vacation are already thinking about childcare for their minor children while schools are closed.

Pastors and preachers are already thinking about the sermonic messages they will preach on the Sunday before Christmas (even though they still have at least 10 sermons to preach before that day). Choirs are busy rehearsing Christmas Cantatas and Handel’s Messiah. Sunday schools and children’s church are busy rehearsing plays. Club owners, party throwers and party goers have already started placing their orders and stocking up on “adult beverages” to get the party started right.

DEPRESSION During The Holidays picture80 days won’t last long, especially since every-day-life-as-usual has to be lived, even while getting ready for those few days at the end of December. It’s enough to drive a sane person crazy. And while most people won’t actually go crazy, more than likely, as a result of the anticipation of the busy-ness of the holiday season, what will happen, and may have already started to happen, is that many people will experience a sadness that goes beyond just feeling down. Many people, even people of faith, will experience depression during this season of joy, making Christmas not so merry. The first step in addressing the “holiday blues” (which some people have already begun to experience) is to educate yourself on what depression is, what causes it, and how to recognize it.

What is depression?

Depression is a serious mental AND medical illness that negatively affects how we feel, the way we think and how we act. It may start suddenly or build up over a period of weeks, months, or years. Who gets depressed? Many, many people. Men, women and children of all races, colors, ethnicities, sexual orientations and religions. What causes depression? Biological factors: Chemical imbalances in the brain and biological vulnerability. Psychological factors: Mental or thought processes meaning how we think about things; Psychological tendencies such as low self-esteem and pessimism. Social and environmental factors: Academic demands; balancing school, work, family and social life; Financial responsibilities or worries; Social isolation; Major loss such as the loss of a loved one including a family pet or loss of income; Chronic illness such as asthma, cancer, diabetes or addiction; Work stress; Family crisis and concerns; Unwelcome and welcome life changes; Alcohol and drug use, including both legal and illegal.

What are some symptoms of depression?

There are different forms of depression with different combinations of the following symptoms. Physical: Sleep disturbances-insomnia, oversleeping, waking much earlier than usual; Changes in appetite or eating much more or much less; Decreased energy or fatigue; Headaches, stomach aches, digestive problems or other physical symptoms that are not explained by other physical conditions or do not respond to treatment. Behavioral/Attitude: Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed, such as going out with friends, hobbies, sports, sex, food, etc.; Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; Neglecting responsibilities or personal appearance. Emotional: Persistent sad or “empty” mood, lasting two or more weeks; Crying “for no reason”; Feeling hopeless, helpless, guilty or worthless; Feeling irritable, agitated or anxious; Thoughts of death or suicide.

People of faith, regardless of religious affiliation or denomination, are just as susceptible to becoming depressed as non-believers and those who do not ascribe to any religion. In fact, people of faith, particularly Christians, may be more prone to experiencing depression because this is supposed to be a season of joy: Christ has come, is come and will come! For what reason could Christians and other followers of God possibly be sad, you ask? For all the same reasons as those who don’t believe. LIFE!

Consider Elijah, that prophet and mighty man of God, who called down fire on Mount Carmel. After that mighty act of faith and God honoring his prayer, just days later these are the words that came from Elijah’s lips: ““I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under a bush and fell asleep.” (I Kings 19:4-5) Elijah was experiencing depression: feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness and thoughts of and wanting to die. Elijah was depressed! But the good news is that help was available.

“All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights…” (I Kings 19:5-8)

If you are experiencing depression, these verses offer suggestions on a few of the ways to treat those feelings.  What is the treatment for depression? For starters, SELF-CARE including: Healthy eating; exercise; sleep; rest; and relaxation.

Pay attention to and honor your feelings. Sad feelings can be a signal that something is wrong. Remember that feelings are a gift from God, even feelings of sadness. Feelings should always draw us closer to God, the giver of every good and perfect gift. (James 1:17) And so above all, when feelings of sadness turn to depression, remember to make prayer and meditation a key component of your self-help.

Next Week: Depression During The Holidays, Part Two: Use Your Words

Learning the Language of Depression and More Helpful Solutions

Originally written and posted: October 5, 2015

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No written portion of any article may be shared without giving credit to the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Kanisha L. Adkins.

P.O. Box 28483 Henrico, VA 23228 – phone 202-854-1963 – email: info@kanishaladkins.com

Follow me on twitter @kanishaladkins

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Depression During The Holidays Part Three: IT’S A MAN THING!

20150712_210956_resized-1Women have been accused of being emotional. And at one point in the history of humanity, women were even referred to as ‘the weaker sex’. If either of these statements were true, then that would mean that men are not emotional and that they are ‘the stronger sex.’ Fortunately, most informed people know that these statements are not truth. Instead, the truth is that women are not more emotional or frail than men. God didn’t make one set of emotions for women and another set for men. Women and men share the same emotions. The difference is in how women and men display their emotions. Women are welcome to show their emotions and express their feelings. But our societies and cultures have conditioned us to believe that men are not supposed to show emotion or express feelings. Men have been taught to be the ‘strong, silent type’. But this silence, when it comes to feelings, is anything but a sign of strength. And when it comes to depression, men have been silent for too long.

Depression can strike anyone regardless of age, color, race, profession, job or gender.  And even though depression has an anti-discrimination policy, more women than men are diagnosed each year. But mental health professionals are not quite sure whether depression truly is less common among men, or whether men are just less likely than women to be aware of, acknowledge and ask for help.

Proverbs 18:14 (NIV) says, “A man’s spirit can sustain him during his illness, but who can bear a crushed spirit?” Think about it! During those times when we are physically tired or sick, as long as our emotions are in good working order, we can psyche ourselves up to keep going physically…to take another step…to work another hour. But when we are sad, down in the dumps or overwhelmed, we find it difficult to motivate ourselves to do even the smallest physical task. Men in particular may not recognize this “crushed spirit” as depression, especially when the symptoms of depression are physical.

Image by Clifton Gunn Photography
Image by Clifton Gunn Photography

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has conducted research on depression awareness and has discovered that many men are unaware that physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain can be associated with depression. Rather than saying they ‘feel sad’, men are more likely to say they feel fatigued, irritable, have lost interest in hobbies or are having problems with sleeping through the night. Men’s depression is often masked or ‘covered up’ by their use of alcohol or other drugs, and can even be covered up by the socially acceptable habit of working excessively long hours. Even if a man realizes he is depressed, he may be less likely to seek help because of concerns about how it might have a negative impact on his job, specifically with regard to job security, potential for promotion and even health insurance benefits. Men may also be hesitant to acknowledge depression because they fear family and friends will lose respect for them and label them as weak.  https://uhs.berkeley.edu/home/healthtopics/depression.shtml

Encouragement and support from concerned family members and friends can make a world of difference for men who are or think they may be experiencing depression. Significant others play an important role in helping men recognize their symptoms and getting treatment. And the community of faith can help by doing as we have been instructed to do in Galatians 6:2 (NIV), “Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

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No written portion of any article may be shared without giving credit to the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Kanisha L. Adkins.

P.O. Box 28483 Henrico, VA 23228 – phone 202-854-1963 – email: info@kanishaladkins.com

Follow me on twitter @kanishaladkins

 

 

 

 

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Depression During The Holidays Part Two: Learn the Language of Depression and Use Your Words

20150712_210956_resized-1The Advent/Christmas season is one of my favorite times of the year. I love Christmas music, feel-good Christmas T.V. movies, decorations, especially the Tacky Lights Tours where I live and spending time with family and friends. It would be great to think that everyone looks forward to celebrating Christmas, Advent, Hanukkah, the Holiday Season, or whatever season you celebrate during the months of December and January. It would be great to think this, but this isn’t the case. Many people are experiencing hard financial times, some people are grieving the loss of loved ones, and some people are just overwhelmed by how commercial the season has become. Whatever the reason is that people find themselves dreading this time of year, the truth is that a lot of people are just not “feeling” the holidays and they are having a hard time finding just the right words to express those feelings.

Often, when we’re asked how we feel, our vocabulary is limited to a handful of words and expressions: fine, good, happy, upset, sad, angry, so-so, fair to middlin’. But sometimes these words aren’t enough to express what we’re really experiencing on the inside of our minds and our hearts. Finding the right words and using the rights words is important when it comes to being healthy. When we have a physical ailment, medical doctors ask us to describe what we’re feeling. Where does it hurt? What kind of pain is it? Is it a sharp, stabbing pain? Is it a dull ache? Is the pain isolated to one spot? Does the pain radiate into different parts of your body? Being able to name the pain is important. Mental pain is no less real than physical pain. Mental pain is no less significant than physical pain. And being able to describe that mental pain is an important part in the process of getting better.

The following is a list of descriptive words designed to help you better express how you feel on any given day. The words are divided into categories. Each category is headed by one of the usual words we often use to describe our feelings. Following the usual word are more descriptive, precise words that can be used, in addition to the usual word, to pinpoint exactly what you feel.

GOOD: Calm, peaceful, at ease, comfortable, please, encouraged, clever, surprised, content, quiet, certain, relaxed, serene, free and easy, bright, blessed, reassured.

HAPPY: Great, blessed, gay, joyous, lucky, fortunate, delighted, overjoyed, gleeful, thankful, important, festive, ecstatic, satisfied, glad cheerful, sunny, merry, elated, jubilant.

ALIVE: playful, courageous, energetic, liberated, optimistic, provocative, impulsive, free, frisky, animated, spirited, thrilled, wonderful.

OPEN: understanding, confident, reliable, easy, amazed, free sympathetic, interested, satisfied, receptive, accepting, kind.

LOVE: loving, considerate, affectionate, sensitive, tender, devoted, attracted, passionate, admiration, warm, touched, sympathy, close, loved, comforted, drawn toward.

INTERESTED: concerned, affected, fascinated, intrigued, absorbed, inquisitive, nosy, snoopy, engrossed, curious.

POSITIVE: eager, keen, earnest, intent, anxious, inspired, determined, excited, enthusiastic, bold, brave, daring, challenged, optimistic, re-enforced, confident, hopeful.

STRONG: impulsive, free, sure, certain, rebellious, unique, dynamic, tenacious, hardy, secure.

DEPRESSION During The Holidays pictureANGRY: irritated, enraged, hostile, insulting, sore, annoyed, upset, hateful, unpleasant, offensive, bitter, aggressive, resentful, inflamed, provoked, incensed, infuriated, cross, worked up, boiling, fuming, indignant.

DEPRESSED: lousy, disappointed, discouraged, ashamed, powerless, diminished, guilty, dissatisfied, miserable, detestable, repugnant, despicable, disgusting, abominable, terrible, in despair, sulky, bad, a sense of loss.

CONFUSED: upset doubtful, uncertain, indecisive, perplexed, embarrassed, hesitant, shy, stupefied, disillusioned, unbelieving, skeptical, distrustful, misgiving, lost, unsure, uneasy, pessimistic, tense.

HELPLESS: incapable, alone, paralyzed, fatigued, useless, inferior, vulnerable, empty, forced, hesitant, despair, frustrated, distressed, woeful, pathetic, tragic, in a stew, dominated.

INDIFFERENT: insensitive, dull, nonchalant, neutral, reserved, weary, bored, preoccupied, cold, disinterested, lifeless.

AFRAID: fearful, terrified, suspicious, anxious, alarmed, panic, nervous, scared, worried, frightened, timid, shaky, restless, doubtful, threatened, cowardly, quaking, menaced, wary.

HURT: crushed, tormented, deprived, pained, tortured, dejected, rejected, injured, offended, afflicted, aching, victimized, heartbroken, agonized, appalled, humiliated, wronged, alienated.

SAD: tearful, sorrowful, pained, grief, anguish, desolate, desperate, pessimistic, unhappy, lonely, grieved, mournful, dismayed.

Luke 6:45 says, “…out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Some people, particularly Christians, may think that it’s wrong to “confess” negative feelings. They believe that they are speaking negative things into existence. But the psalmist knew the value of expressing what he felt, even if it was perceived as negative. He said, “I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word. I gave an account of my ways and you answered me.” The psalmist confessed that he was feeling low, as low as dirt! And after he confessed just how low he was feeling, he made a wonderful discovery. God heard him and God answered him!

Consider this: if you’re already experiencing negative feelings, perhaps saying these feelings and getting them out in the open is necessary so that you can replace those negative feelings with positive feelings. Saying what you feel is not a sin. Confession is good for the soul. So go ahead, if you’re really not feeling the holiday season because you’re going through a hard time, say what you feel. Use your words.

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No written portion of any article may be shared without giving credit to the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Kanisha L. Adkins.

P.O. Box 28483 Henrico, VA 23228 – phone 202-854-1963 – email: info@kanishaladkins.com

Follow me on twitter @kanishaladkins

 

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