I led a support group this week for New Hope, support for the widowed in our community.
The topic was grief and depression, and I wondered who would even show up on this frigid dark January day. It is a documented fact that the bluest day of the year falls in January, and the rate of suicides spike.
Depression can have many contributing factors, but that matters little to the one in the depths of despair. Usually one just wants relief in a world that feels weighted down with darkness and often hopelessness.
Depression can often be a byproduct of grief, not only grief of a spouse or loved one, but there are many forms of grief and loss that can trigger deep feelings of sadness.
Just like we take a pain reliever for pain or for a headache, sometimes we need ways to treat depression if only to bring temporary relief. Temporary relief can bring much needed rest.
I’m not talking about “self-medication” methods such as alcohol overuse or drugs of any sort. Those are easy-outs with high risks for addition and other afflictions.
But it seems to me that we can bring some relief to our tired brains by re-routing the circuits and I have to say I speak from experience, knowing bouts of depression in my life.
My earliest depression was in my teens when I experienced rapid hormonal change and other physical difficulties. Before we understood the causes, all I knew that I was in a dark tunnel of despair. Even then I read all I could on the subject, trying to understand what was happening to me.
As we looked for causes and answers, I remember two things that brought me a lot of relief.
The first was a jig-saw puzzle.
I kid you not, the act of putting together this puzzle, piece by piece, and seeing the finished product was a great relief for my tired mind.
The other was to practice gratitude. I drew about the word gratitude this week, but I remember back then that my dad, who had also experienced deep depression in my life assigned me a task of writing thank-yous of gratitude… ten of them I believe. This task helped re-orient my mind, and gave me much relief.
As we chatted in our group at New Hope this week, we discussed about the many diversions to give our mind a rest from deep grief, or depression. My list might be different than yours but here are a few ideas:
1. Reading an novel… planting myself in another world, for me, is something positive and restful. A good story is a great escape! My favourites are my book collections: Anne of Green Gables and the Mitford Series; both are delightful.
2. Creating something. A puzzle, a doodle, a piece of art, or tackling one of those popular colouring books. It is well known that these activities can change our thought patterns and help us to rest. Picasso said: “Art washes way from the soul the dust of every day life.” A good dusting might be a good thing!
3. Exercising. This is probably the hardest for me this time of year. I don’t like the cold. But a brisk walk, some sunshine, or even dancing in the living room to something lively can literally help to chase off the blues.
4. Creating a place of beauty. I find clearing off my table and doing something as simple as placing a bowl of fresh lemons or fruit can lift my spirits.
5. Taking care of ourselves can involve simple indulgences as buying a new kind of tea or coffee and enjoying a drink from a special cup. Epson salt baths are soothing and remove toxins. Allowing ourselves to rest, even when sleep is illusive is a great thing.
6. Writing or journalling has proven therapeutic for many. My word for the year (as stated in my last blog) is Joy! I choose joy. One of my girlfriends said she had a joy journal and I’m inspired to start one of my own… writing about something for every day that has brought me joy!
7. Reach out for support. This is not always easy to do when one is depressed. Isolation is common, but if we can reach out to a trusted friend and share our hearts, that can make all the difference in the world.
And if depression lingers or becomes chronic, it might be time to turn to professional help.
8. Encouraging scripture verses or inspirational quotes can be food for the soul. I like to often write these down and have them where I can see them and think about them.
So, in this season of shorter and colder days, we can find diversions to bring us joy! I brought out my seashells, dreamt of the sea, and I’m thinking I might pour myself a little pineapple juice and dream of warm climes.
As always, I’d love to hear from you… and hope this might have helped someone to chase those winter blues away!