8 Ideas for Managing Depression and Anxiety

As I explained in my last post, I dealt with some health issues in the fall and left school prematurely. When I got home, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, something I never imagined could happen to me. While I’m doing better today, I know each day can bring new pressures. Below I made a list of things that helped me during the darkest and scariest time my of life I’ve experienced. I know there’s no right way for someone to manage their anxiety or depression. This is just what worked and is working for me. It’s hard to see a friend experiencing these, and one can often feel like a helpless onlooker. I also added ideas of support I did or wished I received during this challenging time.

1) Follow the doctor’s orders.

For yourself: Don’t be afraid to admit something is wrong. It will probably feel entirely out of your control because if it is anxiety or depression, it doesn’t define who you are. You might beat yourself up each time you think something could be wrong. Be willing to get help in whatever capacity you need. Go to the doctor, and follow his directions. You can get better.

As a friend: Support them and encourage them to see a doctor. Offer to take them or go with them. Support them in their decision making, but never force them to do something they aren’t ready to do. Check in with your friend after the appointment and see how they’re doing.

2) Pray.

When I was in the deepest hold of depression and anxiety, I really couldn’t get myself to do this. At least not more than a sentence.

For yourself: God hears the small short prayers, so even if you can only spit out a few words, He cares. He’s there. He hears you. All you have to do is try to talk to Him. It’s hard but worth it.

As a friend: Ask to pray with your friend. Notice I said with not just for. To me, there’s always been something special about one of your best friends praying over you. Pray for them while you sit with them. Your friend might not be able to utter words that you can. Give your friend a voice. Also, still pray for them when you’re apart.

3) Read Scripture.

This is another area that was extremely difficult for me to do as well, but there are so many simple ways to do this.

For yourself: Start small. Use the Bible app, and simply read the verse of the day. Only a couple sentences can help change your outlook for the day. It’s okay if you miss a day. Don’t beat yourself up. Life is one long journey.

As a friend: Make sure you are in the Word yourself. Text/talk to your friend about what you’ve been learning and share verses. Even sending encouraging quotes is sometimes nice. Leaving handwritten notes is also so special. (thanks soccer team <3)

4) Attend Counseling.

This kind of goes along with listening to your doctor’s orders. It’s hard to open up and discuss what’s going on in between your ears, but it is so worth it. I can remember my first counseling appointment. I cried for more of it than I talked, but it was a safe place. Thankfully, I’ve made incredible progress.

For yourself: You won’t want to go, so ask someone to go with you or at least drive you there. Remember, all your problems won’t get solved in one sitting. Express what you can, when you can. A little bit is better than nothing at all. Be consistent (go at least once a week to start), and find someone you are comfortable with.

As a friend: Offer to go with them to the appointments. If they say no, respect that and don’t push. If they say yes, just be there with them. Don’t say anything. You may think you know your friend really well, but you can’t read their mind. Only chime in if they ask.

5) Eat wisely and drink lots of water.

Everyone can always benefit from this. It was hard for me when I was struggling to make sure I still ate vegetables and stopped eating dessert 3 times a day.

For yourself: Don’t be too strict, but put in a conscious effort to eat wisely. If you eat badly, you will feel worse. Also, staying hydrated and fueling your brain properly is very important for mental and physical health.

As a friend: You do the same thing. It can only help you. Maybe don’t order that pizza at 11 pm or chocolate milkshake at 2 am then visit your friend with your new food. Don’t criticize your friends eating habits, but support healthy decisions.

6) Exercise. 

When I was depressed or anxiety-filled, one of the last things I wanted to do was move. Or really just get out of bed. Exercise, even small, helps everyone feel at least a tad bit better.

For yourself: Try to do something active at least 5 days a week. This doesn’t mean you have to run 5 miles every day, do an intense tabata workout, or max out on your squat. Try to walk around campus for 30 minutes or the treadmill or an elliptical or a stationary bike. Change up what you do and where you do it. If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. Again, something is better than nothing.

As a friend: If you’re going to the gym or doing a workout, invite your friend. Respect their yes or no answer for the time being, but don’t count them out the next day or the next. Keep the offer open and inviting. Always offer, never force. Your friend will go when they think they can, especially if you are persistent and encouraging.

7) Start a new hobby. 

I’ve started a couple new hobbies. This helps to take my mind off of everyday stressors and puts my focus on a bigger project. Some hobbies I dove into are gardening (indoors), journaling, reading, listening to podcasts, starting a blog, and selling clothes online through Poshmark. (Sign up for Poshmark with the invite code H_BERNSTEIN, and receive $5 towards your first order.)

For yourself: Try something you’ve always been curious about but hesitant to try. This could be calligraphy, creating a YouTube channel, starting your own business, or whatever else has been on your mind. Give yourself space to think big and grace to get there. Start small and see where a new passion takes you. Make sure it’s a stress reliever, not an inducer. If you stink at the hobby you chose, stop and try a new one. What do you have to lose?

As a friend: Join them in their new hobby, and encourage them to try new things. Maybe you’ll be really bad at what your friend is really good at. Oh well! It would be a good laugh for both of you. Most of all, be their biggest cheerleader.

8) Invest in something bigger than yourself. 

This is something I’m still trying to work on. Because of other health issues that were magnified, I haven’t been able to do activities I had hoped I could do.

For yourself: Invest in people. Find the age group you love. This could be elementary, middle, or high school students, elderly people, babies or toddlers, or college students. Once you find this, research local ways to participate and help these specific groups of people. Try it out and build new relationships you never thought were possible.

As a friend: Go with them to these volunteer opportunities or get involved somehow. Help your friend research places to go and things to do. It may not be your favorite age group, and you might not be entirely comfortable in the situation. Give yourself space to grow and learn alongside a friend.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a few Psalms that are encouraging to me. Sometimes we just need a reminder of God’s love and faithfulness.

Psalm 9:10 “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

Psalm 12:6 “The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”

Psalm 16:8-9 ” I have set the LORD before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.

Trusting the Lord

Recently, my life has pretty much been turned upside down. I’m thankful for a new year that will hopefully bring me healing in ways I didn’t see in 2018. The Lord used my friends, my family, and His word to help me discover what it really means to trust the Him. While I have by no means mastered this aspect of my life, I believe I’ve grown in my understanding.

Growing up in Christian school, this concept of trusting in God has been drilled into my head, but not my heart. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” This verse makes trusting the Lord sound really simple, right? In reality, it is simple, but it is not easy. If you’re anything like me, you want to have a plan for everything and for everything to go according to that plan.

However, the Lord typically doesn’t work like that, as I’ve been learning. The past few months He’s shown me that His plan is better than mine. I started this college semester like any other. In fact, I was more excited than before because I finally wasn’t the new kid for the first time in two years. I had a friend group established. I was a collegiate athlete. I was content in my major. I felt very confident going into school this fall.

My first month of school was as normal as it could’ve been. As expected, I wasn’t in shape for preseason, and I picked up all my friendships where we left off.

Suddenly, everything seemed to go wrong at once. I didn’t know why. (I still don’t.) I was missing classes because I was so exhausted. I was getting bad grades. I felt isolated and alone despite being constantly around people. I ended up dropping a class because I just couldn’t do it.

I felt like I was drowning no matter what I did to save myself. While I approached my friends to talk about the problems I was facing, I wasn’t completely honest and was trying to show I was a “perfect” Christian by accepting the bad things that were happening to me. As I continued explaining my difficulties, I was greeted with the “perfect” Christian answer: Pray about it. God’s got you.

There was nothing wrong with their answer. It’s true. I should have been praying about it, and God was there. He would see me through. Somehow this answer didn’t satisfy me. And here’s why.

Looking back at Proverbs 3:5-6, we see that it uses the word straight in regards to our path. Other translations say, “… he will direct your paths.” Nowhere in this verse does it say, “It. Will. Get. Better. Immediately.” In fact, nowhere in the Bible does it say this. Typically, it says the opposite. So why is our immediate response to people going through tough times to just pray about it?

Like I said before, prayer is the key to handling problems; however, it doesn’t always solve them. I do believe in the power of prayer and the power of God, but more frequently, God’s answer to our prayers is “no” or “not yet” instead of “yes”.

Perhaps we’ve thought of the word straight the wrong way. Maybe it means He will guide us right where we need to go, not that it will be easy to get there. Maybe there will be a huge mountain to climb, but the path is still straight. Bumpy, rocky, challenging, but still straight.

Too often I want to fast forward the hard times of my life or forget that they existed. I don’t believe this is what we are called to do. God’s answer of “no” or “not yet” means that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not where I want to be.

In the second month of school, I had to leave for various health reasons some known and others unknown. During my time away from the hustle and bustle of life, I’ve been discovering this meaning of trusting the Lord. What I’ve learned so far is that waiting is the beginning of trust. Waiting isn’t lazy, despite our culture that demands business. Being hopeful in what is to come helps with the waiting. Whether I find healing in my time on Earth (which I hope I do) or in heaven, there is hope that one day I will experience healing.

I’ve decided to read through the Psalms daily, which has been a great blessing. Seeing David’s example of wrestling with God, admitting that he wasn’t okay, and returning praise to the Lord helps me battle with my feelings and attitude about what’s been happening in my life.

Psalm 16:8-9 says, “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.”

My current prayer is that my flesh will rest in hope.

Galatians 1:10

This summer I worked as a camp counselor, which was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done. The Lord was so good and faithful to me through this past summer. As soon as I stepped into that place, I knew the Lord was there and at work. I didn’t really know what that looked like for me as I embarked on what seemed like a never-ending marathon of summer to me. Often times, the Lord is working when you don’t know it or can’t see it. That is one attribute that makes Him so great. This is just what He did for me this past summer.

During counselor orientation at the beginning of the summer, we practiced the general routine of a regular day at camp. At 8:10 we would attend morning exercises. Don’t be fooled. This was really a time to sing and to hear a devotional from women on the leadership team. One of the days the wife of the Associate Director and her daughter gave us the devotional. She urged us to be purposeful this summer and memorize Scripture. She reminded us that Scripture has a great power when it’s memorized in our hearts. She and her daughter painted flowers on notecards for all the female counselors to write a verse and memorize it throughout the summer.

I had no idea what verse I would put down, but the Lord did. As I was going through the devotional for campers, I came across Galatians 1:10, which says, ” For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (ESV) I didn’t think much about it, but I decided to write this verse on my notecard simply because it “sounded good”. Little did I know the Lord was going to use this verse to impact me greatly.

As I navigated the camp counselor life, the verse was in the back of my mind. It wasn’t until I left camp for my one term off that I began to understand the power of this verse. I was struggling with a big decision for a while and had no idea what to do about it.

One morning, while I was praying, the Lord led me to review Galatians 1:10. This time it hit me harder than before. He made me realize that so much of my life was focused on winning the approval of my friends, my family, and even people I didn’t know. According to Galatians 1:10, that is the complete opposite of who we should be trying to please.

I sat contemplating the power of people pleasing had a hold over me. I was caught in a life of pursuing others’ approval instead of God’s approval. To be honest, at most times, I still am.

We live in a society where we will never be enough to the world, but the good news is that we have an amazing God who looks past the worldly flaws. I’ve now realized that I don’t need to rely on what other people think of me, whether that’s good or bad.

Galatians 1:10 states something powerful: “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” When we get caught up in what other people think, we miss out on God. We become self-obsessed and lose our identity in Christ. We become slaves of ourselves instead of servants of the Lord.

The truth is, if you have decided to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, you have been made approved. You are wiped clean because of the blood shed on the cross. There is no need to chase after people’s opinions of you because you have been declared righteous by the King. No matter what you do, the Lord is there forgiving sins and confirming good done in His name.

Living an approved life means you distinctively choose every day not to put your worth in others’ opinions. It is a battle. It is not easy. It requires daily prayer, confession, and commitment. If we can break this pattern of people pleasing, we will experience indescribable freedom through Christ.

Live each day knowing: I am approved.