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Being Intentional in Your Response to Depression

What do we do when life feels like it’s piling on top of us?  In depression, we bury our optimism, hope, and joy and react with anger, fear, or guilt, allowing overwhelming circumstances to knock us flat.  Emotional depression can become an automatic reaction to life’s trials.  Reactions are automatic, but responses need not be.  Depression does not have to be automatic.

Even if we may immediately react negatively, we can learn to intentionally reassert positive emotions.  This may not be our first reaction, but our first reaction doesn’t need to be our only response.  Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created.  You have to rise above it to the next level.”  Our reactions are on one level, but we can learn to take our responses to the next level.

The next level above automatic reaction is intentional response.  You need to be intentional in your response to life and its circumstances.  You need to deliberately recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, hope, and joy.  In the midst of depression, the thought of sustaining even a modicum of positive feelings may appear overwhelming, a burden too heavy to bear.  But aren’t you already carrying around the weight of emotional baggage?  Think how much energy it takes to carry around anger, fear, and guilt.  When you begin to put those emotions down, you will find strength for optimism, hope, and joy.

Negative emotions may be part of your personal landscape.  If that is the case, you’ll need to intentionally seek out and rediscover optimism, hope, and joy.  Optimism, hope, and joy are responses that come from within you and are not necessarily derived from your outside circumstances.  Regardless of the circumstances, you determine to remain optimistic; you decide to have hope; you derive joy.

Intentionally choosing how to respond to life is not a trivial matter; this attitude can save your life.  In his book Man’s Search of Meaning, Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl set forth to answer the question why some people lived through the Nazi Germany concentration camps and some did not.  He found that it rarely had anything to do with their physical state.  Some prisoners who were extremely debilitated or ill continued to live, while some others who were in much better physical shape died.  The difference, he found, was in their attitude to life.

Frankl discovered that in the final analysis, strength for living is found in the ability to choose your attitude — your response — to any given situation.  The situations he and others dealt with on a daily basis were deprivation, starvation, physical disease, and beatings.  Yet in the midst of the hell of the concentration camp, he and others intentionally chose to respond with optimism and hope.

Frankl, who could find positives in the midst of a Nazi concentration camp, demonstrates that each of us has the opportunity to find positives in our own situations.  We will not always have control over our circumstances, but we can determine to hold on to optimism, hope, and joy — to recognize them, promote them, and sustain them.  This is the challenge for those who are depressed.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 30 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

Money and False Security

“In God We Trust” has been engraved on our coins since 1864. Somewhere in the intervening years, however, it seems we’ve shifted from trust in God to trust in the coin itself. This isn’t a recent phenomenon; it’s been happening for a long time. King Solomon, in his book of wisdom known as Proverbs, puts it this way: “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall” (Prov. 18:11).

There are many people today for whom wealth is their unscalable wall. They truly believe if they acquire enough of it, build up a high enough wall of it, the cares and concerns of the world will not be able to climb over. The problem, of course, lies in the fact that cares and concerns have very creative ways of mounting siege ramps against the walls of wealth and breach even the highest parapets. Insecurities also find ways to tunnel under the strongest edifices.

Money, quite simply, is not a secure enough thing to put your trust in. Again, from Proverbs: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (23:4-5). Money is a fluid, dynamic entity, and its worth is based upon factors out of the control of most people. A person’s wealth can be made and lost within a single year. How many people have won millions of dollars on a lottery one year, only to wind up losing it all within a short span of time? How many people put their trust in the wealth they committed to Bernie Madoff, only to lose every cent in his billion-dollar Ponzi scheme? Money is not an appropriate place to look for security.

Money is not permanent because it can be lost in the blink of an eye (or in the crash of the stock market, or in the devaluation of currency, or through theft of malfeasance or cooked books). It is not permanent in the here and now, and it’s absolutely irrelevant in the hereafter. Money may get you some traction when you’re alive, but it is useless to you when you’re dead: “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him” (Ps. 49: 16-17). In cruder, present-day language: The hearse doesn’t come with a trailer.

Money promises to provide security, but it often creates the opposite: “A man’s riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat” (Prov. 13:8). The more stock you set in the things you have, including money and the things money can buy, the greater the threat of losing it all. Those who have much have much to lose. Those with little, sleep under a lesser threat of loss and can feel more secure.

Money can be a source of security, but it can also be a source of heartburn: “The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep” (Eccl. 5:12). If you put all your security eggs in the money basket, then you must perpetually worry about eggs breaking and losing broth.

 Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

 

The Many Faces of Depression

Many people who have suffered from depression describe it as a dark cloud that hovers over them, clouding their capacity to feel joy, hope and live life to its fullest. How this cloud manifests itself can be as unique as the people who suffer from it. There are, however, some reoccurring “faces” to depression that can help us identify its presence and acknowledge when professional help is needed.

Here are some common faces of depression. Depression shows itself through a prolonged period of sadness or anxiety. It leaches interest or pleasure out of activities that would normally be enjoyable. Depression alters appetite and sleep patterns. It promotes feelings of guilt, shame and hopelessness. Depression interferes with the ability to make decisions to concentrate, to remember things, and to focus. It steadily strangles the will to act, sometimes producing a frantic and anxious state, or an apathetic lethargy. Depression may lead to recurrent thoughts of suicide and death.

In times past, depression was considered a weakness, suffered by weak people, as evidenced by the higher rate of depression among women. The chauvinistic, repressive attitude toward depression and its sufferers has been changing, allowing the depressed to come out from under the cloak of shame and to seek help for their illness.

At The Center • A Place of HOPE, we have found, with whole-person treatment, approximately 90 percent of our clients experience long-term recovery. Over the past 20 years of working with depression recovery, we have developed the keys to unlock the secrets of “why people get depressed.”

Clients come to our clinic with concerns about anxiety, hopelessness, and feelings of being overwhelmed or increasingly isolated. They do not use the term depression to explain their concerns. Either they are fearful of any lingering stigma, or they simply have been unable to place a label on their nameless dread. Some are at the point of suicide, without really knowing why they feel that taking their own life is the only way to end the pain.

Others come to our clinic with difficulties in relationships; they have become moody, irritable, isolated form loved ones, sometimes even abusive. Clients are concerned about their inability to concentrate at work, and they lack productivity that threatens their employment. Sometimes it is not the depressed person who makes contact with us; it is loved ones concerned about that person’s behavior. They are concerned about the withdrawal they see, or the risky, thrill-seeking behaviors some depressed people will use in an attempt to jolt themselves out of their depression.

If you are struggling with a dark cloud of depression, or you have observed warning signs of depression in the life of a loved one, seeking professional help may be the quickest, easiest, and safest way to find healing. The Center • A Place of HOPE was recently voted in the Top 10 depression treatment facilities in the United States because of our holistic and lasting approach to depression recovery. Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE cares, and we can help. If you are ready to regain true joy and happiness in your life, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak with a depression recovery specialist today.

 

Are You Depressed?

How do you know if you’re depressed? When does sadness become depression? How many “bad days” can a person have in a row and not be considered depressed? How can you tell that what you’re feeling is something that’s going to get better on its own? These are excellent questions.

Below are two types of indicators: yellow indicators, which signal caution and should be monitored, and red indicators, which signal identified symptoms of depression. Red indicators are certainly important for you to be aware of, but watch for the number of yellow indicators present. Yellow tend to turn into red over time, if not addressed. It is important to note that these indicators are not scientific tools, but rather a way for you to identify contributing conditions in your life. If you believe that you or someone you love is suffering from depression, seek professional help.

Yellow Indicators

  • A loss of enjoyment with established activities.
  • Feeling restless, tired, or unmotivated at work.
  • An increase in irritability or impatience.
  • Feeling either “wound up” or “weighed down.”
  • Feeling overburdened with life and its activities.
  • A lack of spiritual peace or well-being.
  • Finding relief by controlling aspects of your personal behavior, including consuming liquids or food.
  • A fear of expressing strong emotions.
  • A constant anxiety or vague fear about the future.
  • Feeling unappreciated by others.
  • Feeling a sense of martyrdom, as if you are constantly asked to do the work of others.
  • Exercising a pattern of impulsive thinking or rash judgments.
  • Sexual difficulties or a loss of interest in sexual activities.
  • A sense of enjoyment at seeing the discomfort of others.
  • Anger at God for how you feel.
  • A recurrent pattern of headaches, muscle aches, or body pains.
  • Feeling social isolation and distancing yourself from family or friends.
  • Feeling trapped during your day by what you have to do.
  • Displaying a pattern of pessimistic or critical comments and/or behaviors.
  • Feeling like your best days are behind you and the future doesn’t hold much promise.
  • Feeling “left out” of life.
  • Binging on high calorie foods to feel better.
  • Apathetic upon waking about how the day will turn out.
  • Feeling it is easier just to do things yourself instead of wanting to work with others.
  • Experiencing recurring gastrointestinal difficulties.
  • Feeling trapped inside your body.
  • Dreading the thought of family get-togethers or social gatherings.
  • Feeling overweight, unattractive, or unlovable.
  • Feeling old, discarded, and without value.
  • Unmotivated to try new activities, contemplate new ideas, or enter into new relationships.

Red indicators

  • A significant change in appetite, lasting longer than two weeks, resulting in either marked weight loss or weight gain.
  • Disturbances in your sleep patterns for longer than two weeks, resulting in difficulty falling and staying asleep.
  • Increased agitation or inability to relax, occurring for an extended period of time (longer than two weeks).
  • Feelings of fatigue, lethargy, or loss of energy, occurring for an extended period of time (longer than two weeks).
  • Feelings of sadness, despondency, despair, loneliness, or worthlessness, ongoing for an extended period of time (longer than two weeks).
  • Inability to concentrate, focus, or make decisions, recurring over a period of time (longer than two weeks).
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Planning or attempting suicide.

If you answered “yes” to one or more red indicators, do not ignore the signs and just hope they will go away. Talk to a counseling professional that can help you work through these issues in a responsible, thoughtful way. The Center • A Place of HOPE has been consistently ranked among the top treatment facilities in the country for depression. If you answered “yes” to the red indicators, or are struggling with multiple yellow indicators, call 1-888-771-5166 / 425-771-5166 to discuss treatment options. Know that you are not alone during this struggle, and never lose hope.

Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Turing Your Down into Up: A Realistic Plan for Healing from Depression.