How to Overcome Seasonal Depression

February 5, 2015

by Erin Bird

In my previous life as a young adult pastor, I would have a handful of young adults individually seek me out during the months of January and February. They'd sit on my office couch, engaging me in small talk, delaying the topic heavy on their heart. Eventually I'd ask "what's up?"

The young adult would then begin to share how he or she just felt "off." They were sad, always sleepy, feeling alone, and wondering what was wrong.

January and February can do that to a person. The decreased amount of sun, the cold weather, and the barrenness of the landscape can lead to a barrenness of the soul that leaves one feeling dark and cold internally.

If this is you, you might be wondering: "How do I overcome it?" (Or if it's not you, how can you come alongside someone who is?)

Learning from Elijah

A guy in the Scripture named Elijah struggled with depression. In fact, right after one of the "high points" of his life (recorded in 1 Kings 18:20-40), Elijah receives a death threat that plummets him to an emotionally dark place. (You can read about his worst bout with depression in 1 Kings 19.)

But God, out of his grace, cares for Elijah during his moment of emotional despair. Let's take a look at how God helped Elijah overcome his depression in 1 Kings 19:

#1) God doesn't chide Elijah for how he is feeling

When God sends an angel to care for Elijah (verse 5), notice the first words are not "Shame on you!" Granted, Elijah shouldn't be feeling the way he is - I mean he just saw God do a miracle in defeating the prophets of a false god! He should have nothing to fear.

But depression doesn't play fair. You could have everything going great in your life and still feel down. And God doesn't scold Elijah for what he is feeling.

So if God isn't shaming you for the downcast feelings you are having, then don't beat yourself up. One of the best ways out of depression is to admit you are struggling with it. Admit it, and begin to let God in to help you out of it.

#2) God fed Elijah

When some people are depressed, they lose their appetite. Others find they have a voracious appetite.

If you have lost your appetite, then do what you can to make sure you do eat. You need food to help you regain the energy and emotional boost you desire again. But eat wisely. Fruits, veggies, and proteins, are far better than prepackaged processed sugary foods.

But if you are on the other end of the spectrum wanting to eat ALL the time, the advice is the same - eat wisely. But do it in moderation. Too much food turns food into your Savior, and as you pack on the pounds, you won't feel much better either.

So let food be fuel, not a comfort nor a chore, and choose the right things to eat.

#3) God watered Elijah

Along with food, God also gave Elijah water. When some people feel down, they turn to a beer or glass of wine. But alcohol acts more as a depressant, exacerbating the negative feelings you are having. Instead, fuel yourself with water more than anything else. If you get sick of water, have a glass of milk. Maybe pour yourself some orange juice. (Just don't spike it with vodka right now!) There's nothing wrong with beer, but if it keeps you in your funk, cut it out right now.

Likewise, one or two cups of coffee or pop could be fine for you (caffeine is a good stimulant), but don't turn your to drinks for coping either.

#4) God let Elijah rest

Often when I am struggling emotionally, I find I am more tired than usual. I struggle to get up. Sometimes that is because I try to medicate myself with entertainment and stay up way too late watching YouTube videos or movies.

So get yourself to bed at a decent time and get up at a decent time. Aim to get 8 hours of sleep.

But rest isn't just sleep. Rest wisely when you are awake and have a moment or two to relax. Playing 3 hours of Angry Birds on your phone probably isn't going to help. Instead, pick up a book, engage in a hobby, play an instrument, or call up a friend you haven't talked with for several months.

#5) God showed up

After God fed and watered Elijah, and allowed him some rest, God revealed himself to Elijah (verses 9-18). But it wasn't in the way Elijah expected. God wasn't in the massive earthquake, or the wind storm, or even in an impressive fire. Rather, God showed up in a whisper.

When you feel depressed, you might feel completely alone. You aren't. God is with you, even if you can't hear the whisper right now. He will show Himself to you again. So don't give up. Hold on. You will sense His presence and grace once more.

#6) God gave Elijah HOPE

Elijah wanted to die in verse 4. We find out in verse 10 part of why he felt like ending it all. Elijah felt completely alone.

That is typical of depression. The voices in the mind of the depressed person lie constantly, yelling that

  • no one loves them,
  • they aren't valuable,
  • they are completely alone,
  • no one knows what they are going through.

But it isn't true. You are not alone. Just as God informed Elijah that He had 7000 others who hadn't bowed to Baal (verse 18), you are not alone either. There are people that love you and care for you.

And when you know you aren't alone, it gives you hope that you will emerge out of these dark days. You will see light again. You'll be able to laugh again. You'll be able to soak in God's grace once again.

So know that there is hope. This will end. You are not alone.

If you need someone to talk to, please don't hesitate to email or call us at Riverwood. Don't sit under your tree alone like Elijah. We'd be honored to be your "angel" and help you through this. Open up and begin the process of overcoming the depression that so many struggle with during these difficult months.

Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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