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One of Those Days

Last week I experienced one of those days when just getting out of bed felt nearly impossible.  I was not battling COVID-19, rather I was feeling overwhelmed by sadness and grief.  You might say I was depressed, and it would not be uncommon if you had felt the same at some time over the past few months.  One in three Americans report dealing with symptoms of stress, depression or anxiety and Michelle Obama recently said she has been dealing with what she referred to as "low-grade depression" related to this season of time.
 
While the global pandemic and civil unrest are certainly contributing factors, it is the more personal and relational issues compounded by that stress and isolation that are hitting me hardest.  I am weary from the misunderstandings that occur because I can't talk with people in person, marriage issues that boil over more often because we are always together, and learning new forms of technology to adapt for work.  That weariness makes me irritable and emotional--can you relate?

Despite my experience counseling with hundreds of couples and individuals in their difficult days, and regardless of knowing a fair amount about self-care and soul care, I still experience challenges.  We all do.  So I thought I'd share some of what I do to get through "one of those days."  This is not a magic formula for success; everyone processes emotions a bit differently.  If your sadness is intense or lingers for more than a day or two, please seek help from a healthcare professional.  There are some resources at the end of this post if you are not sure who to call.

Look to Scripture:  I particularly like 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 because I need the reminder that feeling troubled is not abnormal or shameful; if Paul and his companions, in the midst of ministry and mission, could feel despair to the point of death, then anyone can.  Their trouble was met with compassion and comfort from God, which Paul says extends to us as well.  Suffering puts us face to face with our need for God, and allows us to see clearly how God is faithful to meet us in that place with the power to make things right.  

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.   2 Corinthians 1:8-9

Grieve: Sometimes I am sad about something specific, often some loss that I feel, and on those days, it is important to allow myself the time and space to grieve.  I like to invite God into this time so that as I ponder things in my mind, I am also able to hear from him.  Moments of new understanding or self-awareness, of hope or peace, and of relief I can attribute to God and receive as his input.  Much of the time is spent sitting with my feelings about a person or process or even a place that I miss.  Letting the emotion well up and pour out as tears or tantrums releases my body from the chore of holding it all inside.  There are days that just an hour of time is enough, and other days when several hours is still too little.

Get Up: Even though I would rather stay curled up in bed, it is good to get up, if just for a short time.  Leaving the bed and the bedroom helps to make that space a comfortable retreat again and a place of rest at night when sleep is a valuable tool to fight stress, anxiety and depression.  Taking a shower, sharing a meal with my family, reading or watching TV on the couch, tending to our pets or plants, or looking out a different window can all feel a bit refreshing even if my mood is not completely lifted.  If time with others still feels overwhelming, I need to let my family know this is still quiet time for me.

Get Out: Sometimes getting up can help enough for me to feel like I can take that next step of getting out.  I'm not talking about a big trip or a social event necessarily, rather a walk around the block or a drive around town to get a change of scenery and help move my mind into a new perspective as well.  I remember taking my fussy babies out into the fresh air and watching their mood change almost instantly.  The change is not usually so dramatic for me, but every little bit does help.  If making a plan is too much, there is no need.  Getting out is not about accomplishing a task, instead it is just about trying something that might let me see and experience things differently.

Do Something: While getting out was not about accomplishing anything, a good next step is to do something that can be considered an achievement.  To set a small goal and complete it helps me to counter the negative self-talk that would say this day is wasted or, worse, that I am worthless.  For me, the goal might be to finish a small project or to organize a junk drawer because these are tasks that are outside of the everyday and often neglected, but they do not necessarily take up a lot of time or energy.  For others, a fitness or reading goal might be appropriate.  On particularly difficult days, jotting down some emotions and prayers from the time of grieving, actually getting up and taking that shower, or getting out for a short walk might be counted as goals and accomplishments.

Say Something: Finding a friend, confidant, counselor, or even a hotline where concerns and emotions can be freely shared and met with love and encouragement is critical.  We are not meant to do life alone and it will always feel less manageable as long as we try to keep real emotions to ourselves.  In this season I am fortunate to have good friends, but I have also reached out for more support.  My husband and I are seeing (virtually) a marriage therapist and I have a life coach.  Other family members have their own support, appropriate to their unique personality and needs because we each manage stress differently and require different kinds of input from support providers.  

Return to Scripture: Inspired by scripture, I pause to thank God for his presence and comfort in my life, for the time to grieve and his beautiful world to walk in, and for people who are compassionate toward me, whether friends or professionals.  Then I consider those around me who might also be hurting so that I can share God's compassion because the scripture describes a cycle in which I am meant to comfort others with the comfort I receive.  This reminder helps me to see purpose in the midst of pain and to take my eyes off myself to assist others as a last step in my own cycle.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4


Resources:
These resources are free and available to everyone because we all need help sometimes.
  • LACDMH Help Line: (800) 854-7771
    • General assistance available all the time (option 1 when calling the Help Line) for mental health screening and assessment, referral to a service provider, crisis counseling, field response teams, linkages to other services and resources 24/7
    • Emotional Support Warm Line with Trained Active Listeners – available 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily (option 2 when calling the Help Line) if you just need someone to talk to
    • Veteran Line for Mental Health Support and Connection to Veteran Programs – available 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily (option 3 when calling the Help Line)
  • Crisis Text Line:  text LA to 741741 if you are in a situation where you do not have the privacy to talk freely or you simply prefer text to calling, simply text to connect with a trained crisis counselor
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
  • Substance Abuse Service Helpline: (844) 804-7500

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