Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalms 43:5
Living in a pandemic world of ever changing circumstances and so many unknowns, I have found myself confused and overwhelmed by all the information, loss of control (or what I thought I could control), fear and worry about vulnerable family members, and weariness of wondering if things would ever get back to normal.
The range of emotions made me remember an earlier time in my life when I experienced stronger feelings of hopelessness and despair and even though my circumstances improved my ability to handle my inner conflict seem nonexistent. It was that season in my life when I totally had to depend on God and cry out to him for his healing, strength and wisdom. It was a journey, not instant healing, but God brought beauty from the ashes and put a desire in me to help others through their life challenges. Now God has given me the privilege to serve as a licensed professional counselor to many people.
Let’s begin by defining some terms. Sadness is an emotion that results from experiences or circumstances that happen to us. It includes confusion, feeling overwhelmed, tears, and grief but in most cases a person can regain their capacity to have better days and begin to feel alive again. Clinical depression is a feeling of hopelessness, despair, and lack of motivation even when circumstances in life have improved or wounds have been healed. Sufferers cannot control their “darkness” or change their emotions by their sheer will.
All of us experience emotions on a spectrum due to our body’s chemical and neurological make up, our experiences, and our circumstances in life. Therefore, there is no one perfect treatment to apply to such a varied range of emotions. But a person does not need to feel helpless and should begin to recognize that there are many things they can do to experience God’s grace and strength to build resilience into their life.
Here are 6 strategies to build resilience.
1. Spend time with God daily.
Psalms 43:5 tells us if our soul is downcast then put your hope in God and praise him. Choosing to structure time each day in his word provides an opportunity for your heart and head to focus on things above and not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). When our problems that we face are bigger than God’s promises then our souls will fell downcast and overwhelmed. So, the opposite is true to, if we spend time focusing on God’s promises and praise him then our souls will begin to have hope.
2. Take time to journal.
Journaling is important because it allows us to pour out our heart to God. Psalms 62:8 tells us to pour out our heart before him, God is a refuge for us. When David was in a cave feeling overwhelmed and hiding from his enemy, he poured out his heart to God. In Psalms 142 David named his trouble (v.2), expressed how he was feeling (v.3), confessed his need for God’s help (v.6), and ended with a declaration that God would deliver his soul (v.7). This deliverance was not necessarily from his circumstances of hiding in a cave, but for his soul referring to the inner person – his mind, will and emotions. When we are feeling emotions of depression it is easy to want God to fix our circumstances but as we journal our heart to God, we are seeking God’s healing for our souls. Practically that means getting a notebook and writing down your troubles and how you are feeling. Then write down a Bible verse and ask God to speak to your heart about what he is saying to you.
3. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Spending time and energy to move outside of yourself by connecting or helping someone else will allow you to follow the second of the greatest commandments Jesus gave to love God then love others, Matthew 22:39. As you focus on what you can do for another person reminds you that you are not helpless but have an important role to play in encouraging others. Call a friend and ask them how they are doing; meet a physical need of someone like cook a meal or deliver groceries to a homebound friend; or volunteer at a local ministry.
4. Commit to your physical health.
God gave us one body so it is important to take care of it. Getting 30-45 minutes daily of exercise like walking or riding a bike boosts your metabolism and helps you to feel better and have more energy. Drinking plenty of water will hydrate your body help to prevent needless calories from sugary sodas and junk food. Keeping a sleep routine of 7-8 hours per night and limiting naps during the day will allow your body to heal and refresh itself. If you experience insomnia research ways to improve sleep or seek medical attention.
5. Give thanks.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, ‘Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Start each day naming three gratitudes. This can be done with the whole family by writing things to be thankful for on a chalkboard or make a gratitude jar and each family member contributes to it. Focusing your mind on things to be thankful for helps you to stay positive and cultivates a heart of love for God. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, His love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)
6. Seek help.
Proverbs 19:20 tells us “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” You may not be able to lift yourself out of the pit of emotions and you may feel like you are experiencing symptoms of depression versus sadness and grief, so seek counseling or a medical doctor. God has a pathway of healing for you that includes his grace and mercy, but it may also may include others to lend a hand. Our God is so good.
You may be experiencing a lot of emotions due to the pandemic or other circumstances in your life. God desires to strengthen you and build resilience in your life. As you go to God using these strategies know that He is your power source. Through his Holy Spirit you will find peace and rest for your soul.