10 tips for teens fighting depression
Life is full of amazing, beautiful things for us to enjoy. But life can also suck sometimes. Hard stuff happens, and we get down about it. Friends leave us or betray us, family members get sick or die, things we were looking forward to don't work out, relationships fall apart… life is full of hard, beautiful, fun, confusing, mysterious, difficult stuff.
When life gets us down, most people bounce back fairly quickly. If you find yourself really struggling to bounce back though, or feeling like all the joy and motivation has been sucked out of your life (for a consistently long period), then you may be dealing with genuine depression or anxiety. As someone who’s struggled with depression for a few years, I know it can be hard to describe it to other people. The best way I can explain it is like a heavy, dark blanket that seems to fall on me, and colours everything in grey. It’s seems too heavy to lift, and just kind of holds me down. It’s no fun at all, and if you're feeling this, you're not alone! It’s said that some 20% of teenagers experience depression, and suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for teenagers. Yet somehow it’s still not something that Christians are very comfortable talking about.
Depression can be a rare, random occurrence, or it could be chronic or cyclical in your life. It can be caused by emotional trauma, chemical or hormonal imbalances, consistent stress, or even demonic oppression. It can also be caused by sexual abuse. While depression may come upon you for any number of reasons, the really good news is that holding on to it is optional! There are a lot of practical things you can do to keep yourself together when you’re going through a dark time, and there's also hope for doing better than just holding together. Before we get started, let’s make really clear that if you’re battling suicidal thoughts, you need to talk to another human right now. You are precious, you are unique, you are gifted, you are a son or daughter of God, and we need you with us. Google suicide prevention line right now, and you’ll find numbers to call in your local area and people who care for you. You need to talk to someone! There are always other options than what we see in front of us.
Here are 10 things that I’ve found to be really helpful when dealing with depression or anxiety:
Find a healthy outlet
for your emotions.
Depression is often described as anger aimed inward. After fighting depression for over two years, I realized that there was a lot in my life that made me angry. My family was not an angry family, there was no yelling or shouting or passive aggressive behaviour. Everyone just bottled it up. But it’s OK to be angry! It’s not a sin! You may need to find a healthy outlet for your anger, or other strong emotions. I like to listen to metal, and work a punching bag. Try asking your friends how they process their emotions.
We need friends and family around us. Isolation is no good, it makes us feel alone and like we’re the only ones dealing with what we’re going through. Human interaction is important, there are good chemicals that are released in our brains through hugs and simple physical affection, as well as just spending time with people we feel safe with and whose company we enjoy. Hang out with your friends!
stay (or get) fit.
Get out there! Exercise releases endorphins into your body which feel good, they’re natural anti-depressants. Push-ups or running are helpful for many people.When I run, all the stuff I’m pissed off about tends to bubble up in my mind and I can scream it all out to God and get it off my chest.
Sugary, fatty foods may be tasty for a moment, but they’ll give your body a rush that you will later come down from. That sugar crash isn’t helping your depression, and the gross feeling in your body from eating too many Doritos and ice cream is no fun. We often feel guilty too about the things we eat, and those feelings of guilt won’t help your anxiety. Focus on fresh fruit or vegetables, yogurt, nuts and meat. Bagels, pop-tarts, chips and other snacks are seriously lacking.
sin and shame?
I was addicted to porn for over 10 years. My feelings of shame over the bad stuff I was doing compounded my depression in a big way. The issues of sin in your life will make you feel guilty and shameful. That shame breeds a feeling of fear in our lives, and we try and control things so that no one will know what’s going on. That isolates us, and makes us feel trapped. If there’s anything that makes depression worse, it’s the feeling of being trapped! Pay attention to the sin issues in your life, repent to God, and ask him to show you how to get free. Talk to a friend, parent or trusted mentor about what you’re struggling with.
social media inputs.
There’s not much that makes me feel more crap about my life than other people’s Instagram feeds. Social media makes us think we’re connecting with people, but it actually doesn’t provide the positive emotional and chemical payoff that face-to-face human interaction does. Not only that, but most of us put pretty, shiny versions of ourselves on social media, so we feel like everyone else’s lives are better than ours. Put down your phone and talk to someone IRL.
Get some sun!
I used to laugh about SAD: seasonal affective disorder. But then I realised that I was happier in summer than in winter, and it hit me: weather does affect us. Staying cooped up inside isn’t good for my mood even if it’s the only thing I feel like doing. Sun exposure is healthy and gives us Vitamin D, which helps with mood regulation and immunity. We can’t all go to Mexico in the winter, but we can force ourselves to go for a walk, or just spend a few minutes sitting in the sun. There are salt lamps you can buy that help your mood as well.
everything you think.
A big area that I have struggled with is what some people call ungodly beliefs. They’re lies that we believe about ourselves or about others. Things like “I’ll always be alone” or “Nobody cares how I feel.” There are real events in ours lives that back up these lies, but that doesn’t make the lie truthful. Your feelings are valid. Your emotions are beautiful. You can get free from these ungodly beliefs by asking the Holy Spirit to show you lies you are believing. Patiently pray and listen, and write down the things that come to your mind. Ask forgiveness for believing these lies, and then receive God’s forgiveness. When God forgives you then you must forgive yourself. Now ask the Holy Spirit to give you a new Godly belief to replace the old one. Speak these new truths over yourself every day. It’ll make a huge difference!
We live in a crazy busy world, and we can get in the habit of filling up every second of the day. Like when you sit down on the toilet and pull out for you phone? Yeah, like that. Stop, and being mindful of your state of emotions. Get in touch with how you feel. In that moment, tap into this truth: the past doesn’t exist, the future doesn’t exist either. The only moment that is real is this moment right now. And in this moment, you are perfectly loved by God. You are floating in an endless ocean of God’s perfect love. I try and spend some time each day meditating on this. You might find it helpful to put on some worship music and soak in God’s presence for a while. Whether you feel anything happen right away or not, I promise you’ll see a difference before long.
Hobbies are important. You’re a human being, meant to enjoy things. Make sure you spend some time each week on things that genuinely bring you joy and help your soul express itself in healthy ways. Whether it’s reading, gaming, rock climbing or baking, prioritize a portion of your time for fun, productive things that you love.