Friday, November 22, 2013

Surviving The Holidays With Depression/Anxiety

With Thanksgiving less than one week away, most people are starting to feel a little bit of stress, anxiety, excitement, and did I mention stress?  The holidays have the ability to bring out the best in us, or the worst in us.  Your relatives know exactly what buttons to push, what side dish to bring, and have an opinion on how you cooked the turkey or decorated the tree.  Don't ya just love'em?!

But for some of us who struggle daily with depression or anxiety, the holidays can really start to make your palms sweat, and you feel an overwhelming need to stay in bed, all day. 

So what's one to do if they find themselves falling deeper and deeper into feeling down, or not holly and jolly?  Here are a few tips I have come up with to help survive the holidays, and please know I am coming at you as someone who struggles with this.  I do have a background in counseling {BA and MA in Clinical Counseling}, but these tips are from my heart, not my textbook. 

1. Get connected or reconnected with Church...Most people find God around the holidays, or are willing to "try" formal religion.  I know some people get frustrated with church, they think most Christians are hypocritical, judgmental, mean, and cliquish, and yes, you would be right.  I think that, too.  But those people are a small percent of the Church, unfortunately they are the first ones you see when you walk in.  But get past those people and find the ones who really care, and want to love on you.

I am not saying get back in church so you can pray your depression away.  I am saying there is something to having a true, genuine relationship with Christ.  God loves you unconditionally, he loves you on the good days, on the bad days, and on the really ugly days.  God created you, and he didn't make a mistake.  I feel like I can not express this tip enough, you just have to trust me.  Step out of your comfort zone and give it a try. 

2. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time...I doubt someone who severely struggles with depression or anxiety volunteered to have all the family over for the holiday.  But maybe you did, or maybe you got volunteered to host.  Regardless if you are having everyone over or are traveling, be prepared.  Make a list of what you need to bake, make, or pack.  Start now, and crank it out.  We are leaving Tuesday afternoon to go out of state, and I am making my list today of everything we need to take with us.  This way you feel like you are in control and not spiraling out of control at the last minute.  If you are baking/cooking, make your grocery list, go get all the items you need before Wednesday night at 8pm, and start a schedule of when you are going to prepare the food.  Try and get your family to bring as much as they can, so maybe you are left with just the turkey and drinks.  This plan may not work for this year, but bank it for next year.

3. Schedule a break day after the holiday...Once your family comes and goes, take a break, and don't feel guilty.  I love my family, and I love being around them, but they wear me out, too.  So I know when we get back, I am taking a break.  I will push my to-do list off so I can re-charge.  You are better for it, and so is your family.  Make sure your spouse/kids know you are taking this break.

4. Serve others...Sometimes when I feel my lowest I need to go serve others.  Doing something nice for someone else makes you feel good.  It does, go ahead and admit it, it's okay.  Plus, when you serve someone else you are taking your focus off yourself and your issues, and you are putting that other person first.  It can be something as simple as baking cookies for a neighbor, or you go serve a meal at a city mission.  Get out and help someone.

5. Get moving...At times I feel the worst about myself when I have not exercised in a while.  I start to hear the voices saying "you are fat, you are out of shape, you are a terrible example to your kids, you are going to eat that?" and the list goes on.  It's hard to get motivated and get moving, trust me, I totally get this.  But after I go for a walk, or a run, or play with my kids, I feel so much better.  We all know when you are active your brain releases those happy feelings that float through your body, so there are multiple benefits of moving around.  I also find if I am active in the morning, I make better choices throughout the day.  Again, I am learning and doing this right along with you.  I ran on Monday for the first time in 3 weeks.  Then I did nothing all week until this morning.  I am still learning the art of discipline.

6. Have fun...Truthfully, this may be the hardest one for a person dealing with depression/anxiety.  The idea of planning something, things going perfectly, the kids having a good time, the money, the "you name it" is super stressful.  This tip could cause anyone a slight panic attack.  Keep it simple...let me repeat...SIMPLE.  Play a game, color a picture, drive around and look at Christmas lights, just do something out of the ordinary and have fun doing it!

These tips are not a cure all, trust me, they just put a dent into dealing with depression/anxiety.  And just because I wrote these down, does not mean I have mastered them, I need to practice them just as much as you do. 

If you are reading this because someone you love struggles with depression/anxiety, please know it's not you, it's us.  This a demon we wrestle with daily.  Some days are easier and we seem fine or happy, other days we know we are just plain ugly, so please don't try and fix us, support us. 

And on a serious note, if you are struggling beyond getting out of bed for more than 2-3 days in a row, or if life seems to be caving in on you and you can't escape, please, I urge to go talk to your doctor or a counselor.  There is absolutely no shame in that, and there is no shame or guilt in needing medicine to help you get back on track, or to stay on track.

The holidays are stressful, we know that, but I pray some of these tips encourage you, and you can not only survive the holidays, but thrive through them.



Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A BIG {fat} Update!

First let me apologize to my our house fat is a bad word, but I felt like it was appropriate for this post :)

So as you can see after my 31 days of writing I apparently went into hibernation.  Definitely not intended, but I have been busy, like really busy.  Good busy, and that makes me feel happy!

I will try and catch you all up...

-October brought the 31 days of Grace series, but it also brought the end of soccer season, pumpkin painting, homeschooling, art class, tennis lessons, library trips, trick-or-treating, Molly running in her first race, serving {volunteering}at a new church, and much more!

-November has brought packing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, a trip to Nashville for me, a trip back to Milwaukee for all of us, finishing up homeschooling, enrolling Molly in public school, and getting ready to head to Rochester for Thanksgiving.

It doesn't feel like a lot to type all of that but it's kept us busy.

Molly loved playing soccer here in Ohio, and she had a great time getting to know the girls on her team.  Molly has also loved going to art lessons, she has made and created some amazing pieces of work.  I am blown away each week she brings something home.  Instead of carving pumpkins, the girls and I painted pumpkins.  They last longer and we don't have to worry about messy guts, seeds, and sharp knives.  The day looked nice and it was sunny out, but man oh man it was windy.  The poor kids were freezing while painting and the newspapers kept blowing up on the wet pumpkins.  But it was still fun, and the girls enjoyed it.    

We have still loved going to the library each week, Molly is enjoying reading chapter books, and Lucy loves playing in their little puppet house.  I took the girls to an old farm here in town and they learned all about apples and corn.  They loved it!

Molly was taking tennis lessons at the YMCA and she loved it.  Those ended, and now she is taking lessons with the Junior Tennis League of America {or something like that!}.  She is on a team with other kids her age, and she has a coach that focuses just on her.  She LOVES it!  Plus, she has a little shirt with her team name "Alley Cats" on it that she wears for her lessons.

Another big highlight is Molly starting school.  A lot of people have asked, "does this mean you are staying in Findlay?"  "Are you not moving?"  We aren't sure, and we aren't sure, how about that, ha.  Molly was not a fan of homeschooling, and didn't really enjoy it, and has begged to go to "real school."  Homeschooling was temporary, we knew that, and tried to do the best we could.  It really came down to what Molly wanted to do, within reason.  We are not sure what our plans are right now, so we figured for as long as we are here, we would enroll her in school.  Molly knows she could be at this school for a month, or until the end of  May.  And she is totally okay with that.

Molly has missed being around other kids, and having those relationships.  We thought having her involved in sports, art, and church was enough, and really it wasn't.  She needs those day to day interactions, and she looks forward to seeing other kids.  Plus, Molly has a need to please, and it gets hard just pleasing your homeschool teacher, so allowing her to follow the rules, and make others happy, in return makes Molly happy.  And that makes me happy!

Molly started school on Monday (11/18) and she has loved every single day so far.  Her teacher is so nice, and really caring.  I am so impressed with the school so far, you know 3 days in, ha!  And I attended my first PTO meeting last night.  I am excited to get involved volunteering and helping out anywhere that I am needed, no matter how long we are here.

Now to the burning question in everyone's planting.  I honestly have nothing new to report on that.  Which I know most of you are thinking, "really, what on earth have you been doing the last 2 months?!"  I often think the same thing.  Eric has been very diligent in meeting with people, pastors, churches, anyone who will listen.  And, and this is a very big and...God has opened a new door for us since moving back.  A door we had no clue about, and didn't even know was an option when deciding to move back.

How about that for a vague update.  So I guess you could say church planting is on hold right now while we are working through this other open door.  The "catch" is neither door- church planting or this other opportunity are moving fast.  So prayers for wisdom and lots of patience would be awesome.

Since moving back to Ohio we have grown a lot, we have questioned a lot, worked through a lot of feelings, have had fun, and have just tried to enjoy this journey God has put us on.  Each day is new and different, some days are "easy" and some days are incredibly difficult.  I know we will one day look back and be thankful for this new adventure.  Today is definitely not that day, but some day will be.