This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Personal Responsibility Paradigm” seminar. This portion is one element from “STEP 6: RESTRUCTURE MY LIFE to rely on God’s grace and Word to transform my life.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events
This chapter is a buffet. If you consider every strategy presented to be an assignment, this chapter will overwhelm you. As you read, select those strategies that best fit your life circumstances, the dynamics of your struggle, and your personality. If you are working through this material with a friend or counselor, invite them to suggest which strategies they believe would have the largest impact.
To help you select a balanced set of strategies we have divided this chapter into six sections. Some of this material will be crystalizing and making more actionable what you have already learned. Other parts will be fresh applications of the gospel-truths we have been building upon.
- Immediate Negative Emotion Response Plan
- Stewarding Your Body
- Extended Negative Emotion Response Plan
- Life Management
- Pursuit of Joy Plan
- Strategic Spiritual Disciplines
Pursuit of Joy Plan
Battling depression-anxiety can make you a very negative person towards yourself. Your focus can easily become exclusively upon what you shouldn’t be feeling. If this happens, your ability to sustain whatever change you are able to generate will be significantly compromised. That is why we take the time to encourage you to develop a “pursuit of joy” plan as part of your strategy for battling depression-anxiety.
1. Engage Your Interests:
What do you enjoy? Take the time to make a long list. Include things you would like to try but are not sure you would enjoy. As you write, initially resist a sense of guilt about being “selfish.” As long as the things you write are not immoral, God wants you to engage in these things. These interests are part of His design of you.
Based on the list you created, begin to ask yourself these questions:
- Which of these could fit best in the rhythm of my day, week, or month?
- Which of these are special occasion pleasures that I should plan for?
- What changes would I need to make in order to create the space for these activities?
- How could I use these activities to develop relationships that would be rewarding and help ensure my prolonged engagement in these activities?Try not to think of these things as “treats” for “being good.” Instead realize that they are part of a healthy, balanced life. If you think of them as a “treat” they will get cut when the next surge of life demands come.
2. Distract Yourself:
Often distraction carries a negative connotation. Veg-ing out in front of the television for hours instead of studying or paying bills is bad. But we should recognize that often depression-anxiety regains its foothold during very mundane moments – when we’re driving the car, mowing the yard, doing a mindless task, or settling down to go to sleep.
These moments are not conducive to many of the strategies we’ve listed. In these moments having an arsenal of enjoyable distractions is important – enjoyable music, computer game, movie, etc… It is not a form of escape to use these as distraction outlets during times when your hands are occupied but your mind is free to roam or when your body is tired but your mind has the energy to spin.
3. Savor Every Moment: Life will never be a series of epic moments. In order to enjoy life, we must learn to savor the ordinary. This is the essence of contentment, the secret Paul discovered to thriving in any circumstance (Phil. 4:11-12).
The opposite of depression-anxiety will not be “highs” that are the equal-opposite of the “lows” of fear and despair. Instead, the alternative to depression anxiety will be the ability to enjoy the “mids” of day-to-day, normal life. While this may not be as exciting as many people would like, it provides a much more realistic goal.
Read I Thessalonians 5:16-19. Consider this point of application for what it means to “give thanks in all circumstances” (v. 18); the spiritual discipline of savoring life. Living out this discipline is a primary way we “do not quench the Spirit” (v. 19). When we see and acknowledge the goodness God put in each moment we are emboldening the Spirit in our lives. How do we do this? Consider the following practices:
- Grow the habit of asking “What is good?” about each situation and relationship you are in? If this is hard for you, then pray God would give you “eyes to see” what is good.
- Resist the tendency to grow bored with God’s blessings. We do not want to be God’s spoiled child who says we have nothing to do while surrounded by toys.
- Begin to grow your in ability to take pleasure in small things. If depression-anxiety is savoring (mentally rehearsing bad things), then exercise the same cognitive-emotional muscle in how you savor good things.
- Allow the memory of good things to be an extension of their goodness. We do this with holidays, weddings, and other major events. Carry the same discipline into less intense pleasures.
OVERCOMING DEPRESSION-ANXIETY: A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY PARADIGM
Date: Saturday October 18
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.