February 14, 2011
Editor’s Note: The following comments and thoughts shared in this interview in no way substitutes or negates the importance of seeing your local Doctor. If you think you might be depressed it is imperative that you not “shrug it off” and think you’ll work out of it. Depression is a real clinical reality that requires the direction of a trained Medical practitioner. Drew underwent rigorous supervision and attention from a team that involved a Psychologist and a Medical Doctor. It has been after his treatment that he’s been able to put into practice what he’s been taught.
Part 2 of a 2-Part series:
OS-I’ve been in conversations with other people about the idea of “loving ourselves”. For some reason, there isn’t a lot of theology about “self-care”. We know we are to love God and love others, but we exclude ourselves from the equation. What are your thoughts on the importance of “self-love/care”?
I’m so glad you asked this! This is quickly turning into a life mantra for me. Allow me to explain:
Mark 12:29-31 reads: “Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this; ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
A whole person approach to our spirituality should include not just our spirits, which is the usual focus of Christians. But if we look at the greatest command, Christ is telling us that we need to love the Lord with our emotions, our bodies and our spirit.
How do we love the Lord with our emotions and with our bodies? Often I have interpreted this as, “If I read the Bible, say my prayers, keep physically active, say the appropriate things and generally live a good life, then I am honoring God with my body and my mind.”
The way God has created us is absolutely incredible in the fact that in our bodies we house our physical state, our emotional state, and our spiritual state! And so often the temptation is to compartmentalize these states, and say, “Okay, church will take care of my spiritual state, a book will take care of my emotional state, and working out will take care of my physical state.” And while we are right on many levels, we are missing it on so many levels!
What I mean by that is if we look at our bodies, our minds, emotions and spirit as a whole person approach we see that one area will affect the other which in turn will affect another. So, when one of these areas is out of balance it throws the rest into compensation mode and very quickly we become unhealthy and out of balance.
Now, at this time with me talking about balance and health and emotional state and such, you could be thinking, “Drew, this sounds weird, it feels like I’m reading a Tony Robbins, self help clinic. Can we just talk about the Bible and God! This touchy feely stuff is way too wishy washy and just weird!”
Edmund Spenser wrote, “It is the mind that maketh good or ill, that maketh wretched or happy, rich or poor.”
At one time we all depended on others, whether it be family, friends or heroes for our strength and self-esteem. At one time they were all we had to count on – for good or bad. But now we’re adults – on our own. And no longer must we lean on others to care for us; rather we need to learn to take care of our own selves. I heard it said this way, “As cynical as it sounds, I need to take care of myself, because no one else will.”
OS- Like Olivia Newton-John once declared, “let’s get physical”. What are practical real life things we can begin to change in order to begin the journey of caring for ourselves?
Okay, here are some things that I’ve started to incorporate in my life that has been of immense help:
Create Small Pleasures
I’d like you to answer these two questions:
1. What small pleasures do you truly enjoy more than anything else?
2. How long has it been since you’ve engaged in these pleasures?
Here’s the thing, recognizing our small pleasures is important because it’s doing the little, seemingly unimportant things that bring deep richness to our lives. They renew us, restore us, refresh us and help us see beyond ourselves. But one of the secrets to finding inner healing and peace is to know how to slow down, change our routines and make room for small pleasures. Learn how to stop and smell the roses so to speak. If we fail to do this we will keep focusing inward, which will ultimately isolate us from others and prevent us from seeing God’s goodness all around us.
When you begin to slow down, relax and re-engage in small pleasures, you’ll feel like the psalmist who wrote, “I will lift my eyes up to the hills from where my help comes from.” We will never see the hills if we’re looking at ourselves and our hearts will never be elevated if we fail to lift our eyes. As we engage in small pleasures, we lift up our eyes.
Make Exercise fun
Until now you may have been too busy to exercise because you thought that exercise had to be drudgery. Here’s the good news: you can slow down and enjoy the flowers! You don’t have to control everything in your life. That’s probably what got a lot of us in trouble in the first place! I know it did me. Making exercise fun will help put you into an environment that is free and easy. Your stress level will slowly melt away and you will find yourself one step closer to regaining control of your life.
Develop 3 Relationships of Significance
1.Build a relationship with someone older and wiser who has lived long enough to understand the value of trusting intimate friendships. This would be someone you could just enjoy, listen to, and learn from without needing to make a major contribution.
2. Seek to build a friendship with someone your own age – a person who you could easily relate to because of shared interests and values, a true peer.
3. And finally find some time each month to be a mentor to a person younger than you.
Live with an Attitude of Gratitude
Practice becoming a Life-Giving person
Think for a moment of the people whose company you enjoy and cherish. Are they not men and women who are life giving? They are interested in you, they listen to you, they regard you as their friend and their smile is a tonic. Then there are the takers – those who brighten up a room when they leave because they have chipped away at your self-esteem and left you weather-beaten.
I think one of the most effective ways to counteract burnout and emotional exhaustion is to become a life giving person and to stop demanding, threatening, pleading, cajoling, and bribing others to do our bidding. To gain inner healing, we must understand that loving attention paid to others goals and dreams is the greatest form of compassion and caring.
Allow Food to Nourish You Again
Okay, I know this is really basic, but the reality is that due to our pace of life most of us do not eat in a way that we gain the nutritional value that our bodies need. If you are struggling with depression or just need a boost in your energy levels start here:
Omega 3’s (Or Fish Oil)- The reality is that our brain needs fat; healthy fat, like mono-unsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats. Omega 3’s is the super star when it comes to this. Omega 3’s calm down the immune system (every disease is an inflamed immune system) and inflammation in the immune system creates depression.
A good Supplement – Try one in a gel capsule as they release into our system faster than pill format. Remember, you get what you pay for, so watch out for those generic brands. Also, a good multivitamin should be taken more than once a day, ignore the one a day pills, its just a marketing gimmick.
Siberian Ginseng – Another root that helps with mental comprehension and energy levels. The best kind is in the tincture form.
Water – The studies on properly hydrating yourself is stunning! From weight loss to energy levels to muscle tone to memory retention to actually healing the body of different diseases. How much should we drink? Here’s a quick formula:
Take your body weight; divide it in half and that is the amount of ounces we should drink. Remember there is 8 ounces in a cup. So for example a 200 lbs man should be drinking 12 cups a day.
Develop Your Sense of Humor
Much of what we fret and strain about can be handled in more creative ways. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” While emotional exhaustion and abuse is no laughing matter I still suggest taking a look back in your life and finding specific situations at which you can now honestly laugh at. Humor is one of the most effective stress busters around. A good belly laugh at the comedy routines of the Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Tina Fey relaxes muscles and reduces blood pressure. According to Stanford University, laughter stimulates the production of hormones called catecholamines, which are believed to release endorphins, the same stress reducers triggered by vigorous exercise.
Ask God to Increase Your Faith
When I was so emotionally exhausted that I didn’t know up from down, reality from fantasy, truth from fiction, it was only as I asked God to increase my faith, help my unbelief, and show me that he really does have a plan designed for me that my life began to turn around. I had to finally admit I had a problem, swallow my pride and confess that I didn’t know everything.
One of my favorite verses has quickly become this one:
“In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome this world.” John 16:33
It is my prayer that you will ask God to increase your faith and help you see his bigger, better plan for you. A plan that has no room for emotional exhaustion or burnout, but instead promises a life of balance, health, courage, and love for yourself and others, and for your heavenly Father.