Discover the Joys in Difficult Times

This is a very difficult year for many. Maybe one of the hardest. No doubt. We are all suffering from constant trauma, crushing stress and debilitating fatigue without much respite from the daily challenges we face. For me, I have trouble sleeping at night thinking about the division, hate, sickness, the suffering of others, climate change and the civil unrest in this country and worldwide. 

But in the midst of troubling times, there are gleams of light shining through muckiness revealing the joys hidden underneath. It takes intentional effort to see the goodness when all things seem dark and dreary. I know I find it extremely difficult to be positive and to see the limitless sky beyond the raging storm.

The truth is, there are places in your life to find happiness and discover joy no matter how difficult things are. For our mental and physical health, it’s vital to find ways to create peace, develop a calm state of mind and recharge your energy. 

Here are some ideas to discover joy in the midst of darkness. I admit I need to practice these and hope you will too.

  1. Gratitude: Be grateful your loved ones. Relationships are precious and should never be wasted. Take time to reflect on the support you received throughout the years. Love and generosity from others are gifts to cherish.
  2. Be creative: Creativity is healing. If don’t create, I get depressed. Literally. The good news is you don’t have to be Picasso to be creative. All you need is the willingness to play with a curious mind. Maybe it’s trying a new recipe, writing a short piece of poetry, or coloring with your child. Make it fun with no expectations of excellence.
  3. Play with your pup: If you have dog, cuddle it, play with it or take it for a walk. If you don’t, play with your friend’s dog or watch cute doggie videos online. Two of the most joyful things are babies and dogs.
  4. Get outside: Spend time in nature by going for a walk or watch a sunrise or sunset. Look at the full moon and see the stars. Meditate by looking at a beautiful flower. Seeing Mother Earth working her magic creates feelings of hope, wonder and reverence.
  5. Spend time with your kids: When I spend time with my kids, all of the stresses melt away. The bubbly giggles and goofy words coming out from their mouths always makes me laugh. The joy of motherhood is never-ending nourishment for the soul.

Times are hard. Sometimes it feels it won’t get better. But it will. This too shall pass. In the meantime, smooth over the edges by discovering the joys in your life. It will make your days a little bit easier with a little more peace. And little more peace will go a long way.

Photo by Aditya Saxenaon Unsplash

When Depression Strikes

“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.”
– Psalms 34:17

I am an eternal optimist and positive about life.

Most of the time.

But other times beneath my smile lies an inner struggle. A battle of dealing with depression and anxiety. When it decides to strike my life, it disrupts my entire world.

Many people don’t know about my struggle. I choose not to talk about it (except for my mom) because I want to spread love and light to those around me, not darkness and despair.

Depression and anxiety is something I’ve dealt with since childhood on and off throughout the years. But I make a choice to own it and take responsibility for it instead of wallowing and staying in the dark place. I choose to stay on the path of optimism in the midst walking through the muck.

For me, depression is like giving birth. Going through it is painful and excruciating. I feel exhausted and can barely breathe. I feel like I can’t go on for one more second. But once I embrace it, feel it and go through the emotions, I release it.

A new life is born out of the process of working through my darkest moments. I become more aware of who I am, what I need and what I want. I give birth to more awareness of self.

When depression arrives, it’s like a door swung open letting out a hungry ghost from a hidden, haunted room. I want to keep the ghost locked up forever. But, I know I must let it out to heal old wounds and past hurts pushed down deep inside.

Depression and anxiety hits most of us at some point in our lives. Here are some ways I deal with depression and hopefully these will help you too.

1: Read spiritual text. I read the Bible every day even when I don’t feel like. My go to scripture when I am depressed is Psalm 23. It’s an incredible healing always giving me hope and faith God will carry me through.

2: Pray. Ask God to heal your depression. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and show you the way. Trust that God loves you and wants what’s best for you. Knowing this gives you peace everything will be ok no matter how bad you feel today.

3: Meditate. Focus on your breathing for 10 minutes day. Sit in a comfortable seated position with your back straight, shoulders back, and eyes open or closed. Feel the inhalation and exhalation of your breath. Watch your thoughts come and go like waves in the infinite sea.

Drop off all worries, concerns, and stresses. Let every bit of it go. Breathing into this space helps to ease anxiety by relaxing and calming the mind in the present moment.

4: Get creative. Being creative is always healing for me. I am a graphic designer by day so when I work on a creative design project, I feel so much better about myself. For you, it could be painting, sewing, drawing, writing, or crafts. The process of working with your creative spirit is healing nourishment for the hurting soul.

5: Cooking. Trying a new recipe or cooking a favorite meal always makes me feel good. There’s something about cooking your own food in your own kitchen that makes you feel alive. Make sure the food is healthy so your body feels good too!

6: Spend time with family and friends. When I am upset, I don’t want to be around people. But I must. Being around loved ones pulls me out of the trenches into higher ground. I don’t need to tell them what’s going to feel better. Instead, it’s their joyful and loving presence that brings me up.

Don’t be alone. Find someone to spend time with.

7: Allow yourself to feel bad for a bit. It’s a myth we need to be like Pollyannas all the time. It’s a new culture norm you must be wildly and energetically positive 24/7. This is unrealistic and unhealthy. It’s fake positive.

There are times we need to feel the darkness to see the light. To process depression, you must go through it. It’s the only way to get to the other side. You need to keep swimming through the treacherous waters to reach the shore. Not treading water forever by staying in place. You must be committed to keep moving forward or depression will drown you.

8: Get physical. Workout, go for a walk, dance. Just get your body moving. Physical exercise releases feel endorphins, the feel-good hormones in your body. Plus, feeling healthy will help ease depression. I go to the gym and attend martial arts classes no matter how bad I feel emotionally. And I always feel better afterward. It never fails me.

9: Help someone. Being of service is one of the greatest healing elixirs. Seeing someone smile because you helped them will bring you out of the darkness. It makes you feel worthy knowing you can make a difference in another person’s life. It’s a win-win for both. You help them, they help you heal. It’s a beautiful combination.

10: See a therapist. I am not a doctor so I don’t have all the answers. But if you are suffering and can’t find your way out, see a therapist. There’s a stigma in society if we see a therapist, we are weak. But if you are honest with yourself knowing you can’t do this on your own, you are strong for reaching out for help.

During my divorce, I saw a therapist weekly for months. It was vital in my healing journey and wouldn’t be the woman I am today without it. There’ no shame but only healing and strength in getting help from a licensed professional.

If you are dealing with depression and anxiety, please know you are not alone. You are not weak, lame, stupid or crazy. You are still amazing, beautiful, smart and wonderful with lots of gifts and talents to share.

But no matter how hard depression strikes, you have a choice. You can choose to heal your life or you can choose to stay in the darkness. Don’t choose victimhood. Choose to heal your life and be the light with deep, unconditional love for yourself.

Featured Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash