Tweets of the Week 10.21.14

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

Video: Overcoming Depression-Anxiety, A Suffering Paradigm (Step 1)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

The complementing studies  Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Responsibility Paradigm and Towards a Christian Perspective of Mental Illness will also available in a video format after their presentation

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. Summit members can pick up a copy of the notebook in the church office. For those outside the Summit family, you can request a copy from Amy LaBarr (alabarr@summitrdu.com), office administrator over counseling.

“Starting a Hard Journey on Empty”
PREPARE yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually to face your suffering.

Depression-Anxiety Suffering Paradigm Part 1 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV), “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Come to me… I am gentle” – Hope begins with a relationship with Jesus. He wants you to know he is patient.
  • “Labor and heavy laden” – When battling depression everything feels like a heavy laden toil. Jesus gets it.
  • “Give you rest… for your soul” – There will be steps to take, but Jesus recognizes first you need rest and hope.
  • “Take my yoke” – A yoke tied two oxen to the same plow. Jesus is committing to carry this load with you.
  • “Learn from me” – As Jesus walks with you through this valley of despair, you will learn a great deal from him.

Teaching Notes

“Being depressed is bad enough in itself, but being a depressed Christian is worse. And being a depressed Christian in a church full of people who do not understand depression is like a taste of hell (p. 14).” John Lockley in A Practical Workbook for the Depressed Christian

“Certainly one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to try too much at once. You will fail and be even more depressed (p. 84)… As anxiety and panic attacks are also commonly associated with depression (so much so that doctors are increasingly using the term depression-anxiety when referring to depression), much of what I write will apply to these distressing conditions also (p. 1).” David Murray in Christians Get Depressed Too

“With all the debate about the causes of depression, it is easy to miss the obvious: depression is painful. It is a form of suffering (p. 37).” Ed Welch in Depression, A Stubborn Darkness

“The Psalms treat depression more realistically than many of today’s popular books on Christianity and psychology. David and other Psalmists often found themselves deeply depressed for various reasons. They did not, however, apologize for what they were feeling, nor did they confess it as sin. It was a legitimate part of their relationship with God. They interacted with him through the context of their depression (p. 204).” Steve and Robyn Bloem in Broken Minds

“There are usually no quick fixes. For Christians there will often need to be a balance between medicines for the brain, rest for the body, counsel for the mind, and spiritual encouragement for the soul (p. 30)… We will answer the question ‘What is depression?’ by looking at how it is related to and reflected in five areas of our lives: our life situation, our thoughts, our feelings, our bodies, and our behavior (p. 32).” David Murray in Christians Get Depressed Too

“[On John 5:6] Doctors and pastors are often faced with the frustrating situation of people who need the help they can give, yet are not taking the steps required to benefit from this help. Perhaps they have just learned to live with the problem. Perhaps they have given up hope of getting better. Perhaps they lack the will to play their part in the healing process. Perhaps they are frightened of all the responsibilities of life that would come upon them should they be viewed as well again. Perhaps they would miss the attention and sympathy that being ill may generate… You have no hope of recovery from depression unless you want to recover and are, therefore, prepared to play your own significant part in the recovery process (p. 69-70).” David Murray in Christians Get Depressed Too

“Reading Scripture is a discipline that at times in mental illness is almost impossible and yet remains necessary for spiritual health. Why is this so? Because Scripture bears the saving grace of God (p. 163).” Kathryn Greene-McCreight in Darkness Is My Only Companion

Blog Post: “A Sample Letter to Help Cultivate Community While Struggling with Depression-Anxiety” (Sample of material in the seminar notebook)

Blog Post: “6 Steps to Wise Decision Making About Psychotropic Medications” (Appendix A from the seminar notebook)

Two Ways of Measuring Progress with Depression-Anxiety

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: IMPLEMENT the new structure pervasively with humility and flexibility.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events

Measuring progress is tricky for many reasons. First, measuring progress is an attempt to measure something very fluid and dynamic. There is a rise and fall, acceleration and deceleration in progress that makes it hard to get a concrete reading. Second, measuring progress has a tendency to measure performance over dependence. This tendency can easily begin to undermine the God-reliance stressed throughout this material. Finally, measuring progress can foster shame when there is some type of regression. How regression is handled is pivotal to establishing lasting change.

C.S. Lewis gave a very instructive metaphor for how to deal with shame. Lewis compared shame to hot coffee. If we spill hot coffee on our skin we are burned, scalded, and feel disgusting. However, if we drink coffee we are warmed, nourished, and energized. When we avoid shame or wallow in shame, it becomes like spilled coffee. When we handle the stigma that may exist over depression-anxiety in the ways that are outlined in Scripture, then even our weaknesses draw us closer to Christ, remind us of the necessity of the cross, and give us testimony to share.

David Powlison gives seven indicators that progress is being made with sin (bold text only). These are discussed to give you a more robust understanding of progress than merely counting the number of good emotional days. As you read these consider how each point helps you see and/or maintain progress even when you experience bouts of depression-anxiety.

  1. Decrease in Frequency of Sin: Progress does mean that we should sin less; trust and rest in God more. As you implement these materials in context of loving community and wise medical advisement, there should be noticeable and quantifiable decreases in the frequency of your depressive-anxious experiences. A holistic plan to combat depression-anxiety lived in the encouragement-accountability of friends disempowers the passivity and sense of futility that sustains chronic depression-anxiety.
  2. Repenting More Quickly: Progress means that when sin leads us to anxiety-depression we will respond to those emotions differently. Quick repentance is the key to stopping “emotional paralysis.” No longer will you give into the mindset, “If I’m already down, I might as well stay down because there’s nothing I can do about it.” You should be conversationally comfortable going to God in repentance (review step four).
  3. A Change in Battleground: Progress should mean that you see an advance in your battle against sin; from behaviors and belief to its core fortress–your heart commitments. These changes should excite you. This realization is what allowed Paul to say “I am the chief of sinners” (I Tim. 1:15) without shame. He was excited to take his battle with sin to its core. While each new battleground may require different strategies and durations of time to win, there should be a joy as you see God’s kingdom penetrating new territory in your soul.
  4. Having a Greater Sense of Need for Christ’s Mercy and Grace: Progress that does not persistently realize its reliance upon Christ, degenerates into pride and becomes a stronghold for the enemy. The enemy may use this stronghold as the basis for generating new expectations or failures that create a recurrence of depression-anxiety. The point is not to try to predict where every new emotional challenge will come from, but to remain humble and reliant upon God regarding whatever emotional challenge may arise.
  5. Increase accountability and honesty: Progress means that you do not need a “reason” to be honest and things do not have to be “that bad” in order for you to have accountability. In many ways, this variable is one of the primary, practical expressions of the humility discussed above. Humble people refuse to fight sin alone and refuse to trust their own hearts apart from the community of caring, Christian friends (Heb. 3:12-14).
  6. Not Responding to Difficulty by Indulging in Sin: Difficulty is the time when progress is most clear. When we forget this, we become discouraged by difficulty and this discouragement adds to our temptation. Recognize that when difficulty comes (i.e., conflict, stress, setbacks, etc…) this will be a time when your progress will be most evident. Realizing this should help you maintain the will to persevere during these challenges.
  7. Learning to Love and Consider the Interest of Real People: This is the epitome of progress because it is the fulfillment of the whole law of God (Gal. 6:2). The opposite of depression-anxiety is not mere absence of unpleasant emotions. The opposite of depression-anxiety is the emotional freedom to form real, caring relationships with other real, in-process people. You come to people, not primarily seeking relief from your struggles, but the opportunity for authentic relationship because you know that is what is healthiest for both of you.

There is another way we can think about measuring our progress with depression-anxiety. We can look at markers of reliance upon God in the moment of struggle or we can consider a multi-dimensional way of measuring the decreasing size of our emotional struggle. We want to do both; we want to increase our reliance upon God in the midst of the experience (criteria above) and we want to decrease the size of our emotional disruption in as many ways as possible (criteria below).

As you face the ebb-and-flow of your emotions, we want you to look for three markers of progress: intensity, duration, and frequency. Even when your emotions are unpleasant, look for these markers as evidences of God’s grace. To help you make sense of what growth looks like practically, imagine a sound wave (see the illustration below). A sound wave can be measured three ways:

  • Intensity (height: A to B),
  • Duration (width: Y to Z), and
  • Frequency (peak to peak: 1 to 2).

Our experience of depression-anxiety can be measured in the same three categories. This now gives you three ways that you can begin to measure progress with your emotional struggle. Is your anxiety less intense? Does your depression last for briefer periods of time? Are your emotional disruptions less frequent? Your depression-anxiety journals should provide a fairly objective basis of comparison.Dep-Anx Soundwave2To provide some encouragement consider the following “life disruption score” (LDS). LDS is an arbitrary statistic, but it highlights a valid point. Let’s assume that the intensity, duration, and frequency your depression-anxiety were maxed out on a 1 to 10 scale. That would create a LDS score of 1,000.

10 (intensity) x 10 (duration) x 10 (frequency) = 1,000

Now let’s assume that you are able to decrease the impact of each variable only by two increments. How much do you think that would improve your LDS score?

8 x 8 x 8 = ________ (yes, you have to do the math)

Are you surprised at what a small amount of progress in each area can do? It is not just a math trick. It is the grace of God. If our sanctification (spiritual, relational, and emotional maturity) required a level of effort that matched the impact of our sin, that would be self-atonement. What it takes is dying to self and wisely living for God’s glory through blessing others. When that starts, the momentum of all Heaven is at our back. Each step of faith is caught up in the current of God’s grace.

You might ask, “What is the key variable that makes this work?” The answer is hope. When we begin to see that we can, by God’s grace, have influence over our emotions we gain hope. We feel less powerless. Depression-anxiety thrives in an environment of perceived-futility. Once we gain hope, much of the bondage of depression-anxiety is broken.

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
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

Combatting Anx-Dep (6 of 6): Strategic Spiritual Disciplines

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.

  1. Immediate Negative Emotion Response Plan
  2. Stewarding Your Body
  3. Extended Negative Emotion Response Plan
  4. Life Management
  5. Pursuit of Joy Plan
  6. Strategic Spiritual Disciplines

Strategic Spiritual Disciplines

We do not engage spiritual disciplines primarily for therapeutic reasons; we engage them to know and enjoy God. However, when engaged well, these disciplines do have therapeutic benefit. There are even particular benefits that can be generally ascribed to particular disciplines. We will explore a few of these.

“We believe that a clearly articulated Christian worldview and a congruent incredible Christian lifestyle constitute a form of primary prevention (p. 136).” Mark Yarhouse, Richard Butman, and Barrett McRay in Modern Psychopathologies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal

1. Bible Study: How much of the struggle with depression-anxiety is the “bad content” in our thinking? The most effective counseling approach for depression-anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which involves challenging the beliefs and corresponding behaviors that under-gird these emotions. Bible study followed by practical application is an excellent discipline to establish this pattern on a daily basis.

For instruction on how to institute this consider the following chapters from books that provide guidance the spiritual discipline of Bible study.

  • Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, chapter five
  • Donald Whitney, Spiritual Discipline for the Christian Life, chapters two and three
  • John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, chapter ten

2. Prayer and Worship:

How much of the struggle with depression anxiety is our thinking caving in on itself? Our thinking needs an outlet and purpose in order to be healthy. Prayer and worship provide direction for our thought life. Prayer allows even our inward thought to “connect” with someone who cares and understands. Worship provides a focal point for our thoughts that is grander than our situation is bad.

For instruction on how to institute this consider the following chapters from books that provide guidance the spiritual discipline of prayer and worship.

  • Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, chapters three and eleven
  • Donald Whitney, Spiritual Discipline for the Christian Life, chapters four and five
  • John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, chapter four

3. Silence and Meditation:

How much of the struggle with depression anxiety is our inability to reign in our thoughts? Silence and meditation are disciplines that tame the wild horse that is our thought life. They are practices advocated by Christians for centuries because of their benefits for the life and character of believers.

For instruction on how to institute this consider the following chapters from books that provide guidance the spiritual discipline of silence and meditation.

  • Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, chapters two and seven
  • Donald Whitney, Spiritual Discipline for the Christian Life, chapter ten
  • John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, chapter five

4. Journaling:

How much of the struggle with depression anxiety is the seeming pointless disconnection of day-to-day life? Life can easily begin to feel like a bad novel where one page has little to do with the page before it. Events keep happening but they don’t seem to be contributing to anything. This is what led Socrates to say, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Depression-anxiety responds, “Amen!”

For instruction on how to institute this consider the following chapters from books that provide guidance the spiritual discipline of journaling.

    • Donald Whitney, Spiritual Discipline for the Christian Life, chapter eleven
    • Using a Personal Journal for Spiritual Growth at www.bradhambrick.com/journal

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
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

Combatting Anx-Dep (5 of 6): Pursuit of Joy Plan

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.

  1. Immediate Negative Emotion Response Plan
  2. Stewarding Your Body
  3. Extended Negative Emotion Response Plan
  4. Life Management
  5. Pursuit of Joy Plan
  6. 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
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

Combatting Anx-Dep (4 of 6): Life Management

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.

  1. Immediate Negative Emotion Response Plan
  2. Stewarding Your Body
  3. Extended Negative Emotion Response Plan
  4. Life Management
  5. Pursuit of Joy Plan
  6. Strategic Spiritual Disciplines

Life Management

Sometimes managing our emotions can become a distraction from managing our lives. If you find that any of the subjects below are contributing to your experience of depression-anxiety, then these areas would need to be addressed in order for other changes you make to have a lasting effect.

1. Make a Budget:

Debt and financial uncertainty can greatly contribute to the experience of anxiety-depression. It can be important to remember, “All we spend is our life.” Our economy is based upon the trade of hours for dollars and dollars for stuff. When we overspend our life, we cannot expect our emotions to be immune to this imbalance.

If you need help creating and using a budget, visit www.bradhambrick.com/gcmfinances. While this resource is part of a marriage curriculum, the forms and concepts can be used by singles and couples alike.

2. Have Realistic Time Expectations:

If you think you “should” do more than is feasible in a 168 hour week, you are setting yourself up for a nasty cycle of anxiety-depression. For many people this a core part of their emotional struggle. They are unwilling to adjust their expectations to the reality of a 24 hour day, 168 hour week, and 672 hour month.

If you need help adjusting your time expectations, visit www.bradhambrick.com/burnout. This page provides the teaching and tools to walk you through the process of gaining realistic time expectations.

3. Simplify:

How many things do you feel like you have to keep up with in order for life to go well and be safe? The more answers you have to this question the greater your struggle with anxiety-depression will be. This doesn’t mean secondary and tertiary commitments are bad. It does mean you should carry them with the emotional weight of primary commitments.

An emotionally healthy life is marked by margin. If you perpetually feel rushed, then chances are your activity level is a primary contributor to your experience of depression-anxiety. As you create a budget for your time and money (previous two points), it will force you to simplify your life. You will only use these documents in a healthy way if you view this simplifying as freedom instead of punishment.

“I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” Blaise the Pascal in Penses 136

4. Externally, Address Problems:

Is there a persistent emotional irritant in your life that you could address? If there is, do so. Do you need help with a project you don’t understand? Ask. Are you carrying bitterness towards someone? Forgive. Are you hiding a secret that is stressful? Disclose. It is unrealistic to expect an alleviation of depression-anxiety if you guard these kinds of emotional irritants.

 

It may seem simplistic to offer these one-word solutions. That is not my intent. These one-word action steps may require counseling or guidance. If that is the case, then seek that counseling and guidance. Even if you do not feel capable of taking the necessary step, start the process of gaining the strength/skill necessary to do so.

5. Internally, Learn from Mistakes:

In chapters four and five we learned what it means to repent of and confess sin. This is different. Here it is being recommended that you learn from your mistakes. If we don’t have a category for “non-moral short-comings” then the weight of every non-perfectly executed action becomes a burden that fuels an experience of condemnation.

 

Social faux-pas, ineffective scheduling plans, moments of forgetfulness, acts of clumsiness, and similar mistakes are not moral. God is not displeased. God won’t forgive us because he’s not upset. Allow yourself the emotional freedom to learn from these moments without the pressure to get them right next time “or else.” But do learn from them so that they do not create a cumulative disruption that creates an emotionally unhealthy life.

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
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

Tweets of the Week 10.14.14

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

Combatting Anx-Dep (3 of 6): Extended Negative Emotion Response Plan

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.

  1. Immediate Negative Emotion Response Plan
  2. Stewarding Your Body
  3. Extended Negative Emotion Response Plan
  4. Life Management
  5. Pursuit of Joy Plan
  6. Strategic Spiritual Disciplines

Extended Negative Emotion Response Plan

If we began with the “first aid” version of a negative emotion response plan, then this is the “emotional hygiene” version of that plan. There are some things that we do immediately to fix a situation in or moving towards crisis: first aid. There are other things we do to manage situations that have a propensity to become unpleasant: hygiene.

1. Listen to Your Emotions with Doubt:

Hopefully, this is what you’ve been doing since you began this study. Too often we feel threatened by unpleasant emotions, especially when they’ve become chronic, and we try to eliminate them altogether. When we are unable to do this we feel like a failure (shame) and have a heightened sense of alarm that our emotions will be perpetually out of control.

The reality is we will never live without the experience of depression-anxiety. As we’ve illustrated several times, there are advantages to these emotions we should not want to eradicate. Begin the process of listening to your emotions by being able to make the simple statement:

  • “I am experiencing depression-anxiety. I wonder what it means and what I will learn about God, myself, and others in the process of responding to this experience in a healthy way.”

Read through your journal entries you began in chapter three. It is often easier to listen objectively to old anxiety-depression than it is to fresh experiences. As you listen to previous experiences, it will help you get to know the newer experiences.

As you listen to your emotions, be careful not to accept everything you hear as “true.” Your emotional experience is “real” but not everything it declares about you, the future, God, or others is “true.” Think about it; how often have your emotions made false predictions and proclamations. Stated differently, if your emotions were a friend giving you financial advice would you put your money where their mouth is?

This disposition of doubt allows you to create some distance from your emotions. You can begin to decide what messages from your emotions are valid and which ones are distorted. You begin to live as if there is a “you” that transcends your emotions; which is an incredibly liberating mindset.

If this kind of thinking is hard for you, then it is recommended that you review steps four and six in the suffering-paradigm materials on depression-anxiety. These deal with the “stories” that often build around our experience of depression-anxiety and how we allow the gospel to become the larger narrative that re-contextualizes these experiences.

Read Psalm 31:9-15. Notice how honest the psalmist is. He is in distress to the point that his soul and body are exhausted (v. 9). This has been a chronic, long-term struggle for the psalmist (v. 10). Whether it is accurate or only his perception we cannot be sure, but the psalmist perceives that his entire social life is wrecked by this struggle (v. 11-13). Yet he is able to doubt the messages of his fear enough to let a new narrative emerge; one where God is trustworthy and guiding his life (v. 14-15). Balancing of emotional authenticity (listening) and emotional freedom (with doubt) is what we’ve sought to accomplish with this technique for battling anxiety-depression.

2. But Don’t Over Analyze:

Don’t get caught trying to “crack the code” in every instance of or journal entry about depression-anxiety. Too often when we engage counseling literature we treat our struggles as if they are riddles to be solved instead of experiences to be lived through and learned from. So, if as you listen to your emotions you do not get a profound insight, that is okay.

In most instances of listening to your emotions, you will simply gain enough distance from them to discern what is good, doubt what is destructive, and choose what is wise. If that much happens, then your experience with that episode of depression-anxiety was an incredible success. God rejoices over you, and you’re becoming more of the person he designed you to be.

If every reflection resulted in an epiphany, you would be exhausted. If we have too many game-changer moments in our life, then we never get to play that “game of life” well. Be content to live wisely in response to each episode of depression-anxiety and trust that God will reveal any big-picture changes that need to occur when you are ready to enact them.

Read Ephesians 5:15-17. Notice how non-impressive the “will of the Lord” is in this passage. Examine your day-to-day life (v. 15). Make the best use of your time (v. 16). Don’t do foolish stuff (v. 17). There are times when God clearly does not want us to over think what it means to please him. A large part of living in the will of God is trusting God to reveal the things we need to know/change/do when we are ready for them.

3. Practice the Opposite:

Emotions have reflexes that contribute to their survival. Impatience fixates on the awaited event in a way that makes patience harder. Jealousy becomes controlling in a way that makes the freedom of the other person arouse more suspicion. Anger recalls every past offense and, thereby, fuels its own fire.

So ask yourself these questions, “What are my depressive-anxious reflexes? What are things that I naturally do when I feel anxious-depressed that make these emotions a more permanent part of my mood?”

Now ask yourself these questions, “What are the opposite reactions to the things I just wrote? How could I make my life less hospitable for depression-anxiety once I begin to experience these emotions?”

If you view this as a mere behavioral intervention, it will seem juvenile; as if you are trying to psych yourself out with reverse psychology. Instead, realize that emotions have behavioral residue as much as they have chemical compositions. If we are going to alleviate the presence of an undesired emotion, we need to combat it at every level – personal beliefs, brain chemistry, and behavioral residue.

Read Ephesians 4:20-32. Notice the three-part change pattern in this passage: put-off (v. 22), put-on (v. 24), and thinking change (v. 23). The following verses apply this pattern to lying (v. 25), anger (v. 26-27), stealing (v. 28), degrading speech (v. 29-30), and bitterness (v. 31-32). Review your notes above and summarize what you learned using these three questions.

  1. What depression-anxious reactions do I need to “put off”?
  2. What are the corresponding “put on’s” that would be necessary to replace them?
  3. What key beliefs or aspects of personal identity would need to change to solidify these changes?

4. Don’t Be a Perfectionist:

Perfectionism may be the best recipe for getting stuck in a perpetual cycle of depression-anxiety. Pressure to be perfect stirs anxiety. Looming, inevitable failure saps all hope and leads to depression. Unless you give up and settle for being “average” then the only option is to get up and repeat the cycle again. 

One implication of this is that you will not combat depression-anxiety perfectly and you need to be okay with that. There will be skills you learn that you forget to use or use clumsily. There will be truths you learn and only see their relevance in hindsight. These are pivotal moments in the change process, because you will either get frustrated with yourself and be stalled by shame or embrace God’s grace for these moments and continue to grow.

In order to jettison a perfectionistic mindset consider the following approaches.

  • Set Attainable Goals – Do your goals leave any room for you to exceed your expectations? If not, then your goal-setting approach only leaves you the options of “doing the expected” or “failure.” When maximum effort and full potential are needed for mere contentment, then you’re not living an emotionally sustainable life.
  • Set Reasonable Time Limits – Sometimes it is not what we expect of ourselves, but how quickly we expect it that emotionally damns ourselves. Impatience rather than grandiosity becomes the unhealthy fuel of our perfectionism. How much margin do you allot for in your learning curve when you set goals?
  • Accept Doing “Good Enough” – Is “okay” a four-letter-word in your vocabulary? If everything you do has to be excellent, there will not be enough time or energy for things like family, friendship, or a personal relationship with God. You need a long list of things for which you can be content doing “good enough.”
  • Stop Black-and-White Thinking – If, in your mind, the equivalent of “not excellent” is “awful,” then you are likely an emotionally self-abusive person. There needs to be more degrees on your performance thermometer than two – incredible and deplorable.
  • Find Joy in the Journey – A good parent enjoys watching their child grow; the stumbling steps of a toddler, the broken words of an elementary student learning to read, the fear of a first job interview, the clumsiness with which they cling to a newborn are all precious to a good parent. We need to delight in the process of our own growth in the same way a good parent and God the Father delights in ours.
  • Find Worth in God – Ultimately, perfectionism is about finding our worth in our performance. That is an emotional economy that always goes bankrupt. When we forget that we are loved because of whose we are (God’s) instead of what we do, our entire emotional world goes into upheaval.

Read Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, and 25. Notice how God describes his work of creation – simply “good.” God was not competing with anyone, so he did not feel compelled to use words like “better,” “best,” or “ultimate.” We see in this the contentment of God. It did not hamper his creative excellence, but it allowed him to enjoy the process of creating. We are called to be like God; which means we learn to be content in our pursuit of godliness (I Tim. 6:6). We rely on God’s grace in the process of change and rest in his grace as that change occurs.

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
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

Combatting Anx-Dep (2 of 6): Stewarding Your Body

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.

  1. Immediate Negative Emotion Response Plan
  2. Stewarding Your Body
  3. Extended Negative Emotion Response Plan
  4. Life Management
  5. Pursuit of Joy Plan
  6. Strategic Spiritual Disciplines

Stewarding Your Body

Emotions are both cognitive and physical realities. Emotions occur both in our immaterial mind (i.e., that little voice in our head) and our material bodies (i.e., both in our brain and the rest of our bodies). How you care for your physical body will either greatly assist or greatly hinder your battle with depression-anxiety.

1. Reduce Caffeine:

Stimulants and anxiety do not get along. In addition to increasing psychomotor agitation (creating a sense of unrest and fidgety-ness), caffeine is acidic which leads to inflammation (body discomfort that agitates depressive-anxious tendencies) and dehydration (interferes with proper brain and body functioning, which can be a trigger for anxiety and depression).

Depression and disrupted sleep patterns do not get along. Caffeine also disrupts the REM and non-REM sleep balance; so even if you are able to sleep with significant caffeine consumption, the quality of that sleep may be diminished.

For these reasons, the greater your struggle with depression-anxiety the more it is recommended that you limit your caffeine consumption.

2. Regulate Sleep:

One of the most under-emphasized influences upon brain chemistry is sleep. We struggle to regulate our emotions when we do not sleep well, in large part, because sleep is when the energy stores of our brain are restored. We “feel tired” because our brain has not had its glucose levels restored.

Also, the reality testing region of the brain is restored when we sleep. This is why we become more irrational the longer we go without sleep. When a large part of our battle with depression-anxiety involves weighing the significance of events or the probability of negative thoughts, a weakening of our reality testing ability is a major disadvantage.

A third influence of sleep upon depression-anxiety, one having little to do with neuro-chemistry, is that sleep is a primary contributor to our sense of rhythm in life. When we struggle with uncertainty (a common feature of depression-anxiety) returning a sense of rhythm to life can be an important stabilizing factor.

If regulating sleep is a struggle for you consider the following:

  • Believe that sleep is intended as a good gift from God and do not feel guilty for resting.
  • Pray that God would give you restful sleep and believe He wants you to have it.
  • Memorize a passage of Scripture related to hope and repeat it slowly as you lay down to sleep.
  • Play soft music or nature sounds to help prevent your mind from thinking while trying to sleep.
  • Reduce the level of caffeine and sugar in your diet, especially after the noon hour.
  • Avoid daytime naps so that your sleep is in concentrated blocks; the physiological benefits of sleep are less when we break our sleep into smaller units.
  • Establish a bed time routine to help habituate your body towards sleep.
  • Take a warm bath to relax your body.
  • Try muscle relaxation or stretching exercises about an hour before going to bed.
  • Establish a deep slow breathing pattern that simulates sleep breathing.
  • Talk with a medical professional about the possibility of a sleep aid.

3. Balanced Diet:

A second of the most under-emphasized influences upon brain chemistry is our diet. You cannot give your body the wrong raw materials and expect it to produce neurological balance any more than you can give a chef bad ingredients and expect him to produce a good meal.

Beyond being the building blocks of physical health and neurological balance, a healthy diet is often the first step towards good self-care. People who take the time to consider how they are fueling their body typically begin to have a better self-image. Neglect of one’s diet is an easy way to reinforce a negative self-image.

The implication is that a healthy diet combats depression-anxiety both neuro-chemically and via self-perception.

4. Increase Exercise: A third of the most under-emphasized influences upon brain chemistry is our exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise. The increased blood flow, lactic acid in the muscles, and metabolism stimulation (among other factors) of exercise all contribute to the chemical regulation of the body.

Similar to improving one’s diet, exercise also has the psychological benefit of being an emotional investment in one’s self-care. Exercise is evidence that you are caring for yourself and usually results in improvements in energy and appearance, both of which make it easier to enjoy your body.

“One study showed that exercise—three sessions of aerobic activity each week—worked about as well as medication when it came to reducing the symptoms of depression. In addition, research concluded that after one year, people who exercised were much less likely to relapse than people who took medicine… moderate aerobic workouts, done three to five times weekly, cut mild to moderate depression symptoms nearly in half (p. 130).” Wayne Cordiero in Leading on Empty

“Moderate physical exercise helps to expel unhelpful chemicals from our system and stimulate the production of helpful chemicals. Outdoor exercise has the added benefit of the sun’s healing rays (p. 71-72).” David Murray in Christians Get Depressed Too

What are some steps you can take to increase the physical activity level of your life? If you have health concerns, please consult with your physician before implementing these activities.

5. Breathe:

This technique may sound odd. But, particularly for anxiety, deep breathing can have a significant impact upon your emotions. One area that the body monitors to determine its sense of safety is the temperature of the nasal cavity. When the nasal cavity is hot, it triggers the stress response. When it cools the body turns off the stress response.

Think of the athlete who begins to breathe through his mouth as he runs. This causes his nasal cavity to heat up and triggers the adrenal system; part of the flight-fight stress response. Adrenaline provides an energy boost and intensifies his emotional state (hence the reactivity at many sporting events).

This is one reason many people feel relaxed when they smoke cigarettes even though nicotine is a stimulant. The calming power of the breathing required to rhythmically inhale a cigarette is more powerful than the medical agent in cigarettes are energizing. Awkwardly, this means many smokers are as addicted to breathing as they are nicotine; especially if their primary appeal to smoking is relaxation.

When you feel anxiety mounting it is recommend that you take a few deep breaths in through your nose (drawing in cool air) and out through your mouth (exhaling the warmer air away from you nose). This will cool the nasal cavity. It does not extract adrenaline already released, but prevents the release of additional adrenaline. In this sense, it is the emotional equivalent of taking your foot off the gas pedal of your car more than stepping on the brakes.

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
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

Combatting Anx-Dep (1 of 6): Immediate Negative Emotion Response Plan

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.

  1. Immediate Negative Emotion Response Plan
  2. Stewarding Your Body
  3. Extended Negative Emotion Response Plan
  4. Life Management
  5. Pursuit of Joy Plan
  6. Strategic Spiritual Disciplines

Immediate Negative Emotion Response Plan

Starting well is the first part of finishing well. What you have learned about yourself and your depressive-anxious experience should allow you to identify the onset of these unpleasant emotions earlier in their development. Knowing the thought patterns and triggers that undergird them should allow you to begin combatting these emotions before they gain significant momentum in your mind and heart.

The approaches below are meant to provide key elements of an immediate negative emotion response plan.

1. Refuse to Beat Yourself Up:

Shame exacerbates depression-anxiety. Even if your depression-anxiety is rooted in sin, there is hope. Even if your struggle with depression-anxiety has been long, it does not need to define you. Shame is a form of emotional surrender.

Simple statements like “my emotions are not my identity” and “my emotions do not determine my value” can create the emotional freedom to embrace the hope and grace God offers. The hymn “Before the Throne of God Above” captures the essence of this strategy.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Whatever guilt or shame your sin merited was absorbed by Christ on the cross. Your battle against depression-anxiety rooted in sin begins with accepting this gift and living in the freedom it provides.

Read Galatians 5:1-2. One significant purpose of Christ’s death on our behalf was to purchase this type of emotional freedom for us. Too often we feel like it “honors” God to punish ourselves for our sin. This is the equivalent of thinking it honors someone giving you a gift card to your favorite restaurant by fasting. You honor Christ by embracing the emotional freedom from shame he intended to give in order to live more of the life he intended for you to live.

2. Restate and Reframe the Question:

We live and die by the questions we ask. We use questions to explore our world, so our questions necessarily move us in particular directions.

What are the questions that your depression-anxiety most naturally wants to ask?

What are the unhealthy or doubting assumptions embedded in these questions?

Which of these questions best replaces or counters your natural questions?

  • What is my next step of obedience? (instead of looking at everything that needs to be done)
  • What will God do next? (reminding yourself to include God’s involvement in your expectations)
  • What parts of this situation am I responsible for and what parts must I trust God or someone else to fulfill? (avoiding the all-or-nothing trap with personal responsibility)

How would your experience of depression-anxiety be different if these were the first questions you asked?

Read Psalm 42. Notice that in verse 5 the psalmist examines and challenges the questions behind his emotions. Notice that in verses 9 through 11 this dialogue continues as he wrestles with false thoughts and the truths that should (but had not yet) replaced them. Notice that Scripture invites this kind of in-process dialogue with God as we run to him with our doubts and fears. It is much easier to change and reframe our questions when we are not ashamed to allow God to be part of the conversation.

3. Run to God; Not Away from Hope:

The most significant thing about any emotions is where it leads you; towards or away from God. The inability to emotionally rest often reveals that we are running from something. The ultimate component of any “negative emotion reaction plan” is – where will you run when you experience anxiety-depression? If you know you can run to a safe place, this is great protection against panic-despair.

“Faith is the refusal to panic (p. 143).” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Spiritual Depression

This is another way of saying – pray. But too often prayer is viewed as a mere good deed in a hopeless situation instead of a refuge in the midst of an onslaught of an already defeated enemy. In the former, prayer is the epitome of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. In the latter, prayer is two things: (a) God’s tender availability in the midst of a real struggle, and (b) our reminder that we engage this struggle with real assurance.

Read Psalm 46. Notice that the context of God being a refuge in the presence of trouble (v. 1). In the rest of the psalm many different descriptions of anxiety-depression provoking circumstances are listed. God asks us to focus on his presence with us (v. 7) and says one of the fruits / gifts of his presence is the ability to be still (v. 11). When you face anxiety-depression train yourself so that your first instinct is to run towards God.

Often people struggle to run towards God in these circumstances because they doubt his character. They wonder if God is really “for them.” These two conversation excerpts from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom capture elements of God’s character. The context of these conversations is her father, Casper Ten Boom, comforting Corrie as she faced bullying in school and then the possibility of dying during the Nazi oppression in World War II.

“’Father, what is sexsin?’ He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor. ‘Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?’ he said. ‘It’s too heavy,’ I said. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.’ And I was satisfied. More than satisfied – wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions. For now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.” Corrie Ten Boom in The Hiding Place

“I burst into tears, ‘I need you!’ I sobbed. ‘You can’t die! You can’t!’ ‘Corrie,’ he began gently. ‘When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?’ ‘Why, just before we get on the train.’ ‘Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.’” Corrie Ten Boom in The Hiding Place

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
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

 

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