If you read my last post, you know I have good days and bad days and I’m learning to be okay with not being okay. I don’t want to just leave it there, so even though I am no expert on escaping dark moods, I want to share a few things that help me. Maybe they’ll help you too.
Limit negative exposures.
What is it that’s getting you down? What feeds into your dark emotions and invites you further into the pit? Identify those triggers, then see how you can limit or avoid them.
For me, it’s the news. Not just the news, but conversations about the news and politics, the incessant social media drone of debate and toxic discourse. I don’t even want to call it “discourse” since so much of it involves mocking, ridicule, and attack rather than sound exchanges of ideas and opinions. THAT I could handle. But that’s not often what I find, so I need to limit my exposure.
Find something that will challenge you, encourage you, or help you escape. Hmm…maybe that should be Elevate, Encourage, Escape. That sounds very organized and inspired, right? Sure. My point is that you need to get out of your own head. Or rather, let someone else into your head to shift your thinking.
I never read just one book at a time. Right now I’m reading Identity Theft (a nonfiction book about rooting your personal identity in Christ and what God says of you), Get Out of Your Head (a nonfiction book about spiritual warfare and the power to take every thought captive), and From Sky to Sky (a speculative fiction work about immortals among us). Each of these is helping me get out of my pit.
Identity Theft is reminding of Scriptural truths about who I am and what I am called to be. Get Out of Your Head is helping me combat some long-seated lies I’ve held about myself and my position in community. From Sky to Sky is offering me escape. It’s letting me rest my thoughts on things completely different from my everyday life and current situation.
Complete a project. Any project.
Sometimes the pit stems from a lack of purpose or control. Finding a project and completing it feels good. It offers a temporary, but solid, measurable sense of control and purpose. It doesn’t matter what the project is. It could be something creative or practical or even both. Maybe painting a table. Organizing your pantry. Cleaning out your closet. Making a menu for the week. Trying a new recipe. Any of this will do!
The form of the project doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you finish it.
Starting a project doesn’t have the same impact. In fact, it may cause a reverse effect. It’s fun and a little exciting, but rather than giving you a sense of accomplishment, it could add to your stress by putting one more thing on your list of “things you have to do.” We want to experience success, not further burden. So find a project you know you can finish and get it done.
Connect with others.
I feel a little hypocritical saying this, but … we need community. I tend to isolate, especially when I’m in a dark place. I don’t want to burden others; I want to encourage them! So when I get in a pit, I tend to stay there by myself until I can dig my way out. On my own. But I have learned — I am learning that I can get out of that pit a lot faster when I invite others into it with me. Not that I want them in the pit, but they don’t want me there either. They can help me get out. They can often see things I can’t. They can show me that the pit isn’t as deep and dark as I imagine. Together we can overcome it.
How can we connect with others? Reach out. It’s as simple as a text or phone call. A coffee date or an invitation to … anything (once everything opens up again). It doesn’t have to be complicated.
One little thing though … You need to be brave. Connection doesn’t come simply reaching out. You need to open up, too. I’m not suggesting you lay bare all your secrets, but choose to share. Be honest with your feelings. Pray together. You can live in parallel or you can live in community. Community is a riskier, but it beats being alone.
I’m not kidding. Find something that makes you laugh. A ridiculous movie. A game with your kids. A lip sync battle with old friends via Zoom. Find something that makes you laugh. Not a polite little giggle, but a toes-deep, soul-cleansing, make-you-cry laugh.
Admit fear, but refuse to submit to it.
“For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NET)
Timothy, the original recipient of this letter from Paul, faced persecution and great difficulties. Paul even urges him to “by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel.”
I don’t want to start a “biggest loser” game in which we compare who has it worse: you or me, us or the early church leaders. It doesn’t matter. The point is that God has not changed. If He has the power to get Timothy through those days, He has the power to get us through these. If we have accepted Christ as Savior, then we have the same Spirit Paul speaks of here, and it is not a spirit that surrenders to fear. Fear is real, but it does not own us. We have been granted freedom and can thereby lay hold of the power, love, and self-control the Spirit who lives in us possesses.
Acknowledge fear, but refuse to live there.
How? Spend time with God. Pray. Read your Bible. Listen to worship music, not just in the background, but meditate on the words. Focus on the attributes of God and the truths of His Word.
“You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace,
for it is trusting in You.”
— Isaiah 26:3 (HCSB)
YOUR TURN: Tell me what you do to get out of the pits. What helps you shed the funk?