Pastor Brad Hoefs

Pastor | Author | Speaker | Hope Coach | Mental Health Advocate

“Broken Cisterns: Food” By Eli González

“Broken Cisterns: Food” By Eli González

“… and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)

Fresh Hope has taught me that recovery is work, something that in the 25+ years I have been battling my mental health diagnosis I had not done. In the past, wellness was reduced to a period without depressive symptoms, and even, those periods of hypomania where I acted uninhibited and thought everything would be fine, periods that I tried to enjoy as much as possible because they were few and far between compared to the dark times of depression.

I must confess that during all this time there was a victim mentality in me, focused on what I was losing because of my illness, friendships, relationships, money, university courses and I was looking for guilty parties for what had happened to me.

My first diagnosis was depression, later, dysthymia, and when they came together “double depression”, and I lived believing the lies I was told about these diagnoses: “you will never recover, because there isn’t a treatment that is truly effective”, “if you can’t overcome depression, it’s because you are weak”, “suicide attempts are just attention seeking”; and since I developed a drug resistant depression in my youth, I even thought it was a divine punishment or some sort of demon that was chasing me.

Having no real hopeful answer for myself, I began to look for ways to fill my emotional voids and alleviate the “pain” that filled me to the soul. A relief for me was food, a false way to escape the pain, a broken cistern that never held water (Jeremiah 2.13).

In my 20’s and 30’s, eating mindlessly for a few weeks, gaining weight, but losing it quickly was not a problem. Now, in my 40’s the situation has changed, along with hormonal changes and my reluctance to do any exercise has caused me to gain almost 25 kg of weight. That undermines my self-esteem. Frustrated at not being able to control what I eat, I refuse to look at myself in the mirror and my self-confidence has diminished, which, in turn, affects my relationships with others and especially my relationship with my husband.

What does food mean to me? An escape. A mask. A disguise. Underneath those extra pounds I exist, but for some reason I hide deep inside myself. I run away from my pain, my denial of diagnosis, my anguish, and my fear of life.  I look in the mirror and it’s not really me. It’s a kind of surrealism, because I don’t accept myself, I don’t accept my body and my inability to do anything to change it.

But now I know that I CAN do things to recover my well-being, something that before was reduced to not feeling depressive symptoms, nothing more. Just waiting for the next episode. As one of the diagnoses that has accompanied me most of my life was Dysthymia, a mild but chronic depression, I had sentenced myself to live depressed all the time. Feeling good was short-lived because my own thinking reminded me to live according to my diagnosis.

Recovering my well-being implies a participation on my part, recognizing those behaviors that are not healthy, but that I repeat constantly because they have helped me to “hide” my pain. One of these behaviors has to do with my eating and I must accept it: I have an addictive relationship with food. If I am feeling sad, disappointed, tired, anxious, or facing a difficulty that I am struggling to overcome, I usually turn to food: soda, chips, snacks, desserts, and other things that contain a high degree of sugars or saturated fats.

In the past, I used to tell myself that I was happy with a soda and a bag of snacks (sweet and salty) with me, in front of the TV watching my favorite series. There was no such thing, it was the best way to hide my frustration or pain. This contributed to my already weakened self-confidence being an even bigger problem. I have already blamed the meds, the pandemic, anything but holding myself accountable for this behavior. “Diet” has been a bad word, because in the face of it I feel more anxious, I would start the diet Monday and break it the same Monday, because I felt anxious and would immediately go back to eating.

However, if I explore deeper, I know that the problem is not only the food, but the negative feelings of pain and frustration that I still struggle with inside me.

In the face of this, and thanks to Fresh Hope, I have delved into my irrational thoughts that come from my past, my emotions, and the wounds I carry. If I want a life of wellness, I must let go of those self-defeating patterns and be intentional about making changes in my life. My decision now is to eat healthier and start exercise routines. Also, exercise is scientifically proven to help improve depressive symptoms and give us more energy.

It may take time to get back to my ideal weight, but if I decide to “push through” my indiscipline and busy schedule, I know that I will, with the help of God’s grace, reach the goal I have set for my physical and emotional health.

No Place Like Church

No Place Like Church

Not In Kansas Anymore

Amidst the pandemic of COVID-19, it isn’t news that the mental health of many has suffered. For those of us in the tradition of gathering in the church, it has been a struggle in many ways. We are in unfamiliar territory, as if we were Dorothy transported to the land of Oz.

But what about getting back home, to church?

Whether your church took a reserved approach during 2020 with remote online services and virtual gatherings, or continued to meet in-person despite local jurisdictions’ mandates, church has not been the same. Not only has our routine to meet to worship and fellowship in person been unexpectedly interrupted, our minds have been strained.

The introduction of this new virus put unprecedented pressure on our minds to stay isolated to try to “flatten the curve” as the world health officials encouraged. All of the media voices concertedly stoking fear came at the cost of mental health because of socially isolating and suffering “alone together.”

During these times, the consequences of our choices haven’t always been straightforward, predictable, or easy to handle. We can probably agree, there hasn’t been much of anything “easy” about how to respond to the pandemic.

If anything, we’ve all had to reorient and adjust to the changes, akin to how Dorothy had to adjust to Technicolor!

Something Like a Twister

COVID-19 put the burden on each of our plates individually and corporately to make those choices to either meet together or stay home and isolate. Most of us stayed home, I believe, to the detriment of our mental health and the church’s wellbeing.

The question of how to respond as the body of Christ has not been easy to answer.

Many have returned to the sanctuary in the past few months as mandates loosened only to find an emptier, sparser congregation, or be the victim of the virus like my family and I were in January 2021.

While our own church stayed open for in-person services throughout the pandemic, many parishioners did not mask up. As a result, even though my family wore masks, we came down with the Coronavirus. Thankfully, we survived. I had a mild case of symptoms of slight congestion and loss of sense of smell and flavor. Nothing over-the-counter medicine couldn’t handle.

However, for all of us yearning to return to our church families, normal has left the building.

Don’t Forget Who Has The Answers

No matter how confusing, intimidating, infuriating, stressful, or risky these times have been, let’s remind ourselves of what has not changed.

There remains the constant, never-changing goodness of the one we gather for — God. His sovereign nature is to shepherd His sheep as He leads us through the valley of the shadow, into green pastures.

If we should follow our Good Shepherd who calls each of us by name, we will find ourselves where the Bible promises us: anointed by God, who prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies.

Since “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind,” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV), let us employ that manifestation in our gatherings.

In doing so, we should see that the church will rise to worship her groom, Christ, “to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word” (Ephesians 5:26, NLT).

When we continue to walk in the ways He is leading – together — we will find healing. The healing that comes from a spirit of unity, love, and peace between God and His children.

Can any of us be careful enough around a pandemic’s invisible virus that God foreknew would take many frail and vulnerable lives?

Neither our cautious efforts, nor the virus, can diminish or dissolve God’s goodness and mercy.

God remains the same, even though it would figure that such a strategy would be the Enemy’s attempt to steal the power of our gatherings and the ability to experience God’s omnipotent presence.

“You Always Had the Power My Dear, You Just Had To Learn It for Yourself”

-Glinda the Good Witch, The Wizard of Oz

Similar to Dorothy asking Glinda how she could have gone home all along, frankly, we as the church could have gone home all along. But for many of us, this tornado of a pandemic threw us for a loop and we became bewildered. It’s as if the CDC recently declared like Glinda, “You always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

Let’s guard our minds against the fear of gathering in person when there is so much at stake. If “nothing can wholly replace the benefits of positive human touch,” as this article explains, then we are sorely in need of some long overdue contact. We are struggling alone at home, and even in the fabricated ways we try to connect as we do like in video calls and social media.

If anything, the church needs to return to fellowship and share our burdens with one another in the spirit of Christ – who suffered and yet “He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NLT).

Jesus risked his life touching lepers, healing the sick, delivering those serious about his call to the kingdom at hand. If the shadow of Paul could heal, what would keep us from the power of God by fellowshipping in person?

God clearly mandates his family to meet together, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).

Fortunately, we can gather safely, guarding against the spread of infectious diseases by

wearing masks, physically distancing, spacing pews farther apart. Most churches provide hand sanitizers and sinks with soap and water. If you want, you can get a vaccine.

In moving forward into the freedom of God’s healing presence at church, I encourage us to remember and apply the following thoughts:

  • Let us not be ignorant of our Enemy’s schemes to “steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10)
  • Let us not forget our First Love, as the reason we gather together as the church (Revelation 2:4)
  • Let us gather to worship, and we will find we are stronger together (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  • Let us not be short-sighted: if we die, we die; our security and peace of mind is ultimately locked up in Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven (Philippians 1:21)

May God lead you back to your church family in a safe way and may you return to a healthy state of mind in the spirit of Christ’s peace. After, all, there’s no place like church.

About the author:

Hey there! I’m Katie Dale, familiar with the storms of mental illness, and I blog about my faith and how it has informed my brain-based disorder at BipolarBrave.com. I also have a memoir out about my journeys through the psych wards and how I found peace of mind with psych meds (by the grace of God) – you can find it on Amazon here. Since my former profession of case manager at a behavioral clinic, I’ve stepped into the role of stay-at-home mommy to Kylie. And I get to travel the world with Chris, my man in uniform. Aside from that, I could live off mac ‘n cheese, and I still hold onto my aspiration to run a sub-20-minute 5k. Come find me and say hi on social media @KatieRDale. Stay bold, brave, and real.

Why Now is the Time to Explore Your Mental Health Katie R. Dale for Fresh Hope For Mental Health, PastorBrad.blog

Why Now is the Time to Explore Your Mental Health                                           Katie R. Dale for Fresh Hope For Mental Health, PastorBrad.blog

Now is the Time

May is Mental Health Awareness month.

With so many of us in isolated status with COVID 19, the affects on our mental health have been evident.

Just take one look at your news feed in social media accounts to see what the mentality of our world has come to.

It should be no shocker that a lot of us have been emotionally taxed throughout the past year (plus) of lockdowns and weakened markets.

Certainly the world hasn’t seen such a shadow cast from stormy clouds of a pandemic in a long time.

Tomorrow is Coming

There is no better time than now to explore the way your mind has been working.

Before the world gets back on track, give your brain the time and knowledge to understand why it’s been so challenging to live in lockdowns.

When things start to open up again, it will not only be more “business as usual,” but some people might struggle a bit to return to “usual.”

Once most people get vaccinated, and governments lift all the mandates, things will inevitably pick up in pace and pressure.

People’s state of isolation and suppressed energy levels without outlet will dump us out into the freeway of life at the speed of life.

Unless you’re calibrated to a healthy mental state of being beforehand, life may get tough in the adjustment process.

I predict that returning to the world as we knew it won’t happen. The world as we knew it will never be that way, at least, not for a long time. We’ll be straddling to walk in the comfort of how things used to be, and how things have become. The new normal.

Take Inventory Today

We can’t afford to miss the opportunity to tune into our mental health in this window of time.

Not only have attempts on taking one’s life become more prevalent, but depression and anxiety aren’t such taboo notions to most anymore because of the indirect social effects of COVID-19.

If you’ve been unable to function to a relatively normal degree of output (which is skewed with all of us because, what is “normal” anymore?), I’d encourage you to grow your knowledge about your mind and its state of well-being.

Recommendations

I would strongly suggest looking at resources for your mental health, if you’re:

  • tempted to go to sleep at a new day, instead of waking up and being productive
  • not as social as you once were and you avoid going out or connecting with a friend virtually
  • making impulsive, unhealthy choices
  • overloaded with expectations and demands on you, and need healthy ways to cope
  • having low moods of depression
  • moving and/or speaking slower or quicker than usual
  • eating and/or sleeping more or less than usual
  • believing you’re a burden to others or not wanted
  • considering unhealthy ways to end your internal pain and discomfort
  • having thoughts that you would be better off dead
  • overreacting or irritable in response to others
  • having unexplained changes in thoughts, emotions, and/or behaviors

After seeking out a trusted friend or family member to talk about these things, here are a few places to help guide your journey back to a healthier state-of-mind:

  1. Pastor Brad’s blog as a peer and pastor: Fresh Hope blog
  2. A Game Plan Resource Guide as a road map to wellness: BipolarBrave.com/resources
  3. A couple good books to read: I Love Jesus But I Want to Die by Sarah J. Robinson; Depression, Anxiety and other Things We Don’t Talk About by Ryan Casey Waller
  4. Some websites on all-things-mental-health: PsychCentral.com, Psycom.net
  5. Places to find a good Christian counselor: aacc.net, christiantherapistnetwork.org

As always, if you are experiencing a crisis and need emergency care, call 9-1-1

If you are wanting to talk to someone urgently 24/7, call the suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255 –     or text the suicide prevention text line at 741741

Hey there! I’m Katie Dale, familiar with the storms of mental illness, and I blog about my faith and how it has informed my brain-based disorder at BipolarBrave.com. I also have a memoir out about my journeys through the psych wards and how I found peace of mind with psych meds (by the grace of God) – you can find it on Amazon here. Since my former profession of case manager at a behavioral clinic, I’ve stepped into the role of stay-at-home mommy to Kylie. And I get to travel the world with Chris, my man in uniform. Aside from that, I could live off mac ‘n cheese, and I still hold onto my aspiration to run a sub-20-minute 5k. Come find me and say hi on social media @KatieRDale. Stay bold, brave, and real.

How Healthy Churches Foster Hope

Our current view of the church in our world of post-Christian culture may be one of dismay. After all, church attendance in the last 40+ years has dropped by 10% . Let alone the past year of the pandemic – a world-wide threat to the global church in 2020 and beyond.

However, churches that are to survive and thrive will recognize it takes more than abiding by the status quo. To cultivate a healthy community of members, especially at a time like this, our churches need to be encouraged on a personal level.

How Does the Message of Hope Get Across?

Some may think the leadership team is responsible for cultivating the health of their church, which is true in many ways. However, it takes a vision embraced by the entire church – from pastorate to parishioner – to grow in meaning, purpose, and hope.

Capturing this kind of focus on even the least of these (those with severe mental illness or mental health conditions, young and old), may be challenging if leadership cannot engage on their level.

Which is why every church needs to address purpose in their individual members, before they can see a hopeful future realized.

The needs of the church are quite discouraging if you’re not prepared or equipped to provide help for them.

To successfully instill purpose in individual members, leadership must be trained on meeting those basic needs “the least of these” are hurting for.

This is where the communication and focus on mental health can be instrumental in catapulting your church’s overall health and wellbeing forward into a hopeful promising outlook.

A Quick Review of the Church’s Influence in History

The church has been known for many generations, in fact centuries, and one may argue millennia, for the healing role in this world to meet physical needs. A glance through history will tell you the story of the church’s influence in the world’s spheres of science, art, politics, and medicine.

Medicine, however, has been the church’s main approach to the physical health of those it has ministered to. Since the last century, where technology in science and pharmacology and psychology has advanced, there are discoveries in this field that have begged the question:

where is God in mental illness?

And so, enter the church’s response to mental health and wellness. Where has that been? Unfortunately, not on the radar, let alone on the frontlines.

Until now. Now the church is awakening to the cries and light God has graciously shone on the final frontier of the arguably most vital organ: the brain.

Knowing what the world of science, medicine and pharmacology knows about mental illness, the church can benefit tremendously. If properly and vastly equipped, soon the church can be a lighthouse for the mentally ill in ways no faithless, secular organization or industry can be.

Now What?

The good news: this is already happening.

Out of churches and church-bred faith-based organizations like Fresh Hope, Grace Alliance and various other grassroots efforts for support groups based on Biblical principles, a movement has been stirring.

This is the answer to many lost and saved churchgoers’ mental duress.

This is growing hope for coping with the pandemic.

Realistic solutions are here to address the mind’s disorders.

Recovery and healing can be found in community and support, established by the church.

This is the answer that the secular brain disease advocacy organizations aren’t going to acknowledge, or believe.

But because of this hope, hope found in Christ, the church is already at an advantage.

Already, the support group Fresh Hope for Mental Health cites numbers that are astonishingly encouraging and hopeful:

  • 96% of weekly participants attribute their participation as the reason they now feel more hopeful than prior to their participation in Fresh Hope
  • 92% who have attended other mental health support groups say that Fresh Hope has been more positive and helpful in their recovery than any previous groups
  • 86% of those who were suicidal prior to coming to Fresh Hope report that they have not been suicidal since participating
  • 88% say that Fresh Hope has been extremely important in their recovery
  • 71% who have been hospitalized prior to attending Fresh Hope have had no returns to hospitals since attending the support groups

As sure as the church has been the body of Jesus for the last 2,000 years, it will continue to serve His hurting body and the minds therein. The path to wholeness is not just through ministries and programs. As we see, programs and ministries to serve the church are blessings and excellent purposeful activities within the church.

But take it a step further, and deeper, and the same kind of idea – worship through service to others hurting – will propel the church as a forerunner to contend in the battle of suicidality amidst salvation.

To learn more about starting a support group in your church or community, check out these resources:

  1. Fresh Hope for Mental Health support groups, founded by peer and pastor Brad Hoefs
  2. Grace Alliance support groups
  3. Fellow sufferer and former pastor, Tony Roberts’ book When Despair Meets Delight
  4. Pastor’s daughter and advocate Amy Simpson’s book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission
  5. Dr. Steven Grcevich’s book Mental Health and the Church
  6. Co-sufferer, counselor, and clergyman Ryan Casey Waller’s book Depression, Anxiety and Other Things We Don’t Talk About

About Katie R. Dale: Raised in a Christian home, mental illness wasn’t mentioned until after it reared its ugly head when had turned 16. Instead of a sweet 16 year, it turned out to be a bitter taste of our fallen nature as I became diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type I with psychotic features. Now a caseworker and mental health advocate, I’ve written my memoir chronicling the journey through the psych wards, and blog regularly about my lessons on life, faith and mental illness at BipolarBrave.com. You can reach me on social media using handle @KatieRDale or email me, katie@bipolarbrave.com.

A Key to Thriving in Spite of Your Difficult Circumstances

A Key to Thriving in Spite of Your Difficult Circumstances

Over the last 30 years, I’ve spent untold hours doing pastoral counseling with what seems to be a “gazillion” or more individuals, couples and families. I’ve heard just about everything and seen even more than I’ve heard. I’ve seen what seems to be manageable problems tear families apart. Broken relationships, wounded people, discouragement, and despair seem all too familiar. But, interestingly enough there have been times when I have watched families, couples and individuals actually pull together and become stronger because of overwhelming circumstances that I was sure that no one could go through and “survive”. They not only survived, but they thrived!

I’ve asked myself what it is that those who thrive in spite of horrible life altering circumstances have that those who seem done in by even less severe circumstance do not have? I have come to the conclusion that there are some things that the “thrivers” have in common. And there seems to be one major thing that they all have in common for not just surviving but thriving in spite of their circumstances. What is that one thing? They help others in spite of their circumstances. They regularly and consistently give and help other people in spite of their pain.

Helping and giving to others gives temporary relief to one’s overwhelming circumstances. It has the power to cause a shift in one’s perception of their problems. Time and time again I have seen people going through tragic events in their lives step out of their pain to help someone else. By giving to others their focus changes. When you and I help others in spite of what is going on in our lives, it has the power to change everything. When I move the focus off of myself and onto someone else to give to them, if even for a brief moment, my personal pain is brought into focus.

It seems that when you and I lose our perspective due to our circumstances the circumstances feel even worse. When we focus only on ourselves and how horrible our circumstances might be we allow the circumstances to hold even more power and pain in our lives.

Giving and helping others in spite of what we might be going through is the release valve from the pressures of our circumstances. Just like a teapot the pressure builds in our lives when the circumstances are difficult. There has to be a release of the build up of the environmental pressure, or it leads to potential disaster.

A mental health disorder/illness can be very challenging. It can cause difficult circumstances within one’s life. It can cause you and me to become very self-focused. Which at times is necessary. But, if all we do is focus on ourselves, then bipolar disorder has the potential to hold too much power in our lives. You know what I mean?

How about you? Are you only focused on you and your circumstances? If so, have you thought about helping someone else? Or doing something for someone else? Have you found helping others to be good for you?

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

unnamed

Managing Your Fears With The Help Of God by Stan Popovich

Managing Your Fears With The Help Of God by Stan Popovich

 

By

Dealing with fear and anxiety can be very difficult. As a result, using the help of God can be very effective in managing your fears. With this in mind, here are some suggestions on how a person can use the help of God in his or her own struggles.

The first step a person should do is to start talking and praying to God. A person can go to church or to a quiet place during the day to tell God that they are having a problem. They should tell God how they feel and ask God for some of his help. A person could also review the Bible and read some articles on trusting in God and then apply these concepts in their life. Each and every day, a person should make it up a habit to talk to God and ask for His help.

Remember that the one source that a person should use as a basis in managing their fears and anxieties is using God as a basis in dealing with their fears. Why? The power of God is the one power that is stronger than your fears and anxieties. Also, God loves each one of us and he is the one person who has the power to solve all of our problems. He will help you if you ask him to.

When using the help of God to manage your fears, a person needs to be aware of how God is working in their life. Most of the time God works in mysterious ways and the answers he provides might not be that obvious. A person must be aware of God being in their life even when they are dealing with their fears and anxieties.

A person must also be sensitive to the answers God gives them. Some people think that the answers that God provides must be religious in nature. That is not always the case. God may provide the answers in a way that might not be religious in nature. These answers could involve basic psychology and cognitive techniques that deals with how to manage fear and anxiety. The point to remember is that although a person may use these psychology methods, its important to use God as the center of everything in your life and in your struggle.

If you have trouble, talk to a member of the clergy or a professional counselor to help deal with your fears and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem. By talking to a professional a person will be helping themselves in the long run because they will become better able to deal with their problems in the future. Remember that it never hurts to ask for help.

Finally, the most important thing is to continue praying and talking to God. Talk to God as if you were talking to a friend. Read the Bible and pray hard. Be persistent and be open in the avenues that God may provide to you in solving your problem. It is not always easy, however God is in control and he will help you if you ask Him.

 

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

unnamed

Depression in Men – Symptoms, triggers, and how to cope with it

Guest Blog By Ralph Macey

People become disheartened, irritable, or tired and experience issues with a good night’s sleep when they face severe emotional turmoil. These are some of the common reactions of human beings when they are going through stress, anxiety, or mostly…depression issues within a few days.

Lots of men struggle with depression throughout their lives which may harm their normal life cycle in many ways. Men may have a greater tendency to feel anger, show aggressiveness, and engage in substance abuse, compared to women.

Most men hesitate to discuss their feelings or seek help for depression. This is because men believe that depression is an emotional sign of weakness or a failing of masculinity. That’s why discussing this weakness can make them weaker. As a result, their depression gets worse with time.

How common is depression?

Both men and women may experience severe depression issues, but the signs and symptoms in both cases can be much different.

Depression can affect millions of men all over the world, of all ages and cultures. But one thing we must also consider is that not only the men but people around them are also getting affected. For loved ones such as spouses, kids, parents, friends, and other family members, neighbors, everyone’s life is more or less faces an impact.

When men are having depression, sudden changes might be seen in their thinking, feelings, and functions in their daily life. Those rapid changes may also affect their productivity at the workplace or schools and harm their relationships, sleep habits, diet, and overall lifestyle. Severe depression can be intense and may cause physical and mental damage.

Men suffering from depression can harm themselves mortally and the count is four times more than women. So, it is necessary that men should take help regarding depression before it is too late. They should discuss their issues honestly with a friend, or a doctor and clearly open up about what’s going on in their mind, along with their body. For a perfect diagnosis, the signs and symptoms should be carefully noticed in the patient.

Signs and symptoms

Depression signs and symptoms are much different in men compared to women. Men sometimes use different coping skills just as women do.  Normally men show different signs and symptoms while experiencing depression, due to their brain chemistry, hormones, and life experiences.

Practically, men may show the following symptoms of depression:

●        Sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness

●        Feel extremely tired

●        Insomnia or sleeping too much

●        Less interest in regular activities.

●        Lack of concentration

●        Headaches

●        Tightness in the chest

●        Joint, limb, or back pain

●     Digestive problems

Apart from these symptoms, there are a few behavioral signs that may be considered depression in men:

●        Spending too much time alone.

●        Spending a lot more time at work.

●        Physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems, and pain

●        Losing interest in sex and experiencing sexual issues

●        Avoiding family or social situations

●        Irritability

●        Taking unnecessary risks while driving

●        Drinking more or taking drugs.

●        Controlling, violent or abusive behavior

●     Attempting suicide

Triggers

As per the experts, there might be multiple reasons for depression in men such as Biological, psychological, and social. Apart from that lifestyle choices, relationships, and coping skills also play a serious part in this issue.

So, men who suffer from severe depression, might encounter the following triggers or risk factors that make the situation worse:

●        Loneliness and lack of social support

●        Early childhood trauma or abuse

●        Anxiety and stress

●        A past record of alcohol consumption or substance abuse

●        Having a divorce, job loss, or bereavement

●        Having serious physical health problems

●        Family history of depression or other mental health issues

●     Experiencing sexual dysfunction

Coping strategies

  1. Some unique lifestyle changes and coping strategies can help men to manage depression to a certain level.
  2. Creating a daily routine and maintaining it may help a person to avoid all the hassle every day.
  3. Speed walking or running can help to produce endorphins which can boost a person’s mood and heal depression.
  4. If big tasks look unmanageable and confusing, people may divide them into smaller tasks. It will help them to achieve their goal and remove depression.
  5. Meditation and yoga may help a lot to reduce stress and support well-being. As a result, the sense of depressiveness will be reduced.
  6. Connecting to your dear ones, sharing feelings with friends, may make people feel less overwhelmed. As much as people keep away from loneliness, the depressive mood will also recover faster.
  7. Reducing alcohol intake can boost mood. Apart from that, it will also keep the body toxin-free and healthy.
  8. Have a pet and start taking care of it. The sense of responsibility sometimes removes stress and boosts your concentration.
  9. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits. At Least 7 to 8 hours of sleep can help to charge the mood and reduce depression.
  10. Spending time in nature may also boost the mind and bring positivity.
  11. Think twice before making important decisions, such as shifting jobs, until you get over with depression symptoms.

Connect with God

It’s important to convey the message to the men who are suffering from depression that – if you believe in god, know the fact that He comes close to those who suffer. So keep your eyes open for Him.

Believe the truth that the almighty God is not silent when people suffer. On every page of Scripture, God’s depressed children can find hope and a reason to endure. For example, take 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV):

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

In your darkest days, you may follow the guidelines of the Bible. Here are a few suggestions for Bible passages that you may find helpful.

●        Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14.

●        Depression could make you weak and easy prey for Satan’s. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. (Romans 5:6-8, 1 John 4:9,10)

●        Know about persevering and enduring. Read on (Romans 5:3, Hebrews 12:1, James 1:2-4)

●        Read Hebrews 11 and 12. You’ll know that many before you have walked this path and they will assure you that God did not fail them.

●        Know your purpose for being a human. Read (Matthew 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 6:20,  2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 5:6)

●        Use Psalm 88 and Psalm 86 as your personal prayers to God.

Author Bio: Ralph Macey, a professional writer since 2008 and medical health/patient care coordinator at savantcare.com since 2014, writes articles on all mental health-related subjects. He holds a degree and two professional certifications in his field and continues to upgrade his knowledge with additional classes and seminars. He has provided mental health consultations and private fitness instructions for free in his local community. To connect with him, go to his Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

A Doctor’s Insight on Maintaining Mental Health While Providing Care During the Pandemic

A Doctor’s Insight on Maintaining Mental Health While Providing Care During the Pandemic

There is no doubt that those who are on the medical frontlines of this pandemic are true heroes! But even heroes have to care for their mental health. Dr. Babbitt, a hospitalist in a primary healthcare system in Omaha, Nebraska, shares insights into how she maintains her mental health during the daily stresses of being on the front medical line of this pandemic.

While these insights on maintaining one’s mental health during the pandemic are helpful to all, they provide transparent hope and great insight for those stressed to the maximum while giving medical care right now! So, I invite you to pass this onto to anyone you might know who is providing medical care during this time of COVID-19.

Dr. Jocelyn K Babbitt is a Hospitalist Specialist in Omaha, Nebraska. She graduated with honors from University Of Nebraska College Of Medicine in 2008. Having more than 12 years of diverse experiences, especially in HOSPITALIST, Dr. Jocelyn K Babbitt affiliates with many hospitals including The Nebraska Methodist Hospital, Midwest Surgical Hospital LLC, cooperates with many other doctors and specialists in medical group Physicians Clinic Inc.


You can listen to or watch this interview.

Click here to listen.

Click here to watch.

Staying Sane When Times are Crazy Such as Now!

Staying Sane When Times are Crazy Such as Now!

As I write, we are about 240 days into the COVID-19 corona virus global pandemic. Do you remember when we first initially heard about it and it sounded so far off, so far away? And then we faced the lockdowns.

To be honest, when that happened, I thought – in my simplistic way of looking at things – ‘Okay, we’ll stay at home and we’ll get through this, and it’ll be about six weeks long and then life will return to normal.’ And so I just plunked myself down and became a total couch potato, watching the news and every report for several weeks. And at that point, I said, ‘Okay, this doesn’t look like it’s very good, and it might go on forever. So, I’ve got to get my buttootie up and start working.’ So, I started working hard and working from home. 

What have I learned about how to stay sane during crazy times like this? So many of us are simply trying to make it through a time where nothing is normal and we’re isolated in many ways. For those of us in the United States, we’ve just gone through a confusing whirlwind of an election, where people burned bridges with family and friends due to politics, fueled by the influences of social media.

Let’s look at ways to stay sane as we now approach what is being called the ‘Dark Winter’. At this writing, COVID numbers are critically rising across the United States. Hospitals are filling, and many can take no more patients. Most likely, more restrictions will be coming, especially with the holidays upon us. Traditional gatherings and celebrations will be smaller and far different than what we look forward to.

So how do we stay sane during times like this, where everything we thought was certain now becomes uncertain, and life becomes rocky and we don’t know what the future looks like? At times, we end up isolating ourselves due to difficulties, and isolation in and of itself can bring on even more issues. I have gone through basically storm after storm with my family: losing our home, losing my mother-in-law to suicide, my episodes with bipolar disorder and hospitalizations which all became public, as well as experiencing difficulties in ministry through the years. So how do we survive these times? 

Here’s some of the things I found. One very important point I want to share right up front is that you’ve got to grab hold of how you are thinking. You must maintain your thoughts. You must pay attention to that. Especially during crazy times, you cannot let your thinking be on automatic pilot. And so, here’s three core values that have helped me and are underscored by a psychologist I found on the web. These are proven to be effective and they’ve been clinically researched. 

First of all, you’ve got to get it clear in your mind that you can choose to believe in your ability to manage whatever is going to come and for however long it takes. So it really is okay to take it one day at a time. In other words, you have to believe in yourself and you have to choose to believe that. You have to choose to think that. You have to choose to see that – that you will in fact have what’s necessary for the day that you are in. But if you start looking at everything society will experience weeks, months, and a year from now, you won’t know what you have for that day. 

I many times think of the passage from Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’ To me, that means I’m going to have everything I need for every single day that I’m alive. But if I start looking at months and months ahead, I worry how the Lord’s going to provide for all those things. And so, I just need to rest in my faith and in the abilities that God has given me – that I in fact can and will have everything that is necessary for day to day. And I will be able to cope with all of this. I’ll be able to manage it no matter what. Now, that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. It doesn’t mean that I have to like it, but I certainly don’t have to see it as being something I hate and detest- and complain about. I’m only making myself more miserable by detesting it every inch of the way.

There comes a point where you just say, ‘It is what it is. I cannot change it, therefore I accept it. And I accept the fact and I believe that I will be able to manage, however I need to manage through all of this, but I will only take it one day at a time.’ 

Secondly, you and I can remind ourselves that uncertainty does not guarantee that bad things will happen. It just means ‘I don’t know yet. I don’t know what it’s going to be like.’ For instance, you may be dreading getting the COVID virus. And if you do, how bad is it going to be? And when are they going to get that vaccination? Honestly, I find myself thinking that way. After all, I’m overweight, I’m older (let’s just say over 60). And on top of that, I have asthma and mildly high blood pressure that I take medicine for.

And so I find myself having anxiety about, ‘Oh gosh, do I want to get together with this person or do this at the risk of getting sick?’ And my assumptions always lead right down a dark rabbit hole that says, ‘Oh, I’m going to get really sick if I get this and may even die.’ Well, that’s kind of catastrophizing, isn’t it. It could be that some people get it and some won’t. Anxiety and angst come from the uncertainty with the virus, the economy, and the election. We don’t know what the outcome is going to be yet.

The fact that I worry about COVID-19 does not increase the likelihood of having it or not having it. It just feels like it becomes more intense because we keep ruminating about it. And we live with a lot of unknowns in our lives. Choose to believe that, ‘Hey, today is good. Don’t have it today, not sick. I’m going to live. I’m going to take today and enjoy it and live and get things done that I need to get done.’ In fact, I initially said, ‘Oh, let’s hit the pause button here and wait until they get this figured out. And then I’ll press play again and go about living.’ 

Instead, it’s unknown. There are a lot of unknowns right now, but we actually live with all kinds of unknowns every day. It might help to remind yourself of some of those unknowns. Thirdly, you and I can recognize that we cope with uncertainty in other parts of our lives all the time. Try to envision exactly what your relationships are going to be like a year from now. How about work? What will two years, three years, four years, five years from now look like? There’s just a lot of stuff you and I don’t know. So we’ve had lots of practice in tolerating unknown things.

You and I can believe and recognize this is, in fact, true – that we’ve learned to tolerate the unknown all through our lives, and this is just another unknown. And in fact, I really see it happening within myself, and maybe within society in general, that we’re just learning to accept that this is a new thing we have to navigate. But it’s like a lot of other things in life – we don’t sit around worrying whether we’re going to get cancer or have a heart attack, or whether we’re going to do this or that.

To recap, the three ways of looking at things and thinking about them, are 1) we can choose to believe in our ability to manage whatever may come. 2) we can remind ourselves that uncertainty does not guarantee that bad things will happen. And 3) we can recognize that we can cope with the uncertainty in other parts of life. Certainly, we can deal with the uncertainty in these matters. 

Part 2 will focus on things to remember when you’re going through tough times. And Part 3 will be about how to do some practical things to help cope. 

I’d like to pray for you…

Father, the Apostle Paul said that we need to take captive our thinking and that we need to hold on to all of those things, and we need to control how we look at things and frame them. Paul says it, Your word teaches it, that we need to take captive our thinking. So Lord, help us during this time that just seems crazy and uncertain and all over the place, just to take this one day at a time. Knowing, Lord, that You have given us the ability along with You and using our faith to manage uncertain times. And Lord, help us to remember also that uncertainty doesn’t mean bad things are happening or will happen for sure.

Lord, sometimes I think I understand why we have and will live with a lot of uncertainty in our lives, because if things were always 100% certain, we wouldn’t trust in You as much. So in this uncertain time, in these times of craziness, Lord, we turn to You, we trust in You, and we know that You never ever change. So help our faith rise to the top of all the uncertainty and all the noise that’s going on in the world today. And to help our faith, fill us with hope in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

If you’re looking for mental health help during these trying times, consider participating in a Fresh Hope support group. You can go to our website to find where we have groups, both in person and online, in English and Spanish. We also have books and other resources. Check us out at FreshHope.us and share with your friends, too.

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

unnamed

Bipolar and Creating Mini Habits For Positive Change

Bipolar and Creating Mini Habits For Positive Change

To change our default setting it must be done one mini habit at a time.

If you are like me, there have been numerous times you were highly motivated to make BIG changes in your mental health journey. One of those times for me was deciding that I needed to exercise at least three times a week. That was a big change to make since I wasn’t even exercising once a week. So I exercised three times that first week, but by the next week I had given it up. I just couldn’t do it. It was too big of a change.

I’ve done this over and over throughout the years since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. I would be highly motivated to make a healthy change regarding my sleep, eating, exercising, thinking, or working. It seemed that the motivation to make the change would last a short time before I would revert to my “default settings.” And each time I would feel like a bigger failure. I began to believe that my inability to stay motivated to make a healthy change had to be connected in some way to having bipolar disorder. After all, I could easily become “laser-beamed-focused” on something I wanted or liked to do, so I became convinced that my repeated failures had to have something to do with having bipolar.

It was as though any unhealthy “default settings” I had or any changes that I wasn’t allyousef-al-nasser-261164 that interested in – even though they would be good for me – could only be made little by little because I just didn’t have enough self-motivation to do them all at once. I figured I just didn’t have the self-discipline necessary, or somehow there was a flaw in my character. Those beliefs changed recently when someone introduced me to a book that they had found very helpful in making changes in their life. The title of the book is Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. I discovered that if I began making small changes for extended periods of time, the changes would stick.

In the book, Guise clarifies the difference between motivation and self-will. He says that motivation is short-lived, and to make real change you have to begin doing small things that can be done via pure self-will, and not depend on motivation to do it.

He started to change his health by doing one push-up daily. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But think about it. Had he decided to do 50 per day, that would have required ongoing motivation, and he would have given up when the motivation to do the 50 push-ups had passed. (Which would have been on the first day for me! lol) So his first mini habit was to do a single push-up. Doing just the one push-up, he could make himself do it via self-will power. What he found was that once he would do one push-up, he always did a few more, but no matter what, he always did at least one. He changed his brain’s default setting slowly, over time, and it stuck.

I’ve got to tell you that this little book on mini habits is changing my life!

I’ve stopped beating up on myself for not being able to make sweeping changes in my life. It makes total sense to me. There are small things I can choose to do whether I feel motivated to do them or not. For example, I know I need to drink more water, especially with the meds that I take. But, the thought of drinking eight full glasses of water overwhelms me, and I end up drinking nothing. So, I started with the mini habit of drinking one large full glass of water with my meds first thing in the morning, and I’ve found myself drinking more water throughout the day and enjoying it! I know, it’s not an earth-shattering change, but earth-shattering changes won’t work. Most of us do not have that kind of motivation with or without bipolar disorder.

It only makes sense that our brains have default settings. Those are the settings that our brains default to when we are stressed or things we can do with little to no thought. For example, my default setting for when to eat is when I’m sad, happy, tired, stressed, or when I’m awake! This eating default setting has been a well-worn patterned default in my brain for many years. Unfortunately, unlike being able to go into your computer default settings, make a change and click “save,” we cannot do that with our brains. Instead, if we want to make changes to our default settings, we must make them bit by bit, by starting a mini habit that we can do without one ounce of motivation on our part; a simple thing that can be done by sheer self-willpower.

Discovering these things have become the single greatest key to making change happen in my life.

Your inability to not make sweeping health changes in your life is not a character flaw. It’s called being human!

So, what mini habit can you do by sheer self-willpower that will bring about a simple, healthy change in your life?

 

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.

unnamed

 

%d bloggers like this: