Little Steps in Depression Management by Pastor Rick Qualls

Little Steps in Depression Management by Pastor Rick Qualls

There are little steps you can take along the journey of wellness. The primary building blocks of recovery are medicine, sleep schedules and therapy. But there are little steps along the way that can help with the management of depression.

Three L’s that help me are logging thoughts in a journal, laughter, and long walks.

Logging your thoughts in a journal let you get thoughts down on paper. There is something that is healing in writing down our ruminations, reflections, and feelings. Thoughts get untangled as we clarify them in writing. Externalizing thoughts takes away some of their inner pressure.

Journaling gives you a record of your journey. Over time you will see patterns, chronicle things that you find helpful, keep track of moods and have specific things to show your therapist.

Often when I journal, I begin the entry with, “Dear Heavenly Father” and turn my thoughts into prayer. On other days when I don’t feel like praying, I can go back and pray them again.

Having a page for writing down inspirational thoughts, quotes, or Bible promises make helpful reading through the days. If you discover positive quotes jot them down and read and re-read them through your journey.

The Fresh Hope app offers a daily inspirational quote and bible verse that you may find helpful. Check it out at  Or go to your Google Play or iTunes app store and just type in “Fresh Hope.”  It’s free.

Laughter is the opposite of depression. A few minutes of hearty laughter can ease dark thoughts. You may discover that your sense of humor does not come as quickly. Don’t worry. Laugh as you can. There is even a “laugh-yoga.” It teaches that even faking laughter for a moment can trigger a laughter reflex.

Among my favorites are old re-runs of Andy Griffith. Barney’s facial expressions never fail to cause a laugh or a smile. Replays of Carol Burnett shows have the same effect on me. Regardless of your type of humor, it can play an essential piece in your depression management.

Long walks help with depression management. Fresh air, sunshine, the rhythmic motion of walking has healing effects. Exercise is an indispensable part of recovery. Physical activity can unstress some of the knots of anxiety. Walking in nature seems to have healing benefits.

You may walk with a friend which gives a feeling of connectedness and helps break some of the isolation of depression. Or you may choose just to be mindful, emptying your mind of thoughts to focus on nature around you. This is also a time when many have found it easy to commune with God.

Will logging in your journal, laughing, going on long walks help your depression management? We are all different and what one person tries may be helpful or not. But spend time learning management tips from others.

These things will not cure your depression, but they may help make your journey easier.




Dr. Kutcher

This post is by Dr. Stan Kutcher, Chair in Adolescent Mental Health and the Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre in Mental Health Policy and Training at Dalhousie University.   It is from the Trafaigar Castle School Blog Post dated Feb. 21, 2018

Fostering Community

Mental health does not equal happiness.  Those were not the words I expected to hear from Dr. Stan Kutcher, Chair in Adolescent Mental Health and the Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre in Mental Health Policy and Training at Dalhousie University.  Dr. Kutcher spent the day at Trafalgar Castle last week, working with a group of teachers and counselors from independent schools across Ontario, and then in the evening, speaking to our community.  His words and the directness of his delivery surprised me.  But as he continued to talk and share insight as someone working in the trenches with families, educators, and the health care system, his words began to make sense and resonate clearly.  The problems our children and teens are facing today, according to Kutcher, are particular to Western society.  In order to find solutions, we first need to understand how our parenting, our present-day beliefs, and our modern-day culture are impacting children’s mental health and overall well-being.  In other words, it’s less about taking a look at our children, and more about taking a look at ourselves.

At first glance, things are not looking good when it comes to child and adolescent mental health in Ontario.  Between 2006 and 2014[1], the rate of outpatient physician visits for mental health concerns grew by 25%.  Emergency room visits rose by 53%, and the rate of hospitalization for mental health and addiction issues increased by 56%.  Our schools, our community service providers, our emergency rooms, our hospitals – every part of the system is stretched and struggling to keep up with growing mental health needs.

Admittedly, there is no quick fix.  But according to Kutcher, simply improving our mental health literacy would go a long way to deescalating the panic and reducing some of the problem.  It’s not enough to have mental health awareness.  We also need to be literate in mental health, and that includes understanding four key components:  knowing how to achieve and maintain good mental health, understanding mental health disorders and the treatments that are available, reducing stigma, and teaching people how to access help when needed.

One of the biggest challenges we face is the misconception that positive feelings denote good mental health while negative feelings indicate a problem or disorder.  This strictly Western phenomenon, says Kutcher, is leaving parents (and by extension their children) susceptible to the idea that there’s something wrong with them if they’re sad, or disappointed, or upset.  Instead of teaching them that life is often hard, that negative emotions are a normal response to difficult situations, and that adversity breeds resilience, we have begun pathologizing typical experiences by too quickly throwing out labels.  “Instead of unhappy, disappointed, or discouraged, the word depression is used.  Instead of worried, concerned, or nervous, the word anxiety is used,” says Kutcher[2].   What children need is an opportunity to embrace life’s challenges and all the uncomfortable emotions that go along with them.  They need to learn that strategies are available to help them deal with problems independently, that they are capable of coping, and that it gets easier every time they pick themselves up and dust themselves off.  And most of all, according to Kutcher, they need to be allowed to deal with these difficulties with increasing independence.  READ MORE—>

30 Things You Can Do When Someone You Love is Clinically Depressed

30 Things You Can Do When Someone You Love is Clinically Depressed

When you love someone that is experiencing deep depression it can be exhausting and melanie-wasser-233297frustrating.  You want to encourage your loved one but don’t want to push them too much. Encouraging them to “push through” but knowing when not to do so is a delicate balance.  You might even find yourself feeling the depression emotionally.  No doubt caring for someone who is in the depths of depression can feel as though life is being sucked out of you.  You can end up having no idea as to how to help or encourage your loved one.

Here’s somethings my wife did for me and/or encouraged me to do when I was in the depths of depression:

  1. Encourage them to do something that they usually have enjoyed doing and do it with them.
  2. Watch an uplifting movie with them.
  3. Make them their favorite meal.
  4. Sit quietly with them. Hold their hand.
  5. Take a walk with them.
  6. Take care of yourself!
  7. Help them establish and stick to a schedule if possible.
  8. Have some expectations of them.
  9. Assure them of your unconditional love.
  10. Assure them that this will pass sooner or later.
  11. Give them a back rub.
  12. Listen to soothing, spiritually uplifting music with them.
  13. Ask them to help you make or do something.
  14. Encourage them to talk and listen carefully.
  15. Encourage them to see a doctor if they have not done so.
  16. Assure them you don’t believe that they are weak or lack faith, but that you know their brain chemistry is experiencing imbalance.
  17. Ask them to promise you that if they ever begin to feel like they begin to feel suicidal that they will tell you. If they tell you, consult with their doctor as soon as possible or contact the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If the situation is an emergency, dial 911.
  18. Ask them what might bring them comfort.
  19. Talk about the future. Help them see there is a future.
  20. Encourage them to exercise with you.
  21. Turn on the lights, open the windows.
  22. Find out as much as you can about depression. This is a great website:
  23. Change your light bulbs to full spectrum light bulbs.
  24. Give your loved one a mood light. Northern Light Technologies has a wide variety of options.  (Before purchasing these you’ll want to check with the doctor.)
  25. Get them vitamin D and B12.
  26. Remind them of times when they have overcome adversity so they know it is possible for them to do so again.
  27. Encourage them to get outside for a walk and some natural sunlight.
  28. Turn off news programs and other negative media. Control negative inputs.
  29. Where possible, encourage them to connect with friends.
  30. Pray.  Every time you find yourself worrying about your loved one, pray instead.

Please know, as a loved one it is SO important that you do take care of yourself too. Stay balanced and do somethings that you enjoy.  Take care of yourself spiritually and emotionally.  Also, know this, the Lord is with you too!  He will see you through this valley. Stay in His word. Hold to His hope. And when you can, laugh a little!  You are not alone. There is hope.  And there is healing.

Cover photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash



Perfection Versus Imperfect Progress

Perfection Versus Imperfect Progress

While waiting to weigh in at a Weight Watchers meeting many years ago, the woman in front of me stepped on the scale and began to cry. The leader, who was the person weighing her in, asked her why she was crying. Between her sobbing and trying to catch her breath, she said that she didn’t have a good week. The leader, of course, asked her why. And she replied that she had eaten some peanut M&Ms. The leader then asked her a very important question: “Did you eat as many of them as you would have consumed before coming to our group?” And the woman between her tears and sobbing chuckled and said,”Ohhhh NO! I only ate a small bag of them. Before group, I would have a huge family size bag!” The leader simply looked at her and said, “Good! See, that’s progress!”

The memory of that lady weighing in has been forever etched in my mind. It was at that moment I learned a life lesson about recovery; recovery is not about perfection, rather it is about imperfect progress.

If you’re like me when you step back into old patterns or are triggered by a situation and react in old ways you can easily believe that you have failed at recovery. And when this happensbrad-and-donna and old feelings come back like someone unleashed Hoover Dam: guilt, shame, anger, sadness, confusion, hurt and much more. And the overriding feeling is one of total failure. But, the truth is that it is not a total failure. It is imperfect progress if you recognize it and learn from it. See, it’s only failure if you don’t learn from it if you don’t recognize it. It’s only failure if you decide not to get back and remain “there.”

Again, this “journey of wellness” is not one of perfection. It is a journey of imperfect progress. To make this journey you and I must be willing to accept the fact that we are never going to be perfect. No one is perfect. Recovery, which I define as taking back one’s life in a new way, is built upon failures in which we learn from them, get back up and continue to move forward. Shaming ourselves and believing that a failure constitutes us as complete failures simply is a lie straight from the pits of hell! Everybody fails. Everyone falls short of the mark. What makes the difference between those who decide to give up and believe the lie that they are total failures versus those who succeed? It’s simple; understanding that moving forward is one of imperfect progress versus perfection.

Note: it is never too late to get back up and dust yourself off after failing, even after years of failures. No matter how long you might have been stuck believing the lie that you will never be able to change or move forward, it’s not too late to get back up, dust yourself off, learn from what has happened and begin to move forward. It is NEVER too late. When getting back up, it is important to take full responsibility for your issues. Make amends if necessary and decide to learn from it.

When failures involve others that we are in a relationship with it can be difficult to get out of the “stuck spot” of believing the lie of never being able to move forward when the other person doesn’t let it go. This type of situation is very challenging. When someone is “stuck” and not letting go of the past it can trigger you. It is at that point that you have to know that you’ve done what you can about the past (reconciling, taking responsibility, apologizing, asking for forgiveness, etc.), and you need to recognize that it is no longer your issue, it is theirs. I’m learning that when this happens within my relationships with others that I absolutely must have a loving response to their reminders of the past instead of getting triggered and repeating the same things over and over.

I want to encourage you. You are not a failure. Yes, sometimes you fail. So, does everyone else. But, failing does not make you a failure. Failing is a sign of moving forward and learning from it. Wellness does not require perfection at all. It is made up of imperfect progress that is simply handling one’s failures in a healthy and appropriate way.

How about you? Do you want to give up because you “slipped up”? Do you want to give up because this journey of wellness is hard work? Are you learning from your imperfect progress?

Check out Brad’s weekly podcast: Fresh Hope for Mental Health (

Brad’s the author of “FreshHope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis” which available on

The Importance of Moving Toward as Opposed to Moving Away

The Importance of Moving Toward as Opposed to Moving Away

In this edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, Brad discusses the importance of moving toward something as opposed to moving away from something.

After listening to this podcast we encourage you to email Brad at with a comment or question that we will share on our next podcast.  Or you can leave a voice message for us on the site:

You can access this podcast by clicking on this icon:FH PodCastArt (160dpi) 02_Splash 480x854


You can listen to this podcast via Apple Podcasts on iTunes by clicking on this icon:Listen_on_Apple_Podcasts_CMYK_US

Pastor Brad Hoefs, host of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, is the founder of Fresh Hope Ministries, a network of Christian mental health support groups for those who have a diagnosis and their loved ones. In other words, Fresh Hope is a Christian mental health support group.

Brad was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. He is a weekly blogger for (Bipolar Magazine). He is also a certified peer specialist and has been doing pastoral counseling since 1985. Brad is also the author of Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis, which is available on Amazon or at:

If you are interested in more information about Fresh Hope go to or email or call 402.932.3089.

To donate to Fresh Hope, go to:

For a complete list of where Fresh Hope groups are presently meeting go to and click on “find a group.”  Or you may attain an online group of meeting of Fresh Hope by going to

If you are interested in starting a Fresh Hope group within your faith community contact Julie at 

Fresh Hope for Mental Health is a production of Fresh Hope Ministries. 

Fresh Hope Ministries is a non-profit ministry.  

The copyrights of this program belong to Fresh Hope Ministries and may not be duplicated without written permission.

All the podcasts of Fresh Hope Today as well as numerous other videos are all available on our YouTube channel: Fresh Hope Network

Fresh Hope for Mental Health is on Facebook at

Hold On! Spring is Coming by Jamie Meyer

Hold On! Spring is Coming by Jamie Meyer

This time of year–the transition from winter to spring–is one of the toughest times of the year for me. Looking back over my work history, I’ve quit almost every job in the month of March. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I’m thinking it was more likely that I’d reached an emotional breaking point where I wanted to scream “I can’t take it anymore!” Each time I recall feeling distressed and panicky, desperate for relief. Now that I know more about my diagnosis I understand that work stress and seasonal transitions cause me to become unstable.

I find the transition from fall to winter challenging as well, but there are a few unique things about this time of year that seem to create instability in myself and others. In the fall, although the days grow shorter and it gets dark earlier, in general, it’s mostly sunny, there’s little rain, the leaves are beautiful and the grass is still green. This will vary, of course, depending on where you live.

In early spring, it’s still damp and cold, often windy, with a lot of gray and rainy days. Everywhere you look, nature offers up brown vegetation and bare branches. Not very inspiring or uplifting. I’ve found that I actually do better in the winter months because it’s brighter outside. The sun reflects off the snow and I can’t see the dead grass hiding underneath. Gray days usually zap both my motivation and mood, leading to a slow slide into depressive symptoms.

As part of learning to live well with bipolar ll, I’d like to share a few things I do to stay emotionally in balance this time of year. I encourage you to try one or two of these ideas or come up with your own list based on what you find enjoyable. These are also good ideas to try when, despite our best efforts, we begin to feel unstable.

* expose yourself to sunlight as often as you can. Sit near a sunny window or take a short walk. On cold days I’ve sat in a lawn chair on the sunny side of my house, out of the wind’s reach. You’d be surprised how warm it feels.

* if you’re financially able, take a trip somewhere warm and sunny. It will provide an emotional lift and will give you hope that sunshine and warmer weather are just around the corner back home.

* supplement your diet with Vit D3 which is normally produced in the body by exposure to sunlight. Studies have shown that it improves symptoms of depression

[however, do not take new meds or vitamins without speaking to your doctor first].
* go to an indoor botanical garden or greenhouse to see brightly colored plants and flowers.

* visit your local garden center to see colorful annual and perennial plants ready to be purchased for spring planting. If you are a plant person, this might be the creative inspiration you need to create a layout for your garden areas.

* if you enjoy indoor plants, buy a new one that has leaves with unusual shapes or colors to brighten your home.

* eat or cook foods that you normally associate with spring or early summer. These might include strawberries, blueberries, ice cream cones; making homemade ice cream; grilling out on a warmer day and eating lighter foods such as salads. Try moving away from heavier foods such as soups, stews, casseroles, and meat and potatoes. Lighter eating can also help with weight loss and improvements in energy levels.

I encourage you to make a list of some things you can do over the next six-to-eight weeks to make your transition from winter to spring a smooth one this year. Identify what has been a trigger for you in the past: Feeling stuck indoors? The weather? Everything looking blah outdoors? Feeling hopeless? When you’re able to put a finger on what triggers you, then you’re in a position to take positive action to avoid or at least minimize the effect those triggers have on you.

Right now you may feel that winter is never going to end, but hold on! Spring will indeed be here in a couple of months. And by the time it arrives, you’ll want to feel well enough to enjoy it!

Blog Post by Jamie Meyer


Thank you to Arlen Salte with Break Forth Ministries of Canada for use of the featured image.

Blessed Are the Unsatisfied, a New Book by Author, Amy Simpson

Blessed Are the Unsatisfied, a New Book by Author, Amy Simpson
Are you unsatisfied? If so, then you are blessed! In this edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health Pastor Brad interviews author, Amy Simpson regarding her new book entitled Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World
“We know that our material comforts and temporal accomplishments are not enough to fully satisfy us. Momentary pleasures, whether of pure or darker motivations, are Amyfleeting at best. But Christians often hear the idea that following Jesus means that we should be living a life of full satisfaction. How many of us actually experience that kind of life? Amy Simpson wants to debunk this satisfaction myth in the church. After forty years of walking with Jesus, she writes, “I am deeply unsatisfied not only with my ability to reflect Jesus but also with the very quality of my intimacy with him. I strongly suspect that the abyss of my nature has not been entirely satisfied by Jesus.” Her’s is a freeing confession for us all. Simpson explains that our very unsatisfaction indicates a longing for God, and understanding those longings can bring us closer in relationship with him. And that is where true spiritual health and vitality reside. Read on to discover anew what it truly means to be satisfied in Christ.” from Amazon review

The book will be released in February but click here and you can order it now on Amazon.

Blessed are the Unsatisfied, A New Book by Author, Amy Simpson from Brad Hoefs on Vimeo.


7 Things to Do When Despair is Creeping In

7 Things to Do When Despair is Creeping In

Over the years, I have found that having hope is crucial in being able to live well.  That is, believing that I have a future, and a purpose for my life has been the one key factor that has enabled me to regain my life back.  But, to be honest, hopelessness far too often is lurking right behind me like a very dark shadow waiting to block out any ray of hope.

Hopelessness is an enemy that I must hold at bay, avoiding it at all costs.  It comes about quickly if I fail to see a future and a plan for my life.  Hopelessness quickly gives way to despair and then the despair gives way to depression.  And suddenly I can find myself in a deep dark bit that overwhelms into emotional pain, isolation, and no will to get up and live.

Hopelessness is an enemy that I must hold at bay, avoiding it at all costs.

It is a “cancer” that damages my soul and can lead me into the darkest deepest despair possible.  It would be all too easy to embrace this-this familiar enemy of hopelessness. So, every day I take great care to keep this “creeper” of hopelessness away. It takes daily focus for me to remain hope-filled; knowing that my life has meaning and purpose.  I have a future and so do you.  You have a future and a purpose!  Even all of the pain that you and I have experienced due to having bipolar disorder has purpose.

For me, knowing what hopelessness that is caused by a depressive mood looks like for me has been crucial in learning to live well.  What are the early signs? How quickly do I spiral down?  So through the years I have developed a workable plan for me when even the slightest bit of hopelessness rears its ugly head.

So, these are the seven things that I pay attention to when I feel even the slightest bit of despair creep in (Please know, that these seven things may nearly impossible to do if hopelessness has had a grip on you for some time.).

At the early signs of hopelessness/depressive thinking or feeling:

  1. Let your doctor and therapist know at the first signs of it. Don’t wait!
  1. Let key family and or trusted friends know. Don’t wait.
  1. If you have a WRAP plan or another type of wellness plan, start to work it.
  1. Not talking about your feelings of hopelessness will cause you to bottle it up inside you and it will begin to have even more “power” over your thoughts and feelings. You need to talk about it.  Get it out into the open.  Talking will release some of the very real pain of hopelessness.
  1. Work hard at not isolating. Isolating empowers hopelessness. Continued isolation will affect your brain’s ability to problem-solve and thinking differently.  (There’s actual research out there on this: isolation brings can cause an inflexibility to the brain to problem solve.) Call or text friends; don’t go to them, have them come to you.  Send out an SOS to whomever even if that is all you can do.
  1. If you have a peer specialist that is working with you be sure to let him or her know. If you do not have one, find out where in your community you might receive the services of one.  Having a peer support specialist is particularly important to do if you lack a support system through friends and family.
  1. Spend time reading Scripture or inspiring literature and listening to things that inspire you and fill you with hope.

If you’re not struggling with hopelessness currently, then I would strongly encourage you to develop either a WRAP plan or a wellness plan for living well.  After all, you and I both know that having a mental health diagnosis, hopelessness (a depressive state) is too often lurking around like a sick predator of our living well in spite of having bipolar.

And yes, no matter how hard we might fight against hopelessness sometimes our brain chemistry fights against us.  And that’s why medicine is imperative in our daily battle to live well in spite of a mental illness.  If you have a mental illness, your brain like mine, malfunctions.  So, I do everything within my power to keep my brain chemistry as “straight” as possible. Not only do I take my medicine, but I also choose to have hope, which helps my brain chemistry.  I don’t dare allow my thinking to go “south” for even the least bit of time.  So, I count on my medicine working, and I do my part regarding how I think.

How about you? What do you do to fight off hopelessness?  If you’re feeling hopeless what are you doing about it? What keeps you going even when you feel like quitting? What preventative steps do you take to ward off depressive thinking?

Guess Who is Turning 60!

Guess Who is Turning 60!

A Brief Note from Donna Hoefs

Would you be willing to be one of the 1,000 for $10?

This Sunday, February 4th, is a special birthday for my husband, Brad Hoefs, founder of Fresh Hope for Mental Health.  I recently asked him what he would like for his birthday, and he surprised me with his answer.  He said, “What I would like for my birthday is 1,000 friends to commit to giving $10 a month or $120 dollars for the next year.”  So, I’m going to attempt to give that to him for his birthday.  Would you be willing to be one of those friends?  A monthly gift of $10 for the next 12 months would help 324 people!  To me that is amazing!  Would you be willing to be one of the 1,000 for $10?

Donna HoefsFresh Hope really changes lives with the gift of hope! I have been blessed to be a part of Fresh Hope from the beginning. I have to say I have never seen lives changed in such a drastic way as I have over the past few years. The evidence of hope for a future that used to be paralyzed by an inability to know love, acceptance, forgiveness, grace and a God who loves has been changed for those who have attended Fresh Hope.  I have seen time and time again lives reignited with the hope of knowing they are excepted, loved and not alone on this road of life.

I cannot think of a better way to honor my husband than asking you to please consider a monthly donation of $10.00 for the next year in honor of his 60th birthday. 

If you feel led to become one of the 1,000 for $10click here.

Thank you!
Donna Hoefs