Depressed? How to Avoid Fueling Hopelessness

Depressed? How to Avoid Fueling Hopelessness

Hopelessness can’t flourish if we work alongside our medication to redirect our thinking towards hope instead. 

By Brad Hoefs

For the last year or so, I’ve been going through what I would say has been the second-most challenging situation in my work life that I’ve ever been through in the church that I pastor. As some of you might know, conflict in a church is really messy and can be extremely painful.  

I’ve come to the conclusion that why it is so messy and painful is because the wounding is coming from people that you love and care about and have been in relationship with and in my case some cases for many years.

Without going into the details, I’ve gone through an extremely challenging, hellish last year or so. I don’t tell you this so I can complain some more about it but so that you know that the insights I’m about to share with have been genuine insights that have come from what I’ve been through these past months. See, I’ve been living teetering on the edge of hopelessness. I have had to struggle and hold onto hope through all of it while hopelessness and giving up kept knocking at the door.

Early on as the hopelessness began to creep into my thinking and my feelings I knew I had to fight against it. So, I actually sat down and made a list of ways that I was feeding the hopelessness or that I needed to stay away from doing lest I feed the hopelessness.  

I truly believe from my experiences of managing bipolar disorder that more times than not, I have not worked with my medicine. In other words, while taking the antidepressant I many times have not changed my thinking (feeding my hopelessness) and just waited for the medication to be some sort of magic bullet in getting better.   

I knew from having fed my hopelessness in the past, that I better be proactive in working alongside my medicine or I would simply end up in a deep dark hole of depression and despair. 

Hopelessness can’t flourish if we work alongside our medicine and don’t feed it and feed hope instead. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the feelings and work through the pain, but don’t feed it.  What we don’t “feed” can’t flourish. 

So, here are a few of the items I listed that I needed to stay away from as to not feed the hopelessness and instead actively process the pain and feelings and to instead feed hope:

#1) Isolating & wanting to be alone

So, I committed myself to be around people no matter how much I wanted to be alone!

Nothing feeds hopelessness more calories than isolating yourself.  After all, usually when I’m going through something emotionally hurtful, I want to be alone.  And in the aloneness, I begin to ruminate about the situation, and the hopelessness starts to grow.  Isolating along with the ruminating are like yeast to bread dough. 

We were not created to do life alone. Brene Brown says, “Connection is why we are here.  We are hardwired to connect with others, it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” 

When you are feeling hopeless, one of the most important things you can do is get around people that you love, trust and care about you.  Process your hurt and pain with them. Don’t isolate.  Doing life with others is what we were created for!

By the way, for me, lots of sleeping can quickly provide a way to isolate.  So, I knew that I had to be careful to not escape the emotional pain by sleeping a lot. 

#2) Shame

So, I committed to not shaming myself even as I had made mistakes in the situation of conflict that I was going through. 

Shame makes you feel like you have to cover up what is “wrong” with you, you can’t have this problem.  Shame makes you feel like you should not make mistakes and should handle yourself correctly at all times.  Shame doesn’t allow you to have personal grace.  Shame demands perfection.  

Shedding one’s shame is a must! And keeping shame at bay is a constant commitment I have to make to myself.  

#3) Ruminating

Thinking the same negative thoughts over and over merely burn into our brains a deepening “groove” that makes getting ourselves unstuck or out of that groove nearly impossible.

#4) Shutting down emotionally

In other words, zoning out emotionally would do nothing but feed my hopelessness.  So, I committed to keep moving, to keep my schedule, not to merely zone-out, shutting down emotionally.  I was not about to let what I was going through become such a crisis that I couldn’t function with everyday tasks and the rest of my job. 

#5) Bad Habits 

Bad habits like eating to cover up the painful emotional feelings.  So, I knew I had to process my feelings and not stuff them, or eat them.

Bad habits like not going to bed at a decent time, job or not!  Not being in sync with your routine like the rest of the world is going to cause you to feel even more alone and feed hopelessness. 

Bad habits like not having a schedule, eating lots of sugar would only going to stir up my mood challenges even more. 

#6) Believing lies

You know, the lies that make you feel as though the tough time you’re going through will go on forever.  Or lies that tell you “you can’t endure this, so give up” just cause hopelessness to flourish.  So, I committed myself to believe the truth, speaking out the truth and holding to the truth.

#7) Not processing and working through your emotions and feelings in healthy ways 

So, I committed myself to process and work through my feelings and emotions.  I knew that I had to be in charge of them versus them having charge over me. 

Well, these are the main things I knew would allow hopelessness to grow in my situation these past months.   No doubt committing myself to hold the hopelessness at bay helped me go through the last year.  However, it does not mean that I didn’t feel sad and alone at times.  It doesn’t mean that there weren’t some sleepless nights.  It hurt emotionally.  I had to “go through it.”  As they say, when you are going through hell, keep going!  And that is what I’ve been doing. 

I’m hopeful that I’m on the other side of things now.  But, there are still some tougher days.  Every now and then I have some enormous waves of grief.  But, I refuse to yield to hopelessness.  I’m fighting back. And I won’t let up.  And I’m not doing it alone.  It is what it is.  It’s lasting longer than I want it to, but it will pass sooner or later.  And I’ve committed myself to learn from it and grow because of it.  

Recently my wife and I had lunch with a very dear friend.  As we talked, we talked about the sadness and heaviness we are still feeling at times.  We talked about what we can do to process it, to help it “move along.”  And as we got in the car to go back to the office, I said, “You know, I think I’ve gone through all of this rather well.  After all,  I’ve gone through in spite of having bipolar disorder.  In other words, the bipolar disorder has stayed in check throughout this.  Yes, the struggle with hopelessness continually knocking on the door may indeed be due to the bipolar disorder, I haven’t caved into it.  After all any time you have bipolar disorder, and you go through a significantly painful situation, and you are still managing it, that’s a good thing!  Years ago, this situation would have wiped me out.  It would have ended with a hospital stay and not working nor functioning with the daily routines of life for months. 

Did I handle everything correctly?  Of course I didn’t.  You can’t get perfection from an imperfect person, whether they have bipolar or not! But, by the grace of God and a whole lot of work, hopelessness has not won. Hope is prevailing. And I’m getting through it one piece with peace of mind in spite of having bipolar disorder.  

How about you?  Are you like me and too easily go to the door when hopelessness is knocking?  Do you feed hopelessness?  If so, how?  And if you do, how might you better starve hopelessness and instead feed hope?


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.


A to Z: Basic Terms Everyone in Church Leadership Should Know About Mental Illness By: Katie Dale

A to Z: Basic Terms Everyone in Church Leadership Should Know About Mental Illness By: Katie Dale

By: Katie Dale

This is not an exhaustive list of terms, but it’s a start. I don’t know that theological seminaries prepare soon-to-be pastors and clergy to recognize mental illness and symptoms of mental health conditions. I do know that referencing a list of terms like these could help shed light on what church members and church leadership may be struggling with, in addition to spiritual warfare or physical illness. 

Familiarizing yourself with mental illness is vital to helping your members and yourself. Many problems arise and can appear as “sin,” but underneath can be rooted in mental illness. 

If you are careful to know your members, yourself, and some basics of mental health hygiene and illness, you can be another step ahead and that much closer to solutions for shepherding your mentally ill flock.

Recognizing no one is immune to sickness, whether physical, or psychological, is step number one in humbling ourselves to think of and treat others as we would want to be treated. After all, Jesus came for the sick, not the well.

(All definitions were taken from unless otherwise specified)

Agoraphobia:  an anxiety disorder characterized by symptoms of anxiety in situations where the person perceives their environment to be unsafe with no easy way to escape.

Anosognosia: a deficit of self-awareness, a condition in which a person with a disability is unaware of having it.

Antidepressants: medications used to treat major depressive disorder, some anxiety disorders, some chronic pain conditions, and to help manage some addictions.

Antipsychotics: also known as neuroleptics or major tranquilizers, are a class of medication primarily used to manage psychosis (including delusions, hallucinations, paranoia or disordered thought), principally in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Anxiety disorders:  a group of mental disorders characterized by significant feelings of anxiety and fear.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): a mental disorder of the neurodevelopmental type. It is characterized by difficulty paying attention, excessive activity and acting without regards to consequences, which are otherwise not appropriate for a person’s age. 

Bipolar disorder: a mental disorder that causes periods of depression and abnormally elevated moods.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): a mental illness characterized by a long-term pattern of unstable relationships, a distorted sense of self, and strong emotional reactions. 

Catatonia: a state of psycho-motor immobility and behavioral abnormality manifested by stupor.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes) and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems.

Cyclothymic Disorder: a mental disorder that involves numerous periods of symptoms of depression and periods of symptoms of hypomania. These symptoms, however, are not sufficient to be a major depressive episode or a hypomanic episode.

Delusion: a firm and fixed belief based on inadequate grounds not amenable to rational argument or evidence to contrary, not in sync with regional, cultural and educational background. 

Depression: a state of low mood and aversion to activity. It can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, motivation, feelings, and sense of well-being. It may feature sadness, difficulty in thinking and concentration and a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping. People experiencing depression may have feelings of dejection, hopelessness and, sometimes, suicidal thoughts. It can either be short term or long term.

Depressive Disorders: commonly called major depression, unipolar depression, or clinical depression, wherein a person has one or more major depressive episodes. After a single episode, Major Depressive Disorder (single episode) would be diagnosed. After more than one episode, the diagnosis becomes Major Depressive Disorder (Recurrent). Depression without periods of mania is sometimes referred to as unipolar depression because the mood remains at the bottom “pole” and does not climb to the higher, manic “pole” as in bipolar disorder.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): evidence-based psychotherapy that began with efforts to treat borderline personality disorder (also known as Emotional Instability Disorder). There is evidence that DBT can be useful in treating mood disorders, suicidal ideation, and for change in behavioral patterns such as self-harm, and substance abuse.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM): a publication for the classification of mental disorders using a common language and standard criteria. It is used by clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, the legal system, and policy makers.

Dual-Diagnosis:  (also called co-occurring disorders, COD, or dual pathology) is the condition of suffering from a mental illness and a comorbid substance abuse problem. 

Eating Disorder:  a mental disorder defined by abnormal eating habits that negatively affect a person’s physical or mental health.

Evidence Based Practice: any practice that relies on scientific evidence for guidance and decision-making.

Grandiose Delusion: a subtype of delusion…characterized by fantastical beliefs that one is famous, omnipotent, wealthy, or otherwise very powerful. The delusions are generally fantastic and typically have a religious, science fictional, or supernatural theme. 

Hallucination: a perception in the absence of external stimulus that has qualities of real perception. Hallucinations can occur in any sensory modality – visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, proprioceptive, equilibrioceptive, nociceptive, thermoceptive, and chronoceptive. 

Hypomania: (literally “under mania” or “less than mania”) is a mood state characterized by persistent disinhibition and mood elevation (euphoria), with behavior that is noticeably different from the person’s typical behavior when in a non-depressed state.

Mania: a state of abnormally elevated arousal, affect, and energy level, or “a state of heightened overall activation with enhanced affective expression together with lability of affect.” The symptoms of mania include heightened mood (either euphoric or irritable); flight of ideas and pressure of speech; and increased energy, decreased need for sleep, and hyperactivity.

Mental disorder: (also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder), is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be persistent, relapsing and remitting, or occur as a single episode. 

Mood stabilizer: is a psychiatric pharmaceutical drug used to treat mood disorders characterized by intense and sustained mood shifts, such as bipolar disorder type I or type II and schizoaffective disorder.

Mood swing: an extreme or rapid change in mood. Such mood swings can play a positive part in promoting problem solving and in producing flexible forward planning. However, when mood swings are so strong that they are disruptive, they may be the main part of a bipolar disorder.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder: a personality disorder characterized by a long-term pattern of exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy toward other people.

Neuroticism: one of the Big Five higher-order personality traits in the study of psychology. Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than average to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, and loneliness. People who are neurotic respond worse to stressors and are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. They are often self-conscious and shy, and they may have trouble controlling urges and delaying gratification.

Neurotransmitters:  are endogenous chemicals that enable neurotransmission. It is a type of chemical messenger which transmits signals across a chemical synapse, such as a neuromuscular junction, from one neuron (nerve cell) to another “target” neuron, muscle cell, or gland cell.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD):  a mental disorder in which a person feels the need to perform certain routines repeatedly (called “compulsions”), or has certain thoughts repeatedly (called “obsessions”). The person is unable to control either the thoughts or activities for more than a short period of time.

Paranoia: an instinct or thought process which is believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of delusion and irrationality. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself (e.g. the American colloquial phrase, “Everyone is out to get me.”) Paranoia is a central symptom of psychosis.

Personality Disorders: are a class of mental disorders characterized by enduring maladaptive patterns of behavior, cognition, and inner experience, exhibited across many contexts and deviating from those accepted by the individual’s culture. These patterns develop early, are inflexible, and are associated with significant distress or disability.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, child abuse, or other threats on a person’s life. Symptoms may include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the events, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues, alterations in how a person thinks and feels, and an increase in the fight-or-flight response.

Psych Hospital/Unit: hospitals or wards specializing in the treatment of serious mental disorders, such as major depressive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Psychiatric hospitals may also be referred to as psychiatric wards or units (or “psych” wards/units) when they are a subunit of a regular hospital.

Psyche: is the totality of the human mind, conscious and unconscious. Psychology is the scientific or objective study of the psyche. The English word soul is sometimes used synonymously, especially in older texts.

Psychiatrist: a physician who specializes in psychiatry, the branch of medicine devoted to the diagnosis, prevention, study, and treatment of mental disorders. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, unlike psychologists, and must evaluate patients to determine whether their symptoms are the result of a physical illness, a combination of physical and mental ailments, or strictly psychiatric. Psychiatrists prescribe medicine, and may also use psychotherapy.

Psychologist: studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experimenting with, and observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments.[

Psychosis: an abnormal condition of the mind that results in difficulties determining what is real and what is not. Symptoms may include false beliefs (delusions) and seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear (hallucinations). Other symptoms may include incoherent speech and behavior that is inappropriate for the situation. There may also be sleep problems, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and difficulties carrying out daily activities.

Psychotropics: psychoactive drug, psychopharmaceutical, or psychotropic drug is a chemical substance that changes brain function and results in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior.

Schizoaffective disorder (SZA, SZD or SAD): is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal thought processes and an unstable mood. The diagnosis is made when the person has symptoms of both schizophrenia (usually psychosis) and a mood disorder—either bipolar disorder or depression—but does not meet the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia or a mood disorder individually.

Schizophrenia: a mental illness characterized by hearing voices, delusions (false beliefs), disordered thinking, social withdrawal, decreased emotional expression, and lack of motivation. Symptoms typically come on gradually, begin in young adulthood, and in many cases never resolve.

Self-Medicate:  a human behavior in which an individual uses a substance or any exogenous influence to self-administer treatment for physical or psychological ailments.

Severe/Serious Mental Illness (SMI): someone over 18 having (within the past year) a diagnosable mental, behavior, or emotional disorder that causes serious functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. (Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are examples). (Source:

Suicidal Ideations: also known as suicidal thoughts, is thinking about, considering, or planning suicide. The range of suicidal ideation varies from fleeting thoughts, to extensive thoughts, to detailed planning.

Suicidal Intent: to have suicide or deliberate self-killing as one’s purpose. Intent refers to the aim, purpose, or goal of the behavior rather than the behavior itself. The term connotes a conscious desire or wish to leave or escape from life, and also connotes a resolve to act. This is contrasted with suicidal motivation, or the driving force behind ideation or intent, which need not be conscious. 

Trauma (psychological): damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a distressing event. Trauma is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one’s ability to cope, or integrate the emotions involved with that experience.

Treatment Plan: versatile, multi-faceted documents that allow mental health care practitioners and those they are treating to design and monitor therapeutic treatment. These plans are typically used by psychiatrists, psychologists, professional counselors, therapists, and social workers in most levels of care. (Source:


Katie Dale is the mind behind and the e-book GAMEPLAN: A Mental Health Resource Guide. She works full time at a behavioral outpatient clinic, ministering to those with mental illness. She can be found on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

Relaxation Tips to Calm Anxiety

Relaxation Tips to Calm Anxiety

Are you feeling anxious lately?   Times are so uncertain now and trying to stay current on the latest COVID-19 news, working from home or keeping up with your child’s homeschooling is enough to make any person anxious.  Maybe your anxious about your safety or what the future holds. Whatever the reason, it is important to find a way to calm that anxiety. Below are some helpful techniques to relax:


  1. Controlled Breathing*: 


Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth.  Breathe from your diaphragm, not your chest. It helps to stay focused if you think a word upon inhaling/exhaling, such as peace/calm.  Also try counting 1-2-3-4 as you inhale, 1-2-3-4 as you hold your breath, and 1-2-3-4 as you exhale. 


2.  Sounds/Music*: 


Play relaxing music or calming sounds such as nature, ocean, or rain.  Close your eyes and repeat a meaningful word or scripture.  There are lots of videos on Youtube, channels on Pandora or Spotify full of inspirational and relaxing music.


3. Do Something You Enjoy:


Take time to do something you enjoy, whether baking, painting, gardening, knitting, reading or whatever.  Focusing your attention on doing something you enjoy or have enjoyed doing in the past, will help you clear your mind and ease anxiety.


4. God’s Word*:


Find peace in the following scripture verses: John 14:27, Phil. 4:7, Gal. 5:22, Matt. 11:28, Psalm 103:1, Zeph 3:17.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Take some time today to do something calming to ease your anxiety.  You’ll feel better and will better equipped to face the day.

We pray these tips help you.  Remember, we are all in this together and God is with us!  

© Fresh Hope for Mental Health

*(1) Borchard, Therese J. 12 Best Anxiety Busters,, last accessed 8-22-2010, (2) Lucado, Max, Max Lucado on How to Overcome Fear,, last accessed 8-22-2010.


Be Fear Less By: Brad Hoefs

Be Fear Less By: Brad Hoefs

Let’s be honest, the CoronaVirus crisis is scary.  It came out of nowhere and it has completely changed all our lives.  Something we cannot smell, see or touch has wreaked havoc in an unprecedented way world-wide.  It is easy to experience fear when facing this unknown circumstance. That fear can lead to anxiety and depression or worsen those things if we were already experiencing them.  The question is, how do we keep that fear in check and our mental health stable?

We can look to man’s best friend for an example of what to do when we are afraid.  A dog’s master takes on the role of pack leader. Dogs look to their masters/pack leaders for cues as to how to respond to danger.  For instance, if furnace repair man comes to the door, a dog alerts its master with a bark or a growl. But the master knew that the repair man is coming and was not alarmed.  But the dog is. In fact, he may respond fearfully. He is smelling new smells and sees someone they’ve never seen before. But the dog calms because his master is calm and has told him there is nothing to worry about.  The repair man works on the furnace and there are loud noises and more new smells, but the dog remains calm because his owner is calm. The dog can rest during the time the repair man is in the house because he trusts his master and follows his lead.

We of course are not dogs, but we have a God, our master if you will, who loves us.  He tells us many times in his word not to fear. Even if we do not know what is going on or what will happen, God knows, and he assures us that all is ok.  We can rest in God’s word and his promises because we know he loves us. We can go through this difficult time and keep fear in check and better maintain our mental health because our trust is in God. 

Consider a few verses of what God’s word has to say the next time you experience fear:

  1. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.   Psalms 56:3
  2. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.  Psalms 34:4
  3. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10
  4. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.  Philippians 4:6
  5. Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9


We pray this helps you.  Remember, we are all in this together and God is with us!  

© Fresh Hope for Mental Health

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

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.


How I Went From Surviving to Thriving: 3 Simple Steps By: Samantha Karraa

How I Went From Surviving to Thriving: 3 Simple Steps By: Samantha Karraa

By: Samantha Karraa

The long journey towards finding a diagnosis was over. The battle had rendered us
exhausted. I wished the symptoms, the relationship problems, the suicidal impulses, the
emotional pain, the appointments with so many doctors had all been a nightmare but I woke up to find it was my reality. I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The year before getting diagnosed had been like a hurricane that had gone by and not only had it destroyed almost everything that was already in my life but had also destroyed any hopes about the future. Led by my doctors, I started the trial and error process with meds until we found a combination that seemed to work for me. However, I was still under the weight of having to carry a mental health diagnosis. The secondary effects and the stigma around the topic were additional pains. My identity started getting attached to the illness’s  symptoms. I was merely surviving.

Nowadays my symptoms are in remission. I am living a full and rich life in spite of my
disorder. My relationships are better than they have ever been. A new love has covered my marriage. I’m being able to take care of and enjoy my parents and my children. I have new friends. New goals and dreams. I have taken on new projects. I am serving the Lord with gladness in my job and ministries at church. I am playing tennis, socializing, staying active and eating healthy.

Don’t get me wrong- I still have bad days. There are still days when it is hard to get up
and get moving. But even on bad days my hope tank is full. I manage my illness and it does not define me. I am thriving.

How did I get from surviving to thriving? To me, it happened in 3 simple but powerful steps.

1. I started attending a Fresh Hope group.

I live in El Salvador but, by an act of God’s providence, I ran into Fresh Hope’s online group. I started attending every Tuesday night. The topics were great, but more importantly the fact it was the face that I was accepted and understood. I was also exposed to stories of how the Lord had helped others in their recovery process and that filled me with hope. Right from the first meeting, I remember the impact it had on me to be able to be in a virtual room with 10 other people, all with different mental health issues, carrying on with hope in life..! They were graduating from a master’s degree, taking care of their families, getting married, helping others, serving at their churches. Hope is catchy.
If you haven’t yet attended a Fresh Hope group look for one in your area or connect to the online group. Here’s a useful link

2. I read the Fresh Hope Workbook.

Written in a simple but powerful format, reading the workbook was easy in spite of my difficulties concentrating. It felt as though I was having a conversation with its author, Pastor Brad Hoefs.
I came to know the 6 tenets of recovery and each of them was a breakthrough for me.
These are not steps but rather blocks that compose the recovery process and, more
importantly, the solid ground where my recovery would stand.

3. I became a Fresh Hope group facilitator.

This is when I started really thriving. One night the facilitator in my group asked me if I
would like to become a facilitator myself. Eventually I signed up for the facilitator’s training program which turned out not only to be filled with really useful information but also very inspiring.
Simultaneously, the facilitator of my group started delegating small bits of the meeting to
me. One day I would lead the check-in process. The other one I would lead prayer. And
another day I would lead the topic! Eventually I completed the training program and I was ready to lead a group. My hope level was overflowing.

I thought about all the people in the world who speak Spanish but don’t speak English and their great need for a program like Fresh Hope. Eventually I translated the tenets and some topic cards and started an online group in Spanish on Wednesday nights. Being a facilitator has definitely been key to my recovery. They say that in spiritual matters the more you give something out, the more you receive. The more I share hope in every meeting, the more I am filled by it. In addition, I stay in touch with recovery material which propels me in the recovery direction. Seeing how the Lord gave purpose to all the pain I went through as I lead the group is a powerful healing component!… He is redeeming my past as I serve him every week and for this I am so grateful. If you want to up your level in your recovery I strongly urge you to consider stepping up and becoming a Fresh Hope facilitator..!

Check out this link to find out more about how to do this. I guarantee it will be a blessing, not only for your own recovery but for the people around you.

So how about you- where are you in your journey from surviving to thriving? I encourage you, if you still haven’t, to take one of these simple steps today.


Fresh Hope needs your help! At the core of Fresh Hope is the belief that it is possible to live well in spite of having a mental health challenge; that no matter how one feels, it is possible to still have hope and live a good life.

The need for all of the Fresh Hope materials to be translated into Spanish is a necessary next step. We are asking for your financial contribution to help us make this happen! Check out how you can make a difference HERE!

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 (

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.

Fresh Hope Offerings and Resources during COVID-19.

Fresh Hope Offerings and Resources during COVID-19.

Here is what Fresh Hope is offering during this unprecedented time of stress, uncertainties, and anxiety:

  1. Every Monday at 8.30 p.m. Central Time Pastor Brad is hosting a Facebook Live Event entitled, “Mental Health Mondays.”  He’s covering topics such as anxiety, grief, and trauma, etc. To participate, go to the Fresh Hope for Mental Health Facebook page and scroll down, and you’ll see it there.  (Each week, the replay on demand for it is also on the Fresh Hope for Mental Health Facebook page under the video section.

Mental Health Mondays NEW

2. Three times a week, we are offering a two-hour session entitled: “Healing the Distress Caused by the COVID-19 Crisis.” The material was created by the Trauma Healing Institute, which is part of the American Bible Society. It’s a two-hour free session in which the participants have the opportunity to work through any anxiety, fears, concerns, trauma, grief that they may be experiencing due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.  To register for this session, click here.


3. We will also be providing the same “Healing the Distress Cause by the COVID-19 Crisis” for Children very soon.  To receive notice of when we begin to offer the children’s sessions, please text the word children to (415) 528-7403, and we’ll get you the information as soon as it is available.

4. We also have created a special free downloadable for the ongoing crisis entitled “Managing Coronavirus Anxiety,” which can be downloaded by clicking here.


5. Fresh Hope is also offering a series of six mental health from a Christian perspective type of snippet that pastors and ministry leaders can provide their members and community.  Pastors may request to receive these snippets weekly by texting the word interview to 415-528-7403. These snippets are free and may be used; however, the pastor and ministry leaders see fit to use them.  It’s our desire to help the pastors and ministry leaders to help their members and their community to stay emotionally healthy during this time of isolation.

6. Here are a few of our Fresh Hope for Mental Health podcasts ( that we believe that are helpful during this time:


We of course continue will continue to offer our online Fresh Hope support groups and most of our local groups that used to meet in person are now meeting online also.  People can register for our regular weekly online group meeting by going to



Natural Interventions for Depression

Natural Interventions for Depression

During this difficult time, it is normal to feel down.  Whether you’ve been formally diagnosed with a mood disorder or feel that you may have one but don’t want to take medications, there are natural options to improve your mood and prevent a relapse.  These natural interventions can help sustain mood and energy level over the long term.

  1. Take medications appropriately.  Do not change dosages or stop taking meds without working with your doctor.  A relapse in mental health is more likely if meds are not taken daily. Oftentimes, people will stop taking their meds when they are feeling better.  This just means their meds are working effectively.
  2. Have a regular sleep schedule, both for going to bed and getting up in the morning.  Everyone needs 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Establish a bedtime routine: go to bed around the same time and avoid stimulating activities like exercise, TV or the computer.  Try chamomile tea, warm milk or hot chocolate made with milk. Wake up about the same time each morning. Oversleeping can lead to grogginess.
  3. Be a student of your illness.  Learn to identify stresses or triggers that worsen your mood.  Do some research on your disorder. Talk to others about what has worked for them. 
  4. Focus on giving to others.  A mood disorder can cause us to be self-focused and wanting to avoid people.  Instead, become a mentor to someone who also has a mood disorder, adopt a pet, join a special interest or support group, volunteer, get involved church.
  5. Choose fun!  Do at least one thing each day to make you laugh.  Select humorous books to read, or movies and TV comedies to watch.  Do something you enjoy each day and have things to look forward to when you wake up.  Negative stress comes from having too little to do and too much time on our hands. A certain amount of healthy stress keeps us energized and going throughout the day
  6. Get sunlight.  Walk outside even in the winter.  Invest in a light therapy lamp. Supplement your diet with Vitamin D3.  A lack of light on the skin depletes this important vitamin in the body.
  7. Get adequate vitamins and minerals through your diet or supplements.  Be sure you get enough of the B vitamins (which provide energy), vitamin D (increases serotonin levels), and Omega 3 fatty acids (improves depression symptoms).
  8. Regular exercise triggers the release of endorphins in the brain and leads to better physical health.  Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, acts as a sedative and diminishes the perception of pain.  Physical activity improves sleep, increases energy levels, reduces stress and increases self-esteem. 


Whatever you do, do something.  You’ll feel better having helped yourself.  It is so important right now to focus on things that lift your mood!


We pray these tips help you.  Remember, we are all in this together and God is with us!  

© Fresh Hope for Mental Health

Fear and Anxiety Do Not Have To Rule Your Life By: Stan Popovich

Fear and Anxiety Do Not Have To Rule Your Life By: Stan Popovich

By: Stan Popovich


Many people have a difficult time in living a normal life when they have to battle with anxiety and other fear related issues. Dealing with anxiety on a daily basis can be very challenging and frustrating.

Here are 7 suggestions on how to live a happy life when you have a mental health disorder.

1. Educate yourself regarding your mental health issues: It is important to learn as much as you can about your mental health disorder so you can better manage your situation. Talk to a professional who can give you advice on how to manage your situation.

2. Use the services of a counselor: Take advantage of the help that is available around you. If possible, talk to a counselor who can help you manage your fears and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem.

3. Learn from your experiences: In every anxiety-related situation you experience, begin to learn what works, what doesn’t work, and what you need to improve on in managing your fears and anxieties. Use what you have learned when you experience another similar situation.

4. Know where to go for help: Your family doctor is a great source in getting help for your mental health issues. Your local hospital is another place you can visit to find treatment. Hospitals know a lot of good counselors and mental health programs in your area and they can lead you in the right direction.

5. Surround yourself with supportive friends: You need to surround yourself with positive and supportive people. A person can always go to a support group where they can meet people who are also struggling with their mental health.

6. Be patient with yourself: Do not be hard on yourself when things do not go as planned. Dealing with anxiety and fear can be challenging so be patient. Do not be in a rush to get things done. Go at a pace that you feel comfortable with when accomplishing your regular activities.

7. Your Goal Is To Get Better: Your goal is to get your life back on track. Don’t waste your time arguing with your friends or relatives who are giving you a difficult time. This isn’t a public relations event where you need to get everyone’s approval. Your main focus is for you to live a happy life without anxiety and fear.


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.