5 Tips for Preparing for the Dark Days of Winter

By Pastor Brad Hoefs

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, many people start to feel the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you are someone who struggles with SAD, it’s important to start preparing now for the dark days of winter. By taking steps to boost your mood and manage your symptoms, you can make it through the season feeling happier and healthier. In this post, we’ll share five tips for preparing for winter with SAD.

1. Get outside while you can: While it’s still relatively mild outside, make an effort to get outside and soak up some sunlight each day. Going for a walk, sitting on a park bench or eating lunch outside can all help boost your mood and give you a dose of much-needed vitamin D. As the days get shorter, it can be difficult to get enough sunlight, so try to make the most of it while you still can.

2. Invest in a light therapy lamp: Light therapy lamps are a popular option for those with SAD. These lamps mimic natural sunlight and can help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm, which can become disrupted during the winter months. Using a light therapy lamp for just 30 minutes a day can make a big difference in your mood and energy levels.

3. Make time for self-care: When the weather is cold and dreary, it can be easy to neglect your self-care routine. But it’s more important than ever to prioritize your mental health during this time. Make time for activities that you enjoy, whether that’s getting a massage, taking a hot bath, or reading a good book. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that makes you feel happy and relaxed.

4. Stay social: Winter can be a lonely time, especially for those with SAD. To combat this, try to stay social and maintain your connections with friends and family. Plan regular get-togethers or activities that you enjoy, whether that’s going to the movies, having a dinner party or going out for brunch. Spending time with people you care about can boost your mood and keep you feeling connected.

5. Consider talking to a therapist: Finally, if you’re struggling with SAD, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. Talking to a therapist can give you the tools and support you need to manage your symptoms and feel better. They may recommend other treatments, such as medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of another long, dark winter when you have SAD. But by taking proactive steps to care for yourself and manage your symptoms, you can make it through the season feeling happier and healthier. Whether it’s getting outside, investing in a light therapy lamp, or making time for self-care and socializing, there are many things you can do to prepare for winter with SAD. If you’re struggling, remember that you don’t have to go through this alone. Reach out for help and support, and remember that spring will be here before you know it.

A New Group to Support the Mental Health Needs of Families with Disabilities

By Catherine Boyle

Almost one year ago, Pastor Brad Hoefs and Dr. Steve Grcevich from Key Ministry had a conversation about the mental health needs of families with disabilities. This was not the first time these two ministry leaders had discussed the unique challenges of these families, including the mental health needs that too often go unacknowledged or unsupported. Based on Fresh Hope’s work collaborating with other organizations, Pastor Brad and Dr. G committed to collaborate to create resources for a new mental health support group. Over the following months, the expertise of these two ministries were combined into a new curriculum called “Fresh Hope for Families with Disabilities.”

The Fresh Hope for Families with Disabilities course takes the principles, research and experiences of previous Fresh Hope groups and adapts them for the specific needs and experiences of caregiving parents of children with disabilities. Similar to the other Fresh Hope groups, Fresh Hope for Families with Disabilities has Eight Tenets that serve as universal principles for caregiving parents, as well as their loved ones, to live well in spite of their mental health needs. 

In late spring, Key Ministry recruited facilitators and participants for two pilot groups. During July and August, these two groups met weekly online for eight weeks, going through the new curriculum. At the end of the pilot period, the group facilitators and participants offered feedback to refine and improve the finished product.

I am thrilled to announce that the first official Fresh Hope for Families with Disabilities group will launch on November 2, as one of the online offerings on Fresh Hope’s 12/7 schedule. This new group will be facilitated by Tom and Julie Meekins, who have extensive experience facilitating small groups, and are leaders in disability ministry. Tom and Julie served as one of the facilitator teams for summer pilot of this curriculum.

When I say that I am thrilled that this curriculum is launching, it’s actually God answering a prayer I prayed six years ago, before I was even part of Key Ministry. And truthfully, I had forgotten this prayer until several months ago.

While working on this project, I found an entry from my prayer journal dated August 1, 2017. On that day, I wrote about my desire to create mental health support groups. In that entry, I wrote that I felt like God wanted this to be something to support the needs of caregivers. My life experience includes personal understanding of the challenges of families living with disabilities of various kinds, and how that experience can leave you searching for hope, or even drawn into a crisis of faith.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and the fact that this group is launching when it is seems very much like God’s perfect timing. For people who live with the unique challenges of families with disabilities—whether physical, neurodevelopmental or mental health related disabilities—this curriculum may just be one of the ways that God brings restoration, encouragement and healing to your family. When you see God open up resources and support you never knew existed, hope can flourish, in spite of your circumstances.

We encourage you to sign up for this group by using this link. The curriculum will be available for purchase soon on the Fresh Hope website, and linked to purchase from the Key Ministry website. We will share news about the release date for the curriculum on the Fresh Hope and Key Ministry websites and social media. If you choose to buy the curriculum, we strongly encourage you to join one of the online groups, to help you grow your support network and learn from and with others in similar circumstances. There’s nothing like finding out that you’re not alone after all, that God sees you, loves you and has not forgotten about you.

If you have questions, feel free to reach out to the Key Ministry team, catherine@keyministry.org or maria@freshhope.us

Music as Therapy

By Mike Jacquart

Some strategies for living well with a mental health diagnosis are fairly obvious and straightforward. Medication. Individual and/or group therapy. For many others, prayer and/or meditation. Others, however, tend to fly under the radar. One of them, exercise, was discussed in an earlier post on this blog. Another overlooked strategy is music.

I am not talking about simply having music on in the background while you’re doing a hundred other things. Rather, I’m referring to making your favorite form of music an integral part of your day. Music can serve as a means of relieving stress, getting your day off to a “peppy” start, or as a form of therapy when you are feeling particularly down. It can take time to figure out which genre, and which specific tunes, can lift you up on the most. More on that in a minute.

First, WHY is music so therapeutic. I wondered about that myself for many years. Even during the darkest periods of my life, listening to music from my favorite rock groups, and attending their concerts, kept me going, lifting me up in ways that no other form of “therapy” ever did. LONG before my diagnosis, music, essentially, served as my “medication.” It was not as useful, mind you, but it sure did help!

Marina London, collaborator of my book, Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness, explained it to me (and to readers). “Music was a source of solace and comfort for you,” she wrote.

Indeed. While I cannot recall a lot of aspects from my everyday life, I have many fond, detailed memories from concerts. These recollections can be so vivid it’s like I saw Fleetwood Mac or Bruce
Springsteen weeks or months, and not decades ago. But why has music been such a personal refuge?
“Listening to music with others at a concert helped you feel a sense of belonging, and camaraderie with
other attendees, thus helping you feel less lonely,” Marina explained.

Bingo! I thought. Since I often felt lonely, sullen, and depressed, that is exactly what music often did to lift my sagging spirits. Today, my mental health diagnosis is not a big part of my life, but it does rear its ugly head from time to time. When it does, listening to favorite songs remains one of my coping strategies. If I’m in a spiritual mood, Oh Happy Day by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, is a sure pick-me-up.

Many secular songs also change my thoughts from feeling unhappy, sad, even hopeless, to experiencing happiness, thankfulness, and optimism. Sometimes I even picture a slightly different take on the tune. For instance, I love envisioning God singing to me in I’ll Stand by You by the Pretenders. If rockers are more your bag, Hold Your Head Up by Argent is a possibility.

Those are but two examples. I could list many others. Of course, you will need to find your own favorites to help you feel better on a particularly bad day.

The point is, I believe music is an underrated form of therapy – and not only for those with a mental health diagnosis, but anyone really. Music is the universal language that touches and reaches us in ways that nothing else does.

Mental health for men is a series of blog posts and podcasts developed and distributed by Fresh Hope for Mental Health http://freshhope.us. (where this post originally appeared). Portions are excerpted from Mike’s book, Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness. For more information, contact Mike at madjac@tds.net