I Don’t Need to Pretend I’m Different than I Am

By Mike Jacquart

Realizing that you have mental health diagnoses is not easy, but over time I came to recognize that they are part (not all!) of what makes me who I am as a unique individual created by God.

But when you’re a kid, you want to be like your peers, and I don’t think this necessarily changes a lot as a young adult. Finally coming to this realization was a freeing experience, not unlike the Eagles’ lyric in Already Gone: “So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key.”

I am MIKE, not Billy, Jim, Steve nor anyone else. So, why did I spend so much of my life wanting to be like them, and then wondering why, in wanting to be like others, I was unknowingly forging chains of unhappiness and discontent?

Like the opening statement, “I don’t need to pretend I’m different than I am,” the following are a few more truisms that can be truly liberating for anyone who not only reads them, but allows their meaning to sink in. While useful contemplations for any reader, I believe them to be even more freeing for a person whose cognitive challenges have led them to suffer in silence, wondering why they are dissimilar.

I don’t need to feel guilty about my boundaries. We periodically discuss the importance of setting personal boundaries in my Fresh Hope support group. When we don’t establish our limits and make them known to others, we can find ourselves taking on too much and getting stressed out. This can particularly be true in interactions with the toxic individuals that many of us have in our lives. As much as possible, LIMIT your contact with these persons. Toxic people fuel more toxicity. Surround yourself with positive people who respect your time and your limitations.

I don’t have to minimize my emotions. This can be a tough one for guys who are often raised from little on to rein in our feelings. Last year, I was at a guys’ retreat and my friends were flabbergasted when I lit into them regarding inaccurate statements, they made about mental illness in a discussion we just had about the topic. Why was I supposed to feel guilty for saying what was on my mind? It’s true there can be a right and wrong place for emotional outbursts, but with no one else around, this was clearly an acceptable situation in my view. And yet, as macho guys, they saw a blowup like that as a no-no. Baloney.

I don’t need to feel bad for staying home. Social isolation is a common trait of people who suffer from depression. Bowing out of a social invitation in our go-go society may be a trifle awkward for friends or family, but does this have to be the case? It’s unlikely you’d have to make an excuse for staying home if you had a migraine. So, why are you supposed to apologize for having a bad mental health day? One might calmly ask the person if they’d change their mind about attending, but then leave it at that.

I don’t have to anticipate people’s needs. Case in point: friends are in town for a big car show, and I assume they will want to go out for Thursday breakfast like usual. So, I tell my wife she’ll have to eat by herself, only to learn they want to go to the local diner on Friday instead. You often can’t anticipate people’s needs so why put a lot of effort into it? If you made plans with your spouse on Friday because Thursday was the usual guys’ day, isn’t that on them if they changed their mind?

Long story short, it is often not necessary to explain yourself or to overextend yourself to be enough. Chances are, it took time and learning strategies to go from surviving to thriving in your life. Don’t let someone take that away from you. Repeat after me: I don’t need to pretend I’m different than I am.

Mental health for men is a new series of blog posts and podcasts developed and distributed by Fresh Hope for Mental Health http://freshhope.us. 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

Counseling and a Support Group Changed My Life

By Mike Jacquart

You may have heard the saying, “You can’t keep doing things the same way but expect different results.” And yet, how many of us remain on the same treadmill and lament how unhappy and depressed we really are. 

For many years, I was in denial about the seriousness of my mental health issues. I was convinced that employment, not psychological difficulties, was the cause of my problems. As I wrote in my book, Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness (with Marina London LCSW) “I was very anxious and worried – but I thought that somehow, someway I was only a job away from happiness.” In the meantime, like many men, I figured I would just “tough it out” until I found that elusive position. 

After many years of serious work issues, which included terminations and resignations, the light switch finally went on that whether I was working or not, my core issues (depression and anxiety) never completely went away. I came to realize that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. 

This epiphany, divinely inspired I might add, occurred twenty years ago, but it was so life changing I remember it like yesterday.

My wife and I agreed it was time for me to talk to a counselor about my struggles with depression, anxiety, and related feelings. I learned that the school district my wife worked for had an employee assistance program (EAP). Once I admitted I needed help, I had no difficulty making the initial call to set up the first appointment. Years later, I realized that, sadly, a lot of people never do this, seeing counseling as a sign that they are deficient in some way, because they are unable to figure out their problems on their own.

With my frequent job woes, it was obvious I was not getting to the root of these issues myself. What would it hurt to get an impartial opinion and determine what was behind my troubles?

After several sessions, I completed a detailed questionnaire, which led my counselor to diagnose me with “mild depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” 

The EAP counselor’s next step was to refer me to my primary physician for a medication evaluation. After his examination, he prescribed buproprion, the generic name for Wellbutrin. I was excited to learn there was something that would help me get better

As I noted, the impact of seeing an EAP counselor proved lifechanging. I do not remember how long it took for the medication to kick in, or the dosage I was prescribed, but eventually my energy level and enthusiasm for life shot through the roof! It was as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes. 

So, this is how I’m SUPPOSED to feel!” I thought. “No wonder other people are happier and enjoy life more!” All of the smiles and laughter that puzzled me in the past suddenly made sense. It is easy to assume that being aloof, and not smiling or laughing very much, is simply who you are as a person. That is what I often thought, and it’s an unfortunate mindset that probably keeps many people from seeking medical or social services. 

These feelings of euphoria eventually subsided, but I retained a greater “love of life” than I had known before. I began to realize just how much my diagnosis had plagued me in the past, not only on jobs, but also in my personal life.

Peace of mind replaced my negative feelings, anxiety, and poor self-esteem. Medication played a significant role in correcting my brain chemistry. But other factors, a positive boss and work environment in my next job, where I worked for fourteen years, supportive friends and coworkers, my strong faith, and a sense of purpose in both my job and through volunteering, were also important in my journey to recovery.

This is not to say that everything after my diagnosis and medication was rosy. I relied almost exclusively on my meds to minimize symptoms. If I had it to do over, I would have sought out another counselor much earlier than I did. While depressive incidents were now rare, I had no idea why they 

While I felt better mentally than I did earlier in my life, truth be told, I remained a typical male in some respects, stuck on “gutting out” any given mental health problem on my own. Finally, after a major depressive incident in 2017, and tired of trying to explain mental health issues to people who don’t understand them, I knew I needed assistance from other people with mental health challenges. A friend suggested I attend a Fresh Hope support meeting, and I gladly accepted.

The main idea is that while we all need assistance from doctors and other professionals on the journey to mental wellness, the individual with the diagnosis needs to assume responsibility as the lead person in this process. One of the most important concepts I have learned in my Fresh Hope group was how to start taking control of my thought life.

Counseling played a major role in my initial journey into mental wellness. I only wish I had sought one out sooner. Years later, after struggling with depression again, a Fresh Hope support group led me back into wellness. If my story helps even one person who has been stuck in darkness, thinking there is no hope, it will have been worth sharing it. 

Mike Jacquart has a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Mike served as editor of the Journal of Employee Assistance for twelve years. For more information on Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness (with Marina London LCSW) or a personalized copy of this book, contact Mike at mjacquart@writeitrightllc.com.

It’s Not Just What You Do, but WHERE You Work that Determines Success

By Mike Jacquart

I thought one of the best comments Marina London made during the writing of my book, Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness, pertained to her experiences seeing troubled employees as a licensed mental health professional for major hospital and corporate clients.

“Nine times out of ten, their unhappiness was due to a very poor fit between the employee’s personality and the work environment,” wrote London. “I found myself repeatedly recommending those employees look for a more suitable position.”
“Bingo!” I thought. Whether one wants to call it corporate culture, work environment, work lifestyle, or my term, “fit,” it’s not just what you do for a living, but also where you work that can play a strong role in success. I have to believe that when one suffers from a mental health challenge, this “fit” becomes even more crucial.

This statement stems from personal experience, having lost a number of jobs during my 35-year career as a reporter, writer, and editor. I’m convinced that a poor fit between my personality and a fast-paced work environment-which my depression and anxiety issues exacerbated-played a significant role in my termination. Others would agree.

“To be hyper focused and engaged all the time in a company culture, while struggling with depression is debilitating work,” wrote licensed mental health professional Maureen Hotchner in Climbing out of Darkness.
Indeed, it is. Every workplace has interruptions, but they seemed to be endless at one particular company, a firm that was actually a pleasant place to work. Everyone seemed so happy and cheerful. The problem was it was a little too exuberant for me. Seemingly multitudes of coworkers would stop by our cubicle area each day. Our cubicles were in close proximity, and since I had concentration issues, the continual disturbances were difficult to cope with. Many times, I felt like saying to one of my colleagues,
“Don’t you have any work to do? You can have some of mine!” But no one else felt they were being too
talkative, so I just forced a smile instead.

As Marina wrote, “when you are depressed, everything is an effort. That includes socializing.” (As I learned years later, social isolation is a trait of depressive disorder.) Imagine yourself in a race, day in, day out, and you are continually struggling to keep up. That’s what depression is like. You feel like you’re running in place, while everyone else is sprinting past you.

There were some slower, less stressful and quieter work environments at this firm, but when I talked to HR about working elsewhere, I was told the company was not in the habit of providing “lateral transfers.” In other words, the new job had to be a promotion, not one that involved similar work.

“Nobody talks to young people about the lifestyle that accompanies a particular job,” London wrote. Someone should. While there were aspects of my job that were a good fit, such as writing and reporting, (which I liked and was good at,) there were other problems, like excessive chatter and a fast pace that often worsened my anxiety issues and were not good for my wellbeing.

Finally, several years after being let go by this employer, I accepted a position at a company that fit like a well-tailored suit. The pace was less hectic, and coworkers were less talkative, even considerate. It wasn’t unusual for a colleague to ask me, “Am I being too loud for you, Mike?” Wow! I was impressed. I worked there for 14 years, much longer than any other job I ever had.

I’m not suggesting that a job has to be perfect, because no position is. I am saying that when it comes to selecting a work environment, the more you know who you are, the better choices you can make. This is an important consideration in a rapidly changing world. And it is ESPECIALLY crucial when you have mental health challenges.

Mental health for men is a new series of blog posts and podcasts developed and distributed by Fresh Hope for Mental Health http://freshhope.us. Portions are excerpted from Mike’s book, “Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness.” For more information, contact Mike at

Meet our National Ambassador, Will Zipf!

We are thrilled to announce that William Zipf (Will) has begun serving as a volunteer here at Fresh Hope for Mental Health as a National Ambassador for the US! Will’s extensive experience in the energy industry is matched only by his passion for mental
health advocacy, having seen firsthand the challenges that families and individuals face when dealing with mental illness.

William Zipf (Will) is a husband of 25 years and the father of two adult children. Will has worked in the energy industry for almost 30 years in a variety of roles. His current role is as an executive focused on transitioning thermal fired power plants to operate net carbon zero in a low carbon economy.

Most importantly, for this role, however, within Will’s family, mental health issues have been lifelong challenges. Will has seen first-hand how both the public at large and the Christian community misunderstand the very reality of mental health issues. Will has watched as both friends and family, both those with diagnosis and their loved ones,
have been hurt through well-meaning but misguided Christian beliefs.

Before Will found Fresh Hope, he felt called to serve and champion this community through a ministry that helped to span the gap between receiving treatment from health professionals and living life daily with a mental illness. Will found a home at Fresh Hope.

Will is honored to fill the role of National Ambassador for Fresh Hope and looks forward to serving the community by accepting the responsibility without any authority. One of the fundamental truths that God has led Will to see is that people who struggle with mental health issues don’t need another someone trying to exercise authority in their lives, they already have too many. Will takes to heart Matt 20:26-28 “ 26  It [exercising authority] shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27  and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28  even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Will’s deep commitment to serving those struggling with mental health issues makes him a perfect fit for the role of National Ambassador. In his new position, Will will support Fresh Hope’s facilitators through the Regional Ambassadors, providing support
and guidance to those working on the front lines of mental health support. Currently there are 5 volunteers serving as Regional Ambassadors within the US: Benita Fager, Dale and Martha Rose, Jason Pine, Scott Ohnmeis and Jannifer Barebo Cox. Will’s deep understanding of the challenges faced by those dealing with mental health issues, as well as his experience working in large-scale organizations, will be invaluable as he helps to build a network of support across the country.

One of the key responsibilities of Fresh Hope Ambassadors is connecting facilitatorswith each other, providing a space for best practices to be shared and mutual support to be offered. Will is eager to take on this role, using his extensive experience in
connecting people and organizations to build a thriving community of support.

As an Ambassador, Will will also be advocating for mental health in churches and other organizations, helping to raise awareness about mental health issues and promoting the importance of support groups as a tool for recovery. In addition to serving as a voice for mental health in his community, Will, and the Regional Ambassadors will also be offering direct support to facilitators as they navigate difficult conversations and situations.

Finally, Will is committed to encouraging self-care among facilitators, recognizing the importance of maintaining one’s own mental health and well-being in order to provide support to others. By offering resources and support to facilitators, Will will be helping to build a strong and resilient network of mental health advocates across the country.

We are incredibly grateful to have Will on board as a National Ambassador for Fresh Hope for Mental Health. We know that his experience, passion, and commitment to serving those in need will be an incredible asset to our organization.

Please join us in welcoming Will and wishing him all the best as he takes on this important role!

Asking for Help Doesn’t Make You a Wimp

By Mike Jacquart

“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness,” writes Pastor Brad Hoefs in his landmark book, Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis.

Society, men especially, tend to see counseling as a signal that we are deficient in some way, unable to figure out our problems on our own. That is not the case.

And yet, an automotive tinkerer prides himself on being able to take on many car repairs on his own. He likes to think he has all the answers and never needs help from anyone else. To confess to requiring assistance, let alone admit to having a mental health condition, often results in being deemed weak and less manly.

As a result, many men, especially those in male-dominated professions, resist seeking professional help and turn to drugs or alcohol instead. Booze or a narcotic may seem to help temporarily, but the problem remains. “You can’t keep doing things the same way and expect different results.”

Seems simple enough, but even those who’ve heard that adage resist change. The truth is, it’s easier to keep drugging or drinking because at least it’s familiar, whereas seeking a thorough assessment from a licensed specialized professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist represents the unknown.

A drug or alcohol problem, job loss, or a wrecked relationship, may still make a person hesitant to seek help because a mental diagnosis and ensuing recovery seems even worse. “Real” men tough out their problems, don’t they? The truth is treatment and recovery involve less work than holding on to a hopeless mindset that somehow “you’re okay.”

At one time, I was convinced that employment, not psychological difficulties, was behind my problems. I had been anxious, depressed and worried for years, but I thought that somehow, someway I was only a job away from happiness. Then, in 2002, 21 years ago, I was so “sick and tired” of being “sick and tired” that I knew I HAD to try something different. What would it hurt to see a professional counselor? Was counseling going to make me feel WORSE?

Finally, at age 43, and after multiple job losses, with the encouragement of my wife I finally sought professional mental assistance. Doing so remains one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made. I only wish I had come to that realization and sought help years earlier than I did.

But the past is the past. Thanks to the help of trained professionals, a supportive wife and friends, and divine intervention from a loving God, I am in a much better mental state than I was twenty years ago. God is in the business of restoring. If mental health assistance worked for me, it can work for you, too.

Celebrating Our BipolarBrave Mental Health & Faith Award for Organization of 2023!

BipolarBrave Awards 2023 Winner of Mental Health and Faith Organization

We are thrilled to announce that Fresh Hope for Mental Health has been awarded the BipolarBrave Mental Health & Faith Award for Organization of 2023! This award is a significant honor and recognizes our organization’s ongoing efforts to support individuals and families affected by mental illness through our faith-based resources, support groups, and various mental health initiatives.

The BipolarBrave awards were founded by Katie Dale, the founder of BipolarBrave blog, who felt the need to honor mental health advocates within the church. By recognizing those who openly and bravely share their stories, experiences, and hope, the BipolarBrave awards aim to promote greater understanding, acceptance, and visibility of mental illness within faith communities.

“Understanding the value of our brothers’ and sisters’ lived experiences should be recognized, not shamed, or swept under the rug,” states Dale. “In creating these awards, I want to recognize those who are bravely coming out to shout it from the rooftops: we are affected, we have hope, and we want others to have that too.”

In this blog post, we want to celebrate and share more about what this award means to us and how it reflects our commitment to providing hope, resources, and support for those affected by a mental health challenge as well as their loved ones.

At Fresh Hope for Mental Health, we believe that it is possible to live a full and rich life in spite of a mental health diagnosis. We are passionate about providing practical, faith-based resources and support that empower individuals and families to find hope, healing, and purpose in the midst of mental health challenges.

Whether through our support groups, webinars, podcasts, or online resources, we strive to create safe and welcoming spaces where people can share their experiences, connect with others, and walk alongside one another on the journey towards mental wellness.

Receiving the BipolarBrave Mental Health & Faith Award for Organization of 2023 is a recognition of our commitment to these goals and mission. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team, volunteers, and supporters who have made our programs and initiatives possible.

We are grateful for this opportunity to celebrate and share our work, and we hope that this award will inspire others to join us in promoting greater mental health awareness, empathy, and inclusion within faith communities.

We want to thank everyone who has supported and encouraged us along the way. We are honored to be a part of a larger community of mental health advocates who are passionate about promoting greater understanding, empathy, and support for those affected by mental illness.

As we continue to move forward, we invite you to join us in this important mission. Whether through volunteering, supporting our programs, or simply spreading the word, we can all make a difference in the lives of those impacted by mental illness. Let us continue to hope, heal, and journey together towards greater mental health and wellness.

Alphabet Soup: When D can come before C.

By Mike Jacquart

In the mental health realm, the letter D, as in Depression, can come before C, as in Cancer.

I only recently realized that after completing my book, Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness (with Marina London LCSW) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BQ58KJH4?fbclid=IwAR27QzfHVTSHntSunkbciH_A4xcRz7Kuwor6hLwWlX9Hutc3IInh3dAaN9w

I never once mentioned the bladder cancer I was diagnosed with in 2019. There are several reasons why.

First, since my book focused on the depression and anxiety that I experienced through much of my life, particularly the problems that it posed for me in the working world, it stands to reason cancer was not an affliction that would have come to mind as readily.

And yet, when a doctor gives you a diagnosis of the dreaded C word, Cancer, wouldn’t anxiety have reared its ugly head as it had so many times in my past? Not necessarily. There are several reasons why. First and foremost my Christian faith tells me that when I die, thanks to Jesus dying for me on the cross, I will go to Heaven, so death is not terrifying for me. Was I apprehensive? Sure. Worried? Maybe. But sweating profusely and my blood pressure rising from anxiety after hearing the word “Cancer”? No.

After learning of the diagnosis, my wife consoled me that, “we would get through this together.” That helped, of course. Then came even better news. My physician informed me that he was confident he had removed the cancer in my bladder and that it was not invasive. As a result, he said that while I would need to undergo quarterly cystoscopy tests to ensure the cancer had not returned, if it hadn’t, the cystoscopies would suffice in terms of further treatment.

And thank God, a year later, it hadn’t! Lord willing, it won’t, either.

I need to stress that I did not write this post to boast or gain sympathy. For one thing, my diagnosis was admittedly “small potatoes” compared to a patient who faced typical cancer treatment lengthier and more in-depth than mine.

As men, we are taught to keep our emotions in check, “suck it up and tough it out” after learning we have cancer. Face it head-on, and then lick it. In of itself, a positive approach can be a very good thing (male or female).

The problem is, as men, we’re raised to deal with most any setback in life in a stoic, “be-tough” manner. But anyone reading this post knows “sucking it up and toughing it out” is NOT something that works with a mental health challenge such as depression or anxiety. A man suffering from chronic headaches would probably not forego medication to hold them at bay. Nor would a diabetic refrain from taking insulin.

A person can no more resolve clinical depression or another behavioral disorder on their own than go without insulin or leave those headaches untreated! Mental health IS health.

If you need treatments from an oncologist to rid your body of cancer, why would a person think they can also cure a mental problem? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, roughly 58 million Americans experience a mental health impairment in a given year.

Since mental health conditions are that common, it stands to reason that D, in fact, can come before C.

De-stigmatizing Mental Health for Men

By Mike Jacquart

Anyone who’s read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray – or any married man for that matter! – knows how different the sexes are. And yet, when I began writing Climbing out of Darkness, I was only vaguely aware that men resist counseling and prescription medication for mental health conditions. I did not realize until later this was true to that extent.

That’s probably because, after being mired in darkness for many years, and eventually diagnosed with depression and ADHD, I was excited to learn there was a medication that would help me get better. For some reason I cannot explain, I think I innately understood that needing a medication for a chemical imbalance in the brain to treat a mood disorder, is no different than a diabetic who requires insulin for his physical health.

But this rationale is not the case for many men. As a result, overcoming or de-stigmatizing mental health for men is the focus for this new series of blog posts and podcasts.

There are a number of reasons why men resist treatment for mental health issues. Pride too often gets in the way. “There is nothing that wrong with me!” Society tends to see counseling as a signal that we are deficient in some way, unable to figure out our problems on our own. This is particularly true for men, who are hardwired to be problem solvers. We want to be macho, tough it out, figure the issue out just like any other problem in our life.

It’s understandable to a certain extent. If you are a man, conditioned to be “the strong one” in the family, the person that other people look to assistance, the idea of you being he one seeking help for a mental issue is a foreign, even unpleasant concept.

What gets overlooked is that depression and other mood disorders aren’t problems to be solved, but illnesses to be treated. It is still very difficult for many people to understand that taking lithium if you suffer from bipolar disorder is no different than taking a prescribed medication if you are prone to migraines.

There are a number of methods that mental health practitioners are using to de-stigmatize this issue that will be addressed in this series. One involves changing the view of being “tough” – that it’s not a sign of strength or toughness to avoid problems that are wreaking havoc with your life. They explain to men that it’s a sign of toughness to confront, rather than ignore, problems.

I am not a very macho guy, but I understand the idea of addressing a given issue. In fact, I venture to say that most men, myself included, would see taking on a problem -even one I may not understand like a mental issue- as a challenge to be met “head on”, not an issue to be swept under the rug.

Problems don’t go away because we wish they didn’t exist. I think most men would get that. What do you think?

Mental health for men is a new series of blog posts and podcasts developed and distributed by Fresh Hope for Mental Health http://freshhope.us. Portions are excerpted from Mike’s book, “Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness.” For more information, contact Mike at mjacquart@writeitrightllc.com.

How to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues: Tips for Moving On and Making Every Day Joyful

How to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues: Tips for Moving On and Making Every Day Joyful

The holiday season is always a time of joy, excitement, and celebration. But after all the festivities are over, many people can find themselves struggling with post-holiday blues. This feeling may be caused by a sense of emptiness or disappointment as the excitement of the holidays fades away. Fortunately, you can take steps to beat the post-holiday blues and get back to feeling joyful again.

  1. Accept that it’s normal to feel a bit down after the holidays are over. Acknowledging your feelings is
    an important part of overcoming them.
  2. Get moving! Studies have shown that exercise can boost your mood, so make time for daily physical
    activity. Even walking or running around the block can help you feel better.
  3. Treat yourself to something special. The holidays may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t
    indulge in a bit of self-care. Buy yourself something nice, take a relaxing bath, or plan a fun outing with
  4. Reach out to your loved ones for support. Don’t be afraid to talk to your family and friends about
    how you’re feeling. They may be able to offer words of encouragement and help you find ways to
    manage your emotions.
  5. Take time for yourself. Make sure to get enough rest and incorporate activities into your day that
    make you feel good, such as reading a book or listening to music.
  6. Give back to others in need. Volunteering is a great way to lift your spirits and give back to your
  7. Practice gratitude. Make a list of all the wonderful things you have in your life, such as family,
    friends, health, or even just a cozy home. Gratitude can help you stay positive and focus on the good
    instead of dwelling on the bad.
  8. Join a Fresh Hope support group. Talking through your blues with others can be so helpful in
    processing your feelings. You may only need the group for a short time. And your participation in the
    group may even expedite your journey back to daily living. Plus, your participation will help others in
    the group.

With a little effort and self-care, you can beat the post-holiday blues and return to feeling joyful again. By accepting your feelings, getting active, and reconnecting with the things that make you happy, you can make every day feel like a holiday.

The holiday blues are temporary feelings of sadness that some people experience at the end of the festive season. It typically lasts for a few days or weeks and can be treated with self-care and positive lifestyle changes. Clinical depression, however, is a serious mental health disorder that requires medical treatment. Symptoms of depression may include persistent feelings of sadness, guilt, or worthlessness that last for more than two weeks and interfere with daily life. If you think you may be suffering from depression, please seek professional help.

No one should have to feel down in the dumps after the holidays. With these tips and a little self-love, you can beat the post-holiday blues and make every day joyful.

How to Help Our Teens Develop Resilience in the Aftermath of the Pandemic

How to Help Our Teens Develop Resilience in the Aftermath of the Pandemic

Within the last couple of years, after the world shut down from the COVID-19 pandemic when our pre-teens and teenagers should have been going about the business of attending football games, pep rallies, school dances, summer camps, and other typical events of their formative years, they were redirected to a world of uncertainty and isolation.

While adults didn’t like it, we could at least draw upon our life experience and perspective to cope with it. Were we worried about how to protect our families from COVID-19? Yes. Were we concerned about the security of our jobs and businesses? Absolutely. But adults possess a resilience that teenagers haven’t had time to develop.

Under normal circumstances, kids are typically in the process of learning, discovering, and creating their personal versions of this vital life skill during their teen years. The current generation wasn’t prepared to cope with the onslaught of fear, anxiety, and loneliness thrown at them so abruptly. So, what do we do now? We need to get our teens back on track toward developing resilience.

Restoring Resilience

The pandemic interrupted our children’s emotional and social development with shelter-in-place orders, masks, and quarantines. Proms were canceled, sleepovers were halted, and basketball courts were suddenly empty. Sure, teens could find each other via cell phones, but it wasn’t the same as face-to-face hangouts and conversation.

What was going on in their minds and hearts during this time? We can see now that a slow build of mental health issues was brewing in our youngest citizens. According to the Surgeon General’s report, symptoms of anxiety and depression in youth doubled during the pandemic, with 25 percent experiencing depression and 20 percent experiencing anxiety. As if the teenage years weren’t hard enough already, the 14 to 18-year-olds who represent the younger side of Generation Z have grown up in a world that feels scary and unsafe. There’s a gap in their ability to live carefree and happy lives because things were anything but carefree and happy for such a long time.

Helping kids to build resilience can help them manage feelings of anxiety, depression, and uncertainty. Resilience is the ability to recover from difficulties or adapt to change—to function as well as before and then move forward. Many refer to this as “bouncing back” from difficulties or challenges, both the large ones and the everyday ones. Resilient people learn from the experience of being able to effectively manage a situation and are better able to cope with stresses and challenges in future cases.

No one can promise teenagers that their lives will be free from challenges. Therefore, caring adults in their lives (such as parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, and youth pastors) should support and facilitate young people’s resilience as much as possible.

Connection, Conversation, and Community

Those of us in a position to encourage the well-being of today’s teenagers have an important role to play in facilitating opportunities for authentic connection, open conversation, and a strong sense of community.

Connection: One of the best ways to break down a teen’s anxiety and lift depression is to have some fun and take their minds off their fears and doubts. Yours may prefer to be with their friends rather than spend time with you but be ready to provide lots of family time for them when they need it. The most protective force in our children’s lives is their connection with their families. Young people also reap benefits from caring adults and peers in their school, community, and church. The more healthy connections they have, the better. Solid relationships allow us to be vulnerable because we know there’s someone in our life who genuinely cares. Participate actively in social outings, parties, and other shared events and activities to help teenagers bond with others. Encourage them to have fun, participate in extracurricular activities and develop new interests.

Conversation: Opening the door for communication is an important step for parents to hear directly from their children about how they’re doing. Sometimes the best time to start a conversation might be when you’re in the car together. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to talk to their children when they observe behavioral changes or signs of depression and anxiety. On the contrary, when we ignore the possibility they’re struggling with their mental health, we inadvertently communicate that it’s not something we should talk about and it’s not normal to feel. Ask open-ended questions and let them speak freely before you swoop in and try to fix it all with your wisdom and perspective. Talking about their feelings is the best way for them to process their emotions. Even if they only open up a tiny bit, it’s a start.

Community: This is a fantastic time for the youth, teen, and young adult ministries in our churches to link arms with parents in the community to provide help and resources. Teens may not prefer the term “support group,” but regardless of what it’s formally called, churches should facilitate groups for teens in the community that foster conversation with their peers about the things on their minds. Knowing they’re not alone can provide the comfort they need to build resilience. Whether they talk about pressures at school, issues with their parents, friend drama, or deeper issues like depression, having a safe place to be honest with peers who “get it” can be instrumental in helping them properly process their emotions. Peer-to-peer support plays a significant role in a person’s development of resilience and improved mental health. Programs like Fresh Hope for Teens can help churches and communities facilitate these kinds of positive relationships.

Although your teens may tell you they’re “not a kid anymore,” they’re still young and can keenly feel both the normal stresses of being a teen as well as the uncertainty in the world around them. As we strive to support them in developing stronger resilience, we are equipping them for a brighter, hope-filled future.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Brad Hoefs is a pastor, international speaker, and mental health advocate who is passionate about coaching, inspiring, and empowering others with hope no matter what circumstance they may be facing. He is best known as the founder and executive director of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, an international network of peer-to-peer Christian mental health support groups and resources. Hoefs is the author of “Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis and “Holding to Hope: Staying Sane While Loving Someone with a Mental Illness.”