Hello friend! Before we jump in to today’s very important topic, I want to let you know that on April 27th 2023, that’s a Thursday, at 1 p.m. CST, I’m going to host a Live Q&A on Zoom where we’ll be discussing the 4 episodes of April. They are all topics about the Christian life that intersects with real life, like today’s topic: being a Christian with anxiety and depression. Another topic to discuss will be being a Christian and living with toxic relationships, including that of your spouse. We might also talk about things like self-discipline, or saying “no” and disappointing people, or learning to trust yourself. You will have an opportunity to get coaching on your specific circumstances if you want. I’m going to approach this with an open hand, though, and if there’s another episode topic you’d like to discuss and/or get coaching on, let’s do it. We’ll go about an hour, but I’m willing to stay a bit longer so whoever wants coaching gets it. This is a great time, also, for you to pop in just for the sake of seeing what Life Coaching looks like if you’re curious. There’s only one caveat, this Live Q&A is just for Christian women. That’s who I coach, strictly. I’ll put a link in the show notes to sign up. Or you can go to triciazody.com/live. Do it now so you can get it scheduled on your calendar. You’ll get the Zoom link in an email and a few reminders as we get close. So, due to the nature of coaching, there will not be a replay available, so make sure you’re there in person.
Okay, let’s jump in. Today I want to talk about something that, thankfully, is getting a lot more attention and is being more normalized in our Christian communities; and that is being a Christian with anxiety and depression. First let me say, you're not alone! Many of us have gone through similar struggles, and it can be tough.
We all have experienced the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic: the lockdowns, the separation and isolation, the mandates, the fear, the divisiveness of opinions, and loss - loss of loved ones, loss of jobs and financial security, and a thousand other little losses. It seems we’re still feeling its effects three years later. It has really taken a toll on everyone's mental health. A study from 2021 found that the pandemic has significantly increased anxiety and depression, including in Christians. So basically, mental health issues are a common experience for lots of people, regardless of their beliefs.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experiences a mental illness in a given year. This can be due to past experiences, trauma, stress – anything that’s not been identified, dealt with and healed. I want to acknowledge that anxiety and depression are two different mental conditions that are delineated by their symptoms. Anxiety is characterized by excessive and persistent worry or fear about future events or situations. Individuals with anxiety may experience physical symptoms like racing heart, sweating, trembling, and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
Depression, on the other hand, is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness. Individuals with depression may experience a lack of interest in things they used to enjoy, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
And while anxiety and depression have different symptom profiles, they can often occur together, and some symptoms may overlap. You probably already knew all these distinctions, but I thought it worth pointing out.
I also want to point out that there is a difference between situational anxiety or depression and clinical anxiety or depression, and that is seen in the duration and severity of symptoms. Situational anxiety and depression is often caused by a specific event or series of events, while both clinical anxiety and depression may have a genetic or biological component.
Regardless, my point today is that Christians experience both situational and clinical anxiety and depression. And, research has shown that people with strong religious beliefs may be less likely to seek treatment for these. I want to explore some reasons behind this and what we can do about it. It’s my objective today to give you some hope and some tools to help if you’re experiencing anxiety and depression. Now please note, I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist. I am currently enrolled in a certification for mental health coaching, but that still does not give me the skills necessary to diagnose and treat clinical anxiety and depression. But I do have tools to help you with situational anxiety and/or depression. And I always have hope to offer.
So, I want to address why it may be difficult for Christians to reach out for help, first. I believe one of the main reasons is the misconceptions and stigma surrounding mental health issues. It’s only been very recently has going to therapy or seeing a life coach been normalized in society. In the past, only the “crazy people” went to see a therapist. So, today, some people are still fighting that old message that’s rolling around in their head. It’s even more sad that it shows up in Christian circles. This can prevent Christians from getting the help they need because they may hear, "just pray more" or “have more faith,” “read the Bible more”, or “attend church more frequently,” when what they really need from their Christian community is empathy and understanding and unconditional love, rather than judgment or dismissiveness.
Our Christian communities could do better! Our churches could do better by being more open-minded and supportive of individuals with anxiety and depression. I’m proud to say that I frequently hear my pastor address mental health from the stage. Our Christian communities can help to reduce the stigma and shame associated with mental health conditions, and this includes offering resources and support, as well as creating an environment where people feel comfortable discussing their mental health struggles without fear of judgment. Because, hello, we all have things we’re dealing with – big and small – that affects our day-to-day lives, and wouldn’t it be nice to be able to feel the freedom to admit you need help and to receive it, from our Christian communities? I do believe that’s what God intends for His people when He told them to love one another.
Hey, let me stop here a second and say: if you’ve been hurt by a Christian at a time when you were struggling, if they just didn’t meet you with compassion, I’m so sorry. I truly am. I, too, have experienced hurt from Christian brothers and sisters. But not because I think they meant to hurt me. Admittedly, I may have been that person, soo. Sometimes in our zeal or desire to help you, we may say something or quote scriptures in an effort to ease your burden and pain. It’s usually well intentioned. But that doesn’t actually mean it’s helpful, or that it comes across compassionate. Again, I’m sorry. But I want to encourage you to try again. We are all just mere humans, flawed and messy, each one of us.
Okay, bringing it back to center, it's important to recognize that seeking help for mental health struggles is an act of faith and courage, not a sign of weakness. It's also important to address the issue of guilt that can often accompany mental health struggles, particularly for Christians. Many people may feel guilty or ashamed for experiencing anxiety and depression, believing that their struggles are a sign of weak faith or spiritual inadequacy. For example, anxiety may cause a Christian to worry excessively about their relationship with God, doubt their salvation, or fear that they are not doing enough to please God. This can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, which may further exacerbate their anxiety.
Depression can also impact a Christian's faith by causing them to feel spiritually disconnected or distant from God. They may struggle to find joy or purpose in their faith and lose interest in prayer, Bible study, or attending church. So, seeking help for mental health struggles can be seen as an act of faith, as it demonstrates a willingness to trust in God's healing power and to take responsibility for our own health and well-being. Friend, let me say it loud and clear, mental health struggles are not a reflection of your spiritual or moral character.
As a Christian, you can also look in the Bible to know that you’re not alone. You’re in good company. Both King David – a man after God’s own heart - and God’s favored prophet, Elijah, experienced periods of anxiety and depression. In Psalm 42, verse 5, David writes, "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." In First Kings 19, verse 4, it says that Elijah ran into the wilderness where he sat under a broom tree and prayed he would die. These kinds of verses remind us that even in our darkest moments – and we very well may experience some dark moments - we can turn to God for comfort and hope.
As Paul writes in Philippians 4, verses 6 and 7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This verse reminds us that God is with us in our struggles and that we can turn to Him for comfort and peace in our hearts and minds.
But what about taking action? What can we DO to improve our mental health for situational anxiety and/or depression? Well, there are many tools and strategies that can help.
Here are five things you can start implementing today:
Number one, Turn to God. I put this one first because this is our first line of defense. There is no substitute, nor anything else I can or will suggest, that will give you the healing results you desire and need. We partner with God in our healing by praying, reading the Bible, and seeking guidance from Him throughout our healing journey. As believers, God is always with us, and His Holy Spirit is a source of strength and comfort. He sees you and cares very much about what you are experiencing. And He is working a thousand things out behind the scenes for your good and for His glory. I want to also remind you that when you find yourself in that place of darkness or overwhelm, that even if nothing else can come out of your mouth but “Jesus”, you will have just called upon the name of Power that is above all names. The one who is able to reach His hand down into the depths of the pit and pull you out. Listen, I know first-hand how this feels and how He shows up in our desperate cry for help. I know that if He did it for me, He can and will do it for you.
Number two, Practice self-care. This includes getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Self-care activities can help promote positive emotions and behaviors and can actively change the brain. Self-care also includes giving yourself grace and giving yourself permission. I talked about that a couple of weeks ago in episode number 125 – Here Is Your Permission Slip. We need to give ourselves permission to do those things that contribute to our healing. Even if that includes a nap!
Number three, Seek support. Don't be afraid to reach out to a Life Coach (that’s me) or a mental health professional if you need it, for support. By the way, hopefully soon I’ll have a podcast on how to know when Life Coaching is for you, or if you need a therapist instead. But, having a support system – in various ways - can make a big difference in managing anxiety and depression. Reach out to friends, family, your Christian community. Galatians 6, verse 2 tells us to bear one another’s burdens. Romans 12, verse 15 says to rejoice when your friend rejoices, to cry when they cry. Connecting with others who share our struggles can be a great source of comfort and healing.
Number four, Practice mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness is simply being purposefully present and aware of your experiences. It’s being aware of what's happening as it's happening. It’s not ignoring, or avoiding, or resisting how you’re feeling or experiencing a situation, but processing it with full acceptance. I’ve got so many episodes on this tool. In episode 84 - Mindfulness Could Save Your Life I tell you why mindfulness is critical to your mental and physical health. And in 104 How To…Detox Your Brain, I tell you exactly how to do it to calm the nervous system, help reduce stress, and promote relaxation and calm. Life Coaching and/or therapy can be great ways to work through difficult emotions and thoughts.
And the last one, number five: Challenge negative thoughts. You know I talk about this all the time – how neurosplasticity is changing our lives! Science has shown us that the brain is capable of changing and adapting throughout our lives until our last breath. This means that even if we have struggled with anxiety and depression for a long time, we have the power to rewire our brains and develop new thought patterns and behaviors. It literally is the way you disrupt negative neural ruts of thinking that are rooted in lie-based beliefs. Become aware of your thoughts to identify negative thought patterns and replace them with more positive ones. I have a ton of episodes on this. By the way, if you haven’t heard, I’ve created a Road Map for my podcast that groups like topics together. If you grab it at triciazody.com/roadmap, you’ll be able to easily identify those episode that tell you exactly how to challenge your negative thoughts.
So, those are the 5 things you could implement today and start seeing a change: Turn to God, Practice self-care, Seek support, Practice Mindfulness, and Challenge Negative Thoughts.
Friend, as we wrap up, I want to leave you with some encouragement. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression as a Christian, know that you are not alone. God sees you, hears you, and loves you unconditionally. There is hope for healing and recovery, and by taking action and seeking support, you are demonstrating your faith and trust in God's plan for your life.
Remember, the Bible has a lot to say about mental health, and there are many strategies and tools available to us for managing anxiety and depression. By letting go of guilt and shame, taking responsibility for our healing, and relying on God's strength and guidance, we can live full and fulfilling Christian lives.
Thank you for listening, friend. I hope this episode has been helpful and encouraging to you. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, there is no shame in seeking help, and together we can work towards healing and recovery. Please don't hesitate to reach out for support. I’d be thrilled to chat with you a bit to see if we’re a good fit to work together.
There’s a link in the show notes to book a free 30-minute call at your convenience.
If you know someone who would benefit from this episode, would you consider forwarding it to them?
Also, don’t forget that I have created a work-alone guide that goes with this episode to help you work through your experience with anxiety and/or depression as a Christian. You can get that at triciazody.com/guide. Or, the link is in the show notes.
Okay, have a wonderful week, friends. See you next Wednesday for the next episode of Another Beautiful Life.
Today on the podcast, I talk about what’s it’s like to be a Christian with anxiety and depression; the struggles with stigma and judgment, from yourself and the Christian community. I also give you five things you can implement today to start making a positive change in your mental health.
If you are struggling with anxiety or depression as a Christian, know that you are not alone. God sees you, hears you, and loves you unconditionally. There is hope for healing and recovery, and by taking action and seeking support, you are demonstrating your faith and trust in God's plan for your life.
Are you wondering how Life Coaching works? Would you like a free, 30-minute session? Click this link to set up a Consult Call: https://calendly.com/triciazodylifecoach/30min
Get the free, printable Guide here: https://www.triciazody.com/guide
Get the Podcast Road Map here: https://www.triciazody.com/roadmap
Sign up for the Live Q&A on Zoom April 27th at 1pm CST here: https://www.triciazody.com/live