I'm so happy to have Andy Smithson from TRU Parenting today as my guest. He's written a beautiful article for our 'love courageously' series.
When experiencing the abyss of depression, people rarely feel “courageous” and yet, courage is likely your most defining characteristic. When I meet with parents that suffer with depression they often tell me, “I don’t feel courageous. I feel scared, anxious and sad.” When they tell me this I ask a question that often catches them off guard. I say, “Did you do anything for your children today?” To which most reply, “Well, yes. I had to keep being a mom. I made them breakfast and helped my son with his homework tonight, but I didn’t want to do any of those things.” “That is exactly what makes you courageous!” I say.
I love the quote, “Fear is wetting your pants. Courage is going to battle with wet pants.” (Anonymous). That’s what you do each day. Not wet your pants, but show courage by doing the very thing that you are afraid of. Courage is not courage without fear or a deterrent. If it’s easy, it’s not courage. Even though you may not feel like it, courage defines you. It is both your primary characteristic, and your lifeline.
The more you recognize your own courage, the simpler it becomes to continue to love courageously, even when you feel like giving up. The other wonderful thing about loving courageously and recognizing your own courage is that it not only gives you the strength to continue during the hardest times, but it also lifts you out of the depths of despair. It puts healthy patterns and cycles in place that reinforce our own positive moods and encourage others to do the things that help us to recover as well.
The following are a few tips for loving courageously through depression and emerging from the gloom.
- Remember your courage. Write the phrase “I am courageous” somewhere where you can read it often. Remind yourself regularly that your courage rather than your sadness and fear is what defines you. Realize that our greatest blessings come after we apply our will to something, not before.
- Get up, No. Matter. What. This can be hard for many people that suffer with severe depression, but it is important to recognize that staying in bed all day actually makes depression worse rather than better. Have a daily wake time and stick to it.
- Make a “love courageously” action plan. Identify, right now, at least one thing you will do to show your kids you love them, regardless of how you feel. Write it down and do it whether you feel like it or not. When we are depressed it is more difficult to think of ways to show genuine love and appreciation, so decide before hand what you will do.
- Take care of yourself. Eat healthy food. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Exercise has been shown to be one of the greatest things we can do for our mood and mental and emotional health. It’s helpful to remember the benefits you have received in the past from exercise and self care to help motivate you when it becomes hard. Identify ways to relax and calm yourself. It can be helpful to use relaxation and meditation practices to manage irritation, anxiety, and anger and improve your overall mood. Remember the benefits come on the back side of action rather than the front.
- Keep them close. Hug them, for them and for you. Cuddle, hold hands and just be close. Find opportunities for quiet, calm snuggles. There is plenty of research that suggests that the Oxytocin produced through human touch can be one of the most effective ways to improve mood and build relationships, even during times of struggle.
- Help them help you. Discuss needs and roles with your spouse and/or kids ahead of time and illicit their help. If depression is an ongoing struggle for you, it can be helpful to talk with your family about it at good times and help them understand and know ways they can help you through your most difficult moments. Finally, seek professional help if needed. Let those you love most help you get the help you need.
So remember, depression is not an obstacle to loving your children and family courageously. It is an opportunity to do so. You have already proven your sincere bravery. You have proven it in the lunches you packed, the cleaning you’ve done, the hugs, the smiles and the moments. There is no question of your courage, there is only the question of “will I continue?” Will I invite my children to join me in my journey to weather the storms of depression by loving each other courageously through it all?
Andy Smithson is a Husband, Father, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Author, Speaker and Parent Coach. He lives in Southern Idaho along the scenic Snake river with his wife and five children. He helps parents change negative patterns and establish/build positive patterns of successful, healthy personal, parenting and families using the simple principles of TRU (Teach intentionally, build the Relationship and Upgrade Yourself). You can find his writing at www.truparenting.net or connect with him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/truparenting or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/
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