(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Combating Anxiety and Depression in Isolation
By Amber Johnson
“…pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
– C. S. Lewis, “The Problem with Pain”
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
– Isaiah 43:19
“I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!”
– Psalm 139:7
As I look back on these first few days of quarantine, I’ll be the first to admit, I was floundering. I did my best to keep my heart and mind on Jesus, but I was still unsettled. So much had changed in such a short amount of time. Our family’s routine was out-of-balance. We were scrambling to find a schedule that would meet this new normal. And more and more information kept flooding into our home about the seriousness of this virus.
We’ve mostly stayed inside these days with some or little time spent outdoors. Even though we have four people in our home, it has still felt isolating being away from the outside world. Our daily interactions with friends, acquaintances, and co-workers isn’t the same. The change of pace has slowed.
It’s easy for anyone to get sucked into feeling lonely or depressed when messages of “social distancing” and “go home” are constantly bombarding us. I’ve felt my own emotions fluctuate drastically from day to day and moment to moment. It’s strange, and yet it’s all so real.
How do we combat the feelings of being alone when we are physically alone or isolated from others?
1) What does God’s Word Say?
Turning to God’s Word, we are reminded that we are never alone. No matter how isolated we may feel, whether that’s because we are physically isolated, or we feel alone in our thoughts, we are never alone.
God’s Word reminds us, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you,” Deuteronomy 31:8. God is with His children who have put their hope and trust in Him.
Just six months ago, I felt both physically and emotionally alone. No one truly understood my pain, my loneliness, and all the thoughts in my head. Anxiety flooded my heart and mind each morning. I felt isolated even though I wasn’t.
Seeking truth, I desperately turned to the Psalms each morning. I cried and prayed looking to God in my distress. God reminded me that He knew what I was going through. I was not alone. Others had experienced pain similar to mine. He was doing something greater in my loneliness than I could imagine. He was making something beautiful through my distress and hardship.
Let us pray, friends. May we not forget the beautiful and mysterious gift of prayer and the power of having direct communication with the Father. Lord, help our focus to be on You as we isolate. Where do You want our hearts, minds, and bodies to be in this time?
God wants to hear from us in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Let’s lift up our lives to our Father who is willing and able to meet our needs and hears our cries.
And may this also be a greater opportunity to remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who are isolated and persecuted because of their faith. Let’s pray for those who have been isolated for months or years as we endure this time of quarantine.
3) Let Others Know How You’re Feeling
We still need to be connected in these times. Even when the world is shouting, “Stay home!” We can choose to reach out to others in our places of isolation. There’s something about letting it out and getting our feelings off of our chests that is freeing. God created us to be in relationship with one another.
Choose to call that friend or family member you haven’t spoken with in a while. Face time with your small group from church. Reach out to a close friend or relative and let them know how you’re doing. I would strongly suggest using some sort of face-to-face interaction through technology or talking on the phone. While text is a wonderful tool, there’s a little more connection when we can hear someone’s voice and see that person’s face.
Sometimes we need a little extra help in these times of uncertainty. Whether that means meeting a therapist through an online platform, it’s okay to ask for extra help. When we’re emotionally in a dark place, sometimes we need a third party to step in and shed some light.
If you are truly in a desperate place, please don’t hesitate to call places that provide professional help. There is nothing weak about seeking help when it’s desperately needed. You are loved and your life matters. Never forget that.
4) Go Outside
Go outside! If quarantine in your area doesn’t require to stay directly in your home, take advantage of this opportunity. Stop what you’re doing and go outside for fifteen or twenty minutes. Being outside does wonders for our bodies, senses, and minds. Even if you can only access your small balcony or go in your backyard, just get out. When we are outside, we are reminded of God’s beauty, the wonder of His creation, and how big He truly is.
He is bigger than all of the chaos around us.
And yet, He loves us so deeply.
Choose to get your heart rate up, blood flowing, and body moving. We are alive, friends! Let’s use our bodies to stay healthy and active even if we are limited. When our bodies are moving, we are choosing to stay healthy for ourselves and for our loved ones. We are honoring and taking care of the body that God has given us.
Have you tried a REFIT routine from the Marked Ministry site? Be creative by downloading workout apps on your smart device or even just checking out quick YouTube workout videos. If you have a fitness machine at home, commit to using it.
5) Start a Thankfulness Journal
When we’re grateful, it’s hard to be anxious. Choose to start or end your day by writing down one to three things you are thankful for. It can be as simple as, “I’m thankful I saw the sun today,” to “I’m thankful I am healthy.” Let us be reminded of the simple joys and beautiful gifts that God has given us in each day. May this time of isolation be an opportunity to look for what He has already given us.
6) Learn or Master a Hobby
Look for opportunities to learn and keep your mind and body active. Creating is a part of God’s nature, and He has given us the opportunity to share in this gift. Can you cook? Watch a cooking channel and learn to cook a new meal. Can you sew? Break out that pin on Pinterest that shares how to cross-stitch. If you’ve always wanted to do a 500-piece puzzle, challenge yourself to tackle it over several days or weeks. If you’ve pinned something on Pinterest and still haven’t tried it, set aside the time to go for it.
7) Look for Opportunities to Love One Another
Look outward, friends. We can combat isolation when we look for ways to love one another. Write cards to your neighbors. Deliver groceries for an elderly neighbor. Donate to friends who may need extra assistance at this time. Evaluate your online giving and look for ways to have a greater impact for the Kingdom. Do a an act of kindness at home for a family member or roommate. Pray and ask God how you can show the love of Jesus during this time of isolation.
Let us not just do these deeds in love but share the “why” behind the love we share.
8) Have a Daily Routine
Our family just set up a daily routine, and it has already made a HUGE positive change to our day. We have set out time for devotions, play time, crafts, going outside, exercise, and so on. There’s beauty in having structure and routine. It has brought a little more harmony and unity into our home.
Are you struggling with creating structure and routine with this transition to quarantine?
Start with taking notes about how you go about your day. Then, write down what you would like to get done, what you would like to learn, and what you would like to do for fun. Afterward, create a schedule based on your daily activities that you have put together.
Be sure to pray over your schedule. How does God want you spending your time? You might be surprised with where He directs you.
Let us not lose hope, friends. We are not alone.
God is always at work. Even when we are isolated, even if we feel alone or are physically alone, God is working. He doesn’t stop just because the world does.
In our pain, in our discomfort, God is doing something. And that something is ultimately for our good. It is hard to understand or fully see what He is doing, but He is always good. We need to lean into our good Father.
Let us choose to set our minds on the One who is above all of this chaos.
Let us set our minds on the One who knows the pain we feel, who sent His Son for us because He loves us so much. May we continue to put our hope in Him who is able to reach into the depths our hearts and do a new thing.