In the last year, depression rates have climbed significantly, and women are not at all left out of the rising numbers. In order to best understand what might help women who experience depression, we should know a little bit about what might be causing it.
Depression can be triggered by the seasons. You have likely heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that impacts people most commonly in the fall and winter months when the hours of sunlight are fewer and people are less active. What you might not know is that in the United States, it is estimated SAD affects nearly ten million people, and it is four times more common in women than in men.
Genetics or physical health may also be a contributing factor. Medical issues such as thyroid disorders, diabetes, chronic health issues, and hormonal fluctuations can increase risk of depression. Hormonal changes are not uncommon throughout seasons of life. These changes may often be accompanied by an alteration in mood, leading to depression.
Spiritual hopelessness may be another cause of depression for believers. Living in a fallen world has dispiriting effects. The Scriptures, especially the psalms, give voice to the suffering and struggle of believers. The Bible shares firsthand stories of the depressed. Words such as downcast, discouraged, fainthearted, and troubled describe the darkness of depression that believers experience.
Circumstances also play a role. Depression is more common during difficult life circumstances, such as seasons of loss, unexpected change, or disappointing situations. In late June, as the number of COVID-19 cases began to skyrocket, psychiatrist-in-chief, Dr. Maurizio Fava, at Massachusetts General Hospital predicted, “… the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to cause significant stress and psychological distress for a large proportion of the population. And we know the rates are progressively increasing.”
As the number of coronavirus cases rise so do the number of people suffering with depression. A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that the rate of people experiencing symptoms of depression is now three times higher than before the pandemic.3
Now we find ourselves in the midst of the dreary months of winter. Add to this the physical factors of women’s health, and is it any wonder why so many struggle with depression? But knowing the potential cause is only partially beneficial. What we really want to know is what will help. Visiting your doctor is always a wise first step. This can help to determine if there are physical factors that need to be addressed. If you are experiencing any disturbing changes in mood or symptoms of depression, make an appointment with your doctor.
In addition to seeking medical care, the tips below offer help for the downcast soul. Consider using one tip per day for the next five days. Engage with them intentionally, personally, and prayerfully. But also consider going through them with a trusted friend, mentor, or counselor.
Tip Number One: You aren’t always going to feel this way.
It is normal to have ups and downs, but depression has a way of clouding the good days. Despite how heavy the present moment seems, it doesn’t disqualify you from future hope. Remember that you have been here before, and God has brought you through. You may not feel it now, but take a moment to remind yourself of the goodness of God. Read Psalm 100:5 and 119:89-90 and write down a few ways you have seen God’s faithfulness in past struggles.
Tip Number Two: It is normal to need help and wise to pursue it.
We live in a culture that glorifies independence and self-sufficiency, but we were actually created for the opposite. It was intended for us to need others, and we were designed to live in dependence on God. Seasons of depression remind us that we need support. Seeking help is not a display of weakness but wisdom. Read Proverbs 11:14 and 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Who are the people in your life that give you helpful counsel or encouragement? Reach out and connect with them this week.
Tip Number Three: Set reasonable expectations.
You have never lived through a pandemic before. There is no playbook for how this should go or how it should look. Life has been disrupted, and adjusting has been hard. If the months of living in a pandemic have ushered you into depression, avoid getting caught up in how you should be feeling or thinking. God knows your frame. He is gentle with you in your weakness. Read Psalm 103:14 and Hebrews 4:15-16. How do these verses help you set more reasonable expectations for yourself during seasons of depression?
Tip Number Four: You are more than your feelings.
Feelings are a response to situations. When situations are hard and discouraging, it makes sense that you would be upset or troubled. Don’t criticize yourself for having bad feelings in the midst of bad circumstances. On the other hand, be careful that you don’t become absorbed in your feelings to the point that they define you. You may feel like all is lost, but you are not a lost cause. Take your changing feelings to an unchanging God. Read Lamentations 3:20-24. Notice the shift from feelings to truth in the passage. In the midst of your low feelings, what is one truth from this passage that you can call to mind? Write it out in a journal, on a note card, or in a note in your phone.
Tip Number Five: Prioritize time with the Lord.
This can be especially challenging in the midst of a season of depression, but it is a lifeline. Even if your efforts to connect with the Lord are abbreviated or modified, don’t give up. If you have gone through the above tips, you have already started to engage with the Lord! This week, think of other ways you can meet with God. Consider listening to worship music. Ask a friend to pray for you or with you. Take a walk outside and notice anything that reminds you of God’s creation or provision. Choose a verse that gives you hope. Write it out and try reading it out loud several times a day. Consider Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 42:5; and Jeremiah 31:3 as suggestions for this exercise.
After taking a closer look at some of the causes of depression as well as some helpful tips, I hope you have seen that it is nothing to tackle on your own. If you are struggling, take the courageous step to reach out to a trusted friend or counselor and share your feelings. If you know someone suffering from depression, your friendship can go a long way in the journey through the darkness.
Written by Eliza Huie for publication originally on LifeWay Women.