Mental Health In Ministry Intervention# 4: Promoting Physical Health

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!

That’s my answer if you ask me, “While you were feeling depressed, did you take care of yourself physically?”

Nope. I certainly did not. It was about as bad as my neighbor Harvey’s bi-weekly announcement when he arrives on my porch looking for ice cream.

“I’m not taking my medicine or nothing. I can’t breathe. I’ll probably go to the hospital tomorrow,” he says. “If I’m still alive anyway.”

Failure to take care of one’s body is, I think, a symptom of some kind of ill-health. Further, it plummets me further into depression to lose my grip on my health. But would it have truly kept me out of depression if I had been able to maintain healthy habits? That is the real question, and I’m not sure that I know the answer.

Slaying the Giants: Practical Help for Understanding, Preventing, and Overcoming Depression

I’m currently reading Slaying the Giant. This is a Christian book a couple of people have recommended, in which the author shares his own struggle with depression. He was a pastor who had studied depression in school, and thought he knew what it was until it hit him. He had a severe form, and was unable to do his normal duties.

He says:

I tried to walk several miles every day because I knew it could help my depression. But my thoughts were so morbid, I feared I would have a heart attack or stroke while walking and be discovered hours later unconscious or dead in the ditch. Trying to avoid such thoughts didn’t help; I had them anyway. Depression becomes master of your thoughts.

Dr. French O’Shields in Slaying the Giant: Practical Help for Understanding, Preventing, and Overcoming Depression, p. 62

I like his well-rounded approach to the topic of depression. He says that, as a Christian, we can develop tools that can lift us from depression. He found permanent freedom practicing what he calls “spiritual exercises” which I will mention further later. (Some medications or illness cause depression, which is a different matter than psychological depression, although both lead to changes in the brain eventually.) He also says:

When our life has come to a standstill because of depression, it alerts us to the need to come to grips with the demand for some major personal changes in our character.

Slaying the Giant, p. 22

Yet he discounts the prevalent notion that “real Christians don’t get depressed.”

When someone tells you real Christians don’t get depressed, give them credit for good intentions and be grateful they care about you. Then totally disregard and immediately forget what they have said. It simply is not true. It only indicates they know nothing about depression. It is also possible they know very little about being a Christian.

Slaying the Giant, p. 27

Oh, by the way, I’m kind of mad at him because of this:

Like sleep, your eating may be affected either way. Some depressed persons lose their appetite, others overeat. I could not eat… In two months I lost 25 pounds.

Slaying the Giant, p.65

Somehow losing 25 pounds seems superior to gaining the same. But I shouldn’t minimize the struggle of those who are frustrated with losing weight.

Now, in March of 2020, I feel fantastic. I think I feel better than I did before my struggle. It’s a little hard to tell what is the chicken and what is the egg, but here are four physical things I’ve started doing that likely are contributing to my overall feeling of good health. Some of them were suggested to me by kind people on my email list. I don’t know that they would have pulled me out of depression. But perhaps if I would have made these habits ahead of time, I would have done better.

1. A Morning Walk on the Treadmill

I really don’t hate the treadmill, so that makes it much easier to do. Listening to reflective Christian music while doing this helps set the tone for my day. I also love the Fitbit Marnell got me for Christmas, which quantifies the calories I burn.

2. Making a Plan Each Day For What I’ll Eat the Next Day

Planning is crucial to my success. My WW app makes planning super easy day by day (of course I was totally neglecting it for awhile), but I also use my paper planner for weekly menus. It doesn’t mean that I’m always going to follow my plan exactly. If a box of wonderful paraphernalia arrives from a friend (thanks Rosie!) with Reese’s Pieces in it, I’m going to lift up the white flag and call it a special occasion. (My mom’s diets always had “special occasion clauses” so mine do too, for better or worse.)

3. A Sunlight Lamp

Several people suggested this for the cold winter months. I saw an ad for a company called Verilux, so I took advantage of a discount to try it myself.

4. Vitamin D Supplements

This was the most common of the recommendations I received. I do have a little confessional story about it, but this blog is too long already so I’ll save it for “What-Not-To-Do-Wednesday.”

If I stick with my plan, I’ll have three more blogs on this topic as follows:

  • Intervention #5 – Recognizing Who I Am (With Guest Input From a Friend)
  • Intervention #6 – Four Fun Non-Book Things That Helped Me
  • Intervention #7 – The Most Helpful Step of All

Happy staying healthy!

12 thoughts on “Mental Health In Ministry Intervention# 4: Promoting Physical Health”

  1. Ida Mae Hershberger

    I am soo glad you’re doing better. Been there, done that. It is an awfully distressing place to be in! Praise God for victory!! Have a great week.

  2. I enjoyed your insights on this journey. A “practical step” is sometimes what we really need, but when the mind is weary and foggy it very hard to know what that should look like! Thanks for sharing your personal tips. It may the ray of hope for someone silently suffering in this season of their life.

  3. I enjoyed your insights on this journey. A “practical step” is sometimes what we really need, but when the mind is weary and foggy it very hard to know what that should look like! Thanks for sharing your personal tips. It may the ray of hope for someone silently suffering in this season of their life.

  4. I read the first 4 paragraphs, then put down my phone and took my handful of supplements. 😄 I feel like I’m seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel right now. I’m learning to count accomplishments in terms of what I’ve done today to better my life, instead of by tasks completed. Thank you for sharing. ❤

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Good thoughts! I found the same thing to be helpful — just simplifying my expectations for myself.

  5. Thank you, Katrina for sharing your journey. I am on this journey right now, too. It is hard to do what you think you should do and when others think you should just get over it makes it tougher, too. I didn’t get anything accomplished last week besides going to work as I felt the need to search what is happening. I was tired, had no control over eating right, or so it seemed. Maybe more I didn’t care what I ate. I praise the Lord that He showed me what is happening and why I face depression, especially in the spring and fall. God is good. In put from others, like your blog, are also helpful. God uses them to help me see myself and work through my personal situation. Katrina, thank you again for sharing and being so open. Love you and God bless.

  6. I love the way you are so open and honest with life in general and specifics. As one who has dealt with depression many more times than I can count, I have concluded that there can be many things that factor into the cause. The SAD – Seasonal Disorder thing, hits me, and yes, good lighting for anything I do is a must. I have to work at not letting the time change in the spring set me back. Having special projects to work on in the winter has been helpful. One thing that sends me in the dumps is a high sugar diet. (unfortunately). Adding chlorophyll to my water or a”green drink” has also been helpful. I don’t know your age, but funny things can begin to take place in the 30’s, and as we get older the more care our bodies need. I don’t like to focus so much on myself, but if I don’t take care of the body, it will hamper the work of the Holy Spirit. For whatever this is worth, my heart goes out to all who deal with this ugly monster.

  7. I enjoy your openness and honesty about life. As one who has dealt with depression more often than I can count, I have come to recognize there are many causes. As one who deals with the SAD – Seasonal Disorder thing – good lighting is a must wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. It helps me to have a special project to work on during the winter months, and I have to work at not going into a slump at the Spring time change. One thing that sends me to depression right fast is a high sugar diet. There’s a link between good gut health and the brain. Drinking “greens” and adding chlorophyll to my water has helped since I have a hard time getting enough dark greens into my diet, and of course a good probiotic is essential. My heart goes out to anyone dealing with this ugly monster, so I’m simply sharing what has helped me, whatever it might be worth to someone else. May God grant you grace for the journey.

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Thanks for the tips! And I was just thinking that the time change might be playing a number with me as the last few days have been tougher. I’m glad to hear I’m not alone!

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