Helping someone else. Oh, believe me, I know, when depressed it is so incredibly difficult to even get out of the house, never mind trying to do something for someone else. However, I have found volunteering, serving, whatever you want to call it, to be one of the best treatments for my depression.
There is just something about thinking about someone else for a while that makes my pain feel less. Many years ago, I had an unpleasant confrontation with someone. I walked away feeling extremely hurt and second guessing whether I had behaved in a truly loving and kind manner. I was so upset that I spent days in bed after that. I literally could not get out of bed because I was so overcome with pain, frustration, guilt . . . you name it. I could not function at all. I realize now that I was in a complete anxious and depressive meltdown. Was it an overreaction to the situation? Probably, but living with depression and an anxiety disorder will certainly contribute to overreactions.
Several days later (while I was still in bed) the phone rang. It was a friend of mine who was calling me because she was very upset about something. I can't even remember the reason for her call. I do remember that I spent the better part of an hour talking to her and trying to minister to her. By the end of the conversation, I think she felt better, and strangely enough, so did I. I was actually able to get out of bed that afternoon and work my way back to a normal schedule.
I learned a great lesson from that episode. Thinking about others is the best way to help me stop thinking about my own struggles. I have found tremendous fulfillment by volunteering on several teams at my church. Just yesterday, someone thanked me for serving at church. My answer? "Well, it really feels selfish because I get so much out of it." It doesn't feel like work to me. Obviously, my main reason for serving at church is to serve God, but there are also many personal benefits. It forces me to get out of the house. In addition, I get an incredible sense of accomplishment, I get to think about what others need, I get to feel like I'm contributing to society, and like I'm making an eternal difference in the lives of others. I also get to meet many new wonderful people and lastly, I get the chance to experience what it's like to be part of a team that is striving for something bigger beyond ourselves.
As a Christ follower, obviously, I think that churches are a great place to volunteer. But there are tons of places that need help. For example, nursing homes can always use someone to visit their patients, libraries often need people willing to read to kids, Habitat for Humanity can use people with building skills, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters always needs people with a heart for kids. For some people, organized volunteering is not their thing, but hanging out with elderly neighbors or mowing their lawn is.
I just wanted to pass on something that has made a tremendous difference in my life. Especially in my emotional life. Maybe it might help you too. Blessings!