11 Tips for Preventing and Fighting Depression

Depression may be emotional and spiritual, but it is also practical and physical. ~From When I Should Feel Joy #5

In my series When I Should Feel Joy, I tell of my heart-level experience with and transformation through depression. But depression is not just spiritual. So in this post, I want to offer hope and practical advice for people wanting to prevent or cope with depression. If you know someone who is struggling and you want to help, you may find this list helpful. I think through many of these items on a regular basis, even now.

Though I have checked with professionals to be sure I’m not suggesting anything harmful, *this is NOT advice from a doctor or psychologist. It is simply what I would say if we had a chance to sit down and talk, friend to friend. If you want to pass this information along to others, you are welcome to send them a link to this post or walk them through it.

  1. Name it: Depression. Naming it is the first step in grabbing ahold of it rather than letting it hold and drag you around. If you acknowledge you are feeling or beginning to feel depressed, you can do things to adjust thought patterns and work to create a safe and stable environment for you and your family. But don’t stop here. Conquer the fear in depression by taking steps toward getting back to your life.
  1. Talk about it. You, your doctor and people in close relationship with you need to take your mental state seriously so you can work together to create and execute a plan (which may include antidepressants, counseling, etc.). Tell them and let them know you need help. Your spouse or others close to you may be struggling too, so working together is vitally important. Think and pray through these things with someone you trust, then take action.
  1. Assess and adjust for your sleep needs. How much sleep are you getting? Too much or too little sleep can affect your mental health. If you are sleeping more than usual, it’s time to get out of bed and get dressed. Come up with an incentive or goal that gets you out of bed. If you are sleeping less than usual, what steals your sleep? Is it something you have control over? If so, what can you do to keep from robbing yourself of sleep? If not, is there something others could do to share the nighttime responsibilities or give you a chance to nap during the day? Do you have a friend you can regularly swap kids with? Can you afford a sitter for 3 hours a couple of times a week? Does your doctor suggest sleep meds?
  1. Assess and adjust your food intake. Are you eating a variety of healthy foods? Are you eating enough? If you go to food for comfort, what alternatives can you opt for when you really want that sugary carbohydrate? I know from experience that they might be helpful in the moment but eating too much of them can do serious harm to your long-term physical and mental health.
  1. Identify and plan for overwhelming factors. When did you feel overwhelmed in the last few days? What was going on during those times? What sensory stimuli were you experiencing in that moment (sight/taste/smell/touch/sound)? What changes can you make or what help can you ask for in order to avoid or cope with these emotional and sensory stimuli that make you feel overwhelmed?
  1. Identify and plan for current stressors. How are your relationships? Do you feel disconnected with your spouse? Are there situations in your life that you are dreading or anxiously awaiting? Do you avoid thinking about a situation or person for some reason? Is there someone in your life (trusted advisor, spiritual director, counselor, pastor, etc.) you would be willing to talk to about these things?
  1. Identify and utilize your stress-relievers. What inspires you or reminds you of a deeper truth than you feel in the moment? What do you enjoy doing? How do you like to exercise? Find time every day or so to work on something you enjoy. What time of day could you do that without neglecting kids? If sensory stimuli overwhelm you, fight back with positive sensory stimuli. What do you enjoy looking at, smelling, touching and listening to? (The feel of a basketball, music with a strong and deep beat, a hot bath, sugar scrub for your hands and body, etc.) Perhaps you could put inspiring scripture or quotes up in strategic places with sticky notes. Write your stress-relievers down and take action to add these things to your home and daily existence!  If you have other stress-relieving ideas, please share them in the comments below.
  1. Prepare for productivity. What time of day is your “up” time when you feel the best? Use this time for active endeavors that are difficult when you feel down. Prepare meals ahead of time, vacuum or de-clutter. (Clutter can have a negative effect on our brains. Get rid of things you don’t need or really want.)
  1. Plan ahead. In a good moment, think through your family’s practical needs, preferably with your spouse, roommate or trusted friend. What needs to happen this week?  What is on the calendar? Create a plan of attack for potentially stressful events coming up. Think ahead about your meal plan at the beginning of the week so you don’t have to spend energy consumed with it three different times a day. What do you want to do for fun this week?
  1. Do not over-spiritualize when you have serious physical needs. I want to reiterate that if you are suffering in deep depression, this is not a good time to let your mind think of what might have been or what you might be missing out on or your deep doubts about God. This IS a good time to say “it’s not as bad as my brain chemistry is telling me it is. It won’t always be like this.”  And then go ahead and distract yourself with a healthy stress-reliever. Give yourself the grace to feel crummy without trying to analyze it. I have been there and I know how quickly those thoughts can lead you into a really dark place. Your family & friends need you. Don’t go there, friend.

It won’t always be like this.

  1. Seek help immediately if you have thoughts of suicide. You are Loved and your presence in the world absolutely makes a difference. It may not feel like it in this moment, but what you feel or think right now may be skewed by brain chemistry. Please ask for help.

Is there something you would add to this list? Feel free to comment below. To read about my experience with depression and lessons learned through it, click on the following links:

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared

When I Should Feel Joy #2: Postpartum Depression

When I Should Feel Joy #3: Shame

When I Should Feel Joy #4: True Love

When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy

Depression is Physical

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

My husband informed me yesterday that this is the best weekend of sports for the entire winter, (IHHO). Playoffs and Championships – the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat! Living rooms and sports bars across the country will be filled with anticipation as beloved favorites lay it all on the line. There will be wings, nachos, brats, beer, high fives, manly hugs, tears…and a lot of profanity thrown at TV’s.

(Well…in our house there will be vegetables, Spark, stationary bike-riding and replaying to analyze injuries over and over, but that’s beside the point!)

There’s nothing quite like the drama of football.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Unless it’s having a baby.  

Yep. I’m comparing the two. Why? Because I said something pretty audacious in “When I Should Feel Joy #2: Post Partum Depression”:  Sad is under angry. I have not yet come across an exception. I was definitely angry, but I put anger on top of my sadness. I chose it over tears. I don’t have to choose anger. You don’t, either.

Sad is under angry. I have not yet come across an exception. I was definitely angry, but I put anger on top of my sadness. I chose it over tears. I don’t have to choose anger. You don’t, either.

If there’s ever a good reason to be angry it’s when a ref makes game-changing call in error…against MY team…in the playoffs!

Am I right?!

I have no intention of telling fans to not be angry. But I will say this: sad is still under that anger. I’m totally bummed when my team loses the chance at an epic Super Bowl win. When the ref makes that call, I lose my chance to feel the thrill of victory I so passionately craved. Bummed. Sad. Ticked.

What I’m saying is that when that call is made, I can feel angry and display that anger in ways that hurt others and my relationship with them, OR I can choose relationship over my reaction.

I can choose relationship over my reaction.

It would be hurtful to carry the anger past the end of the game and into the hours or days ahead – then look for vengeance wherever I can find it: beer, food, slamming doors, cutting remarks. Anger seeps out into the way we interact with others and can actually hurt relationships. Generally, people don’t want to be around angry people. This creates distance.

It would be helpful to recognize that it sucks to have my team lose like that and admit I’m disappointed – then look for potential wherever I can find it: make a plan toward a goal, think of creative solutions to the problem, look at the situation from other people’s perspectives. Disappointment without anger is sadness and can actually help relationships. Generally, people want to comfort sad people. This creates a stronger bond.

So, my Friend, do you really want to hurt others and your relationships with them? You don’t have to. When you feel the volcano about to explode…or even after you popped your top, try this:

Breathe 3 big breaths and ask yourself, “What is sad about this situation?”

Choose relationship over your reaction. Deflate the intensity of your anger by recognizing your own disappointment/pain.

And may the best team actually win!

When I Should Feel Joy #2: Post-Partum Depression

…One nurse caught me in a weak, tearful moment and gruffly asked, “Are you depressed?!” I pulled it together enough to sternly pronounce, “No. I am a counselor. I would know if I were depressed.”

She backed off.

And I backed into my shell…

An excerpt from my previous post: When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared.  

When one clams up, whatever is inside will find its way out, one way or another.

At first my insides came out as tears. They weren’t tears of joy or tears of sadness or tears of sentiment. They were tears of pain. I tried not to think about my time in the hospital when I felt helpless and invisible. But inevitably one thing or another would catch me off guard and I would be right back in the pain and embarrassment of giving birth. My mind and body’s natural inclination was to cave in on itself when this would happen. I couldn’t always curl up in a fetal position to protect myself from the outside world, but I wanted to. Nothing I did could really fend off the feeling of pain. And other than my averted eyes and the occasional admission that I was having a tough time adjusting to having two kids, most people had no indication I was suffering.

And then I started fighting.

I got better at preparing for the certain reminders of my helplessness and invisibility by scanning my environment for threats. That’s when I took up verbal boxing. After throwing a couple of punches, I realized boxing felt WAY better than laying down and taking hits. Adrenaline-anger made me strong. And anger kept people away – especially my family, the most likely people to touch the black and blue inside of me. I’m not typically a mean person, but blame allowed me to validate my anger. I began to believe that I was the center of a deep conspiracy: Everyone – do everything you can to make life hard for Andrea. It didn’t make sense, but it didn’t have to make sense. It just had to be a reason to thrust me out of helpless tears into powerful anger.

My internal equilibrium was incredibly fragile, so anything unexpected threw me off. Anyone asking something of me felt like a jab I had to dodge.

Baby waking.

Supper burning.

Milk spilling.

How DARE they ask anything of me! I can’t take it. Make it STOP!  And so I would verbally jab back:

PLEASE go back to sleep!

I’m sorry I’m such a horrible cook!

Stupid dog!

I hate thinking about it. I loved my husband and kids, but the joy I expected to feel after having a second baby felt like a pipe-dream. It’s not supposed to be like this!

If you only saw me in the boxing ring, you would have no idea that the only reason I was fighting was in order to access a strength that pushed back on the hits that threatened to knock me out. It was all I had.

It certainly felt that way.

Praying you might tuck these in your heart today:

  1. (from When I Should…#1) Joy is what I felt I should feel after giving birth, so I hid my pain. But honestly, most women struggle. My expectations for what “I should feel” made it harder to accept the pain and sadness I experienced.
  2. Clamming up did not help me, my kids or my husband because: When one clams up, whatever is inside will find its way out, one way or another. And usually someone gets hurt.
  1. Every loud sound and every sudden movement felt like an attack on my entire being. I felt every tear my babies cried and every posture of confused defeat when my husband came close. That’s why it seemed like a conspiracy. I was completely overwhelmed and fragile. I had no buffer to absorb the blows that threw me off. I have come to know this fragility as sensitivity. Do you ever feel that way? (I have much more to say on this topic. Please come back for more.)
  1. I didn’t feel better when I was angry, but the adrenaline that pumped gave me energy. I have since come to believe that: SAD IS UNDER ANGRY. I have not yet come across an exception. I was definitely angry, but I put anger on top of my sadness. I chose it over tears. I don’t have to choose anger. You don’t, either. There is Comfort to be found but it is not found while boxing…unless you come across a beautiful soul who will let you beat on their chest until you collapse into their arms. I believe God does that. Probably a better choice than taking the fight to the people we love.

Clam Up

This picture is my wink-nudge-nudge. Know where I took it?!

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared

When I Should Feel Joy #2: Postpartum Depression

When I Should Feel Joy #3: Shame

When I Should Feel Joy #4: True Love

When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy

11 Steps to Prevent and Fight Depression

A Call To Dignity

Sometimes the written word just doesn’t cut it for me. Today I made a video. Please watch to the end. And regardless of how I feel about how I look or sound in this video, I care about the message and I want to get it out. So please share it if you are inclined to do so. (Transcript below.)


Andrea Joy

p.s. If you want to make a donation to our Dressember campaign this year, follow this link:



Transcript of the video: A Call to Dignity

This morning my 8-year-old daughter is playing with play dough and listening to Kids’ Bop music while 2 million girls as young as my daughter’s age…MY daughter’s age…wake up believing they have no choice but succumb to sexual exploitation to pay back a “debt” or earn their freedom or keep their families from being killed. Most of these girls are under the age of 12 and serve up to 1,500 clients a year.*

Sometimes hearing numbers makes me numb to the need. I get so overwhelmed with the horror that I turn and walk the other way because I can’t handle it.

Did I just say that?

I can’t handle it?!

And yet an 8 year old woke up today believing she is nothing other than an object to be intimately violated – and may not even realize that she has anything so sacred that could be violated.

While my daughter plays with play dough.

I don’t like to wear dresses because they make me feel vulnerable. I am stronger and more protected in pants. I don’t call attention to my own beauty in pants.

But every day in December I have slipped into vulnerability to declare its dignity. I have put on clothing that makes me feel weak and unprotected to begin to identify with women and children who feel helpless – who no one protects. I have “dressed up” and put effort into my appearance, proclaiming that beauty can be enjoyed without being objectified and exploited.

And my 8 year old wore dresses nearly every day this month in her own innocence – because she likes wearing dresses and wanted to identify with her Mommy.

Each one of us has the opportunity to fight for dignity and freedom and justice of all people. You don’t have to donate to International Justice Mission through our Dressember campaign to make a difference. There are LOTS of worthy organizations that live as bright beacons of light in the darkness of horror. There are LOTS of horrors in the world to fight – that we each unknowingly contribute to every day.

If you want to have a significant impact on every single one of them, you can…

BELIEVE in your OWN dignity and beauty.

BELIEVE that you have something sacred that can be violated.

BELIEVE that when you objectify another, you diminish your own humanity.

BELIEVE that when you put yourself down, you influence others to question their own value.

BELIEVE that you really do make a difference.

BELIEVE that you are Loved.

Because you are.

And in so doing, we will change the world.

When the Gift Disappoints

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas — just like the ones I used to know…

I hate disappointing people. But with songs expressing familiar sentiments like that, ’tis the season to disappoint!

The other night Amelia (7) was very sad. I asked what was wrong and through tears she began listing off a bunch of ways I failed so far this month.

You SAY we’re going to do this and we don’t. You SAY we’re going to leave at this time and then we leave ten minutes later and I’m always late. We haven’t done the advent calendar and I’m NEVER going to get my gifts ready in time for Christmas!

And in my head I added…

And the flippin’ Elf keeps forgetting to move and never does anything fun!

By the time she was done, I was a hot mess of tears. She felt bad for making me cry but the truth is, the girl speaks truth. I DON’T follow through on a lot of stuff (for all kinds of reasons that a 7 year old can’t understand), and I DO underestimate how long it will take to get places (about 10 minutes under MOST of the time), and the poor girl HASN’T gotten to read our special advent activity every morning (even though most days we do something special, eventually), and the Elf DIDN’T take the peppermint stick she gave him or pop into her room this year (good thing he leaves a letter explaining everything before he goes back to the North Pole)!!!!!!

But the big question remains – will we get our gifts complete in time for Christmas? Will everyone like what they get or will they be disappointed?!

Here are my thoughts on the matter after a few days of reflection:

  • Disappointing people is devastating to me. I hate to be the cause of someone else’s suffering, for any reason! But then again, I am a person in relationship with other people. It comes with the territory. I guess I could wallow in self-doubt all the time, but where would that get any of us? I’m pretty sure self-deprecation never made anyone more loving. Sometimes it’s best to ask forgiveness, regroup and move on.
  • Christmas gifts are a lot of fun, but geesh! What is the point if I’m tense and worried leading up to Christmas and apologetic and defensive when it’s time to open presents? Who would want to be around that?! The truth is, nothing under the tree compares to the love I have to give. Nothing.

 Nothing Compares to Love

So the next time I disappoint, I hope to graciously admit it, let it go, then step right back into relationship with all that I am.

Merry Christmas, Friend!  

*I would love for you to share this post with friends, if you feel so inclined! Let’s get the word out that this Christmas – we’re gonna love.*


Is it morning yet, Mom?

This morning our sweet Grant (5) came into our bedroom at 5:30.

Is it morning yet, Mom?

Are you kidding me? I just put this kid in bed. How could he possibly be up?

No. You need to go back to your room and play quietly. I need to sleep. 

His tears:

But I want to BE WITH someone!

My tears:

But I want to be a happy mommy! THIS ISN’T FAIR!

I sent him to play with the dog, hoping he wouldn’t wake his sister up. He did.

After more of my own frustrated tears, smacking my pillow on the bed a few times and mentally rehashing the list of the horrible side-effects of us all not getting enough sleep, I felt a shift. Anna asking Elsa if she wants to build a snowman came to mind. No matter how much I want to blame him, Grant isn’t to blame for his internal clock. He doesn’t deserve my wrath.

And I have a choice right now. Am I going to celebrate the kids’ friendship and enjoy what opportunities I DO have with them or am I going to be angry and blame them for my bad mood and resent them for not having enough energy to do what I want to do all day?

And with a little grace, I said out loud:

Andrea, no matter how much sleep you got last night, you can be kind.

I can be kind.

Praying for a little more grace to live it out the rest of the day.

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared

After my initial post Frozen Top Ten”, a few beautiful people asked me to share more about my experience with depression – specifically, post partum depression. My reflections on this story are too long for one blog post. This is not just for women. It is not just for parents. I offer this series in honor of anyone who suffers and feels alone. And I offer it to those who might have experienced or have loved ones experiencing difficulties as young parents.

Our experience having our first child was joyful. Yes, we went to the hospital and were sent home and then induced the next day. Yes, I had back labor and eventually had an epidural. Yes, the epidural helped half of my back more than the other half. But, YES! We were rested and ready! We were very excited to welcome Amelia into the world to the tune of “Testify to Love.” Happy. For a long time, there was happy.

Then around December in our second pregnancy, I was incredibly uncomfortable. The demands of my body and a 1 ½ year old were wearing on me. Looking back, I believe this is where depression set in. Five months later, it was time to have our second baby. We went in for a check up one morning and were told to come back to the hospital around 5:00 p.m. so they could induce and deliver that night. We didn’t think much of the request at the time. Our doctor would conveniently be on call and my body was indicating that it was a good time. We started the process around 6. I settled into the whirlpool and Aaron settled into the Lakers game. What came next was fast and furious. I realized very quickly that I wanted the pain meds I had previously hoped to do without. And I wanted them BAD. They never came. I will spare you the details.

Here’s what I felt I lost in the next few hours:

  • My voice. I had plans for how this birthing process would work, but when things got rolling, nurses were (what felt like) dragging me to the bed and telling me what to do. I felt like they were making decisions for me. They acted like the epidural would come, even though they knew it was too late. I felt like a child.
  • My emotional stability. It took me a few months to realize this, but I discussed it with a friend-psychologist and we determined that I likely had a panic attack during labor. I literally thought I would AND thought it would be better if I would just die in labor. I feel bad even saying that. But it’s true. I’m going to say it because maybe I’m not the only one.
  • My dignity. I felt incredibly exposed and ashamed of my volume, tone and word choice as I cried out and writhed in pain.
  • My self-respect. When all was said and done, I felt I had failed this natural birth thing. I didn’t overcome anything or feel empowered like some women do. I felt dragged and beaten and terrified and discarded. That is also really hard to say.              *Big Breath*
  • My ability to move. For a long time (maybe an hour, I don’t really know) after birth, I couldn’t relax my awkwardly positioned body. I continued to experience pain after pain and I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask for pain medication for quite some time.
  • My husband’s respect. This is a tough one, but it is real. I felt my loss of control had embarrassed him. I couldn’t look him in the eye for fear of the disappointment I was sure I would see.
  • Sleep. Grant was born at 11:45 p.m. They took us to our room around 1:00 a.m. and I did not sleep. I lay there tense and in shock, all night long. No one knew. I didn’t sleep well for months.

The next couple of days in the hospital were a struggle as I attempted to feel and act like I felt as joyful as I did when Amelia was born. One nurse caught me in a weak, tearful moment and gruffly asked, “Are you depressed?!” I pulled it together enough to sternly pronounce, “No. I am a counselor. I would know if I were depressed.”

She backed off.

And I backed into my shell.

I pray you will tuck these insights into your heart:

  1. I rejected help. I think I was so embarrassed from the experience that I refused to accept or seek help. I closed up like a clam – hard and tight. But I was a wreck on the inside. If you feel as I did, please open yourself to help. Reach out to someone you trust in your head – even if your heart feels it can’t trust at all. 
  1. I was unable to be my own advocate. Sometimes people break down and are unable to speak for themselves – even “strong” people. We were not prepared for this to happen. If you know someone who is closed like a clam, be curious! They may act like they don’t want your help, but if you offer it tenderly, confidently, respectfully and consistently; they just might let you in.
  2. Joy is what I felt I should feel after giving birth, so I hid my pain. But honestly, most women struggle. My expectations for what “I should feel” made it harder to accept the pain and sadness I experienced.


Our beautiful, worth-every-bit-of-it kids (a few years back).


Working on this piece reminds me how troubling this season of our parenting experience was. It has been a while since I shared this intensely personal and vulnerable story with anyone. I believe that is why most parents do not share their emotionally traumatic birthing stories or the pain they experience afterward.

I believe that is why I must.

I do not claim to be an expert in the area of depression. I share my reflections of our experience but if you are concerned that you or a loved one is depressed, please inform your doctor (or encourage them to inform theirs) – especially if you are pregnant.


Andrea Joy

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared

When I Should Feel Joy #2: Postpartum Depression

When I Should Feel Joy #3: Shame

When I Should Feel Joy #4: True Love

When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy

11 Tips to Prevent and Fight Depression

Advent for the Little Ones

Advent was a special time for my family when I was growing up. I loved turning off all the lights and gathering around our tree, warming our backsides by the fire.

Being the serious child I was, I loved the devotion, prayer and feeling connected with my mom, dad and sister. But the ultimate best part was when Dad pulled out his twelve string guitar and we sang Come On Ring Those Bells. Ahh…

We’ve attempted to recreate the same atmosphere with out kids for Advent. Sunday we turned the lights off, lit the first advent candle and for a whopping 3 minutes there was peace on earth. Then the kids became restless as the story went on and on and they started a heated argument about who would strum mom’s guitar first and who would blow out the candle.

I guess I overshot their attention span. Rather than agonizing about it like I did last year, Aaron and I decided to let them be who they are and meet them where they are. So we’re taking it down a few notches the rest of advent and focusing on what we most want them to have: an experience that helps them remember the reason for Christmas. We want a lot more than that but for now…

This is a little poem I wrote a couple of years ago for 3-4 year olds and still seems relevant for our 5 & 7 year olds. I usually read it and they get to act it out with the Fisher Price Nativity characters. Maybe it will meet your kids/grandkids where they are too.

Check out the free PDF of the Children’s Advent Poem I designed for you as you exit this site.

A Children’s Advent PoemIMG_1264.JPG

There once was a stable
Full of donkeys, sheep and cows
It was a dirty, stinky place
But God chose it anyhow

A mom and dad came looking
For a place to spend the night
The stable was the only choice
No other bed in sight!

The world was a lonely place
God wanted to show His love
So He became a baby
And came down from up above!IMG_1263.JPG

“Now it’s time to celebrate!”
The angels sang with cheer
“Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men
Go tell your friends he’s here!”

Three wise men came a long, long way
God led them with a star
They brought Jesus special gifts
But he just wants your heart

The baby became a grown-up
“God loves you”, Jesus sang
“This is my special gift to you”
Let all the earth proclaim…

That – Jesus loves me, this I know
Now I can love Him too!
Away in a manger, Jesus was born
He came for me and you!