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Depressed? Anxious? Worried? Here's why.

Updated: Apr 23


I'll start this off by reminding those who don't know that I am not a medical doctor. Other than an undergraduate degree in Psychology (1996 was a long time ago, yo), I do not claim to have any expertise in the area of mental health, and the thoughts expressed here are just that - thoughts. Thoughts from an individual who takes interest in human behavior and can't help but think about stuff like this when I could be doing something else mindless or frivolous or fun. Thoughts from someone who has lost count of the times she's heard or read or listened to stories of people's overwhelming, life-stifling anxiety. Sometimes I wish I didn't feel the need to have an opinion about such difficult and nuanced topics, but then I would have nothing meaningful to write about, so... I guess I should just embrace it and do my best to give readers an opportunity to read, reflect, and respond.


The mainstream narrative would have us believe that mental illness is a matter of chemical imbalance. While this could be a piece of the overall puzzle, I feel like it puts our healing out of reach and forces us to look pleadingly to professionals in white coats as godlike beings who hold our future wellness in their hands. We become helpless victims dependent on talk therapy sessions and pharmaceuticals just to survive. I'm sorry, but I cannot subscribe to that belief system. Doctors have their areas of expertise, and medication has its place, but neither of these is the answer we so desperately need.


Certainly there are more complex cases, but I believe mental health doesn't have to be all that complicated for the vast majority of us. We just need to get back to basics. Basics like these:


  1. Fix the Diet -Whoa, now! I know starting off with this one gets some folks all riled up, as if attributing mental illness to the food on our plates is an ignorant, insensitive, and just plain obnoxious insult to those who are suffering. But hear me out. I think we'd all agree that brain chemicals (ie. neurotransmitters) have at least something to do with this problem. Well, what are these neurotransmitters? They are dopamine, serotonin, glutamate and GABA, and acetylcholine, to name a few, but it doesn't begin with these molecules. These chemical messengers don't just appear out of nowhere. They are constructed of amino acids and peptides, which are sourced by the body from the raw materials provided in our food - specifically proteins. If an individual's diet is protein-deficient to begin with, and if the limited protein they do consume is of poor quality (think packaged bars, processed meats, and cheap dairy), wouldn't it follow that the function of their neurotransmitters would also be compromised? Add to that the outrageous amount of sugar, chemical additives, food dyes, industrial seed oils, alcohol, fast food, and white flour that comprises the diet of most Americans (specifically our youth), and it's no wonder our brains are in such a scary state.

  2. Address Gut Health - As a follow on to diet, the state of the gut is paramount to the discussion about mental health. Since the earliest weeks of fetal development, the gut and brain have been directly connected by the vagus nerve, and as we age the communication between the two only intensifies. If you've ever had the misfortune of experiencing food poisoning, you know the impact your intense gut misery has on your mood and outlook. The difference here is that you know you'll eventually recover from that single accidental acute attack of toxicity. But imagine a slower, more subtle, more insidious kind of food poisoning that doesn't hit you like a ton of bricks, but rather keeps you in a constant state of quiet inflammation that gains momentum over time and sabotages the proper function of your brain. Bacterial overgrowth, parasites, constipation, diarrhea, compromised digestion...friends, I know this isn't sexy talk, but it's where the problem originates and we've got to understand the devastating impact of our impaired gut health on our brain and body both.

  3. Work with your Hands - Other than your social media avatar, what are you creating with your hands? When's the last time you cooked an entire meal from scratch, got your hands deep in the dirt of a garden, painted a picture, wrote an actual handwritten letter, stitched a button back onto a pair or pants, or knitted a scarf to give to a friend? We have so eagerly outsourced so many of these timeless pursuits in the name of ease and efficiency that we don't even recognize how it has robbed us of joy. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and He is the Master Creator. If you aren't setting aside time daily to create something of value, you can be assured of losing your zest for life.

  4. Simplify your Life - For the love of all things holy, SAY NO more often. Say no to the evening social gathering of people who really have nothing in common with you. Say no to the next extracurricular activity that you think your child needs to add to their schedule. Say no to the extravagant vacation that you know will leave you stressed out and exhausted. Say no to that beautiful, wonderful person who asks you to take on another responsibility that you do not have time or energy to manage. Say no to that friend or family member who doesn't honor your boundaries or ever take the time to return a favor. Say no to more stuff, more distractions, more technology. Get out in nature instead, breathe, and appreciate the beauty around you. Find a group of people who love and support you and remind you to honor your limits.

  5. Get Some Sleep - My husband often says, "All things are possible with sleep," and though it's not exactly biblical lol, I know what he's saying and I'd have to agree. Sleep is absolutely essential to all of us - young and old, male and female, big or small, Type A or Type Z, which is why sleep deprivation is a common torture tactic used with prisoners of war. God created us with limits, my friends, and you skimp on sleep to your own peril.

  6. Get in the Word and Get Rooted in Your Faith - We look to so many people and so many things to determine who we are and what our value is. We define ourselves by our spouses, our children, our job, our home, our bank account, our social media feed, our favorite influencers, our government, even our own medical diagnoses! ("My" diabetes, "My" autoimmune disease, "My" cancer... "My" anxiety...these are things you HAVE, not things you ARE or OWN). We look to all these temporal things to give us a sense of safety, meaning, and belonging. BUT THEY WILL ALL FALL SHORT. A relationship with the one true eternal God and an affinity for His Word is not something we just tack on to our life when it's convenient or self-serving, like a second helping of dessert. Jesus IS our life. He is our source and the sustainer of all things. Get your eyes fixed on Him, and it is amazing how your perspective on everything else begins to come into focus. Your pain, your disappointments, your fear, your overwhelm... all of it shrinks in the presence of an awesome, all-powerful God who hung the stars in the sky and knows the number of hairs on your head. I've been working hard on this discipline over the last 4+ months, and I've found that the more I seek Him, His wisdom, and His strength, the better able I am to respond and rebound when life throws me a curve ball, which has been often lately!

I think I could add more to this list, but I've already written more than I anticipated, so I'll leave it as it is. If you're someone who struggles with mental illness in any of its forms, I pray something in this list would capture your attention and possibly convict you of an area that demands action. May the Maker of our bodies and minds give us the clarity to recognize and receive the healing He makes so accessible to all of us!

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