As winter approaches, some people struggle with shorter daylight hours and colder weather. They’re more tired, less motivated, and feel more sad or irritable. The addition of social isolation worsens these symptoms. Thankfully, there are helpful suggestions from medical professionals in caring for our bodies during anxiety and depression, such as exercising and regulating sleep patterns, but our souls need to be cared for as well.
Taking care of our body and soul is essential for a healthier physical and spiritual life. God created human beings with both a body and soul. God doesn’t promise a quick fix or a trial-free life, but it’s human nature to avoid pain. God does promise His grace in the midst of suffering. Hope gives us strength to endure hard times.
Seek God’s Word for true hope
True hope is found in God alone. The beauty of biblical hope is that it’s unchanging and keeps us secure like an anchor when we have doubts about our faith (Hebrews 6:19). Anxiety and depression often occur together, and, over time, we could question our faith in God or even our salvation. Hope is critical when we’re anxious or depressed.
Jerry Bridges, in Trusting God, reminds us that trusting God is an act of faith, not of sense. It’s easy to tell people to trust God, but Bridges says we can’t trust God if we question God’s control, wisdom, or love. This trio of God’s attributes offers specific ways to examine whether we’re trusting God. How many times have we had thoughts such as, “If God loved me, He would remove this suffering” or “God, why have you forsaken me?”
Replacing these lies with God’s truth found in Scripture affects our emotions. When we feel abandoned by God, it is comforting to know God’s presence is with us through His Spirit. Like the psalmist who was depressed in Psalms 42–43, we remind ourselves, “Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5b).
Speak to God through prayer
Have you ever been lost for words in praying to God? Maybe we’re having trouble concentrating or are weary in waiting for our circumstances to change. Find comfort in knowing the Spirit intercedes for us in our weakness (Romans 8:26). The Spirit prays on our behalf for our good. As Christians, we are never alone. We ask God for healing and strength but trust God to work out His good purposes in conforming us into the image of Christ. We can pray, “God, please strengthen my faith in You and help me to have hope in Your good purposes. You are powerful, wise, and loving.”
The prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, struggled with depression and physical pain throughout his life, but he continually turned to God with childlike prayers, depending on God’s strength. When we lack the words to describe how we feel to family, friends, or pastors, we can remember God knows perfectly.
We can choose to worship God even in our sadness. One example is to thank God for specific blessings, such as His steadfast love, a faithful friend, caring family members, and so forth. If we have trouble thanking God, we can start with what seems like small provisions, such as a meal. If we had a restful night, we can thank God and not take it for granted.
Seek God’s people for fellowship
God created us to be relational beings from the beginning of creation with Adam and Eve. It is not a sign of weakness to need others; rather, it’s part of God’s design for human beings. The temptation during suffering is to isolate ourselves from others. The real solution is that we need God’s help and the body of Christ.
The apostle Paul was not a stranger to suffering, but he remained steadfast in his faith and surrounded himself with men and women who could share his burdens (Ephesians 6:18-24; 2 Timothy 4:7-22). These co-laborers probably knew his weaknesses and struggles. Sharing our prayer requests is a way of acknowledging we are not self-sufficient beings and we depend on God for our needs.
Caring for our bodies
The body and soul affect each other. Have you noticed how much better you feel after taking a walk when you’re anxious? The body experiences less tension, and this can affect our emotions. Doctors and researchers describe exercise as nature’s antidepressant. Exercise can help regulate our moods, improve sleep, and lower blood pressure. Sometimes, breathing deeply can relax our bodies and allow us to be more still before God.
For clarification, exercising doesn’t have to be strenuous but should be reasonable for your health. You could start walking 10 minutes a day and go longer over time. Medical doctors, nutritionists, and fitness trainers could recommend specific suggestions on eating healthier and exercising consistently.
Another important way of caring for our body and soul is resting well at night. According to sleep researchers, the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Some people function fine with less hours. Some of us think restful sleep is nonessential or a waste of time, especially when so much work is left to do. In our society, we value productivity at the expense of rest, which has consequences on our health. Of course, there are seasons of life when regular sleep is challenging, especially for new parents or caretakers. If possible, ask family members, church members, or friends for assistance.
Often, we don’t pay attention to life’s problems until they become unbearable or unavoidable. Don’t wait to speak to a godly man or woman when you are “really” struggling. Schedule regular meetings with a godly person who can pray for you and encourage you spiritually. If you can’t meet in person, try a video meeting or phone call. God cares for us and uses His people to remind us of what we forget when we are hurting.