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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Winter of Our Discontent...

Dr. Cliff Arnall, a psychologist in the UK, has garnered press from quite a few major sources including: MSNBC, NPR, BBC, and Time for his decree that January 24th is "The Most Depressing Day of the Year." The segment found on MSNBC is an interesting article. If you'd like to read it, click HERE. The basic premise is that people tend to ride an emotional high into the holidays, but then, after New Years, the bills come due, the weather is dreary, we've failed at resolutions/or quit trying, we're cooped up get the picture. Not sure how Mr. Arnall arrived at the exact day, but in light of recent (and some not so recent) events, his claims have gotten me thinking.

Looking back over my general demeanor over the past few weeks and then even farther back to this time of the year from years past, I KNOW I've had bouts of discontent. I've been cranky, grouchy, selfish, sad, melancholy, unreasonable, unfair, and generally ridiculous. For me the last week of January through the second week of February has been "The Magnificent Idiot Zone." Now, we've all heard of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and I believe the research points to its reality. Physiologically and emotionally, being deprived of the sun and warmth can leave us feeling tired and down.

But I think there's even a more intense variety of SAD that hits a certain segment of the population at this particular time of year. Does the job or school or your relationship with _______ seem off right now? Do you find yourself thinking negative or self-defeating thoughts right now? Maybe, you're like me. Maybe this time of year hits you the way it's hitting me. For the parents out there, esp. if you live in cold climates, are the kids bouncing off the walls and off each other? Does everyone seem to be getting on each other's nerves? Yeah, me too.

So what do we do about it? We're Christians, right? We're not to be a slave to sin anymore. We're not to be a slave to anything but to Christ. We're free from bondage, right? Do we ignore it, spouting platitudes about "Giving it all to God" or "Count it all joy?" Do we cover up the turbulence in our guts by putting on the "I'm okay, you're okay" mask?


I don't think God ever tells us to lie to ourselves or put on masks. So what do we do? Well, honestly, I don't know. I've got some ideas that I'm going to attempt and see what happens. But for what it's worth, here's what I think --might-- help:

1. Recognize it's real. The sadness, the pain, the frustration--all of it, it's real. The weather is dreary. It is NOT fun to pay bills and see more piling up. When we fail at resolutions and self promises, it does hurt. When we don't see the people we love that often it's sad. When we put on weight during the holidays, our self image can suffer.

2. Talk to God about it. God is not afraid of truth. He corners the market on truth. He's the one who said, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest for your soul." Does that sound seriously awesome right about now? It does to me. Curl up in bed with a fuzzy blanket and just unload all the gunk. God, this is how I feel. God, this is where I've failed. God, my kids are driving me nuts. God, I NEED you.

3. Put your SELF in the backseat. The moment you start hearing the self-defeating thoughts, find something you can do to help someone else. Husbands go do the dishes or fold the laundry. Wives, pat your husband on the shoulder or make him a cup of coffee. Kids, do your homework EARLY. I've found that the worst funks I ever get in are usually when I'm "all about me." That's just got to die. So go do something that helps someone else. God designed us to be satisfied when we serve. If we're feeling down, it makes sense that helping other may help us as well.

4. Avoid Drastic Ideas. Many times, discontent leads to a worldly kind of logic...logic that says, I feel down, so if I could only ________ I'd feel better. That's usually when we do something we'll regret later. We go buy a big screen TV (and add to our bills). We go eat a gallon of Ben and Jerry's (and add to our gut). We yell at a loved one (and add to our regret). We book vacations (and dream about the future when really, we're living in the now. Now has to be lived.) I think of how rash I was as a teenager (believe me, I remember it vividly). Drastic plans came to mind so easily--most often with horribly unpleasant results.

5. Bathe in the Facts. That's right, bathe. God says He loves you. God says He won't ever leave you. God says He has a plan for you. God says He knows your sorrow. God says there will be a Day when there will be NO more tears.

Immerse yourself in the Word of God. Call it a "Truth Bath." Renew your mind by reading the Psalms or Romans or James or Hebrews or John--or all of them. Having truth rolling around in your mind is an awful good way to blow up the lies.

6. Share Your Thoughts with Someone. That's what I'm doing right now in writing this post. It's like cheap therapy. And strangely, I feel better. Maybe what I've written will help someone. Maybe not. But at least, I've put it into words, spelled it out, had a chance to look at it with some objectivity. I talked to my wife just the other day, and it really helped. I felt like, "Wow, it really feels good to have her know what I'm feeling right now."

7. Take a "YOU Break." I know, you're thinking, but up there you just said, put yourself in the backseat. That's true. Others must come first. But here's what I mean. A "You Break" works like this: First, identify something in your TO DO pile that you've left undone so far. Go do it. If it's a big thing, take an hour bite out of it. Knock out a chunk. And then, go do something that fills your tank. Read a good book ( The Door Within), draw a sketch, play the instrument you've allowed to collect dust, pick up your cat, sit by the fire, get a cup of tea, play a video game--something that you like to do.

8. Exercise. This may not be last on your list. But seriously, consider it. Ride the stationary bike, go for a run (even if it's cold), do a set of curls or crunches, go to the gym, etc. Physiologically, your body releases anti-depression chemicals when you exercise rigorously. And afterward, there's satisfaction that you are getting into better shape, as well.

It is the Winter of our Discontent. But, maybe, it doesn't have to stay that way.


Lady Shyeloh said...

Wow, first to comment! You know, I often find myself a bit depressed after the holidays, but the past few days for me have been grrreat! I was finally able to type the first five chapters of my story! To all authors/writers - That may not seem like much, or maybe it does, but I have never typed out any of my stories before.

Mr. Batson, your words about putting on masks reminded me of the song "Stained Glass Masquerade" by Casting Crowns. That is so true! As Christians we shouldn't try to cover up our feelings. Let me say from experience, it only makes you feel worse.

I'm afraid I cannot share in your suffering of really cold, snowy, icy weather though. That's why I love the south:)

I hope you have a happy St. Valenrick's Day! (Feb. 29)

-Lady Shyeloh-

zaphir said...

You know, I was just thinking "Darn, I'm sorta depressed right now." when I headed to your blog. Thank you so much for these words of encouragement, they came exactly when I was in need of them :)

I, however, am strange in that I adore the winter weather. Heat makes me sad xD Maybe the summery atmosphere today added to my unhappiness? Ohwell. Anyhow, thank you <3 I really needed this.

***Flinn-fan-of-the-Twins*** said...

zaphir: Me too! I like the cold of fall and winter better than the heat of summer. But touching depression, I have had a LOT of family illness, death, or other issues that really start to pull me down. When I get really sad, I pull out my Bible and read over it a little. After that I usually pick up The Door Within and skim over that too, no joke! I know this is beginning to sound like a refrain, but Never Alone has helped. And I love to run on the treadmill. It really relieves stress.

P.S. I am starting on chapter seven of my story....after 8 months of writing! AAAHHH!!!!

aravis1212 said...

Hmm, that was helpful.

Shelby Marie said...

Wow, thanks for putting that post up! I really needed that right about now. I won't go into too much detail, but I have to go stay with my dad for the next five days, and quite frankly, it's like slow, painful death to my soul. Please pray for me...I hate doing it more and more every time...
You are all in my prayers,
Shelby Marie

IndinaTookOfMithegard said...

I LOVE WINTER! It actually kinda makes me happy because the cold wind is really refreshing early in the morning.I agree with Flinn and Zaphir.

IndinaTookOfMithegard said...

I LOVE WINTER! It actually kinda makes me happy because the cold wind is really refreshing early in the morning.I agree with Flinn and Zaphir.

***Flinn*** said...

Well sarm,

I tried it again and every time it says no longer available. Hmm...

IndinaTookOfMithegard said...

And, Just wondering...

Is anyone here so much of a Narnia fan that you watched the Super Bowl just because there was a new Prince Caspian comercial?
I DID!!!
I also saw a thing on YOUTUBE of Lucy riding around on her horse. But it is only 2 seconds long and you can't see a whole lot because Skandar Keynes is doing the filming!

Kel said...


I wholeheartedly agree with you. I, too, have been cranky, selfish, demanding of everyone around me, and basically not someone anyone wants to be around. I've attributed it to (here's my humanness showing through) being stressed, not having enough time with my husband and girls, having way too many papers to grade, not enough sleep, too much coffee, rotten students at school, etc.

Bryan Davis posted Pslam 3 on his blog yesterday, and I've been reciting it over and over in my mind ever since (#5 on your list). My situations haven't changed in the past twenty-four hours, but I'm much, much calmer once I ask God for help.

It has been a stressful week here in cold, wet Northern Indiana. I can't wait for warmer weather. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, you aren't the only one struggling.



S. J. Deal said...

Oy veh. You and Christopher Hopper both have challenging, encouraging, and convicting post this morning.

I printed this one up. I like your suggestions.


J-J-The Jet Plane said...

All this talk of depression is depressing me. I have noticed being a little bit depressed during the winter months (even though i don't pay taxes) Its quite depressing (not the part about not paying taxes.)

Sarmjornn said...

Sorry flinn its and the blooper reel is still up. Sorry for the mess up.

Elfish said...

Thank you so much for posting this. Just reading it makes me feel better about life. Honestly, I've had a pretty cruddy week, but that helped me put it all in perspective. <333 Thanks.

And Zaphir, you're strange. o.O Summer is best! XDDD

Araken said...

I take my stand with Zaphir. Winter rocks my ultra-thick winter socks!

zaphir said...

Elfish- I know I am xD

All the fellow winter lovers- Woot! I thought I'd be the only one :D And LOL to Araken, even though I prefer my feet to be free from socks. Another reason I'm strange xD

***Flinn-fan-of-the-Twins*** said...


I'm sockless most of the time too! xD!!

piratekatie said...

"Is anyone here so much of a Narnia fan that you watched the Super Bowl just because there was a new Prince Caspian comercial?"

:o There was?!?!?! Ahhhhh I didn't know about that!!! :( If I'd have known I would've watched every second of that football game if I had too XD

I'm extremely obsessed with Narnia & I'm counting down the days till Prince Caspian :) I even printed out the poster and hung it on my wall XD has lots of pictures from the trailers and I'm thinking about making a collage too lol (It's a really awesome site, it has TONS of Narnia images)

I'm sort of inbetween with the whole winter/summer thing lol. I hate being cold and sometimes winter makes me depressed, but I love it when it snows. I like sunshine, but then again I hate it when it gets really hot. So I like spring/fall when the weather is inbetween lol :)

Araken said...

Oh my gosh, I saw that Narnia trailer! I waited up late till my dad got home with his high-speed connection so I could watch it.

I don't think this time of year is depressing. I think what IS depressing is that there are people who sit around and figure out what the saddest day of the year is...

P.S. What's wrong with socks?!

Araken said...

Wow, that last post was exactly at 5 o'clock. This one isn't, though...

fire phoenix said...

Aweosme. That was just awesome.
Thanks for the encouragement!

Lady Shyeloh said...

Well, a few days ago I said I felt great, but now I'm worried. My best friend just e-mailed me and said something really bad happened concerning a friend of hers. He's like an older brother to her. She even told me not to call her. Please keep her and her friend in your prayers. Thank you so much.

everlastingscribe said...

Ugh, I hear you m'lord this hasn't been the best of weeks. I feel like I'm plodding along, nose practically dragging on the sidewalk. Everyone at work is the same, two of my co-workers have tests and are struggling with senior-itious another is desperately trying to get his schedule normalized so he can have a life outside of work, another is battling final semester blues for the year and working to get her GPA up to where it was last semester, and the final one has had a death in the family. Trudge, trudge, trudge. There are enough long faces that we could replace the ones on Easter Island and no one would know the difference.

However, we find respites from the overwhelming stress/sadness falling not on our swords but on our sense of humor. That God for that gift! Sometimes, it's nothing more than a display now working right, sometimes its something a customer said that didn't come out just right, but mainly its one of us deliberately provoking the other to laughter, willing to be a fool so the other can get a good chuckle.

In this winter of my discontent, I am grateful for all my coworkers and friends who go the extra mile to lift my spirit.

***Flinn-fan-of-the-Twins*** said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
***Flinn-fan-of-the-Twins*** said...

***Flinn-fan-of-the-Twins*** said...
I've really been stuggling lately because my family and I will be moving. We will still be in the same town, but we currently live in the country, with a beautiful little forest, a hay field to romp through and a little brook in the woods. It's the perfect place to be, but we have to leave. I will have a hard time going. You may call me a freikish Elf girl, but I love my trees and the wood! I love the sounds of the burbling brook and the way the sun filters through the branches. I love the mock battles my friends and I often share in the hay field; the birds calling and the wildflowers that sometimes spring up. Sigh. It will be sad. I love God's creation that we call nature, and our home is a beautiful example of that. I will miss it for sure. But I will "cast all my anxiety on Him" and whatever comes of this move, trust that He will help me

Christopher Hopper said...

Hey'a Wayne!

It's funny that you mention S.A.D. as it was first coined and first diagnosed in my hometown of Ithaca, NY at Cornell University. Back in the mid 90's, Ithaca was reported as only having 71 days of sunshine in a year, one of their major blames for the high number of suicides among Cornell's student body.

...Or, could it possibly be the fact that Ezra Cornell, founder of the school, erected the university in direct opposition to the seminaries of his day (ie. Yale, Princeton, Harvard, etc.) by stating in his pledge in Willard Straight Hall that the school stands for humanism alone and would be devoid of deity?

Wayne, your post is well thought out and deeply encouraging. I bring up the spiritual implication, as referenced by Ezra Cornell's statement above, because I find that much of our swooning as Americans is greatly dependent, as you so well pointed out, on the success or failure of natural things. I, too, am leveraged by the status of my surroundings, from friends to budgets and even more trivial things, like why my dishwasher broke this week.

But one thing that my global travels have taught me is, again, as you pointed out, that most of this is due, not to any lack of God's faithfulness, but mostly due to my own shortsightedness and selfishness. Much of what I experience is simply American. It has its roots in materialism devoid of God, and therefore it is a supernatural issue, one which requires me to refocus on the Author and Finisher of my faith.

Cornell students jumping off bridges don't need more sunshine. They need Jesus. Sure, sunlight is great. And I believe God created us to be in it! But if people are killing themselves because of depression, or like me, doing it very slowly over really stupid things, the answer is the same: we need Jesus.

I really appreciated how simple and Christ-centered your steps were. As Shane said, worthy of printing out (and thanks for the kind words, Shane).

So, here's to pressing in to the King of kings...the one who neither slumbers nor sleeps.

Love you, Wayne. Great post.


S. J. Deal said...

Christopher: My mother went to Cornell and that's where she got saved. Of all the places! I guess God can work anywhere there's even the slightest bit of soil.

My hometown is Seneca Falls which resides on the northern end of Cayuga Lake. I live near Cayuga currently but if I could live anywhere it would be Seneca Falls again, I love that little town. But I've always lived near Cayuga Lake. I love it here.

Wayne: This was a great read, I really needed the encouragement... And thanks for getting me back in the Bible, I'd kinda have been drifting away from a regular habit of reading it but picked it up after reading this. Thanks. I've decided to start reading through the Psalms first, then I'm going to read the other books you mentioned. I think I'm going to print this up for my good friend Chris (Not Christopher Hopper, another friend I have named Chris.) I think he'd find it encouraging.