Statistics reveal that the middle of January is often the "saddest" time of year, or the season when sadness is experienced most often. Laney Houser offers help today.
By Laney Houser
I woke up one morning this week with an overwhelming sadness, the kind of sadness that I just couldn't shake. The kind of sadness that in the past I would try to evade with as many distractions as possible. This time though, I caught myself in the middle of my distraction-making antics and asked myself what the sadness was all about.
I am familiar with sad, so familiar it once turned into a deep, dark depression that sent me to inpatient treatment. But these days sad feelings are mostly fleeting. Along with professional treatment, I examined Scripture and my life and when they didn't match I began to search God's Word for what Jesus calls the abundant life. As a professional counselor, I loved the therapy I got from other professionals. It was much needed, but I wanted to go even deeper to really apply the science of happiness and the wisdom of Scripture into my life, so I hired a Christian Life Coach who helped me follow Jesus into joy. I learned how our thoughts and actions lead us toward flourishing or floundering, but I'm human so I still experience sadness on occasion and this was one of those times.
What do I do with sad? I pay attention to sad. It is trying to tell me something important about myself. Sad can be a healing feeling and if we allow space for it in our lives we will be healthier. Sadness heals the heart and broken hearts need to be healed just like broken bones.
The past week I've had several people tell me that they feel sad. January often brings the sucker punch of depression and not just because it is in the middle of winter. Some of the depression we feel after the holidays is because they were anxiety-filled and we were expected to keep it together, so we did ... until January. Once the holidays are over and we have room to breathe, sadness can settle in like a cold fog at the beach, wet and dark.
Anxiety can lead to depression because anxiety is an emotion of fear and our bodies kick into high gear with all kinds of chemicals to help us "escape the danger" real or imagined. Feeling sad is a way for the body to recover from those chemicals. So, when you are feeling stressed out over the holidays, now that the stress is over, your body knows it's "safe" to let down and feel sad.
How you handle the sadness determines how well you recover. You may find that slowing down, paying attention to sleep and good nutrition, and even allowing yourself to cry will help you get past the sad feelings. Remember, I am talking about sad feelings not clinical depression which needs professional treatment. If you circumvent normal sad feelings by stuffing them inside or ignoring them it may lead to depression, so nurturing the moments of sadness is really important. In addition to taking care of your physical needs when you are sad, it can be helpful to remember all of the things you are thankful for. Holding both the grateful and the sad moments side by side is healthy.
I was feeling sad because I was missing the Pacific Northwest and my daughter. Even though I love the sun, California and my new job as a pastor, I am not exempt from sad. I have spent the last several months in high gear, so when the sadness came I stopped for a day and took time to chase it. I spent the day with Jesus, a nap and my tears. Not unlike Elijah, after his great encounter at Mount Carmel when he ran away and parked his sad self under a broom tree, God met me in the tears with sleep, good food and his sweet presence.
Laney Houser is a professional counselor turned pastor. She often writes, coaches and speaks about topics at the intersection of faith and emotion and how God uses the canvas of our heart to draw us closer to him. She loves to encourage, empower and equip people to live into the best-self Jesus made them to be and to live one extraordinary life. She can be found at www.laneyhouser.com.