By Jordan Taylor
Everyone experiences time in life when they struggle to feel seen, known, and loved. We live in a world where we’re told we have to be the best or do it all — and it can very easily wear on our souls. It’s an exhausting and lonely world sometimes. These are some ideas and suggestions to combat these exhausting feelings and the circumstances that surround them.
1. Seek out messages that are true.
Take time to remember the words that God calls you, instead of the words and feelings of the world. Listen for truth, not from the world, but from God. I do this by reading through scripture, particularly verses and stories and Psalms that describe what God says I am. The words of scripture point me back to what is true versus what my feelings cause me to believe.
Music also helps me meditate on true messages and voices. I have a particular playlist I listen to when I’m struggling with my depression or anxiety -- some songs have faith-inspired lyrics, others have soft, acoustic sounds that force me to slow down and get quiet. When I fill my brain with music, with good words that are true and kind, the other voices fall silent as I focus on the words I’m hearing.
2. Do what brings you joy.
What brings you JOY? God gives us interests and passions and hobbies to fill our lives with joy that is unique to us. Taking time to discover your joy-bringers and actually do them glorifies the personality God has given you and allows you a moment to break free from whatever is going on.
Love the outdoors? Go on a hike, plan an outdoorsy trip or adventure, or go hang outside at a park.
Are you a creative/artsy person? Take time to make or learn something new, be it a crafty Pinterest project or a new recipe or a new song on the guitar.
Doing things that bring you joy allow you to really see how God made you be exactly who you are; the hobbies and passions that bring joy are an extension of God and the goodness God brings to us each — so when life has us down, we can lift ourselves up by seeking out ways to be joyful in the midst of it all. When we discover what makes us come alive, we find out more about who we are and what we are capable of.
3. Spend time with God.
Life is sometimes hard to bear. But we don’t suffer alone — God is not only for us but with us every step of the way.
Take time to be still and remember who God is: Father, counselor, friend, confident. Do whatever brings you closer to God: write prayers in a journal; speak to God out loud; go enjoy creation outside in nature; listen to music or make art. Take a moment to remember that God is with you and loves you, no matter your life circumstances.
I am a big fan of taking scripture and turning it into breath prayers. When you inhale, you breathe in one verse or phrase; when you exhale, breathe out another. For example:
Inhale: The Lord is my shepherd.
Exhale: I have all I need.
Inhale: Take heart
Exhale: He has overcome the world
And so on. I do this when I’m in the middle of a hard situation and can’t get away from what’s going on; it helps me find strength in the words and promises of God even when I’m struggling to see or understand them.
4. Seek out community.
I pull away from friends and community when I’m mentally feeling my lowest. God created us to know and love each other in community; we are not made to go through this alone. Take time in your week to foster good community — whether that be through church, outings with friends, a book club, or online communities. Find people you want to spend time with, friends that will walk with you, listen to you, challenge you, and love you for who you are. Let people into your life. Finding your people can make all the difference.
5. Remember and Reminisce.
I’m a sentimental person — I keep most cards, notes, and other mementos from friends or events. I enjoy going through my keepsake box and re-living the memories or thinking fondly of the person who wrote this note or that card. When I’m going through a hard time or am feeling low, I use these cards and other keepsakes as reminders that I am loved, that I’ve had good memories and good things happen to me, and that I’m seen as someone with worth. You may not be sentimental and keep all these token-like things, but you can still take time to remember good memories or compliments friends have given you. Take a moment to remember good times, to reminisce on memories with friends, and acknowledge how loved you are.
6. Write it out.
I am a big proponent of writing out what I’m struggling with: What’s happening, how I’m feeling, who is making me feel these things, etc. Getting everything out of my head and into my hands makes it more real, and easier to deal with. When it’s written, I can go back and read what I’ve read and process what’s happening when I’m not in such an emotional state.
Not a writer? Make a list of emotions you’re feeling, solutions to whatever problem you’re facing, ways to combat what you’re struggling with. It doesn’t have to be beautifully written — it’s for you to help process what’s happening personally.
7. Get out.
Sometimes you just need to remove yourself from your situation and your feelings. Take a week, a day, or an hour to clear your head and give yourself time to think. Whether you can literally get away somewhere, to a or a coffee shop, or you escape into a TV show or a book, separating yourself from your right-now allows for clarity and insight. Walk away, if you can, and allow yourself time to breathe, think, and figure out next steps.
8. Talk to someone.
Whether it be a good friend, a mentor, or a counselor, find someone that will listen, hold your hand, and help you through whatever is going on. It’s important to have a sounding board — someone who will listen and empathize with you no matter what. Finding this person can take time, but it is worth looking for someone who can help you in this way.
Whatever has caused you to get knocked down by life, there are ways to be lifted back up. Take it one moment, one day at a time, until you learn the best ways to release yourself from what you’re feeling. It may take time, and it may require many different tactics to move on from these feelings, but life will not always leave you feeling this way.
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Jordan Taylor is a freelance writer and blogger based in Nashville, Tenn.