In the previous article on this subject we noted that twenty percent of teens (1 out of 5) will struggle with severe depression or anxiety before they are adults. This is not only debilitating but can be terrifying.
What can be done to avoid this kind of thing happening? The things we need to know and do to avoid depression or anxiety are the same things we need to escape them when they attack. But it’s much better to avoid them then having to escape them once they strike.
The key thing is to minimize unnecessary stress in your life. Depression and anxiety are most often triggered by too much stress. It is true that some people are more predisposed to depression than others because of their genetic makeup. But everyone will fall victim to major depression or anxiety given enough stress
And what’s interesting is that most stress is self-induced. We talk about stressful situations. And it is true that situations arise in our lives in which we become very stressed. But the stress is generated not so much by the situations that arise as it is by way we view ourselves and handle these situations. The key to avoiding depression then is to learn how to keep stress in our lives to a minimum with biblical thinking and behavior.
One very important thing to focus on is our sleeping and eating habits as well as our physical activity. How much sleep are you getting? Are you eating properly? Do you get any physical exercise? Many teens don’t do well in these areas. Too little sleep. Too much junk food. Too little exercise. This stresses the body and mind and is a major contributor to teen depression and anxiety. And so get your sleep, eat three proper meals a day, and get some exercise. Did you know that the average teen needs 8–10 hours of sleep a night? Remember, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Take good care of it.
Something that must be looked at are disastrous or potential disastrous events that God sends into your lives. There are times when teens have to deal with the death or potentially fatal illness of a loved one. Or they find themselves in a broken home as their parents either separate or divorce. Sometimes teens also must deal with a potentially debilitating medical condition of their own.
These become very stressful times for teens. And often they become times of depression and anxiety.
How can we handle this?
God’s word show, us how to handle these situations so that we can find true courage, comfort, and peace. And what God’s word emphasizes is that the evils of life do not happen by chance but come only the hand of our heavenly Father. He not only upholds us in the hard times of life but even turns them to our advantage. Both young and old must lay hold of this most fundamental truth by faith when dealing with adversity. Only then can we handle the hard things in life without floundering.
And we all need the help of others to remind us of these truths and build us up in them. But all too often the children and young people in the family are overlooked by the church when calamity strikes, so that their need for pastoral care goes unmet. Perhaps this is the case because teens are reluctant to voice their fears and sorrows. And so when facing difficulty, make sure you turn to the word of God in prayer. Seek the help and comfort of scripture from your pastor, the elders, family members, and friends. And never worry alone! If you worry alone you tend to lose perspective. Take your worries to the fellow saints whom you have come to trust. And together take them to the Lord.
Next we need to talk about sinful behavior that will bring a person down into depression.
We have the example of David in Psalms 32 & 51. These psalms were written in connection with David’s terrible sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah. These two psalms give clear evidence of great depression.
“When I kept silence, my bones waxed [grew] old through my roaring [groaning]) all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture [vitalit]) is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.” (Psalm 32:3–4)
“Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:8, 11)
David was a man after God’s own heart. Yet he fell into great sin and remained impenitent for several months. During that time the Lord troubled his conscience so that he became desperately depressed.
The can happen to Christian teens as well.
The Bible speaks of being overtaken with a fault. (Gal. 6:1) Sin has a way of creeping up on us and overtaking us before we fully realize what’s happening. That’s the character of sin. It will keep at a place you shouldn’t be longer than you wanted to stay. It will take you farther than you wanted to go. It will cost you more than you intended to pay. How many Christian teens haven’t been overtaken with underage drinking, drunkenness, street drugs, premarital sex, lying, and stealing? We could add to this list.
Life becomes very complicated and stressful for those who fall into sin and continue in sin without repentance. First, there is the troubled conscience. Remember Lot? He vexed (tormented) his righteous soul in Sodom, as he continued to live where he didn’t belong. (2 Peter 2:7–8) Besides, sin brings into life complications that threaten disaster. All this generates tremendous stress and is a recipe for depression and anxiety.
And so it is important to live a godly, sanctified life in Jesus Christ.
The scriptures emphasize the blessedness or happiness of those that do. Find a concordance and see how often the Bible speaks of blessedness in connection with godly living according to God’s law. Those who live godly avoid much of the depression and anxiety that falls upon a sinful, impenitent lifestyle.
Such a godly life requires being in the house of God regularly on the Lord’s Day for worship, regular Bible study and prayer during the week. It also requires godly friends who will encourage you to godliness. And it may require the help of your parents, pastor or friends to escape a sinful lifestyle that has you in its grips.
But there is more to discuss. We need to deal with 3 unbiblical viewpoints that most depressed people have that make lives very stressful and contribute significantly to their depression.
*Rev. Slopsema is minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches