Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Overcoming sadness
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
In 2004, Christian writer/speaker/pastor Max Lucado wrote the following poignant words:
“Someday God will wipe away your tears. The same hands that stretched the heavens will touch your cheeks. The same hands that formed the mountains will caress your face. The same hands that curled in agony as the Roman spike cut through will someday cup your face and brush away your tears. Forever.”
Deep hurt, bleeding wounds and intense sadness can be completely debilitating. Whatever the source – loss, regret, abuse, abandonment – the wounds that cannot be seen by the naked eye are some of the fiercest and most potent ones to endure.
As the calendar turns the page to May, following on the heels of Easter in April, the world around us is blossoming with beauty and reeking of new life, dazzling colors and refreshing temperatures.
But if you are hurting from an inner wound, those vibrant colors and spring-like temps can seem disdainful and glaring in the face of your pain. The juxtaposition of the seasonal colors and brightness against the darkness of pain and sadness is palpable and even can feel as if the spring season is mocking you.
While others are frolicking in all that the spring season has to offer, you may feel stuck, stranded and paralyzed with dark moods and painful memories of hurt. What can you do?
- Get up, get out and get going! Sure, I know the typical response is, “… but, I just don’t feel like it,” and that is perfectly understandable. But, when you get up and go outside anyway, the miraculous thing that happens is that you might actually begin to feel better!
- Fake it ’til you make it! Yes, sometimes in order to defeat extreme feelings of sadness and overwhelm, you have to just choose to be around people, find something to fake-smile about, and engage on any level that you can. At some point, when you fake it enough, you actually begin to realize that you are not faking it all!
- Bright colors, sunshine and smiles! I know that it sounds Pollyanna-ish to say, “Just put on a happy face,” but the reality is that in directly challenging a dark mood with a manufactured smile, an accompanying disinterest in your clothing with a selected bright/colorful outfit, and your possible lack of care in your “put-togetherness” with a fresh shampoo and spritz of cologne or after shave, you eventually will win the day and the “pretend” will be reality!
- Thrown-open blinds and windows! Though the sunshine may feel like mockery when you are hurting inside, bringing the light into the darkness of your home (and your heart) will brighten the mood and lighten the misery … at least temporarily!
- Action over inaction! Feeling hurt, sadness and despair can make you want to curl up on a comfy sofa, cover yourself with a soft blanket and allow the hurt to envelop you. However, when you CHOOSE action (even when you don’t feel like it) instead of giving in to inaction, the movement will chase away some of the gloom and will allow you to see hope more clearly.
- Distraction, diversion and entertainment! Temporarily stare down inner pain by becoming involved in some pleasurable activities. Again, you might not want to, but choose it anyway and feel good about the departure and the pleasure it brings.
Life will bring about some hard knocks. At times, the intensity of the pain will feel overwhelming and all-consuming. We cannot cure it, perhaps, but we can take time to depart from it. Try the above tactics, which again will put you in the driver’s seat of managing those hard knocks.
One day, Jesus will wipe away all tears and caress the face that once was tear-stained and anguished. He will soothe all hurts, wrap you in His arms and cradle you like a baby. Won’t that be lovely, indeed?