Breakfast with Fred’s, Fred Smith, Sr. on his thoughts on managing the ups and downs. Fred managed his emotions objectively. However, he acknowledged the dark times. He created operating principles for depression. In his later years he was on dialysis three times a week, confined to a bed, and greatly restricted. He experienced the benefit years of mental and emotional discipline provided. These thoughts are particularly applicable for today. An editorial note: Fred wasn’t addressing clinical depression which requires serious professional attention.

Climbing Out of the Dumps

Very few of us totally escape depression. For some, it is the blues. For others, the blahs. Some wander aimlessly suffering boredom while excessive sleeping, eating, or drinking provide ways of dealing. In depression we may get moody and generally unhappy, or even angry enough to strike out at someone we love. These, and many other manifestations, are fruit of the depression tree. If the problem gets too large to handle personally, then we need professional help. But let’s just talk about ways we can help ourselves by establishing a routine to follow. I want to focus on one part of this routine: activity.

Denial isn’t the answer. Pity those who escape into frenzied, though fake, enthusiasm screaming about how well they feel and how happy they are. One man I knew had his brain and mouth on automatic response when asked, “How are you?” “GREAT! If I felt any better I would have to see a doctor!” That was not only a shallow, but nonsensical answer. It is sad to see someone create such a façade that hides all true feelings, just for the sake of self-image. Fake feelings usually lead to failure.

It is so much better when we respect others’ concern we can answer honestly, “Things are so-so right now, but I have felt this way before and I will get over it.” We know others are prepared to hear the details of our most intimate ups and downs, or want a long discourse on all variations of our emotional life, but most care and understand enough for us to give them a brief, honest answer.

Mild depressions come from time to time and therefore, we need a procedure for handling them. First for me is to get busy physically – doing something is better than doing nothing. Often it is better to do something physical which gives us quick results. The accomplishment helps lift the weight. The activity opens the door for hope. While it’s tough to find someone to play tennis at 3 AM, or it is discourteous to run the power saw, there are all-night restaurants where you can go and watch fascinating people. Occasionally, when I am down I find a place where observing the night owls helps me wipe away the night sweats.

The secret is to act immediately before the desire to be miserable gets concretized. If we wait too long this desire starts looking sensible. Beware of building a case for sympathy which we think is totally deserved. I don’t know why we like to be miserable sometimes, but I am convinced we do. Maybe we just want a change in our routine. Or think of the poor fellow who kept hitting himself because it felt so good when he stopped. I once knew a creative type who actually worked at making himself miserable before starting to write. He believed misery energized his creative juices.

Physical activity is just one aspect of the program, but I do believe it is key. Inactivity makes us more self- oriented and introspective – which is exactly what we don’t need. For me it is “Get Busy.”

This week think carefully about: 1) What is my routine for handling the down times? 2) How well do I manage emotional ups and downs? 3) When am I most vulnerable to depression??

Words of Wisdom: “Fake feelings lead to failure.”

Wisdom from the Word: “Therefore, get your minds ready for action by being fully sober, and set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:13 NET Bible)