Dr. Gary G. Taylor
What If I Get Depressed on My Mission?
If you don’t have down moods and get depressed at times on your mission, you are an exception to the rule. Along with everyone else in this world, most missionaries experience temporary periods of depressed mood. Following are ten suggestions that can help prevent and/or resolve negative moods.
1. Start by deciding not to be overly concerned when you are depressed. When you worry about being depressed, it will often make the depression worse. As suggested above, some level of depression is normal whether you are serving a mission or living your life in any other context.
2. It helps to be busy. Even when you don’t feel like working, and even when you are not able to function at your best, it’s helps to keep active. Many who are depressed will just want to pull the covers over their head and sleep. Of course, sleep is helpful and necessary, but not to excess; and not at the expense of normal daily activity. Along with staying involved in daily activities, make sure you get as much physical exercise as you can. Exercise is one of the best things you can do to elevate your mood.
3. Too much time thinking about yourself will contribute to depression. This is true even when your thoughts are directed at trying to overcome your depressed feelings. Instead, focus on what others might be feeling and what you can do to serve them. Focus on learning the gospel and sharing it with others. Focus on the positives in the world around you.
4. Listen for self-critical or other negative thoughts that come into your mind. Stop them when you hear them. Do this by saying “stop!” to yourself and then redirecting your thoughts to something else. Don’t try to talk yourself out of a negative thought; just stop thinking about the subject altogether. Before you get good at it, you will typically need to do this repeatedly, even every few minutes at first, over time. Keep at it, even if it doesn’t seem to help right away.
5. Most missionaries have learned how to combat immoral thoughts. Treat general negative thoughts in the same way. After all, general negative thinking can be equally unvirtuous.
6. Make certain that your expectations are realistic. You don’t have to be perfect. Your mission doesn’t have to be perfect. Just keep trying to do the best you can.
7. Plan something to look forward to each day. When depressed, you probably can’t think of anything that you look forward to; but at least, plan things that you would ordinarily find pleasurable. This can be something simple, like interacting with someone you enjoy, eating something you like; or taking a break in a place you enjoy.
8. Focus on gratitude. At the end of each day, list at least three things for which you are grateful. There is a positive side to everything, including the most difficult aspects of your mission and your life. Try hard to find and emphasize those positives.
9. Get a priesthood blessing and call on God’s help to think and act more positively. This is different than asking for help to feel better. Remember that no matter how much you pray, or how much faith you have, if you continue to think depressing thoughts, you will be depressed.
10. If a depressed mood persists even after an extended and valiant effort to lighten your mood, talk to your Mission President about getting help. Help is available, including talking with a professional counselor and receiving medication when needed.