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Don’t let snow drag you down

Extreme weather like we have had the past few days can bring out extremes in emotions.

For most kids, this is a blast. I can remember literally praying for snow, so that we would miss school. Too often in coastal Virginia, my childhood wishes for snow turned into dreary, cold rains.

But sometimes the white stuff came down and stuck, and it was sheer bliss. I can remember the blizzard of March 1-2, 1980. The flakes started Saturday afternoon and dumped about two feet of powder. The timing was perfect — we missed a whole week of school. We built a massive snow hill in my yard and took turns leaping on it and plunging down the other side. We would tie sleds to the backs of trucks and go through the neighborhood. (A bit dangerous, and probably not legal these days, if it ever was.) But you get my point: For kids, this is a joyous thing.

But for many people, extreme winter weather can be depressing or even dangerous. For the less fortunate and homeless, it is downright perilous. Our church is helping some people with shelter during these days, and I know some other churches are, as well. Those of us who have homes have to be very careful about the different kinds of heaters that get brought out in nighttime temperatures this low and the danger of fires.

For many people, though, depression is a bigger issue. In coastal Virginia, it almost never gets this cold, so we don’t experience this phenomenon as much. But in places where it is brutally cold for three or four months, depression rates skyrocket. The bitter, gray days just affect some people in a very negative way, especially if they are already prone to depression.

Maybe you’ve felt a bit down or stir-crazy yourself for the past few days. Here are a few things to think about.

Things that won’t help:

  • Binging on cable news and politics. That’s enough to depress you even if it’s sunny and warm outside. Do you realize that these news networks are manipulating you? They want you to get angry, and they want you to keep turning them on. I have a better suggestion: Turn them off. Watch cable news as little as possible.
  • Binging on social media. Like the news, social media can be helpful at times. But too much of it just dulls the mind and depresses the soul.

Things that will help:

  • Read your Bible. When you give concentrated reading to the Bible, you see and savor the living God. He will speak to you!
  • Read good books: A really good novel or biography or history can absorb you for hours at a time, and we learn as we read.
  • If you have a family, spend time with them. Bring out those board games. Laugh together. Talk to one another. Eat a meal at the table for a change.
  • Watch good movies or quality TV. Here’s the qualification: Does what you are watching lift your soul and inspire you? Does it actually stimulate your mind or dull it?
  • Pray and journal. These days inside give added time for reflection. Sometimes writing our thoughts and prayers helps us connect with God and clarify our thinking.

Don’t waste these cold winter days.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.