Feeling low can be hard on everyone, especially you. You may not feel like you have “Major Depression” (a diagnosable depression), but you feel bad – at least intermittently and maybe all of the time. Emotions, particularly ones like sadness, anger, fear, and worry, can come in waves. It can be like being on a beach where one moment you are fine and dry and the next you are soaked in an emotional wave. You may find yourself pulling away from people (withdrawing), getting angry more easily, not wanting to do anything because it just doesn’t feel good (anhedonia), eating less or more, and sleeping more or less or perhaps at times that are not convenient to your responsibilities (e.g. going to bed at 2 am when you have work or child demands in the morning). When really big waves hit, it might even feel like none of this is worth it and being gone wouldn’t be so bad (passive suicidal ideation) – or maybe it feels really bad and you want to die.
If you are considering suicide, please reach out to someone (Call 911 for immediate support or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255).
So, what do you DO? How can you get out of this often dark feeling place? Poems are written about this state and the straps on those boots are not pulling you up right now, so self-help is not as effective as it once was. You might feel like you are a burden to your friends or like you don’t have friends anymore and it can be hard to turn to people. Below are some steps that may help you climb back out of this place:
1. Recognize that your thoughts, feelings, and actions are colored by your mood. If you feel bad, then even good things may not seem as good to you as they would when you were in a good mood and you respond accordingly.
2. Knowing this, look at your thoughts, are they blaming or overly negative? There might be a mismatch with reality and what you are seeing as your reality. In the table below you can see how your thoughts can impact your response to an event.
3. If your thoughts tend towards negative, when you find yourself considering a response to a situation, look for alternative interpretations of the event and see if you could respond differently (an outside perspective, like a therapist can be helpful when this is difficult).
4. Aim to respond to the balanced thought rather than the negative thought. When that doesn’t happen, forgive yourself – remember practice leads to improvement.
5. Look at the being and doing options here. These steps can help with the next part, which are some actions aimed to reduce your minor depression symptoms.
6. Connect with your community, no matter the size.
Once you are armed with these strategies, when those waves of emotion come rolling in, you have a few new tools to help yourself dry off more quickly. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get wet or feel down. These strategies are a metaphorical towel for when those waves happen. If your towel feels like it is frequently overpowered by the waves, consider therapy.
If you are thinking about suicide, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a toll-free number that connects you to a certified crisis center near you. 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255