Whatever you want to call it, feeling down, being in a bad mood, or feeling depressed (I know depression is not the same thing) is a part of life. No-one can be in a good mood or feel happy 100% of the time. We can’t always be #grateful.
So when everything’s just a bit too much, here’s a tried and tested guide to bookmark and come back to:
- Acknowledge how you’re feeling. The first step is to recognise when you are feeling miserable. Common clues include catastrophising over your past or future (“my life has been or will be a total failure”), becoming short-tempered with those around you, and lacking energy to engage with others or in any activity at all (aka you just want to be in bed alone, with Netflix).
- Don’t identify with your feelings and thoughts. The second is to separate yourself from the feelings and thoughts themselves. You are not your mood. You are not your misery. You are simply riding a wave that will pass. This is the essence of mindfulness. Become the observer, the witnesser … instead of participating (getting caught up) in whatever is going on in your emotional world.
- Make a list. If the idea of ‘journaling’ is too much, writing things down in bullet points can go a long way to making you feel better. As an over-thinker, bullet points provide me with a sense of order amongst the chaos of my thoughts. Journaling seems to exacerbate the problem. The list could be of anything, it does not have to be what you are grateful for, an exercise I personally find provoking. Whatever your strategy, simply putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard makes the difference. It gives you a sense of taking control, makes you feel productive and purposeful, whilst literally taking your mind off of whatever internal narrative is getting you down onto the document you create.
- Don’t scroll. This is the worst possible time to scroll through social media. I honestly think scrolling time will be capped by law in the future, its implications on our mental and physical health are increasingly evidenced. This is where step 1 becomes incredibly important: we have to know we are in the wrong state to scroll in order to abstain. Awareness is everything and is the key to scrolling mindfully. You own your iPhone remember, it doesn’t own you.
- Ban making any decisions. This is not the time to quit your job, sign up to an online course which costs a fortune, plot to move countries, or break up with your partner. What movie you’re going to watch and what you’re having for dinner should be your primary preoccupation. Stop trying to solve your life.
- Practice self-compassion. Replace blame with acceptance. Rather than berate yourself for whatever you are feeling and thinking, let yourself off… cut yourself some slack. There’s a flip-side to every coin – you’re likely the best energy in the room at other times.
- Give yourself permission to feel like crap. Do not strive to ‘feel better’, this is where you’re going wrong. Self-help ‘experts’ have been insisting we do the small things to make us feel better, like ‘running a bath’ or ‘lighting a candle’. Whilst I don’t protest doing either of these things, when they are done with the expectation of making us feel better they are bound to fail. Shift your mentality to ‘I must feel better’ to ‘I am going to try and be OK with how I am feeling’.
- Communicate your grump. If you are with a friend or loved one simply telling them upfront “I am in a really crappy mood so I’m sorry if I am not great company but I do want to be around you and I love you” sets a constructive tone for your time together whilst making them feel valued in the anticipation that your behaviour will not. They shouldn’t need you to be in a great mood to want to spend time with you, but setting their expectations is respectful and effective in avoiding conflict.
- Price in your expected mood swings to your future. If you have felt like this before, know that you will feel like this again. Learn to expect it and roll with it. Stop fighting it. It’s just life!
Let me know your thoughts in comments – do any of these work for you? What else do you do when you are feeling low?