Sadness can be a very useful emotion but sometimes it can start to work against us. If we feel really sad for longer than a couple of weeks it can become a problem. It can get in the way of us living our lives.
Feeling very sad for a long time can mean that you:
- Lose interest in life and can’t enjoy anything
- Find it harder to make decisions
- Can’t cope with things that you used to
- Feel tired all the time
- Feel restless and easily irritated
- Lose appetite and weight (but some people do the reverse and put on weight)
- Find it difficult to sleep and/or wake up early
- Lose interest in sex
- Feel useless, worthless or unloved
- Avoid other people
- Think about killing yourself
We all respond slightly differently to sadness so you may not have all of the responses listed above. If you’ve felt very sad for a long time you may begin to feel numb rather than sad. Medical doctors and psychiatrists refer to this set of issues and long-term low mood as depression. However, I tend not to use diagnostic terms in Malaysia unless I am specifically asked to. You can read why here.
How to feel better
If you are feeling really low you are unlikely to have much hope that things will change for the better. However, I have worked with numerous people whose mood has shifted from being extremely low to being very positive. There is always hope even if it’s hard to believe that when you’re feeling very down.
Sadness makes us feel as if we do not want to do anything. That’s why the very best way of responding to a low mood is to do something. Don’t be led by the ‘tyranny of mood’ – if you start to do things you’ll find that eventually you will start to feel more motivated. It can be difficult at first because it’s unlikely that you’ll enjoy the activities as much as you used to. You may not even like doing the activities. However, it’s still helpful to do things because it means you have less time to think the negative thoughts that usually accompany a low mood and make you feel a lot worse.
Exercise and a healthy diet can make a big difference to how you feel. Being physically active can lift your mood, reduce stress and anxiety, boost the release of endorphins (your body’s feel-good chemicals) and improve self-esteem. Also, exercising may be a good distraction from negative thoughts, and it can improve social interaction. Research suggests that exercise may be as effective as antidepressants at reducing depression symptoms.
Your low mood may make you want to avoid seeing other people. However, this tends to make you feel more alone. Try to meet people you know – even if you feel that you won’t enjoy it or you believe that they won’t want to see you. If you can’t face talking to them arrange an activity like watching a movie
If you’re feeling low it’s common to have all sorts of negative thoughts about yourself. If you find it difficult to argue against those thoughts on your own it may be helpful to speak to a professional. Feel free to contact me to arrange an appointment.
Any questions or comments?
Did you find this article helpful? If you have any questions on this topic write them in comments section at the bottom of this page and I’ll reply to you as soon as possible. It would also be good to read any comments or opinions you may have.
Most of these resources refer to the diagnostic term for long-term sadness: depression. However, the information in these links should help anyone who has been feeling low for a long period of time.
Advice on low mood from the UK’s National Health Service
The NHS has a good guide which explains depression and some of the ways that people recover. There are also some personal stories that may be helpful.
This site (also by the UK’s NHS) has some advice on how to help yourself out of a low mood.
Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK)
This site gives the psychiatrists point of view about depression and how to deal with it.
Self-help Resources from the Australian Centre For Clinical Excellence
I highly recommend these articles. They explain how you can help yourself using evidence based strategies. The information on ‘Depression’, ‘Perfectionism’ and ‘Self-Compassion’ are particularly useful for people with low mood.