Low Mood And Depression
I sometimes wake up in the morning and my head feels heavy, as if something physical is holding me down, impacting on my mood and my ability to function. It leaves me feeling lethargic; I feel extremely low and everything feels like a huge effort. But I know that this is likely to pass relatively quickly, and I am guessing that, for me, it is a hormonal fluctuation. But for people suffering from clinical depression it might start to feel like such a state of being will never end.
Being depressed often leaves individuals with very little energy or motivation. Other symptoms include eating too much or too little, sleep patterns being out of sync (sleeping a lot or very little), feeling tired all the time and a lack of concentration. Cognitive or thinking processes are often impaired, as if one's mind becomes much narrower in its ability to reason. This is often described as 'tunnel vision'. The sense that life is quite hopeless is common for depressed individuals. Thoughts, such as 'I am a failure, life is so pointless, I am a huge burden on my family' and other thoughts may prevail. The actual reality, for example, that I am loved and I will be missed, are often absent. People might consider that suicide is the only option for them.
The NHS points out that clinical depression does not pass within a few days or weeks, but leaves one feeling sad, persistently, for a period of 2 weeks or more.
If you feel suicidal, call the Emergency NHS help line on 111 (UK). The Samaritans are also available 24/7 to talk on 116 123 (UK and Republic of Ireland).
You don't have to feel suicidal to call the Samaritans, and often, talking to somebody and 'letting it out' can be a welcome relief.
Links to external sites for further information are available at the foot of this page.
Historic factors can also influence our current mood, such as excessive criticism or abuse in our past; or a key loss such as a bereavement or abandonment that still impacts acutely.
Huge and major life events such as losing a home, trauma, or being caught up in war can be major factors. Global issues that generate helplessness may also feature.
Thinking And Behaviour
What we think and what we do can impact on how we feel. Understanding and changing this can be helpful to our mood.
For example, thinking 'I am not good enough' might prevent you from carrying out an important assignment, or continually checking it over again and again until it is just 'perfect' - an impossible task! Perhaps you put off getting involved in social activity because you think you will be boring, or nobody will want to bother talking to you.
Task: Take some time to consider any situation that impacted on your mood. Can you remember your thoughts or actions? What may have changed in your thinking or behaviour that helped you to feel better?
Understanding and working on altering unhelpful thinking and behaviour patterns using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is one way to help ourselves. You might choose to seek out a therapist, and there are also some excellent self help tools available (see the links below). I have also written a page on 'Self Therapy' that may be helpful.
Making Small, Incremental Changes
When depressed or low in mood, people often disengage from activities they previously enjoyed. Identifying, and gradually implementing these pursuits again can be beneficial to improving mood. Small, incremental changes, such as making oneself take a shower each day, or a short daily walk may be a good starting point. It may feel difficult to do, but if possible, try to identify some of the things that gave you joy in the past, and gradually incorporate it into your day.
Research shows that isolation and a lack of social support can be a huge contributory factor to low mood and depression, and the availability of supportive friends and family helps tremendously. However, not all of us are fortunate enough to have a good supportive network. The Samaritans are available 24/7 for you to talk and offload. Check out groups, such as Meet Ups (www.meetup.com) and the Ramblers where you can meet people and socialise with. They operate in most areas of the UK and are usually friendly and welcoming of new people.
Some Other Considerations
Life events, such as bereavement and loss can leave individuals in a depressed like state, and my page on this site provides more information. The NHS website also provides advice about other conditions, such as Bipolar Disorder and Post-Natal Depression, which would be assessed and diagnosed by a medical doctor.
Links: Some helpful advice and good self-help tools are featured in the links below.