Friday, 16 July 2021
We all feel down now and again. We can feel tired or listless or just ‘meh’ about everything. With the effects of the pandemic still around, it’s understandable to feel down at the moment.
Feeling low or feeling down is not pleasant, but it is very common. In fact, it is one of the biggest reasons young people come to Jigsaw.
In this article, you will find:
- What does feeling low mean?
- Why am I feeling low?
- What you can do if you’re feeling low
- Tips on looking after yourself
What does ‘feeling down’ mean?
There’s no set definition for having a low mood. It is different for everybody. It might be feeling a bit crap, fed up or tired. Some people might feel sad or teary, and worry a lot.
When we’re feeling down or are experiencing low mood our motivation to do things drops. Things we normally enjoy like sport or hobbies don’t seem as appealing.
Interest in school, college or work can flat line. Changes in your appetite and sleep patterns are not unusual when feeling down.
Put all these experiences together, and it can be a very uncomfortable and unsettling place.
Am I low or depressed?
We all use different language to talk about our feelings. You have probably heard people say they are ‘depressed’ or ‘have depression’ – but what does that mean?
The word ‘depression’ is used by medical doctors to describe a particular state of low mood with symptoms, for a certain period of time. Things get confusing because the word depression is used very often these days outside of this medical definition.
Whatever language you choose to describe how you’re feeling, it’s good to think about what’s getting you down. Also, what you could do to look after yourself. Then, think about whether you want or need help from others, like a friend, Jigsaw, or a doctor.
Why I am feeling low?
Sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint what’s bothering you. It might be a combination of things that are slightly worrying or draining. So it can be difficult to identify what exactly the problem is. We’re more likely to feel low when stressed too.
There are some things likely to have a negative effect on our mood. See if any of these sound familiar:
- The impact of the pandemic
- Difficult events in your life, or worry about an upcoming one
- Family or friends are going through a hard time and you’re worried about them
- Being bullied now or in the past
- Relationship problems or break ups
- Physical illness
- Using drugs and alcohol in an unhealthy way
- Going through hormonal changes
- A difficult event from the past is back on your mind.
It’s understandable to feel down if any of these things are happening. When we don’t have control over them, we can feel worse. But there are ways to help manage our mood.
What you can do if you’re feeling low
Identify the cause(s)
Try to figure out what’s making you feel low. It might be a few things. In fact, it often tends to be more than one thing that causes low mood.
Make a list of what they are or could be. Sometimes acknowledging that something is actually bothering you can make you feel better. We don’t always have control over aspects of our lives. But accepting that is the first step towards recognising what we can, and cannot, control.
Talk to someone
Speaking about what’s going on for you can help you get perspective. Even saying ‘I know I can’t control this but this is really bothering me’. Sir the feelings you’ve been having and work through some solutions.
Talk to a friend or an adult you trust in school, college or work. Or talk with a member of the Jigsaw team with our 1:1 Live Chats.
Write it out
If you haven’t yet, try writing down how you’re feeling. Sometimes we hold back or censor our words when we talk to other people about what’s going on. Letting it all out on paper can provide a sense of relief, and sometimes a new perspective.
Get pen and paper, or type on phone/computer, and let your fingers do the work. Don’t edit. It’s just for you and not anyone else.
Make time for yourself
Feeling down may be your body’s way of telling you it’s time for a break.
Think about what you did last week. Did you leave any time for yourself, to actually unwind? Or was it full of things you felt you had to do? If we spend all our time fulfilling duties, whether it’s work or studying, we will start to wear out.
In the next week, schedule time to do something you enjoy or find relaxing. Figure out what that means for you. Watch an episode of your favourite TV show, read a book or magazine, take a bath, walk in nature, or spend time with animals (if you can).
Imagine what life might be like if you weren’t feeling down. What would you be doing? Use these activities or states of mind to set some targets for yourself.
The key to realising big goals is smaller, consistent steps every day. You might set a goal of walking 10 minutes a day at first, and over weeks or months building it up to an hour a day.
Work towards setting and achieving SMART goals. These are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
Try not to isolate yourself
Try your best to connect with others, even when you feel like avoiding everyone. Staying in or having time alone can feel like the best thing when you’re down. But doing it repeatedly can make you feel worse. Being social and connecting with others has been proven to boost your mood.
Do more of what you enjoy
What are the things you enjoy that help you switch off? Some people talk about switching off when they get creative. Listen or play the music you love, draw or paint.
Losing yourself in something you enjoy doing helps clear your head and give you a break from routine.
Looking after yourself
It is a frustrating paradox there are some things that will make us feel better but we won’t feel like doing when we feel low.
When you feel low, pushing yourself physically might be the last thing on your mind, but exercise releases endorphins that lift our mood. If you haven’t done a lot of exercise before, start doing something small a couple of times each week. Try jogging or a short brisk walk.
Start with small manageable steps and build it up. If you think the reason you’re feeling low is down to a physical illness, try visit your GP.
It isn’t fun to do but will help your mood. Eating Nutella from a spoon seems like something that’ll cheer us up. But be warned: the sugar rush will be followed by a crash caused by a drop in blood sugar.
Your mood will be right back down after an hour and you’ll feel hungry again. The easiest way to eat healthily is to cook your own meals and try not to eat from a packet.
Get regular, quality sleep
This is essential for mental and physical health. Read more about how to get better sleep.
Avoid or minimise drug and alcohol use
Over the lockdowns, young people may have turned to alcohol as a crutch to get through challenging times. It might seem to help you unwind, but afterward you may feel worse. Read more about the impact of alcohol on mental health here.
Watch your caffeine intake in coffee and energy drinks
Caffeine will make any anxiety and sleep problems worse.
Learning to stop and focus on the present moment can give you a break from analysing past events and worrying about the future. If you haven’t tried mindfulness before, there are a few options.
Take a look at the Headspace app, or some of the many other apps available. Look around for classes near you. There is a range of eight-week MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) programmes now online.