What do you say to yourself when you feel down? Recently I’ve realized that when in a funk, beyond the pain of feeling bad, I feel weighed down by the extra burden I coat it with. That would be thoughts like: Oh, no, not this again! I don’t want to feel depressed! With what other people have to deal with, what do I have to complain about! All of which, of course, makes me feel even worse. If you suffer the blahs from time to time (and let’s be real, who doesn’t), consider these thoughts on bearing the blues:
Where are your blues coming from?
First, a big caveat, if you think you may be clinically depressed, with thoughts of suicide, lack of interest in daily life or other extreme symptoms like these , contact a mental-health professional or your family physician ASAP. Also seek professional help if you’ve been down for a long time, even if you feel like you’re managing okay. It could be a chronic low-grade depression (dysthymia). This form of sadness feels less dramatic than clinical depression but can still seriously impact your quality of life.
As for the garden-variety blues, they can be caused by any number of reasons. Your cat died. You feel like life is passing you by. Your relationship is on the outs. You’re sun-deprived (hasta la vista, February!).
Blues in the middle
Perimenopause and menopause itself can also cause mood swings, thought to be caused by declining estrogen levels. If your low mood feels extreme, you may want to ask your doctor about the pros and cons of hormone-replacement therapy. But considering that this life stage often comes with stressors like career pressure, raising kids, caring for or losing aging parents; there may be more than hormones behind your blues.
Bearing the blues: what to do?
It’s likely you can recite the standard advice on getting out of a funk: Take extra-good care of yourself with sufficient sleep, healthy eating and exercise. Spend time with positive people. Do activities that you enjoy. Get out in the sun (that is if you live in a part of the world that gets it this time of year).
But what I’ve found more helpful is looking at what I say to myself when I’m down. (While this practice is used in cognitive therapy, as I’m not a therapist, the approach I’m writing about here is based on my personal experience.) For example, instead of automatically doing an internal freak-out that I’m bearing the blues; I try to investigate the feeling a bit. While it’s often easy to ID an external factor that’s causing the mood, I usually find it’s layered like an onion. The first layer is my reaction to what’s making me feel bad and the second is usually my resistance to feeling bad.
All of this isn’t to say the depressed feelings then disappear immediately. But it seems that acknowledging them (don’t worry, you don’t have to do so while talking in the mirror Stuart Smalley-style) and then examining if I’m berating myself for having them, helps me feel a little lighter.
So the next time you’re having an off day or month, maybe ask yourself if you’re adding to your misery by bullying yourself for feeling bad. If so, perhaps it’s time to kick that inner mean girl to the curb.
Do you have any techniques that have worked for you in bearing the blues? I’d love if you shared them below.