Dealing With Sadness – Tips To Cope When You’re Feeling Down
This week my son come and stay with me. It’s been 12 months since I’ve spent a solid block of time with him – we travelled to Europe together exactly this time last year for 3 weeks. I’ve enjoyed 1:1 time with him and being able to get to know him a little more. But as I gave him a hug as he boarded the bus to his dad’s house, the tears welled up in my eyes.
We all get sad from time to time, but when sadness overwhelms you and you can’t seem to see the positive, then you need some strategies to help manage it. In this article, I’m going to share some of the strategies I’m going to use this week to help alleviate any potential downward spiral that I may have.
Dealing with sadness and depression
I’ve had a love-hate or maybe hate-hate relationship with depression for a large part of my life. An inability to focus and rejoice in the good things and in turn gravitate towards the negative aspects of my life has seen this relationship continue.
I know I can see the good and the great things in life. To laugh, to have fun, to focus intensely on other things when I’m doing them such as running or mountain bike riding. But, switching off sadness is something I’ve always had a bit of trouble doing.
We all get sad at things that don’t go as we expect them to, but it is when it continues on for a longer period and to the extent that it affects your ability to enjoy other things in life that you need help to get out of it. While the techniques I’m going to use this week aren’t to be in place of seeing a GP for depression, they are what at this point I feel will help me to get through my sadness without plummeting into a full-on depressive period.
When I look back, exercise has been crucial in my life at helping to get me out of a slump. When I reflect on my significant times of depression, I’ve been in a state where I have not been exercising regularly. Whether it has been through injury and not having the option to exercise, or getting engrossed in work and home life that I haven’t made time to me to get outdoors, regardless, it has affected my mental health.
This week my focus is to make sure I get outdoors each day, even when I don’t feel like it. This is the big one. When you are sad, pretty much you have no enthusiasm for anything. Everything feels like an effort and you just want to stay home, and not do anything. Despite making excuses such as being tired, wanting to sleep more or trying to blame a cold morning on not being able to get outdoors and ride to work, exercise and keeping it plodding along is the key – for me anyway in staying afloat amongst waves of sadness.
This is a relatively new thing that I have started to do. Each day I write down three things that have been good about the day or for which I am grateful. It doesn’t have to be big things, it’s the little things that matter. Having a 15 minute cup of tea to yourself in quiet. Being able to sit outside and do a crossword. Enjoying a walk in the park on a sunny day. Having someone do the washing up for you or take out the garbage. Every person will reflect and rejoice in different things. The key is to find something good each day that you are thankful for.
Focus on me
I’m going to practice self-care. I’m going to do what I want and put myself first rather than run around meeting everyone else’s needs. I’m unsure about where I read this but if you had a dozen eggs, how would you split them up between yourself, your partner and your children. My answer was always to give myself less and give more to the others. But if you are not enriching yourself you can’t enrich others? It’s a bit like putting on that oxygen mask in the aircraft first before putting it on your children. If you aren’t well you can’t help them.
Nourish yourself first and meet your needs.
Get enough rest
Often depression can be magnified by lack of sleep. A double-edged sword. When you are upset you often have an active mind, thinking things through before bed, then having trouble sleeping. Lack of sleep can exacerbate depression. So I’m trying to have regular bedtimes and wake up at the same time each day – yes, even on the weekends so as to keep my body clock and sleep patterns more regular.
Eat well an eat regularly
Eating well and eating regularly is often what slides when I’m feeling low. Not really the eating good food part, I can generally eat well and don’t tend to be an emotional eater. I do however have the opposite and tend to lose my appetite when I’m feeling down. We all know the high you get from eating sugar, that rush, that immediate gratification, but I’m going to try and eat regularly even when I don’t really have an appetite, like now.
I did 12-weeks of NLP coaching with The Judy King last year and during this process, one of my tasks was to answer these questions each day in a journal. I’ve found them to be extremely effective at dealing with all sorts of things so I’m going to try them this week as they are just one of my tools in my toolbox.
They are about answering some questions about your more persistent complaints, concerns or critiques. Once you’ve identified the more persistent ones then you answer the following.
How do you actually do these complaints?
This is about your actions in your behaviour. If it is irritation over something, you are writing as if telling it to someone else how to do it. Ie: To do this concern you need to not laugh at anything, not talk a lot, keep thinking about what you are sad about, give one-word answers when asked a question before you set out to do something you tell yourself you aren’t going to have a good time.
What do you get out of doing this complaint?
What is the payoff for doing it? (proving right/wrong, dominate/avoid domination, justify or invalidate others, win/lose)
ie: I get to lose.
What do you lose from these complaints? What does it cost you?
ie: I end up not enjoying things that I would normally do because I made up my mind to be sad and focus on something. I was time feeling sorry for myself etc.
What does a future look like with these in play?
I’ll not even bother doing things because I know I won’t enjoy them. So I’ll just withdraw from activities I normally would enjoy. I’ll eventually stop doing them altogether and won’t really have anything I do enjoy anymore. I’ll become more upset and depressed and not really be that much fun to be around and people will stop inviting me to places.
What does a future look like when these aren’t in play?
I will let myself acknowledge the concern when it comes up. I will take a moment to feel it. But I won’t let it become my primary focus. I understand I can’t rule out sadness to situations and events altogether and I know that life has its ups and down. But I won’t get to the stage where I am luck-lustre about life and have no motivation. I will get out there and do the things I enjoy doing. I will have ups and downs, but they aren’t going to highs and lows that I can’t climb.
What actions will you now take knowing this?
I’ll head out with a positive mindset that I’m going to have fun and enjoy the outing. I’ll have moments of things making me feel bad but I won’t let it stop me doing things. If I feel sad I’ll write down my thoughts and feelings, then go do something else. I’ll pick an activity I enjoy doing.
Of course, this is a cut down of some things I’d write in response to these questions and everyone has different concerns and critiques that these NLP tasks can be applied to. But it is a set of tools I will use this week and longer if necessary to help combat sadness.
Do you have a different set of tools in your toolbox for managing sadness? Comment below on what works for you.