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What to Do When You’re Down - By Tad Lusk, LPC

What to Do When You’re Down - By Tad Lusk, LPC

Recently, I was struggling. 

I was going through one of those periods when I just felt down. I’m sure you’ve had them too. I felt discouraged, sad, frustrated—even hopeless at times.

There were several factors that contributed to bringing it on. Some were small ‘day to day’ difficulties adding up, and some were of the ‘big-picture existential angst’ variety.

But regardless, it was like coming to a grinding halt, running out of gas, stalling out. I suddenly had no energy or motivation and nothing felt good. It was like having sunglasses on that cast a dark filter on everything.

Fortunately, I’ve been through it many times before, so I knew what I needed to do.

I reached out. I swallowed my pride and let people know I was having a hard time. And I was amazed at the response. So many people outpoured their unconditional love and support and offered to talk or spend time with me. It reminded me that I wasn’t alone, and that I didn’t have to struggle through it alone. It also reminded me how many great, caring people I have in my life.

That was enough to get me back on my feet and moving again.

But it also reminded me how universal the experience of being “down” is. Regardless of whether you’ve dealt with clinical depression (as I did in the past—it’s “in remission” now, but I’m still prone to down periods occasionally), or if you’ve simply navigated the ups and downs of life, we’ve all been there.

So I wanted to share some of the most effective ways I’ve found over the years to get through the down periods smoothly and feel better again.

1. Reach Out

This is the most important of all. Depression makes you feel isolated, and can cause you to isolate yourself from others even more. Add to that, many of us are reluctant to reach out because we feel embarrassed, don’t want to “burden” others, but most of all, because it can be vulnerable and uncomfortable to ask for help. (Hint: it actually shows a ton of strength).

Reaching out is so important and so worth it. The more isolated you are, the more you can get stuck in your head and the worse you feel. Additionally, we human beings need connection. We need to know that we are loved, valued and cared about. And even if you don’t think so, I can virtually guarantee there’s at least somebody who loves and cares about you (and probably a lot more people than you think). 

2. Allow Yourself to Feel It

It’s natural to not want to feel difficult emotions like sadness or discouragement. However, emotions are forms of energy that require your attention in order to effectively process them. When you resist, avoid, or numb/bottle emotions, they will continue to surface, calling for your attention more and more.

Instead, acknowledge how you feel. Observe it. Give it a name. Allow it to be there. Rather than immediately trying to ignore the emotions, see if you can notice and feel them, like a passing wave. I find that when I can do this, the emotions often pass and work themselves out in a relatively short time naturally.

3. Rest

If you can, try to slow down and get some rest. It’s okay to let yourself have a down day (or two). Feeling down—including fatigue and decreased motivation—is often a sign that you need rest. Just as nature has seasons and ebbs & flows, your body, mind and spirit go through natural periods of activity and rest—doing and non-doing. Sometimes it helps to be active, but sometimes you just need to listen to your energy and surrender by slowing things down and resting.

4. Turn to Resources That Have Helped in the Past

When you’re really down, it’s normal to lose sight of things. Sometimes all you can see are the problems—what’s not working. But you surely have relied on resources that have helped you feel better before.

It might be prayer, journaling, reading favorite quotes or books, watching a favorite movie, meditation, going to a favorite place, having a delicious meal, being creative like playing or writing music, drawing or expressing yourself in some other way. There could be many things.

What are any resources you’ve turned to before when times get tough that help you feel re-centered, grounded or comforted?

5. Remind Yourself of These Truths:

– This too will pass.

– This won’t last forever.

– I’ve gotten through this before; therefore I can get through it again.

– I’m not alone in this. Lots of people have this experience too. Lots of people care.

…What would you add to the list? What reminders can you give yourself that remind you to keep perspective and keep going?

6. Digital Detox

Try taking a break from electronics, especially social media. If you catch yourself comparing to others’ lives & accomplishments—to the highlight reels that others feature on social media—this will probably only make you feel worse if you’re already down.

Therefore, take a break. Don’t look at social media for a day or two (or three). It will still be there when you’re feeling better. But it’s been proven that social media can compound symptoms of depression. 

7. Get Active

Once you’ve given yourself some rest, it’s time to get active. Getting outside, going to the gym, going for a walk or run—any of these are sure to help you feel a bit better.

This one can be a challenge, because chances are you won’t feel like doing anything when you’re down. But exercise, activity, sunshine, nature, are proven mood boosters. Even light movement releases mood-boosting endorphins, and getting out of the house will help shake things up and get a bit of fresh perspective. You might feel a sense of accomplishment knowing you did something good for yourself. Even just going out to a coffee shop will help, because you’ll be out of your home, around other people, and doing something.

Remember that emotions are energy in motion (e—motion) and that energy needs to be expressed—it needs to move out of you. So express it. Talk about it. Write about it. Sing about it. Get it out. Let people know.

When you give voice to what you’re feeling, you shine a light on it, and in the light of awareness, the darkness gradually disappears. When that happens, it takes away the isolation, fear, or seeming “bigness” of whatever you’re dealing with. It becomes more manageable.

Finally, remind yourself that you’re not in this alone! I can attest to that. There are people that care about you who would be happy to talk, listen, or support you. And things will get better in time. Be patient with yourself.

What works for you when you’re feeling down? What are your go-to ways to get through it and feel better? Comment below so everyone can benefit!  

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