Low Mood and Depression
Updated: Jul 29, 2021
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' may prevail. The actual reality, for example, that they are loved and will be missed, is 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.
Seek help if you feel suicidal
The NHS has an emergency helpline on 111 in the UK, or call 999. You could also contact your local emergency mental health team, often known as 'Crisis Teams' in the UK.
The Samaritans are available 24/7 to talk on 116 123 (UK and Republic of Ireland).
You don't have to feel suicidal or in crisis to call the Samaritans. Talking to somebody and can be a welcome relief in itself.
Some of the factors associated with depression
Historic factors can contribute, 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, divorce, or trauma can be major factors. Global issues, such as the climate crisis may also feature.
However, there may not be an identifiable 'source', since clinical depression is an illness in itself.
Finding a way through
As mentioned earlier, getting help and support from crisis teams or emergency medical services may be a first priority if you feel suicidal or unsafe.
If you can, it may be possible to put thoughts into action, such as I can manage another hour, another day; I will get through this, I know it will pass'. Other ways to help yourself through the crisis may be to use coping tools, such as focus on the senses, and notice on what it is that you can see, hear, feel and smell.
It can be really hard, and feel impossible to think optimistically when feeling depressed. A sense of hopelessness about the future, and a distinct lack of motivation are often key factors. Thoughts, beliefs and actions can be triggers for depression, or keeps the engine going. For example, believing you are not good enough may be stopping you from going out and meeting people, leaving you socially isolated. Anxiety may also feature, and it may be reacting with, and maintaining your depression.
Understanding and working on your thinking and behaviour patterns could be one way you can help yourself. You might choose to seek out a therapist to work with you on this, and there are also some excellent self help tools available (see the links below).
Making Small, Incremental Changes
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 yourself take a shower each day, or a short daily walk may be a good starting point - even if it is hard to do. Staying in the present by (for example) paying attention to the flowers and plants on your route might be an experiment to try.
It may feel difficult to do, but even one small undertaking per day can be a huge achievement under the circumstances. After time, you may start to notice improvements in your mood.
Research shows that isolation and a lack of social support can be a huge contributory factor to low mood and depression. However, we are not all fortunate enough to have a good social or support network.
Check out groups, such as Meet Ups (www.meetup.com); or 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. The Samaritans are available 24/7 for you to talk and offload: remember you don't have to be suicidal to call.
Some Other Considerations
Other issues, such as bereavement and loss can leave individuals in a depressed like state. 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.
National Health Service: Information and advice
Information and Self Help from the Centre of Clinical Interventions