We all have down days, don’t we? Days when the weather depresses your spirits, when maybe you are missing someone, a son or daughter say, who is off doing their own thing or you just feel under the weather and irritable for no discernible reason. You are just not feeling yourself.
You try to manage it. You tell yourself to pull yourself together, appreciate all that you have, be in the moment. Maybe you throw yourself into activity for the benefit of others (a flurry of cake baking perhaps or cleaning out the garage or snuggling up to your other half (though you are not at all in snuggling mood) browsing the internet for your next holiday.
Sometimes this is all it takes. Your mood lifts. It passes as quickly and easily as it descended.
Noticing your natural ebb and flow of moods is useful. It builds your self-confidence: you know that those down days don’t last forever. There’s no need to panic. The next time you feel blue you remind yourself that it will pass. And sure enough it does.
But what if it doesn’t?
What happens when, however hard you try, your low mood persists and maybe even deepens. It hangs around for several days at a time. The days when you feel upbeat and optimistic and sure of yourself occur less and less often. You start to dread those mornings when you wake up and there it is, already hanging over you.
You maybe react with feelings of panic. What on earth is happening to me? Why aren’t I happy?
Or you may try to push it away, using all your willpower and energy to drive you through the day.
A blue day now and then is normal. Hormones, moving house, new baby, empty nesting, career change… these are all natural times to experience up and down days. You also know your own patterns. Is it normal for you to regularly feel low at certain times of the week, month, year? How long does it usually take for you to re-balance?
How do you know when your blue day is turning into something more than a natural low?
Try this simple test. Track your energy levels over two typical weeks. At the end of each day, rate your energy balance. The energy I mean here is not exclusively physical. You may have sat at your lap top all day and still feel that you have used huge amounts of emotional and psychological energy just getting through the day. Or you may have attended an event that normally would re-charge your batteries but instead has depleted them. I’m talking about the sum total of physical, emotional and psychological energy.
At the end of each day ask yourself: Holistically, have I used up more energy than I have gained today?
Record the answer for each day with a minus for energy deficit and a plus for energy gain.
At the end of two weeks, review your score. If you have more than 50% energy deficient days then this is a sure sign that this is not a time to just get on with it.
So what do you do instead?
Firstly, you have to create some time and space to explore what’s going on. That may feel a bit scary, especially if in the past you have prided yourself on your get on with it pragmatism, but there are ways of dealing with that feeling.
A journal is a good place to start. This way you are completely in control of the pace and timing of your exploration. Get a notebook and just write (or draw) every day if you can. Write whatever comes into your head. This is not for publication. It’s just for you to so don’t censor yourself or worry about grammar. Record how you feel, what you think, maybe dreams that seem significant, conversations that left a impression, what you did that day, what you didn’t do… anything that comes to mind.
You may also want to book a medical check-up too as if your down days are at risk of turning into depression, early intervention is very important.
Don’t worry if the things you record in your journal all seem very confusing and you don’t feel you are getting anywhere. This is only the first step (but a very important step). It’s too early to look for solutions so don’t strive to create them yet.
Finally, facing up to “stuff” takes courage (don’t I know it!) but ultimately will get you back on track again. But you don’t need to do it alone. I’ll be exploring this topic in more depth in our newsletter so if you’d like someone alongside you in this process, be sure to sign up here.