Most of us will go through times of low mood at some point in our lives. Perhaps sparked by stressful life events – redundancy, grief, lack of sleep, pregnancy, loss, illness, or perhaps for no obvious reason, we just find ourselves stuck in a rut.
It’s when this period of low mood goes on for a few weeks or more that it might be worth taking a PHQ9 depression test and speaking to your GP. But often there are certain factors we can influence and by implementing tiny changes, we can help break the cycle of negativity and pull ourselves out of the pit of doom.
If you find yourself caught in a trap, with a continually low mood try this CBT approach and carry out the five key areas assessment, to see what factors are in your control. The five areas are:
- PEOPLE AND EVENTS AROUND YOU
- THINKING PATTERNS
- ALTERED FEELINGS
- PHYSICAL FEELINGS AND SENSATIONS
- ALTERED BEHAVIOUR AND ACTIVITY LEVELS
Assessing your life in this way can help you see the impact of low mood and depression on different aspects of your life and understand how it creates a vicious circle that can keep you feeling bad. Looking at the relationships between the different areas, you can find small practical things you can do that will have an impact on your mood and help to break the negative circle.
1. PEOPLE AND EVENTS AROUND YOU
What’s going on in your life that could be affecting your low mood? What events have taken place? What’s causing pressure? What’s the state of your close relationships and support network? And what impact do these things have on your thoughts?
2. THINKING PATTERNS
What unhelpful things do you say to yourself? Are you self-critical, do you berate and judge yourself because of what’s going on? Do you tell yourself you ‘should be doing more’, or ‘should be able to deal with things better’? Do you read others minds and fortune tell? Do you blame yourself for things that aren’t really your fault and play the victim? These are all negative thinking traps and a common sign of low mood and depression. Dwelling on these often untruthful thoughts, makes us feel worse.
3. ALTERED FEELINGS
Have you ever noticed that what you think, can impact your mood? When your mind is full of negative, self-critical thoughts, you feel worse emotionally. Because of the spiralling negative thinking traps, you feel down, guilty, fed up, angry and stressed and one of the key symptoms of low mood – life stops feeling enjoyable. These feelings can also affect us physically.
4. PHYSICAL FEELINGS AND SENSATIONS
Low mood can be physically exhausting. It can have an impact on appetite and make you lose weight. Other physical symptoms also include headaches, feeling sick and run down, feeling achy and lethargic, loss of sex drive, a churning stomach and palpitations. All of these things including thinking patterns, altered feelings and physical symptoms add up and affect your behaviour and activity levels.
5. BEHAVIOUR AND ACTIVITY LEVELS
The worse you feel, the less you do and the less you do, the worse you feel. Perhaps you’re staying inside for much of the day, avoiding social situations and snapping at people, no longer cooking meals or taking phone calls from friends. Other common unhelpful behaviours include drinking too much, over sleeping, comfort eating and putting important things off, which can all worsen how you feel.
The good news is this vicious circle can spin both ways, so by making a positive change in one area, can impact the others too. Perhaps a small first step might be saying yes to an invitation from a friend or answering a phone call from a family member. In turn this could boost your mood and leave you with slightly more optimistic thoughts. You could also cook a nutritious meal, clean the house or go for a long walk in the park. Bit by bit, these small and achievable activities can get you going again. Give you a sense of achievement and pleasure or connection to others.