Eight Things to Do When You Are Feeling Blue

Young Girl on Bridge Feeling Blue

Have you ever had those times in your life when you were overcome with extreme thinking? You know, when it seemed like everything was going wrong and nothing was going well? That’s been my struggle for the past couple of weeks.

The reality is that things are fine. And not fine in the I’m just saying fine because I don’t want to talk about it way. But really ok. Sure, I’m busy. And of course, I have more to do than could ever get done. But life is actually really going well. How’s that for a well written sentence?

Then, why am I struggling with feeling so down and what can I do to cheer up? I talk to clients about this very issue all. the. time. And yet, I often have to have a session with myself to really make a difference in my own mood. Let me share some ways I conquer the blues.

The first step is to recognize that what you are experiencing is extreme or fatalistic thinking. Ask yourself, “is it really true that nothing is going well/everything is going wrong”? It’s true that very bad things happen and tragedies strike and surviving those things deserves another post. But, most of the time it’s the little things that pile up and feel overwhelming to our everyday lives.

The best way to refute this thinking is to recognize the good things that are happening in our lives. Make a list of what you are grateful for. Start small and you will see how the list grows. When we feel overwhelmed, our brain can go into fight/flight/freeze mode which results in the primal instinct to protect ourselves. And usually in non-productive, lonely ways. What we need to do is reactivate our frontal lobe so we can begin to think clearly again. Sometimes just forcing ourself to focus on a list of gratitudes will do just that.

Now, ask yourself what is going on to cause you to think so tragically? When I was a little girl, my mother used to say, “Erin, you are overtired. It’s time to go to bed/take a nap.” I always hated that. And as a child, I didn’t really believe her. However, when I was in my 20’s I was visiting my mom and must have been having a particularly emotional time. I remember her saying, “Baby, I think you are overtired. Why don’t you take a little nap. I’m sure you will feel better when you wake up.” And I did. That was the first time I recognized what sleep deprivation does to me.

When you find yourself struggling with feeling like the sky is falling, think about what is happening in your life that feels so overwhelming. Are you anxious? Sad? Tired? Under pressure at work? What about hungry? Could your hormones be out of whack? Do you feel a cold coming on? Maybe it’s the gray, gloomy weather that’s been plaguing you for weeks on end? Spend some time getting to the root of the matter. Your thinking is a response to something deeper happening in your life.

Once you have recognized that your thinking is extreme and not reality and, then, identified what is causing that sense of overwhelming, you are ready to climb out of the pit. Here are some ways to start the journey.

1. Listen to your favorite music. When I was in college, I found an instrumental cd (yes, those did exist back then) that I found to be very soothing. It became my go-to for relaxation. So much so, that my roommate and, now my sisters, know that if the Comfort cd is on, tread lightly. The magical part is how quickly the world turns right side up when the music starts. As David tells us in the Psalms, music is a balm to the soul. So, whether you need a calm and peaceful interlude or something that pumps you up and energizes you, play the tunes!

2. Phone a friend. You don’t have to be a millionaire to know how much a friend is worth. The new social technologies that are designed to keep us more connected often do just the opposite. When was the last time you picked up the phone, dialed and actually spoke to your friend? Are you continuously reminded, like I am, of how wonderful the experience is and marvel at why you don’t do it more often? When you feel down, call someone you know loves you. Share your struggles and invite them to do the same. This is where real connection happens. And so much of our blue moods are connected to feeling lonely in our big world.

3. Take a little nap. More and more research is proving how sleep, and it’s lack, affects our bodies and brains. Power naps of 20-40 minutes are often all we need to feel recharged and ready to tackle the tough stuff. That being said, its also important that we get enough sleep at night. Gone is the myth that adults can survive on less sleep. What’s true is that adults need 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night in order to function as we are designed. Experts recommend having a consistent sleeping and waking time so that our bodies are optimally regulated. It’s all about those circadian rhythms, you know.

AND when we are in the REM stage of sleep, our brains take everything we have learned and experienced that day and move it from short term to long term memory. Without enough REM cycles, we aren’t able to remember most of what we do and see long term. Remember what a struggle college was? Too bad we didn’t know most of this then!

Crying Child4. Have a good cry.

“Crying is good. It lets the boo-hoos out.”                                                   ~ Sandy the male nanny, FRIENDS

There’s something magical about crying. The Lord gave us tears so that we could express those overwhelming emotions, as well as, to show our compassion for others. Having a good cry does a body good. So, take a hot shower and cry away. Or lean on the shoulder of a friend who knows how to simply sit and weather the storm with you. Then, take some deep breaths and see if things look brighter.

There will be times in our lives when we can’t seem to stop crying. This is an indication of something deeper and a need to rally the troops. Finding a good counselor who can help you discover the deep pain that is oozing out of every pore will be a saving grace.

Laughing Child5. Laugh! Laughing produces all those feel good chemicals in our bodies we call endorphins. And when we are sad, sometimes we just need a good laugh. If you know me, you know that half of the sentences that come out of my mouth were stolen from FRIENDS. It’s my favorite show. I play it in the background of my life, for company. And when I’m feeling down, I put on an episode. It makes me laugh. And it encourages me. As I watch THE friends love and support each other, I am reminded of people who do that for me. And I learn how to do it for others. Another show I love is The Big Bang Theory. It’s hysterical. And all about community.

“If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.” ~ Mark Twain

So, go find a funny show, or You Tube channel, or crazy friend and spend some time laughing. It really does turn a frown upside down! LOL! Check out this article for more information on the amazing benefits of laughing, http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm

6. Pray. As a Christian, I believe two things about prayer and how it relates to the overwhelming times in our lives. The first is that the Lord promises to never leave us. “As I was with Moses, I will never leave you or forsake you.” Joshua 1:5 He is always there for those who believe in and call on Him. Especially when things are hard. Even if I can’t sense His presence, I cling to this promise. And it brings me peace.

But the second thing I believe about prayer is the power it has over darkness. The scriptures are clear about the reality of spiritual warfare. When we are seeking Him and striving to love others well, so that they may know Him, Satan gets his feathers ruffled. And he comes after us with a vengeance. See, he doesn’t want us to love the Lord or other people. He wants to diminish the army of the Lord. So, he brings doubt and fear and confusion and anxiety and a load of other hard things into our lives to weaken our grasp on the hand of our Heavenly Father.

But the truth is that he has been defeated. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground…” Ephesians 6:12-13 We have the power to send him running when we call on Jesus to intervene on our behalf. And the Holy Spirit brings us the comfort we need in times of trial. These things happen when we pray.

I find the following verse brings me strength and peace when I am at war with the world of my life.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

7. Move your body. When I was teaching a class one summer, I had a new first grader who didn’t speak much English. He came to class one day singing, “I like to move it, move it!” Cracked me up! I had no idea it was from a popular movie, but I’ve never forgotten that. Moving our body has a direct impact on our emotions. It’s all about those amazing endorphins again! Whether we choose to go for a run, do yoga, bounce the ball or dance around, when we move our body we are powering it up against fatigue and despair. The next time you are feeling down, pop in the ear buds, turn on your favorite music and go for a walk around the block. Twenty minutes is enough to recharge you and make you feel ready to move ahead.

8. Don’t eat. What? Lemme ‘splain. This isn’t one of those times to disregard a truly hungry tummy or legitimately low blood sugar. This is to all of those people who, like me, give food power. I eat my feelings. I’ve struggled with it all of my life, I think. And it’s not good. I do it when I’ve bypassed every other step I’ve written in this post. It’s a way to feed the monster. But it never works. So, if this is you, when you are struggling, go back to the top and start at the beginning. We have too many food and body issues in our culture to perpetuate. Let’s agree to get to the deeper issues and use better ways to combat all those icky feelings. Deal?

There are tons of other ways to respond when we feel like we are sliding down into the pit of despair. I’d love to know what the things are that work for you! Who is the encouraging person in your life who listens and loves you well? Is there something on this list you love? Or something you’ve never tried that is intriguing? Am I the only one who forgets to do the good things I know to do when I feel this way?