***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical, legal, or health advice and is not a substitute for mental health services
Understanding the cycle of low mood and its impact on your behaviour
Low mood – which, in some cases may qualify for a diagnosis of depression – can show up in different ways. You may feel lethargic, uninterested, irritable, sad, socially withdrawn and have a range of other symptoms.
Low mood often leads to low motivation. It becomes harder to stay on track with routines, goals, and priorities and you may notice that you become inconsistent with your daily habits that used to came easy to you before you starting having low mood.
The lack of motivation then leads to procrastination. You might start avoiding important tasks as you have less energy and desire to continue doing the very things that are valuable in your everyday life, such as implementing an energizing morning routine, completing major tasks at work or school, spending quality time with your family and friends, or having a relaxing evening routine.
Avoiding these key priorities may lead to self-criticism as you begin blaming yourself for not doing what you say you will do or want to do. You might worry that you are disappointing important people in your life – your partner, your kids, your parents, your friends, etc. This excessive negative self-talk further reinforces your low mood. And the cycle continues.
The cycle might feel never-ending, however, please know that you can get help to break this pattern. Seek out your family doctor and a mental health professional for support. A doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist can formally assess your low mood to determine if you meet the diagnostic criteria for depression and they can provide recommendations to help you manage your symptoms. You can also obtain support from a mental health professional such as a social worker, psychotherapist, or counsellor. If your low mood is so severe that you feel you are at risk of harming yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency room.
The section below contains some tips for how to start tackling your low mood. Please note that these suggestions do not replace the need for seeking mental health support. You can find a professional in your region who is able to provide in-person or virtual therapy, depending on your preference.
5 Strategies for Managing Depression
1. Recognize your strengths
When you feel depressed, it can be hard to see your positive traits as well as your successes. Remind yourself of your good qualities – whether this is something you identify yourself or have heard from other people in your life. And remember what you’ve done well in the past so that your outlook isn’t completely skewed towards a negative mindset.
2. Give yourself permission to take breaks
Taking a break is crucial to reduce overwhelm and stress when you already feel like you aren’t at your best. Build in short breaks into your work/school and personal schedule to give yourself time to relax, unwind, and recuperate. These breaks may stop your mood from depleting further as it may gives you the rejuvenation that you need right now.
3. Make small to-do lists
Overloading yourself with too many tasks is daunting and can further exacerbate the low motivation, procrastination, and avoidance that often are paired with low mood. Do yourself a favour and limit your to-do list to 3 main goals for the day. This allows you to streamline your day while also allowing time for you to get some much-needed rest.
4. Practice self-compassion
Being kind to yourself when you are feeling low is one of the best things you can do to minimize the risk of self-criticism and further deterioration of your mood. Try to focus on the fact that you are trying your best and that what you are doing is enough.
5. Celebrate your wins
While productivity doesn’t define your worth, it may still be helpful to celebrate your wins and successes. Think about what went well today or this week in different life areas – work/school, relationships, hobbies/interests, etc. Write it down if it helps you to get in the habit of identifying the positives. Reference them later when you need a mood boost.
Depression can be a debilitating – but it doesn’t have to be. Learn to identify the symptoms of depression and the cycle of how low mood affects your behaviour. Try to take action to improve your mood by reframing your thoughts and being intentional about how you approach your day. And, perhaps most importantly, reach out to a mental health professional if you need support.
Wishing your well on your mental health journey.
Davina Tiwari MSW, RSW, CSFT
Registered Social Worker and Certified Solution Focused Therapist
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