I hate feeling sad. I’m a guy, so that’s to be expected. Feeling sad sucks. As a guy feeling pretty much anything sucks (feelings… gross). In general, feeling sad can be hard for everyone because it tends to suck away our motivation and desire to do things. It essentially makes us want to slow down. Fortunately, this can also be a good thing. Like all of our emotions, sadness is meant to be a gift that can help us protect ourselves and/or grow. Unlike anger, which energizes us and can give us a surge of strength to do things beyond what we can normally do, sadness makes us slow down and reflect on what’s going on. It makes us re-evaluate the situation and consider what has brought us here, which is very valuable for figuring out how to prevent being there again in the future. I was also once told that tears are our body’s way of bringing new life. Being sad can be a blessing… it can also feel crippling.
What I find frustrating is sometimes I’ll go through a sad period and there’s no real reason for it. I feel depleted of motivation and interest, yet I have no logical reason for this. I know I’m affected by certain times of the year like when we change the clocks in the fall, but that still doesn’t feel like a good enough reason to feel sad. This kind of feeling can make you feel like a wuss and/or a failure. At least if there’s been a death or major life change the sadness would make sense. Last month I went through a low period when I should’ve been great. I love the long days of June, I had healthy habits in place, nothing really terrible happened while a few really good things came together like paying off my mortgage. It could be argued that the excitement of paying off the mortgage was simply followed by the natural low that follows any high, but how depleted I felt was beyond what I should’ve experienced. I was just sad. Ultimately, to be emotionally healthy, I need to accept this is just the way it is without punishing myself and continue doing my healthy habits while reminding myself this will pass. One of the worst things we can do when we feel down is stop doing our healthy habits because… well, they’re healthy, so they help us.
When we feel sad one of the most dangerous things we can be tempted to do is look for one main reason. For instance, as a psychotherapist, I meet people who want to blame their partner for all of their sadness. This sadness can also be blamed on their job or something that happened in their past. Overall, I’m yet to find someone who went through a sad period and changing one thing made the world fully better; it can have an effect, but it’s not everything. When people feel down, I find they become like snipers who pull out their gun with the scope and they look for the single target, but outside of going through grief for a loss or just a weird time like I did, sadness is usually a sign of many things going on. If someone gets divorced, they don’t suddenly become happy. If someone changes jobs or has a vacation, it doesn’t flip everything around to happy land. At best, this will be a short distraction. One of the most popular distractions is a new relationship. When someone falls in love (whether with a person or with a new pet) they might claim they feel better, but that’s not being better as much as it is a high from the excitement of a new relationship. Those sad feelings are still there and ready to resurface when the honeymoon phase is gone.
From my experience here is a list of options for why people feel sad:
- We are going through a loss (i.e. grief). This is like how our body tries to heal a cut or break a bone. The sadness is a natural result from our body trying to heal itself.
- It’s a natural result after having a high whether chemical induced (e.g. cocaine) or from a major accomplishment. For instance, I’m sure there will be plenty of sadness going on among Raptors players and fans after the high of winning the championship just like most Olympic athletes go through a down period after the big event.
- Something is trying to come to the surface that we’ve been burying. If this is the case, we don’t want to obsess about it. If our brain wants us to know it, it’ll let us know, so don’t assume this is case.
- It can be a sign that we’re tired and need to sleep (and/or exercise more, eat better, etc.)
- It can be a seasonal thing.
- For no good reason.
Whether we’re sad for a good reason or not, the way we should handle it is the same: Be patient and kind to ourselves (beating ourselves up never helps) and continue doing healthy habits like having healthy social and alone time, venting to process what’s going on and get out any bottled feelings, (e.g. journal, talk, and/or do something physical), helping others where we can while letting others help us, and fulfill our daily responsibilities like going to work and keeping a clean house. There is no magical cure to get rid of sadness just like there is no magical cure for any emotional issues. It’s basically a simple math formula:
Time + Healthy Habits = Overcoming Sadness
This week may you consider if there are any other healthy habits you should put into your routine to prepare for down periods.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people