We all have days when we are feeling down. We feel defeated, hopeless, discouraged, or maybe just downright depressed. Sometimes there is a valid reason we can point to, a disappointment or failure or difficult situation. And yet other times we just feel “blah” and we can’t really pinpoint a reason. Maybe it’s just the weather or possibly it’s something bigger.
I’ve written before about what to do when you’re in a funk. That article was geared toward those short time periods where you just have a day or two of feeling a little off. You just need to freshen up your environment and your mood to pull yourself out of it.
In this article though, I want to address the things to do when your “funk” lasts longer than a couple days. Maybe you’re not outright depressed, but you’re certainly going through a dark season and it’s going to take more than a little upbeat music and open windows to get you back to normal.
Note: I am not a doctor. I highly encourage you to go see an actual doctor if you feel like you might actually be depressed. Also, if you are already under the care of a doctor, I’d encourage you to talk with your doctor about these and any other suggestions your doctor might have for you. Your medical doctor or psychologist or counselor is the expert to turn to. The information in this article is meant solely for educational and inspirational purposes. Please see a professional if you need one.
What To Do When You’re Feeling Down
1. Focus on nutrition.
Usually, when we are feeling down in the dumps we tend to crave pasta, bread, and sugary foods. These foods can be really comforting but rarely do they leave us feeling amazing after we’ve eaten them. Grandma’s creamy and delicious casserole generally just makes me want to find the nearest couch for a nap. And ice cream and cookies tend to make my stomach feel bloated and miserable.
The next time you find yourself feeling low, pay careful attention to the foods that you are putting in your mouth. I’m not suggesting that you have to eat perfectly or eat all the foods that you hate, that’s likely to just continue your cycle of feeling bad. However, you should try to prioritize foods that you know make you feel energized and healthy.
Try a bowl full of fresh berries, your favorite salad, or a green smoothie. If you’re looking for something warm and comforting you could try a mug of tea, some bone broth or a healthy soup. Everyone’s taste preferences and comfort foods are different, but I’m sure there is something you like that actually nourishes your body. Eat as much of those types of things as you can.
I want to also point out that if you’re feeling down, you likely should not be counting calories or macros or overly stressing about how much you are eating. Oftentimes these types of “dieting” behaviors can leave us feeling discouraged or negative toward ourselves, which is not helpful during these periods. Instead, just focus on eating as well as you can and pay attention to what things make you feel you the best.
2. Drink your water.
Did you know that dehydration can lead to symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress? Your brain is made out of 85% water. If you are dehydrated, your brain is not able to work at its optimal level. As a result, you feel sluggish, tired, down, anxious, moody, etc.
If you regularly do not drink enough water you could be chronically dehydrated which can lead to a whole host of health problems, along with your blues.
The general rule of thumb is to take your weight (in pounds) and divide that in half and then drink that many ounces of water each day. (For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you would drink 70 ounces of water each day.) For me personally, I tend to do better with more water than that. I aim to drink my weight in ounces. It’s less math for my tired brain and makes sure that I have plenty of water in my system. If you think you may be chronically dehydrated, try to drink your weight in ounces of water for several days and monitor how you feel.
3. Supplement with B and D.
I don’t like to recommend people take massive amounts of supplements for everything on earth. But there are a few vitamins and supplements that just about everyone should take, especially if you are feeling like your body and mind are not operating at their best.
One of the supplements to consider when you’re feeling blue is a complex B vitamin supplement. B vitamins provide a number of health benefits and are very important for a variety of processes in our bodies. They also tend to help you feel more energetic and focused. Deficiencies in some B vitamins have been linked to depression and anxiety. There are several B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, and more), so by taking a complex B vitamin supplement, you are able to make sure you are “filling up” on several of these important vitamins in one supplement. I take this B complex supplement (although I get it from my Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner for a much better price than on Amazon), but this brand would also be a good option.
Another supplement that can help when you’re feeling low is vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. There’s a good chance that if you’re feeling down, you probably haven’t spent a whole lot of time basking out in the sunshine recently, so a good dose of vitamin D can do you some good. Definitely go outside if you can (more on that in a minute), but it might also be wise to take a vitamin D supplement.
The further away you live from the equator the more important it is for you to consider taking a vitamin D supplement, especially during the dark and cold months of winter when getting sufficient vitamin D from the sun is next to impossible.
(Side note: One of my favorite websites when researching supplements to take is LabDoor. They independently test a wide variety of supplements for safety and efficacy to help you find the best supplements for your situation. They do not have every supplement tested, but they are regularly testing and adding new ones, so that is always where I start my research.)
4. Get outside.
I know, I know. When you’re feeling down and sad, often, the last thing you want to do is go outside. In the winter, it’s cold and dreary and miserable. And in the summer it’s bright and hot and miserable. But dress appropriately for whatever weather you’ve got and get your bottom out the door.
Your best bet is to do something active. Go for a walk, dig in your garden, explore a nearby park, or just play with your kids. However, if all of that sounds like too much work, then pull up a chair and just sit. Listen, notice, and pay attention to the beautiful creation surrounding you. Make it your aim to notice all of the good and beauty you can find. Take deep breaths of the fresh air. Feel the sun (or the rain or snow) on your skin. Trust me, in my 1000+ days of daily runs I’ve come to learn that there is always something outside to notice and enjoy.
I hinted at this in the previous section, but now I really want to drive this one home. The very last thing you might want to do when you’re feeling down and depressed is to exercise. Curling up in a ball under your warm blankets in your dark bedroom and taking a long nap sounds like a much more pleasant use of your time.
However, no matter how tired you feel, I promise, a little exercise will do you good. I’m not suggesting you run a marathon or join a CrossFit gym. I’m just encouraging you to intentionally move your body in whatever way feels good to you. Maybe you just turn on some loud music and have a dance party in your living room, maybe you go for a long hike in the woods, or maybe you just turn on some soft music and do some yoga stretches. It really doesn’t matter what you do, just that you do it.
6. Do things you enjoy.
The ridiculous thing about “the blues” and depression, in general, is that it makes you lose the desire to do the things that normally bring you joy. By avoiding things you enjoy you just feed the cycle of sadness and despair. The only way out is to break the cycle.
Force yourself to do something that you actually like to do. It won’t feel good at first. You might be grumbly, irritable, and uncomfortable initially, but just keep at it until the joy outweighs the discomfort.
I tend to get “the blues” in the winter. I hate cold and snow and dark and “permacloud”. The very last thing I want to do is go outside. But I’ve discovered that if I force myself to bundle up and go outside with my running shoes on I always come back feeling better.
An important thing to note here, if “watching TV” or “scrolling on social media'” is your go-to activity when I tell you to do something you enjoy, please pick something else. Both of these activities are very likely to keep you feeling down. Find a hobby that involves a little more effort and/or creativity.
7. Diffuse some essential oils.
You know how the smell of a fresh bouquet of flowers can bring a smile to your face? Or the smell of a fresh apple pie can make you feel all warm and cozy inside?
Scents have a serious power to affect the way that we feel. Our nose detects scents which then sends triggers to our brain that activate our limbic system. The limbic system is the part of the brain that deals with emotions, memories, and arousal. This means that when we smell good things it can cause our brain to feel good feelings.
You can literally just open up a bottle of your favorite essential oil, hold it under your nose and start sniffing, but a slightly more efficient option would be to diffuse the oils so you can go about your day without an oily bottle in your hand. I have two of these diffusers in my house and they are affordable and have worked great for years. I also have these diffuser clips for my car so that I can have my smelly goodness while I drive.
My favorite oils to use are from Plant Therapy. They are safe, effective, and much more affordable than a lot of other brands out there. I love that they take oil safety very seriously and provide a lot of education on their blog about truly safe uses for oils. They also have a KidSafe line of oils to help you ensure that the oils you are using around your kids are safe for their small bodies. (If you are used to the blends from Young Living or DoTerra and want to find the comparable Plant Therapy version you can use this handy chart.)
Here are some great options to diffuse when you’re feeling low:
- Blues Buster Synergy Blend (similar to Release and Console from other brands)
- Self Esteem Synergy Blend (similar to Envision, Acceptance, Balance and Motivate)
- Worry-Free Synergy Blend (similar to Stress Away and Serenity)
- Tension Relief Synergy Blend – this is one of my favorites! (similar to AromaTouch and PastTense)
- Energy Synergy Blend – another of my favorites (similar to En-R-Gee and Elevation)
- Roman Chamomile
8. Get enough sleep.
Oftentimes when you’re feeling down it is easy to get plenty of sleep. All you want to do is sleep. However, some people swing the opposite way. In an effort to “fix themselves” and their situation they work that much harder and try to do all of the things at the expense of their own rest. If this is where you find yourself, go to bed. Take a nap. Grab a rest day. I promise that things will look brighter once you’ve caught up on sleep.
If you struggle with being able to sleep, this might be a good time to talk with your doctor or therapist. You can also try taking a magnesium supplement to help you get more restful sleep. I keep a bottle of these magnesium capsules in the drawer of my nightstand.
9. Declutter your surroundings.
We often don’t realize how much our environment affects our mood until we make a change and realize how much better we feel. Even if it’s not Spring, it might be time to do a little Spring cleaning and decluttering to clear up the space around you. My post on getting out of a funk has several tips for the areas you might want to focus on the most.
10. Socialize and talk it out.
I know, a lot of these tips are really hard to implement when you’re feeling bad. These are the things that are the exact opposite of what you feel like doing. But we were created for community and relationship. Isolating yourself when you need people the most is not the greatest idea.
Whether you decide to talk to your therapist, your spouse, your best friend, or your mother doesn’t really matter. But find someone to talk to. Surround yourself with people and force yourself to interact, even if it’s just in a small way at first. Every small step adds up to lead you on the path to brighter days.
Today’s Action Step
If you’ve got a case of the blues right now, I encourage you to take one small step to finding a brighter path. It will be uncomfortable and not what you feel like doing, but do it anyways. Choose one of the above suggestions and just try it out for a while. And please, if you feel like you need more help than you can personally muster right now, seek out the help of a professional. There is no shame in getting help, only hope to be found.