“And some days life is just hard. And some days are just rough. And some days you just gotta cry before you move forward. And all of that is okay.” ~Unknown
I have always struggled with low moods. I guess that considering that I spent close to twenty years of my life inactive and depressed, this could be seen as progress. But that still didn’t feel good enough.
I wanted to feel more balanced, light, and happy, and I wanted to achieve it in natural ways without having to take any kind of medication since that hadn’t worked for me in the past.
So I began to research. I asked around. I read books. I watched videos. I became a psychotherapist.
Most people can’t tell you how you shift out of low or bad moods. Sit with it, they say.
And sure, that is a huge help because, up until that point, I would beat myself up over being in a low mood, which just made things worse.
So ditching that beating-myself-up habit did help a lot.
But here’s how I went further with it.
During my studies and my experiences as a psychotherapist, I realized that everything has a cause. It might look random, but it never is. So there had to be a reason for my low moods. It was time for a lot of self-observation and self-exploration.
Funnily enough, my work with my clients helped me uncover what I was looking for. It is, after all, always so much easier to see it in other people than it is to find it in yourself.
I discovered that my moods were primarily linked to two things.
The first one was needs, or more accurately, unmet needs.
The second one was feelings, unexpressed feelings.
Before my healing journey there was no way for me to change my mood in any way because I wasn’t aware of my needs and all I ever did was suppress and inhibit my feelings.
Both of these things logically result in low moods.
So why didn’t I meet my needs or feel my feelings? These simply weren’t things I had been taught how to do. In fact, suppressing my feelings was encouraged. No, it was demanded.
If I didn’t, I would get punished. I would get hit. And a child learns very quickly how to keep themselves safe, so that’s what I did.
I remember this one time I got bullied really badly. As I walked into the family home, I collapsed on the floor and cried. This was not something I had ever done before. It was a rare occasion. I had a proper breakdown.
My mother looked at me in disgust, stepped over me, and carried on with cleaning the house.
I don’t exactly remember how long I lay there, but it must have been a long time because she repeatedly stepped over me and ignored me in my pain.
So that’s what I learned to do to myself.
Whatever was going on, I ignored it.
I never stopped to ask myself what I needed or how I felt. I didn’t give myself any reassurance or encouragement. I didn’t help myself in any way, so my only go-to point was depression or a low mood.
On the inside, I kept my loudly-screaming needs and feelings locked up in a tiny little jar just waiting to explode. I had to keep my moods low to keep the pressure down. I had to be quiet to make sure I didn’t accidentally unlock the biggest scream the world had ever heard.
Today, I realize that my low moods were symptoms of me ignoring myself, not feeling my feelings, and not meeting my needs.
I didn’t know how to honor my feelings and needs then, but I learned how during my work and healing journey.
When a low mood visits me today, I don’t step over myself. I don’t repeat the patterns of the past. I don’t repeat the lack of kindness and warmth. Instead, I do these four things:
1. I dig deep instead of surrendering to my low mood.
I no longer just leave myself in it. I don’t just tolerate it.
I notice it, stay with it, and love myself too much to not do anything about it.
Instead, I get curious.
2. I accept instead of fighting my low mood.
There’s no point in putting yourself down when you’re already feeling low.
You’re not doing anything wrong when you feel bad.
It’s just a sign that you need to check in with yourself and figure out what’s going on for you so that you can take care of yourself in a healthy and loving way.
So that’s what I do.
3. I ask, “What’s going on for me?”
Sometimes it’s obvious what’s impacting my mood. It could be a bad night’s sleep, an argument, or a cold.
Sometimes it’s harder to figure out what’s going on, but then it’s important that I stay with it and don’t just shrug it off.
In my experience, mood management has a lot to do with emotional self-care.
I ask myself:
- What feelings might I be suppressing?
- In what ways might I be inhibiting or censoring myself?
- Am I staying in the wrong kinds of relationships for me?
- Do I forget to set boundaries?
- Am I not having enough fun or variety?
- Do I need to stretch myself more and grow?
Learning how to meet my needs and feel my feelings were the two most important aspects of my healing journey. So much started to make sense once I knew what to do about my feelings or needs.
My moods weren’t just random anymore. They made sense. And if they didn’t, I knew that I hadn’t found all of the puzzle pieces yet.
4. I have compassion for myself.
It’s wonderful to be a human. It’s also hard.
We have feelings and moods and needs and relationships and dreams and fears and so much else going on.
It’s not simple and it’s not easy.
We have to give ourselves some credit for all the great things that we achieve and do.
But most of all, we have to appreciate who we are and how we are.
We want to improve things. We want to feel better and be better for ourselves and for others. That alone needs to be celebrated!
The not giving up. The striving to grow. The commitment to healing. All of that needs to be acknowledged.
And all of you deserves compassion. Low mood or not.
About Marlena Tillhon
Marlena is a highly experienced psychotherapist and success coach specialising in healing inner trauma and breaking unhealthy patterns that stop her ambitious clients from having the success they know they can have in their lives, relationships, and careers. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook and receive her free training and gifts on her website.