I think we all feel down or sad for what seems like no reason from time to time. In this post, I talk about a recent experience I had with this feeling, what I learned from it and how I found that this unexpected low mood can actually be really useful to us if we know what to do.
That Odd Mood...
I’ll be honest, I’m in a bit of a funk writing this. Noticing I was feeling a bit down is what prompted me to begin writing this post, partly as catharsis, but partly as a cure which I’ll come to later. I’m sure you’ve been there, where you are at work or have got home from work and something is just…off. For some reason you aren’t feeling up to anything, perhaps a bit sorry for yourself and just generally dissatisfied.
I’ve been there more times than I can count, especially when I was younger and working in sales for a massive company that didn’t know or care who I was. If you are lucky enough to have not been through an episode like this, allow me to explain what it is like, and if you know what I’m talking about, let me know if I missed anything.
You are probably feeling, well, low. Quiet, not particularly expressive and you find yourself staring into the middle distance. I always find this is accompanied by an odd ‘pressure’ around the front of my head as if the thoughts I haven’t formulated are struggling to get noticed and are knocking on the door of consciousness. It's quite annoying, and they probably aren't very pleasant thoughts either.
What tends to happen then is you drag yourself down a bit further, beating yourself up for feeling this way, or infecting other people around you with your low mood, and generally being a little bit sad. The danger is, this can spiral out of control and ruin your day, evening, week, or longer. (Gallo, J.J. and Rabins, P.V., 1999)
- You might find yourself feeling withdrawn and uncommunicative.
- You might feel like there are a lot of unformed negative thoughts.
- This odd mood can last a few days or longer.
What Is Going On
Why this happens isn’t always clear but I’ve identified the top three things that seem to do it for me:
- I’m unsatisfied with the way I’ve acted recently
- Something has made me doubt myself
- I've discovered a weakness I didn’t know I had
Often this is as a result of something that has happened in the day that brings one of these things into stark contrast. In the end, I think it all comes to the self-doubt, and, by a process of uncovering and downward arrowing, the realization that I wasn’t in a position I wanted to be in, or being a person I wanted to be.
I speak with clients a lot about the idea that we tell ourselves stories. Stories about who we are, how we relate to the world, and who we could be. We usually find ourselves feeling down or low when this ‘story’ has been interrupted in some way, often by something quite small or innocuous.
If we know we have messed up, then we feel bad, but there is an obvious reason for it, we can understand the story. It is when a series of small actions or moments show us the story has been wrong that we feel low, down, and confused as to why this is the case.
- Something that has happened recently is the 'straw that broke the camels back'.
- This relates to a negative self belief or triggers some self doubt.
- We feel that the 'story' we tell about ourselves is wrong.
What We Can Do About It
So what we need to do is a bit of analysis, and start understanding what is going on. Because if we know what part of our ‘story’ is wrong we can either accept it or fix it. Both are infinitely better than the alternative.
I tried that for years and it was not pleasant.
So here’s what I have found to be the best way forward:
- Identify exactly when it was you started feeling down and low. What event was it that set this off. You have to bear in mind this may have started because of a thought process.
- Ask yourself why that thing or thought matters. Lots of things have been ignored before so what does this one thing mean about you?
- Does this mean that the way you have seen yourself is wrong? If it is, how would you like to be instead?
- Make a plan to improve in the deficient area.
This brings me back to the reason I am writing this blog post. I started feeling low because I realized that I am actually quite bad at marketing myself online. Mostly because I despise how the majority of coaches out there use lies and hyperbole to market themselves. But also because it means I have to do some things I am not comfortable with, namely writing blog posts, creating content regularly, and emailing it to people (goodness me how awful).
This meant I started doubting myself as an entrepreneur not because of my skill set as a coach and therapist, but because I lack a basic business skill. I started fearing I’d have to compromise my morals and feelings around marketing, and I couldn’t do that, not again after years of doing it in a sales job.
I knew I wanted to be a competent entrepreneur, but one who didn’t back down on that key critical issue. Then with a bit of thinking, I worked out what steps to take:
- Create a content schedule
- Put out content on a regular basis, and email it out each week to my list
- Focus on what I can control, not what I can’t - if my list grows that’s great, if not that’s also fine
Simple steps but the correct ones. What matters is that I improve this one area, I don’t have to sell my soul to fit in with other coaches or therapists. I just need to promote my own message as best I can. That is the best way to market myself.
The first thing for me to do then becomes very clear. Start writing. Something. Anything. So I began writing this because I know I have been here before and I will be again. And if I have been here before, chances are, so have you.
- We need to use this as an opportunity to learn something.
- Plan the steps needed to take to address the deficiency or issue.
- Start doing something that helps address the problem.
So, summing up, yes this low mood can be awful but we can learn something from it. We just need to accept that we are feeling bad because something is wrong, and we have an opportunity to really figure out the problem. It is great because the situation is usually recent, so we aren't having to remember something from a long time ago. This lets us be really specific when figuring out exactly what it was that set us off.
If you have found this little anecdote and post to be useful then please let me know in the comments or by email. Also please do like and share this on social media, because if it helped you, then it could help another too (and I'll like looking at the share numbers).