Surviving sadness – avoiding depression

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Sad child

Sad.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How do you cope with sadness when your life goes on?

Sadness is a normal part of life. You feel sad sometimes and then the sadness passes and you move on. Sometimes we feel sadness and we get stuck there. The longer you stay stuck the more likely you are to slip down into the quicksand of depression.

So what should you do when that sadness feeling comes lurking around?

1. Let yourself feel what you feel.

It is OK to feel what you feel. Some things are sad. Sometimes we feel sad just because we do. We hear of someone else’s misfortune and it makes us sad. We see something and we feel this feeling. This is called empathy, the ability to understand and experience what others feel. Put yourself in another’s shoes and you will understand some part of their sadness.

Do not try to stop the feeling the second it comes on. It is OK to experience it. Just do not stay there and wallow in the feeling. Understand that this feeling like all other feelings can pass if you permit it.

2. Share with someone else.

In times of trouble, we need to share our sadness with others. We talk about our pain and grief with friends or family. If you have religious faith or a spiritual tradition you will want to seek out those with like beliefs.

When there is no one that you feel comfortable turning to, when there is no one there or when you do not feel comfortable putting your sadness on those close to you there are professionals that can help. Seek them out.

3. Share with yourself – write it out.

Sadness that continues to rattle around in the head magnifies itself. A first step in getting loose from the sadness is to get it out.

Some people find that journaling, writing about their sadness or depression, helps discharge it. Others use drawing or dance to express these sentiments.

4. Turn sadness into motivation.

A sad event in your life can be the tipping point that turns your life around. Lose someone to a drug overdose and you may be motivated to become a counselor.

How might your sadness, pain, and suffering become tools to help you find your purpose in life?

5. Treat yourself to things you like.

Learn those things that make you happy and make it a point to allow yourself those items on the list that are positive.

6. Budget extra sleep time

Not getting enough rest, being over tired, is a way to let sadness and depression overcome you. Get plenty of rest. Make bedtime a regularly scheduled event.

One type of depression (atypical features) results in people who start to stay in bed all the time. They eat more than normal, like a bear ready for winter and then sleep day and night. If you find that you are tired all the time and just do not have the energy to get out of bed and do things, try setting a time for bed and one for getting up. If that still is a problem consider an evaluation by a professional for possible depression.

7. Eat regular meals.

Failure to eat on time, lack of energy can result in sad, tired feelings also. This makes it hard to get back into life after a life event that creates sadness. Take care of yourself and that especially means eating in a healthy way if you want to reduce the impact of sadness on your life and mental health.

8. Invest in laughter.

Laughing can be a powerful antidote for sadness. Watch a sitcom, visit a comedy club, tell jokes, and your sadness fades. Not able to laugh when the rest of the crowd does? That is a sign that your feeling has moved beyond sadness to major depression. Laughter is a great medicine, take some daily if possible,

9. Hang out with positive people.

You become like the people you spend time with. You friends are your future. Hang with the winners if you want to win. Hanging out with downers will pull you down.

10. Take frequent short breaks.

When you are down and sad, things can be overwhelming. Do what you can. Do not give up. Do a little and then take a break. Repeat as needed. Be kind to yourself when times are tough.

11. Exercise.

A little movement can brighten your mood. Walk around the block if that is all you are up to. Exercise is a good prescription for depression and a little can be a preventative when it comes to the progression from sadness to depression.

Try to include some exercise in your regular routine to improve both psychical health and mental health.

12. Change the scenery.

Get out of the house. Take your lunch break away from the office. Do something new on your time off. A change of scenery can create a new perspective on life and on your troubles.

13. Learn to say no.

When sad we tend to give in and go along. This can create feelings of resentment. Learn to set boundaries. Do not let yourself be taken advantage of. Saying no to requests that are beyond your current abilities can reduce your stress and keep your sadness from drowning you.

14. Avoid negative people.

Misery may love company, but it loves miserable company. If you want to get out of the sadness trap seek out positive people. Limit your exposure to naysayers and Negative Nellie’s.

15. Plan for time to yourself.

When you are down, too much commotion and too many people can be overwhelming. Include in your schedule quiet time for yourself.

16. Reconnect with supportive people.

Make sure those people you do contact are supportive. Call an old friend. Attend a self-help meeting even if you do not feel like it. Being around supportive people is good for your recovery and for your future mental health.

What other positive coping skills have you discovered that keeps your sadness from becoming a serious depressive episode?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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What does being sad say about you?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Sad child

Sad.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

What do you tell yourself when you are sad?

Many of us can’t bear to let ourselves be sad. Not because the feeling is so unbearable but because we tell ourselves that if I feel that way there is something wrong with me. That insistence that we should not feel what we feel or that feelings are negative, can keep you from learning the lessons that feeling are trying to teach you.

Those things we tell ourselves to try to avoid feeling what we feel can keep us stuck in those negative feelings a lot longer than if you let yourself feel and then decided what you wanted to do about that feeling.

Do you tell yourself these things when you feel a sad emotion coming on?

1. If I am sad that means I am weak.

Sad or even depressed does not mean week. Feeling sad means you are normal, especially if the sad is for what you see happening to others. Only a psychopath can see a child being harmed and not feel sad. So unless you are aspiring to become a psychopath let yourself feel sad when things happen that should make you sad.

Being sad is not weak, it is realistic. What you need to do is not stay stuck in the sadness but look for ways to be kind and compassionate to those that suffer.

That list of people who you need to be kind to – your name should be up at the top of the list of people deserving kindness.

2. Do you think being sad is pitiful?

Pity is a looking down on others emotion. Why are you looking down at yourself?

Be compassionate with yourself. Beating yourself up or telling yourself not to feel what you feel will undermine your ability to use feelings as a reliable guide to life events. It is not pitiful to be you.

3. If I let myself be sad I am a basket case.

It is not people who feel that end up in emotional trouble. People who try to hold things in eventually melt down or they become dead inside.

Some feelings have to be felt before you can move on. If someone dies feel the grief. Be sad when sad things happen.

Do not let sad or your efforts to not feel sad take over your life.

4. Being sad makes me inferior.

Being sad is a normal human emotion. Everyone can and does feel sad some of the time. What matters is what you do with that feeling. Do you get sad when you should and then let it pass or do you get stuck there?

You do not need to be less feeling and more numb than others to think of yourself as acceptable.

It is not the feeling sad that defines you, it is what you do with that emotion once it has visited you.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

How many feelings do you feel? The feelings problem

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Man with feelings

Managing feelings.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do you let yourself feel too much or too little?

Two types of feelings problems cause people distress.

Some people feel too much. Excesses of fear and sadness keep them from having the happy life they want. Other people have an insatiable appetite for pleasure. They overindulge, damage their relationships and suffer the consequences. They act impulsively and then regret the result but they tell me they can’t stop themselves even when they try.

Other people tell me they can’t feel anything. They are numb, cut off from their emotions. They don’t know what they feel even when they are feeling it. The numbness robs them of the chance for happiness.

How many feelings are there?

The list of feeling words is immense. Psychologists have looked for ways to make this understandable and have constructed shorter lists of primary feelings. These lists typically include 7 to 11 basic feelings.

1. Joy

2. Interest

3. Surprise

4. Fear (anxiety)

5. Anger

6. Sadness

7. Disgust

All of these feelings have survival value at times. Joy and interest might stimulate us to find and eat food. Fear could help us avoid a man-eating animal. Not everyone experiences these feeling in the same way. We could lump the emotions of fear, anxiety, nervousness, scared or uncomfortable together. Experience has shown me that teenagers will deny feeling any fear but may have a sizable list of things that make them nervous or uncomfortable.

Individual variation

Not everyone experiences the same event by feeling the same emotion. One person may see a tornado and experience fear, another sadness and a third may experience interest and becomes a storm chaser. Past experience, beliefs about the event and genetics may all play a role in how we perceive an event.

Negative and Positive Emotions

It may be easier at times to think of feelings as either negative or positive. The seven feelings could be separated into positive and negative lists. Hundreds of other feeling words might be added to the lists as variations or shades of these feelings. We could also use certain words to describe combinations of feelings or the co-occurrence for two feelings at the same time.

Joy, Interest, and Surprise are frequently seen as positive, though too much interest in certain things gets diagnosed as a mental illness if it interferes with your life. Fear or anxiety, anger, sadness and disgust would form the core negative feelings. Research clearly indicates that while positive feelings are relatives and negative feelings come from the same family there are perceived differences between the feelings on each list.

The gender gap

Men in counseling often report having only three feelings, good, bad or pissed-off. Women often have a very differentiated feelings pallet. Men say Red, Yellow, or Blue, maybe purple. Women talk about things being Wisteria, Fuchsia, Lilac, Plum and so on. Women typically have more feeling words and they understand the labels differently than most men.

Sometimes this feelings situation is reversed and the woman may report mostly being “numb” or disconnected while the man wants her to be able to express more of her feelings.

We learn our feelings from others

There was a time when expressing feeling was not appropriate. People were expected to be gigantic mechanical creatures who never expressed anything. To have feelings was to give in to the flesh. So some generations grew up unable to express how they feel and experiencing regret if feelings ever leaked out.

Many men remain unable to express feelings appropriately. They “suck it up” and go forward even when it would have been appropriate to show some emotion. The result is that unable to express emotions men lose the ability to name what they are feeling and as a result of not being able to categorize feelings and learn appropriate responses they may do nothing until overwhelmed.

So the feelings that are kept bottled up and unrecognized come exploding out under anger or alcohol. These people, disconnected from their feelings, are forced to reconnect when in anger management class or marriage counseling.

When feelings can protect you

Some feelings are protective. That feeling in your gut that tells you this is dangerous, that feeling we sometimes call intuition is meant to protect you from harm. People who don’t feel anything lose the assistance of feelings that tell you this is something you should not do or that is something good you need to get in on. Courage is not the lack of fear, pretending this is not dangerous. It is the ability to fully feel and appraise the situation, but to take action even in the presence of a real danger.

Positive feelings can help create and expand friendships and working relationships. Negative feelings can warn you to avoid dysfunctional relationships and abusive situations. People who use feeling as sources of information lead happier and more productive lives.

Do you feel your feelings? Are feelings your friends or do they cause you problems?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Gloomy day in my head

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Tree

Tree.

Weather influences our mood.

When I left the house today it was gloomy. Before I knew it I was gloomy. Guess that’s the way it works. The wind was blowing and everything is wet. For most of you that won’t sound unusual, for me it is. I live in a very dry part of Central California; water does not fall from the sky and get everything wet all that often. I checked to see if my neighbor turned his sprinkler up to high. He hadn’t. The street was wet everywhere.

The last time my car was this wet was when I went through the car wash. Why did a little bit of rain put me in such a dark mood?

This would be a nice day to sit curled up by a fire. I used to love to sit by the fire in another place, long ago, when we had that fireplace. How primitive. I imagined how long ago people might gather around the fire in their cave. Now we have houses with fireplaces. Today might be a “no burn” day because of the air pollution. We have more bad air alerts than before. I would huddle around the fire but I have central heat and air. Huddling around a floor vent just isn’t the same. Besides, I have to go to work.

Does the weather really affect my mood that much?

Was it just a few days ago that we changed the clocks? Ever since the time change, everyone at work has been complaining that they have not been able to sleep right.  Is it because the weather warmed and the days are getting brighter? Do my moods really change at the drop of a few sunbeams or raindrops? All this civilization and my mood changes with the weather like a plant growing towards the light. Does today know it is gloomy?

The birds are missing from the tree today. I miss the birds. Most days they are up and cooing when I leave for work. I have not seen them nesting yet. I know that when they build their nests the male will be missing all day sitting on the nest. Then only the female will come around in the daylight looking for food.

I have had a fondness, a sense of connection to the birds, the pigeons and doves, ever since my father and I built that building in the backyard to house my first two pigeons. And that day he told me the story of how his father, my grandfather, used to raise birds in his backyard. Birds mostly nest alone. They must have hunkered down somewhere. The world seems so empty when the birds are away. Do the birds get lonely when the sky turns gloomy?

The Camellias look so defeated. The rain in the night has beaten them down. I remember other camellia bushes from long ago. Sitting under the windows at the high school I used to attend. They looking forlorn another day I remember so long ago, the day the loudspeakers in the school told us that the president had been shot. That day was gloomy also. The blooms remind me of my youth, the blossoms knocked to the ground tell me of things past.

There are no squirrels out today. They must all be snug in some nest in a hole in the ground. The idea of crawling into a hole in the ground does not make me feel any less gloomy. Maybe you need to be a squirrel to understand the comforts of holes. Do squirrels get gloomy?

As I drive through the rain, I think about the way I feel. There is that friend I haven’t seen in a long time. I need to make the time to see friends again. I think about an old friend, No emails between us for a long time. Maybe tonight after work I will write that email I have been putting off. Maybe I will talk with someone today while we work.

Is that the difference between animals and people?  They say animals when frightened or upset look for things, holes, nests, and caves. People, when we are gloomy and sad look for other people.

My cat stares at me from the window and watches as I drive away.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.