Hannahs helpful hints - low mood

Written on Monday 27th January 2020

*** Hannah's Helpful Hints ***

An understanding …
If you are struggling with motivation, or have stopped enjoying things, it could be a sign of low mood or depression. Other signs of low mood and depression can include poor sleep, reduced appetite or increased comfort eating, feeling tired, increased irritability, and feeling negative about yourself.
Of course we all feel like this sometimes. But if you are feeling like this more days than you are not and have done for more than a couple of weeks, it might benefit you to make some changes.

When we look at why we do things, it's usually because we want to, or we know we will enjoy it, or get some other positive feedback afterwards. As human beings we do look for quick results. Unfortunately, if our mood dips below a certain point, we stop experiencing this benefit. As a result, we can start feeling like "What's the point?" or "Why bother?" This often leads to stopping doing things.

Are you waiting for your motivation to return? Unfortunately, it won't come back by itself. And the longer you stop doing things for, the more you get sucked into the dark hole.

We need to shift our reasons for doing things. Instead of doing things because we want to or will instantly get something from it, we need to do it because we want to avoid feeling worse and want to start feeling better. Think of it as like exercise - when you go to your first class, you know you won't feel fitter, change your weight or body shape the first time, but you know that if you keep going the results will be achieved. Tackling low mood is quite similar, initially you might be pushing yourself and not seeing rewards, but keep at it and the results will come.

How to improve it …
Firstly it's important to accept that our reason for doing things now is not because we want to or feel like it, but instead because not doing it will make us feel worse.

Start by creating a list of all the things you want to be doing in future. This can include things that you have stopped doing recently, or things you are doing less often, or new things that you want to start doing to help yourself.
Think about these in categories:
* Routine activities - e.g. getting up, getting washed, getting dressed
* Home management - e.g. deal with bills, washing, dishes, tidying, cleaning, put the bins out
* Essential activities - e.g. order and collect prescription, book appt to see GP,
* Work or study - e.g. going to work, completing tasks when at work, applying for jobs, completing coursework tasks
* Social activities - e.g. calls, texts, social media engagement, seeing friends, seeing family
* Hobbies - e.g. things you do alone like reading, gym, cooking, listening to music
* Relationships - e.g. go on a date, planned activities with children

We then want to start to plan these activities into a diary. We generally plan up to a week ahead, but at least 3 days ahead. The aim of this plan is to give us time to consider what we should be working on in the week ahead, and by writing the plan and committing ourselves it makes us more likely to do something. Saying I'll do it some point this week isn't as effective for example as saying I'll do it Wednesday afternoon.

Diary plans are split into days of the week, and morning/afternoon/evening. Consider what you did over the last week, and what small steps you could take over the next week to make progress. Break bigger tasks down into smaller parts if needed. Think about what day, and what time of day to plan activities that gives you the best chance of achieving them. Make sure you have a balance of activities covering the categories above.

Depending on how low your mood is currently, depends on where you will start with your planned activities. If your mood has only dropped a little, it might be most things are good and you just need to plan in a bit more of social activities and hobbies. If your mood has really dropped goals can start with things like get out of bed by midday, get showered, get dressed, eat a meal etc.

If you find that you don't manage to do something you'd planned, try to not see this as you failing, but the plan not being right. Think about what you could alter with the plan for next time. E.g. the plan might have not been realistic in the first place, or you might have needed to break it down into smaller goals, or plan it at a different time of day/different day of the week.

If you'd like to find out more detail about this approach, it is what is often referred to in CBT as Activity Scheduling or Behavioural Activation.

Hannah's Helpful Hints is a series of self-help information and advice. A new symptom or problem will be covered every couple of weeks. If you'd like to subscribe, please get in touch with your email address.

Similar Articles

Remote therapy advice for therapists

I have been delivering therapy via remote methods for over 10 years, so this is not new for me.I thought it might help to share some basic guidance for other therapists that are new to remote working.

17 Mar 2020

Hannahs helpful hints: Panic attacks

Panic attacks can be extremely scary, particularly if they feel as if they come out of the blue. Common symptoms include: feeling hot, feeling sweaty, heart racing, tight chest, difficulty breathing, clammy hands, feeling sick, feeling dizzy, stomach churning, blurred vision, lightheaded, numbness, pins and needles and tingling amongst others.

10 Feb 2020

FAQ: What do you offer that's different

Choosing a private therapist can be difficult. There's lots of us out there. I often get asked what I do that's different, and it's useful for prospective clients to know what makes me - me.

4 Feb 2020

Awareness day: sexual abuse

Today is Sexual Abuse Awareness Day. Sexual Abuse statistics do not make for easy reading. But it's so important to continue to raise awareness and share the realities.

3 Feb 2020

Having trouble sleeping

Sleep is one of our key sources of energy, so it is no surprise that ongoing sleep problems will have an impact on our emotional state. Common consequences of poor sleep include reduced motivation, increased irritable, less rational thinking and increased stress.

13 Jan 2020

FAQ: When do you offer appointments

In order to offer flexibility, I offer therapy sessions between these hours. I have a maximum number of appointments I offer each week and work a maximum of 35 hours.

2 Jan 2020

Can CBT help my phobia

The impact of phobias is ofter really under-estimated. So many clients I see report others saying things to them like "that's ridiculous", "don't be daft" or laughing at them, leading to feelings of embarrassment and wanting to hide their problem.

14 Nov 2019

Are remote therapy sessions effective

Increasingly the world we live in is become distanced, and that's often viewed as a negative change. So how does remote therapy compare to face to face therapy? that's what people want to know.

7 Sep 2019

Why am I still not happy

You've ticked all the boxes you thought were needed for a 'happy' life. Successful career, house, car, partner/kids all ticked off. Over the years you've kept thinking “When I just …, then I'll be happy and able to enjoy my life”.

19 Aug 2019

Are you being the real true you

There is the “real/true” version of ourselves, and then there is the anxious/depressed/angry version that's the life we are living day to day.

3 Jan 2019

10 tips to improve sleep and poor appetite

Are you experiencing problems with your sleep? You're not alone. 2/3 adults in the UK experience sleep problems.

24 Jul 2018

Emotions and destructive coping approaches

When we are experiencing emotional distress - whether depression, anxiety, anger or something else, we want these feelings to go away. No one wants to feel emotional distress, and understandably so to.

18 Jun 2018

What actually makes us happy?

There are a lot of assumptions about what things will make us happy. Often in this list are often things like money, job promotions, relationships, having children, holidays etc. However if this is the case, how do we explain the large volumes of suicides by people that have all these things?

14 Jun 2018

What is mental health?

There's a lot of misconceptions and stigma around the words 'mental health'. In reality we are all somewhere on the continuum of mental health, just like for example physical fitness.

1 Jun 2018