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MANAGING A LOW MOOD DURING CHANGE

“For the times, they are a changing …” warbled Bob Dylan, and he turned out to be right.  If there’s one thing that you can bet on it’s that Life is always changing.  Paradoxically, change is constant.

Are you the kind of person who revels in changing circumstances, always eager to react quickly to unforeseen circumstances and fateful curve balls?  Or are you like most of us – disturbed by shifting sands and Life’s rocky ups and downs?

Most of us dislike change when it happens too often.  We gain experience with each change – some good, some bad … and it’s the bad experiences that can negatively impact the way we go forward into the future.  A few losses in a row through death, divorce, bankruptcy – you name it – can trigger a fear of change in any of us.

It’s understandable but not necessary.  As change happens all the time, it could be argued that change is normal and that fearing it is not.  At least, not on an ongoing, pathological level.

Anxiety and depression are offered an open door when we fear change.  That persistent low mood that accompanies that twist in the pit of your stomach when you contemplate your future – be it tomorrow, next week, next year – can be treated, of course.  For that, you need to recognise and respect depression as an illness.  A proper one, with its own diagnosis and range of treatments.  If you haven’t spoken to your GP about it yet, book that appointment now.

Go on – now.  Before you read the next bit.

It takes a while, though, to shake that feeling and the dark thoughts that accompany it.  In the meantime, you need to manage them.  Recently, Prince Harry said so to interviewer Tom Bradby in the documentary “Harry & Meghan:  An African Journey” (ITV, October 2019).  Regarding his past struggle with mental health issues, he went on:

“I thought I was out of the woods and suddenly it all came back.”

Some changes demand that you get help.  Grief is high priority.  If you have lost more than one person important to you then the repetition of the pain is likely to ‘train’ you to fear its happening again.  It may not be rational but try telling your subconscious mind that.  It doesn’t draw a distinction between rationality and irrationality, fantasy or reality.

What has happened in your life that has trained you to fear the future?  Do you know how to help yourself to manage your feelings and sad thoughts?  The following is a good place to start while you’re seeking full and proper treatment for depression through your GP and counsellor:

1)    ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS AND TALK ABOUT THEM

Men are notoriously awkward when it comes to sharing feelings and emotions.  Those with the strongest, healthiest minds do it, though – either with a friend, their partner, a trusted colleague or with a counsellor who’s trained to listen.

Talking about how you feel helps you to ‘frame’ your emotions and to make sense of what’s going on in your world.   Try it.  It’s the most important step you can take to avoiding depression.

2)    WHAT ARE THE OPPORTUNITIES IN YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES?

When the chips are down it can be all too easy to see the worst in the picture.  However, with the help of someone who can listen to you talk it out, you can find the dual aspect.  There always is one.  If a good buddy has cut you off, for example, it can hurt like hell and feel like a nightmare … but was he really that good a friend in the first place?  Was he as good for you as you were for him?  Is it possible that you can use this opportunity to show yourself better respect and choose friends more wisely from now on?

3)    WHICH BITS ABOUT THE CHANGE YOU’RE FACING EXCITE YOU?

Change always incorporates adventure.  Adventure is never completely prescriptive:  if you knew exactly how things were going to pan out over a business trip to a foreign country or a romantic dinner you’d be asking, “Where’s the fun in that?”  Take a few minutes to brain dump all of the things about the change ahead of you that could work out in your favour.  Engage with that feeling of excitement!

4)    HOW HAVE YOU MOVED ON BEFORE?

This is not the first time you’ve faced the challenge of change in your life.  Think back to a time when you had to navigate a twist in your life’s road; it clearly worked out alright as you’re here now.  What action did you take?  How did you feel after you’d taken it?

5)    DON’T WAIT FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO TAKE THE INITIATIVE IN YOUR LIFE

Often, we feel anxious because we’ve handed over the ‘power of control’ for our lives to somebody else.

Who is pulling your strings?  Are you waiting to hear if you’ve landed a contract?  Made an offer on a house that is needing someone’s acceptance?  Trying to contact that old friend who’s just cut you off for no good reason?  When we wait for others to act in a way that we desperately want them to, we obsess about the future.  That increases insecurity, anxiety and – you guessed it, the chance for depression to sneak in.

Take the power back:  resolve to put another option or two on the table for yourself.  Remember – there is always an option.

6)    PUT THE MOTION INTO ‘EMOTION’

Exercising and eating well (avoiding copious amounts of alcohol – it’s a depressant, after all) will always help you to feel fitter in both body and mind.

7)    LISTEN TO SOMEBODY ELSE

The low moods and anxious feelings are far more common than is apparent.  Most men are experts at covering up emotions.  Open a conversation with someone you get on with and just listen to him.  He needs to be heard and supported as much as you.

8)    ALLOW YOURSELF TIME

Cut yourself some slack.  If you were getting over pneumonia, you wouldn’t rush off to run a marathon next weekend.  If you’re working through the emotions that came with a sudden big change in your life, don’t ask too much of yourself at work or in your relationships for a while.  Let your thoughts and feelings settle.

You deserve to feel anxiety-free.  Change is here to stay – and the really good news is that it is hardly ever as scary as we are prone to imagine.

 

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