Make the Most of Being Down in the Dumps

In an earlier post this year, Is Depression Hiding Your Career Path? I suggested that your passion, if you’ve lost it, might be hiding behind depression. We looked at a long list of symptoms. How many applied to you?

I think mild depression is a silent epidemic, like not-washing your hands after using the toilet, or reusing single-use makeup remover cloths. But worse.

How do you get past mild depression? In short, with self-compassion and truth. How you react to your blues can mean the difference between wasting time and making the most of an opportunity for personal growth.

Here’s how to make the most of a bout with the blues…

1. Stop struggling. Don’t think of the blues (a.k.a. “the blahs”) as a detour, but as part of the path you’re on. There’s no need to get back on track because you never left the track; you just hit a rough patch. Be patient with yourself and get curious about those blues. Are they trying to tell you something? Or is it just hormones?

I can tell when my blues are hormonal by the fact that there’s no earthly reason for them, and by how long they last; purely chemical moods don’t last more than a day with me. They clear up completely after a good night’s sleep. But until my body chemistry changes, there’s nothing for it but to go with the flow.

2. Pay attention to angry thoughts — but with curiosity, not judgment. Some say that depression is anger turned inward. Are you angry at someone? If so, allow yourself to be angry. Don’t try to figure out if you’re right to be angry. Anger is not toxic or dangerous, so relax.

It’s okay if you get this wrong. You don’t have to act on the anger. No one even needs to know you’re angry. Except you.

Not allowing yourself to consciously experience anger could lead you deeper into depression.

Try to bring any anger you find in your heart to the forefront of your mind and explain (rather than justify) it to yourself.

E.g., ‘I’m angry at my friend for losing the scarf she borrowed; I would have been more careful with her property if the situation were reversed.’

Just focus on the feeling, not the blame. Be angry. Again: You don’t need to do anything else about it, but you must at least be honest with yourself and let yourself feel the way you do.

Good people do get angry; this is not a moral issue.

3. Think of things that happened recently or long ago that you might have had troubling feelings about, but didn’t fully process. Knowing that you have a right to your feelings, is there anyone you can talk to about what happened? Having a compassionate witness who hears and empathizes can move your feelings along on the healing process.

Wallowing can be constructive. You’ve just got to make sure that you:

1) feel your feelings, rather than just thinking about them, and

2) approach the task with self-compassion rather than self-criticism.

If you’re not able to function at all for days at a time, can’t get to work, can’t be bothered to shower, eat, dress, etc., or have started making plans to kill yourself, let someone know and ask for help. These are not your common blues, but rather signs of serious depression.

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9 thoughts on “Make the Most of Being Down in the Dumps”

  1. It has been my personal experience that if you let depression go unresolved whether medically or psychologically, it does turn to anger and the anger comes out as resentment, bitterness, and misjudging the actions of others, even your closest others. It’s far better to let the sad feelings roll over you, crying if you must, and then giving yourself permission to cry some more, and then have the courage to put the issue “on the shelf” and move forward. To me, I’ve sometimes found that my “depression” is being masked by my feelings of self-pity. Nothing gets you nowhere faster than self-pity. Depression is real for sure. But, I have to “sift” it through and really ask myself where is it coming from. Then, I have to muster up that courage to either let go or find someone to help me through it.


    • Thank you for this thoughtful input, Mary. I like what you said about letting sad feelings roll over you and I appreciate your taking the time to stop and leave a comment.

      Your statement, “Nothing gets you nowhere faster than self-pity,” intrigued me. I’ve heard the sentiment before, maybe not as concisely put, but I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more. This might be something I could write a post about. Thanks!

      Meanwhile, let me just “out” myself as someone who’s really into self-pity. Done well, I believe self-pity can be cleansing and healing like nothing else. It can be the thing that finally allows us to move forward.

      • I hear what you are saying about how self-pity can be a way of allowing ourselves a chance to move forward. I think what I mean is something more than what I said here about self-pity. I think that I have the wrong attitude set in when I engage in self pity. I think that I shift to or combine feelings of self pity with victimhood klinds of feelings. I think feelings of being a victim can also limit our move forward. But in any case, I think we have to make sure that while we’re grieving about whatever it is that’s causing us pain of some sort, we have to remember that it’s past (hopefully) and we have to remember to act in the present. Sometimes hanging on to the past remembrances can be so painful and cause lots of depression. It’s good to stay in touch with our past hurts and sorrows because they may be the only thing we have to protect us from future hurts and sorrow of a like kind. But, at some point we have to find a way for the depression to rise up and uncloud our thinking. Like you say here we have to know when the depression is “serious” and requires us to seek help.


  2. Hello, I am from Pakistan living in New York since 2 years. I am 25 years old. I am very confused to hear 1 out of 8 people are depressed in America. I had to make lots of adjustment coming to America. I grew up in poor country thats being attacked with crazy self-serving men in robe or by the self serving Russians, American or the Bhutto feudal family. Pakistani should be a country of all depressed people but on the contrary I feel this has helped glue the family to support each other and help the other who slips behind. Family comes FIRST & education is becoming very important in Pakistan. When we have any problem we discuses it with our elders. They advise & help. My observation of young people in they States are they have totally no respect for there family or for there elders. They call there parents some horrible names or parodied and are Estranged from both parents & family. I have met Pakistan America’s who are depressed, calling there family some horrible names as well. This is something unheard of in Pakistan. My new Indian, Korean, Malaysian & Singaporean friends all feel very troubled by what we are seeing. My question to you is depression a excuse for bad behavior and disrespect or is bad behavior & disrespect contributing to depression amongst the young who can’t get there way? What I am seeing is very confusing is cutting of family, blackmail family and estrangement linked or causing depression?
    I have met teachers who are suffering from depression because there adult kids have estranged them. I have met students who are seeing ” shrinks” and call there parents TOXIC. I find this very confusing. Once I finish my masters in Nuclear Physics & I will return back. Depression I feel eats the inner soul of people & leaves you empty fighting an life long battle. What do you think?

    • Hm… I feel like there are many issues you brought up that I’m not able to speak to, unfortunately. I would say that I believe depression and family estrangement are essentially two separate issues — obviously with some overlap, depending on the specific situation.

      Thanks for your comments, Mena, and for visiting my blog.

      • Dr. Joshua Coleman feels Estrangement and depression are somehow linked. Estrangement is the silent epidemic just like depression was. I estranged my parents & family one years back. I have lots of friends who love me. I look very happy on the outside but feel very empty. I am suffering from depression & need help. What do you think?
        Thank you.


  3. Hi Tina, When I have my feelings hurt it’s usually without warning and my mind
    tries to process why it’s happening. After trying to ease my mind I think maybe I should’t feel the way I do, upset, sad, alone, and depressed. I agree a good nights sleep works wonders. I have also found that if I speak up for myself at the moment I’m feeling disrespected, I feel much better
    because, i’m letting someone that I care about (who is hurting me at that moment) know how I’m feeling. Right then and there I get an answer why he or she feels the way they do. The problem
    doesn’t get layered and both parties are satisfied, Heads and hearts are clear and free to resume
    good feelings.

  4. I have a hard time ‘feeling my feelings” and it not seeping out. In other words, I am acting on those feelings. How does one “feel” and not have it leak out ?


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