Today I woke up to what I call a 'low energy day'. I decided years ago that I would use this term anytime I am feeling low and I am in fear that my depression is resurfacing. After unnecessary panicking, sometimes it turns out that it is just a day or two of feeling disconnected and unmotivated. Rarely is it the start of a major depressive episode. In cognitive behavioral therapy, we learn that our word choices are critically important and can impact how we feel. A ‘depressed’ day feels hopeless but a ‘low energy’ day is something I feel like I can manage through with the hopes of a brighter tomorrow.
Normally I experience a low energy day within minutes of opening my eyes for the day. It just feels like something is off and I am not feeling like my usual self. I am fairly ambitious and energetic in the mornings and this is the time of day I choose to do either my best work of the day or my most difficult task of the day. It is normally a time of day where I have good energy. As soon as I recognize that I am feeling sluggish, it is a clear indicator that I need to acknowledge it, not beat myself up about it, and that I need to practice extra self-care.
When I explore the feeling, sometimes I can identify it as sad or angry. Sometimes it is more frustration from previous days or boredom with not being challenged enough in my life. On these days, the alarm clock is too loud, your coffee doesn't taste the same, your email messages are quite annoying, and you really could care less about most things. Throw a little anger in there and frustration and it can start to feel like you should 'know' what is bothering you. Well...I am here to tell you that those days will come, and you may never know 'why' when you felt perfectly fine (and happy) the day prior! The top priority today is self-care:
First - give yourself permission and know that it is ok to not feel your best every day. It's very normal and part of life. We all have ups and downs and allowing ourselves to accept these days when they show up is a healthy coping mechanism. My best advice is to acknowledge what is going on but don't make it worse than it is and then:
- have a nutritious breakfast
- drink plenty of water
- sneak in a nap or rest if you can midday (lunchtime nap in car at work?!)
- make healthy food choices
- hold off on any big decisions until you feel more grounded
- give yourself permission to 'tune out' and 'check out' however is necessary for you (headphones at work, a 'mental health day', music).
As I am always discovering new ways to take care of myself and maintain a healthy mindset, I wanted to take the term 'depression' and change it to 'low energy days'. In my mind, I can handle a low energy day. It will pass soon. In turn, calling this day 'depression' sets off a series of negative thinking that leads me to imagine lying in bed all day, failing to shower, and moving slowly and painfully just to get through the basics of life. I choose to empower myself with my words in these moments.
I also ask myself if something is emotionally going on with me on these days. This is where things turn a little more complicated and confusing, but for me, it’s usually the main source for these low energy days.
Perhaps something happened or was said that has made an emotional impact from which you still need to recover. Perhaps there’s a weird and unresolved tension in one of your important relationships. Or perhaps something is coming up that you’re dreading but are committed to doing.
There are of course all sorts of reasons to feel emotionally drained but sorting out what the root cause is will give you an opportunity to make it lighter too.
What do you do when these days show up?