Things to keep in mind:
- It is ok to cry by yourself and with others.
- You can still say the person’s name out loud and have them be a part of your life. Incorporating rituals or other ways of memorializing the person you lost can help.
- Take care of your physical health: exercise, eat well, and get sufficient sleep.
- Anniversaries, holidays and birthdays can be particularly difficult after losing someone to suicide, and you may need to accommodate for these events as they come up. Perhaps plan in advance to spend the day with family or friends.
I’m feeling down;
Introduction: Feeling down, or “blue” or “bummed” is a common experience that inevitably accompanies living a full life. Usually, a person feels down about something specific – a disappointment, a misunderstanding, a failed attempt at something, at things just not going right, or in response to something sad or troubling around them. For most people, a down-in-the-dumps mood lasts briefly and then resolves as the cause or situation rights itself. Occasionally, a down mood can result from other emotions such as loneliness, feeling ill, or feeling stressed – this is also part of daily living. And lastly, a down mood can come from normal physical processes such as menstruation in girls and women and from illness, or lack of sleep. It is good to recognize that feeling down for a short period of time, especially when you know why you are feeling that way, is normal and that it is good to allow yourself to feel it and acknowledge it.
How is feeling down different from depression?
- It doesn’t last as long; it is brief; you can “shake it off.”
- It usually doesn’t significantly interrupt activities of daily living like taking care of yourself, going to work or school
- It usually doesn’t cause significant physical symptoms that last for days. (You might not feel like eating a meal, but your appetite returns quickly; you have difficulty sleeping one night, but are able to sleep the next, etc.)
- It usually does not impact relationships in a lasting way
- It usually doesn’t impact your feelings or attitude about life in general
- Changes in energy and concentration, if any, are brief
- It usually doesn’t have an enduring impact on your feelings of self-worth
Try to identify what is making you feel down and, if possible, address it:
- If it is a situation that can’t be changed, like getting a disappointing grade on an exam or a disappointing review from your boss, spend your energy thinking about new ways to reach your goals
- If a person has caused you to feel down, either talk to them about your feelings, or give yourself space for a while.
- If a medical issue is causing you to feel blue, try to eat well, get enough sleep and see a medical doctor if appropriate.
- Try to figure out if other feelings are making you feel down and try to address them – if you are lonely, find a friend to be with, if you’ve had a bad day at work or school, figure out ways to avoid the same stressful problems tomorrow.
Try to figure out different ways to react to your situation:
- If you didn’t do well on a test, give yourself a pep talk to try to do better; beating yourself up about it will keep you feeling down.
- If someone you care about disappoints or hurts you, try to give them the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t mean to hurt you.
- Try to take “glass half empty” thinking and turn it around to “glass half full.”
Reach out to your friends, family or loved ones:
- Though it is common to want to isolate yourself when you feel down, companionship and positive interactions go a long way toward alleviating a down mood.
- Take the opportunity to talk about your troubles and get things “off your chest.”
Try to stay active and keep your regular commitments:
- Exercise is a powerful, effective way to lift your mood
- Sticking to a routine helps you focus your energy on positive actions and shifts a “down” frame of mind
- Go to classes even if you don’t feel like it – falling behind in your school work will make things worse.
Take care of yourself:
- Keep a healthy diet; avoid alcohol or substance use
- Get out and take a walk, go to the gym
- Get an adequate amount of sleep
- Take extra time to pamper yourself
- Play your favorite music (avoid the sad songs) or do one of your favorite activities
- See a medical doctor if you are feeling ill – there may be a medical cause for your low mood
I’m having trouble sleeping;
Introduction: Let’s face it, young people do not get enough sleep! However, it’s important to keep in mind that when sleep is disrupted by your schedule, by stress in your life, by worries, or for reasons that are not obvious, it can have a negative impact on your mood, energy level and ability to get through your day at school or work. It becomes a vicious cycle – not enough sleep causes problems and problems bring sleepless nights.
There are many ways to improve your sleep and break the vicious cycle – these interventions are called “sleep hygiene”.
Think about it: Try to figure out if there is a clear reason why you are not sleeping and try to address the underlying cause while you work on other strategies to improve your sleep. Problems in school, at home, with friends, in a relationship, or stressors in life can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep.
Make your room a place that promotes a good night’s rest:
- Use your bed for sleep – try to avoid watching TV, doing your homework, or hanging out with friends on your bed
- Keep your room cool, dark and quiet – if you are in a dorm or have a roommate, try using a white noise machine, small fan or relaxation app to block out startling or irritating noises
- Make your bed every day – it can give you a feeling of order and routine
Lifestyle changes can improve your sleep:
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, pot and nicotine before bedtime – these substances stimulate your brain/body and impair sleep
- Avoid social media or working on a computer just before bedtime – they can be physically and emotionally stimulating or upsetting
- Avoid daytime naps – as much as possible, get up around the same time every day even if you do not have morning classes or work.
- Exercise regularly (but not right before bedtime) – good physical health promotes good sleep
- Try to use free time during the day for studying and night time for sleep
- Eat healthy foods and avoid eating large meals just before bedtime
- Develop a bed-time routine that signals preparation for sleep – read a book for pleasure, take a bath, listen to soothing music, try to wind down
I’d like some tips to manage stress and worries;
Introduction: It is not uncommon to have stressful periods when it can feel like our worries are interfering with daily life. Whether we are dealing with an external stressor (like starting college or adjusting to a new job), ongoing stress (like finances or family issues), or just feel like stress is getting the best of us – there are some lifestyle choices that can help minimize worries and promote overall well-being. A key to feeling better is to use wellness strategies aimed at helping you cope with the stressors in your life.
Practice relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques (including meditation, yoga, breathing exercises) can help reduce tension and stress and increase feelings of well-being. It is important to be aware that some people find relaxation techniques difficult and they can even cause frustration and increased anxiety for some people. Do what works for you.
Reduce alcohol intake: Some people believe that having a drink helps them cope with stress when they are feeling distressed. Actually, alcohol can increase your anxiety and negatively distort your outlook on your worries, making things worse, not better.
Exercise regularly: Exercise is a natural stress reliever – even moderate exercise can have a positive effect on mood. A short walk for 15 or 20 minutes every day can make a difference. Physical wellness and mental health tend to go hand in hand.
Get enough sleep: Poor sleep can intensify stress and make it more difficult to cope with stressors. There are a number of strategies that can help you develop healthy sleep habits and address insomnia.
Develop healthy eating habits: What and when we eat can have a significant impact on how we feel. Taking the time to make healthy, nutritious food can help with anxiety and mood.
Engage in pleasurable activities: Take some time to do things you enjoy. This can help improve your mood and outlook and help you better manage the stress you are facing.
Consider professional help: If you’ve tried these suggestions for a while and are still feeling stressed or overwhelmed you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder or depression. It may be time to consider seeing a professional who might be able to help you feel better.
I’m struggling with eating;
Introduction: If you are constantly struggling with how you feel about your body, how much time you spend thinking about food or body image issues and you are developing unhealthy behavior patterns related to your eating, you may be concerned that you have an eating disorder. It is important to know that help and treatment for these problems is available. Since disordered eating can escalate into a full-blown eating disorder that requires medical attention, it is very important to seek help as soon as you are able.
Here are some things you may be experiencing that are signs of an eating problem.
Signs of “over-control” relating to food:
Many people with disordered eating find themselves preoccupied with thoughts of food and they can become very restrictive in what they eat.
Some signs that you are struggling with “over-control” relating to food include:
- Limiting food intake (only having a small salad at lunch)
- Constant worry about counting calories, avoiding fats and avoiding foods with calories
- Rigid rules about which foods are “allowed”
- Pushing “normal” food portions around on your plate and eating only a small amount of what is served
Signs of binging and purging behaviors:
Some people with disordered eating develop binging and purging behaviors. If you are developing these patterns, there is cause for concern:
- Eating very large quantities of food (binging)
- Purging – inducing vomiting or using diuretics or laxatives to “compensate” for eating “too much.” You want to go to the bathroom after every meal.
Signs of distorted body image issues:
Most people with eating disordered have a distorted body image:
- Feeling bad or preoccupied about how you feel you look
- Frequent negative comments about your body
- Constantly referring to yourself as overweight or fat even though you are very thin
- Constantly checking your weight and setting unrealistic goals for the “perfect weight.”
More signs of change in mood and behavior:
People who are struggling with an abnormal relationship with food often want to be left alone and usually feel secretive about their behavior.
- You usually want to avoid group meals, eating at the table with your family or social events that involve food.
- You don’t want people to notice how little (or how much) you are eating, you don’t want them to know how much and how often you exercise and you make up excuses why you have to run to the bathroom after meals.
It is common to feel a change in your mood when you have an eating disorder
- You can feel depressed or down
- You find that you are irritable and edgy more often
- You feel defensive when people talk to you about their concerns or try to interfere with your food choices
- You can feel anxious and stressed
Recognize the problem so you can get help:
It is important to be able to recognize and be willing to get help for an unhealthy relationship with food as soon as possible.
- Eating disorders are associated with serious and sometimes, life threatening medical issues. It is important to get help before medical issues occur.
- If you experience light-headedness, fainting episodes, heart palpitations, loss of your period or worrisome changes in your body, see a medical doctor as soon as possible.
- There are medical and mental health treatments for eating disorders – there is help, hope and support for your struggles with food.
I’m worried my alcohol/substance use may be problematic;
Introduction: Many, but not all, teens and young adults drink alcohol and use substances as part of their social life. However, some people drink or use substances excessively – either they use substances or drink excessive amounts of alcohol in a very short period of time (parties, pledging activities, weekends), or they drink or use substances frequently throughout the week. Excessive drinking and substance use usually interferes with school or work performance, disrupts personal relationships and has a negative impact on a person’s health. If you are worried about your own use of alcohol or substances, there are some ways to tell if you should seek help for your concerns.