It’s OK that you’re feeling down

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Photo by Gabriel on Unsplash

Background

Are you feeling (a bit) “meh” these days? Bored? Lazy? Unmotivated? Unsure about what to do with your time; or life? Maybe even a bit depressed?

Interestingly enough, whoever I speak to seems to be feeling (a bit) down. What surprises me is not the feeling itself, but the fact that they are puzzled about it. As if it should be otherwise?

Let me tell you something that will jiggle your brain cells – it is absolutely normal to feel that way. Let me say that again – it is ABSOLUTELY normal to feel that way. What’s more, it would have been weird if you felt otherwise!

It is OK to feel down

I mentioned at some point that I’ve been attending REBT (Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapy) sessions for a while. And, one of the things that kept perplexing me is when the therapist says – “it’s absolutely normal to feel __________ (insert the emotion of your choice here – depressed, down, sad, empty, etc.)”. I mean, WHAT DO YOU MEAN it’s normal? How can it possibly be normal that I’m not feeling good? Am I not supposed to be feeling good? For most of the time at least? What am I even paying these sessions for?!

Let me tell you another story. I was listening to Joe Rogan’s podcast with Dr. Phil. For those unfamiliar – he is a psychologist and the host of the TV show “Dr. Phil”. And he was telling a story that goes like: “Imagine you have a guy who has been recently divorced, lost custody of his children, lost his job and was diagnosed with severe illness. Do you understand that, having this person NOT feel depressed would be an ALARMING sign? Given the bad circumstances, if your body does not respond with painful emotions, it actually puts you in a risky category and that is what would be weird!“. Obviously I paraphrased, but it boils down to that.

If you didn’t get my point yet, here it is – under the shitty circumstances, which, you know, are kind of happening right now, having the world literally fall apart due to pandemic, it’s absolutely OK and what’s more – it’s healthy to feel down!

Negative emotion as a fuel

I understand that this will sound weird, and that’s because it is. But, let me say it out loud — you can use negative emotions as a fuel to start doing something!

I would even go as far as argue that, if there were no bad emotions, you wouldn’t be capable of feeling (and appreciating) the good ones. Some even say that the positive emotions are just lack of negative ones. But that’s completely different story though.

My point is – you should acknowledge that it is absolutely OK that you are feeling down / depressed /lazy / unmotivated / whatever. But if that state lasts for prolonged periods, you can turn it into a nice reason to start doing (or changing) something.

What can I do?

Luckily, there’s plenty. Seriously. I’ll name some of the tools that I keep in my mood-boosting arsenal:

  1. Acknowledgement – This, by far, is the simplest one you can apply. Just acknowledge that, yes, it’s absolutely OK to feel down, especially given the circumstances around us. By allowing yourself to feel bad, you will, in turn, make yourself feel better
  2. Meditation – it’s amazing what a little bit of meditation can do for your mood. If you’ve never done it before, install Headspace or Calm apps on your mobile phone, put your headphones on and enjoy the peace
  3. Exercise – I guess I needn’t mention why exercise is one of the best mood enhancers. Be it a light stretching, yoga, body-weight exercises or full-blown gym workout, exercising is proven to be one of the best ways to get yourself up. Trust me, you’ll be amazed what 15 min of light workout can do for your body and mind. Just go to youtube and search for “beginner yoga”, “bodyweight workout” or “light stretching” and enjoy it
  4. Doing something that you suck at – I even wrote an article about it. Doing something that you never did before is yet another amazing way to release those endorphins. Be it a new hobby, learning a new language, getting into cooking … whatever it is, as long as you know that you suck at it, you will love the outcome once you give it a shot
  5. Therapy – if you ask me, every single person should go to therapy at least once. It should be treated as a mental hygiene. But my opinion aside, you can really always seek some external assistance. And that’s absolutely OK! Most of the therapists seem to be doing online sessions these days anyway, so finding one shouldn’t be an issue. Hit me up if you need an recommendation πŸ˜‰

But how do I start doing something if I’m not feeling like doing anything?

That’s absolutely a valid statement and a common issue. My colleague actually calls this “overcoming a static friction”.

How do you set a completely stationary object (e.g. a ball) into a motion? Well, you have to invest some initial energy to get it moving. But it gets easier immediately afterwards.

I absolutely understand the issue of starting a new thing, especially when you are not feeling like doing it. Hell, I’m feeling it every time I need to write a new article, not to mention going to gym. The trick to doing that is actually applying a “brain hack” – do the smallest possible thing that you can and leave it at that.

For example – instead of planning a 60-min workout, allow yourself maximum of 15 minutes to exercise. That’s right. 15mins and that’s it. You’re done. It’s long enough to get you moving, but short enough to cause any discomfort. Plus by limiting yourself you are actually going to push yourself to want to do more of it πŸ™‚

Or if it’s about doing something new – dedicate maximum of 15mins to just look into how’d you actually start doing whatever it is that you wanted to do. That’s it. 15mins and you are done.

My main point is not to overload yourself and to deduce the smallest possible effort that you need to exert in order to overcome static friction.

Conclusion

To summarise – it is absolutely normal and OK to feel down and you shouldn’t be worried about it. Give yourself some break. It’s not easy, it does suck, but it’s totally ok to be worried and feel like “meh”. Acknowledge it, give yourself some space and understand that, after all, life is just a cocktail of various emotions and being able to feel them is something you should be appreciative of! πŸ™‚

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12 thoughts on “It’s OK that you’re feeling down

  1. Spot on, Mixa.
    Tip of the hat to you Sir, tip of the hat…
    As someone who’s been living with depression for well over thirty years, since early childhood–damn, I am old–I could say that it is perfectly fine to feel down. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is perfectly normal. From time to time, of course. And–as weird as that may sound–I for one, wouldn’t have it any other way. Way I see it, you could either approach feeling down–feeling the blues, if you will–as a burden, a handicap even, or a challenge, an obstacle to overcame. I chose the latter. It is difficult sometimes – there are, and are bound to be dark moments along the way, but, again, they’re just obstacles to overcome.
    To summarise, you can either channel your inner Marvin The Paranoid Android, and let those negative emotions eat away at you, or treat the blues like, say, That One Boss from some RPG video game. Well, gamers will know what I mean; life is–if you think about it–no different from an RPG game.

    1. Thanks man!!

      I wasn’t aware that you’ve been dealing with it since childhood. Is it a clinical depression or something that you’re occasionally getting in and out of?

      I think people are generally pretty scared of the meaning of “depression” because it seems to have that shady and dark connotation associated with it. But yeah, as you said once — human ignorance is … limitless, in a way.

      Man, I will get in touch with you. I actually want to learn more about it and how you are dealing with it. IIRC, you never went for therapy, right? At least not for longer periods?

      Anyway, what I really like to hear is exactly your positive attitude — it sucks occasionally, but you learn to live with it and you just keep pushing forward. That’s how I see life in general!

  2. Mihailo, lately I’ve been struggling with a recent promotion to a tech lead position from software developer, and I’ve been struggling emotionally with anxiety, insecurity with the new position, and, in general, crappy about the whole world situation.
    I ended up on your blog through Hacker News for your very interesting article about scaling chess.com database, and then I found out a plethora of unrelated articles that perfectly resonated with my current situation (almost creepy).
    I just want to thank you for writing this blog, you are hitting the nail on the head on a lot of common feelings and the struggle they bring, especially lately, and you write beautifully.
    Thank you for sharing, seriously. And please continue to do so πŸ™‚

    1. Hi!

      It’s a pity you didn’t leave your email. I would have had contacted you privately πŸ™‚

      And trust me, what you said is the exact reason why I’m writing these articles in the first place. It’s because there’s TONS of us who are feeling the same way; or pretty much the same.

      All in all, thanks for taking time to read these articles! And, take my word for it – I’ll keep writing them because it’s my way of coping with … well, pretty much everything that I wrote about!

      P.S. Don’t hesitate to reach directly to me via LinkedIn / Twitter / Instagram. I’d love to chat any time!

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