Sadness, Emptiness, and Depression, there is help?
Down in the dumps, feeling blue, these are terms we throw around to describe when we aren’t feeling at our best, and almost everyone can relate to this feeling as well all go through situations and life dynamics that may bring about sadness. However, the sadness experienced during depression is incomparable and experienced differently then what may be considered “normal” sadness. Sadness experienced during depression may be felt more intensely, overpowering, and long lasting than sadness experienced during other times in life.
Types of Sadness
Confronting Emptiness and Sadness
We’ve all experienced sadness at one point or another in our lives, but we rarely take the time and care to understand exactly what sadness truly is. The least complicated way to define sadness is the opposite of happiness; it is what we feel when we are not happy. It is discontent instead of contentment, despondency instead of joy. Sadness, however, can feel much more profound than the simple absence of contentment. It can feel like an immense weight or a deep vacuum all its own.
Situational Sadness: A Reason for the Feeling
Sadness may be situational. That is, it may arise out of or triggered by some specific event or circumstance in your life. Loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, loss of a job, or financial difficulties are all negative events that can lead to a deep sense of sadness. In these cases, the pointed emotions of grief, anger, or frustration caused by the situation and its aftermath can give way to a more pervasive discontent.
In many cases, the sadness goes away on its own with time or when the negative circumstances resolve. We are reminded how to be happy again when the situation that caused the sadness is lifted from us.
Undefined Sadness: An Emptiness without Cause
Sometimes, however, emptiness comes upon us without a clearly identifiable reason. It can persist long after a triggering situation has come and gone, or it can show up on its own, without a clear cause or beginning. In these cases, emptiness can be difficult to shake because there’s no underlying situation that, with its resolution, will make a bad feeling go away.
This undefined sadness is often vague and difficult to describe. Some people describe it as an empty mood, a feeling of disconnection from the world. It can be a general feeling of unease, a difficult-to-grasp feeling that all is not well with the world, even if there’s no easily identifiable evidence that that’s true.
The World without Color or Joy
No matter whether your sadness is caused by something specific or something unexplainable, it likely shares some common features with the empty feelings we all feel on occasion. More than just the absence of happiness, the presence of true sadness inside us makes us doubt whether happiness is even possible. The world around us—and the emotions inside us—are devoid of color and vitality, and it’s hard to recognize the good things in our lives even when they’re right in front of us.
Sadness is a Normal Part of Life
It’s important to remember that sadness lies well within the typical and acceptable range of emotions that we all feel. It is part of the cycle of feelings, both positive and negative, that we all encounter as we make our way through the world. We can all expect to be sad sometimes, and the occasional feelings of emptiness or discontent don’t mean that there’s anything seriously wrong with us.
A prolonged, profound or especially deep sadness, however, can go hand in hand with more serious conditions, particularly if the sadness doesn’t have a discernible source or doesn’t go away when a triggering situation resolves.
Deep sadness can be a component of depression or anxiety, debilitating conditions that can make it difficult to function well in your daily life. When your sadness interferes not just with your feeling of contentment, but with your ability to make it through your day—and when it just won’t go away—it’s a good idea to seek help.
How to Cope with Sadness:
First, we need to know what we are up against: Awareness and acknowledgment are the first steps to managing feelings of sadness if we don‘t know that something is impacting us it is very difficult to make changes to it. Identifying and accepting that sadness is present and impacting your life is the first step toward gaining control over it and changing it.
Try not to stuff it!: Growing up, we are given lots of messages about tears being weakness “big boys (girls) don’t cry”, etc. Well sadly none of that is true, everyone cries and everyone has hard days, talk about it, open up and let some of it out. Our tears release toxins from our body and also contain a soothing property that helps us calm down. Crying also triggers the release of endorphins that reduces pain and helps to improve your mood.
Reach out to your support system: Talking to someone about our experiences can provide an immediate release of sadness and feelings of disconnect. Sharing our experiences with our loved can also help us gain different perspectives, challenge our thinking, and possibly even allow some problem solving to occur. It can be difficult to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open with those around us, however creating an active support network that is there for you in difficult times can be a significant step toward redirecting sadness.
Take a minute to get out of your head: Sadness experienced during depression can feel never ending and self-fulfilling, try physically breaking this pattern. Take a walk, get out of you normal routine and surroundings. Once you are in a new place practice active awareness of the experiences around you, what do you hear? See? Smell? Feel? Actively engaging in a novel experience can shock our senses out of negative thinking patterns and into the present moment.
While it can be incredibly difficult to muster the energy and drive to engage in the dreaded exercise routine, it’s short, and long term impacts on sadness are well worth the effort. With exercises, the “feel-good” hormones release into our brain while also helping to regulate hormones that impact sleep cycles. Exercise has been linked to increased confidence, energy, and social engagement. If starting feels like too much, start small, take a walk to the end of the driveway, around the block, every step makes a difference.
Putting it all together:
Just as sadness is experienced differently by each of us, what works for you will also be different. The ideas shared in the article are just a few ideas toward managing sadness; there are lots of different ways to get to the same destination. If the advice doesn’t seem to be clicking or efforts are going unrewarded it may be helpful to reach out to learn more on the road to recovery, check out this Blog Post on Treating Depression.
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