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How to get out of a funk

Everyone has off days where they feel sad, low or lacking in motivation. It’s normal to experience feelings of sadness as a response to loss, challenging life events, or changes.

For some people, sometimes, these feelings persist and if they are not addressed, they can make it difficult to get through each day.

It is important to know there is a difference between being in a bit of a ‘funk’ and diagnosable depression.

Here’s how to differentiate between a normal ‘funk’ or (potentially diagnosable and treatable) depression, along with some things you can do to help yourself feel better.

What’s the difference between normal feelings of low mood or sadness; and depression?

There are lots of things - including life events and biological factors that can cause feelings of low mood or sadness. These are normal emotional responses.

The difference between normal feelings of sadness and depression, is that sadness usually passes in time, or when circumstances change; while depression is a mood disorder, the symptoms of which can begin without any specific cause, and with depression the symptoms last for two weeks or more.

Depression impacts almost every part of your life, affecting how you feel, think and behave.

Some common symptoms of depression include:

• Lack of energy
• Low mood
• Feeling “empty”
• Changes in sleeping habits
• Difficulty concentrating
• Changes in appetite or weight
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
• Irritability or restlessness
• Aches and pains without clear physical causes
• Thoughts of death or suicide

To be diagnosed with depression, a doctor would be looking for these symptoms (or some of these symptoms) to have persisted for two weeks or more.

Anyone experiencing any of the above symptoms for more than two weeks should see a doctor. You can arrange an appointment with your GP, self-refer via the NHS IAPT service or if your employer provides an employee assistance program you might be able to access support via that route.

Anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide should seek emergency support immediately. Call emergency services or you can contact your local Mental Health Urgent Care Assessment Team. The Samaritans are available to offer support 24/7 - you can contact them on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

How can you get yourself out of a funk?

Although clinical depression does require professional help and support, many of the ways to help yourself through this mood disorder are very simple and practical.

For those not presently requiring medical support – i.e for short term feelings of low mood, self-care is also absolutely key.

Self-care is fundamental to living a happy, healthy life and between your diet, exercise, daily routines, and social interactions there are plenty of small steps you can take to improve your mood and help get you out of a funk.

1. Move

Studies have shown that doing as little as 15 minutes of moderate exercise a day can significantly decrease symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. Exercise helps to break down stress hormones like cortisol while releasing feel-good endorphins at the same time.

Exercising doesn’t have to mean running a marathon - there are lots of simple, gentle ways to get moving. For some people who are struggling or for those with physical illnesses or disabilities, exercise (in the way we generally think of it) just might not be possible. Here are a few simple ideas:

• Get up and move around
• Do some seated stretches
• Take a shower
• Walking for thirty minutes (or less – whatever is possible for you)
• Gardening
• Cleaning the house
• Washing your car
• Going for a bike ride
• Playing outside with your kids
• Taking your dog for a walk

Experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise daily to help regulate mood as well as improve overall health - and protect against other health risks like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. If 30 minutes isn’t possible do shorted spells of movement

2. Limit use of Social Media

Social media has lots of advantages - and for some people it can be a bit of a rabbit hole. We might find ourselves scrolling mindlessly, or comparing ourselves to the images that we see portrayed on social media. Being mindful of how and when we use social media can be helpful, especially at times when we are feeling low.

3. Play music

Music can be extremely therapeutic! If music is something you enjoy, consider creating a playlist that you can play when you feel down, that will help to lift your mood. I find that putting my headphones on, playing my favourite playlist and getting out for a walk is a great way to lift my mood and also distract me from any negative thoughts.

4. Eat a Healthy Diet

What we eat can have a significant impact on the way the body and mind feel. When we feel low it might be tempting to reach for snacks packed with sugar or fat, but it’s best to stick to a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, and proteins that will improve your energy levels and keep you nourished. Try to eat meals at regular times to help you maintain blood sugar levels and also to help maintain a healthy routine. It might also be helpful to keep an eye on caffeine and alcohol consumption, both of which can negatively impact mood.

5. Soak Up Some Sun

Another self-care aspect that is easy to overlook if all you want to do is hide away, is getting outside into the sunshine! Along with boosting your serotonin levels, spending some time outside can help increase Vitamin D production, lower your blood pressure, strengthen bones, and help improve sleep.

6. Get Quality Sleep

If you are not sleeping well, this can quickly affect all aspects of wellbeing. Depression and sleep go hand in hand because a lack of sleep can contribute to depressive symptoms and depression can contribute sleep problems.

To support healthy sleep, aim for a regular bedtime and evening routine. Try and limit screen time in the evenings and if possible, don’t have your phone by the bed. Limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake and getting some exercise during the day can also help improve sleep.

7. Gratitude

When we are really struggling it can be hard to see anything in a positive light. Making time to practice gratitude – just simply finding one or two things to be thankful for every day, can really help to clear unhelpful thoughts, and improve mood

8. Be Kind to Yourself

Know that things will get better – this will pass. Try not to compare yourself with others, or with old you and, give yourself a break. Be aware of the way you are talking to yourself – e.g “I’m useless” and replace any negative self-talk with positive affirmations whenever you can.

Hopefully this article has been helpful and has given you some things that will help you to get out of funk, or that you might be able to use to help or support a friend or colleague that you are worried about.

For more details of our services please contact our team

With love, the MHIB team x

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