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Fed up of feeling sad for no reason? “Dip days” aren’t the emotional curse we think they are

Written by Amy Beecham

Our random blue moods may not be quite as concerning as we thought.

It’s a glorious spring day. The nights are finally getting lighter, I’ve had a good day at work and have plans for a delicious home-cooked dinner and night in on the couch. It sounds near-idyllic, right? So why do I feel so dismal?

Much has been written on how the pandemic has changed us and our ways of living, perhaps forever. Some of us have become more introverted, cautious. Others have gone in the opposite direction and pushed themselves to extroversion, to seizing the joy of every moment.

I find myself stuck in what feels like a constant limbo, perpetually balanced between being absolutely fine one minute and then not the next. I’m not hormonal, and no more stressed or under pressure than usual. I’m just inexplicably sad, numb and drained.

Due to their transient and unexplained nature, I’ve come to call them my “dip days”. They’re my weekly slumps, periods of odd emotion where I’m crabby, defensive and uptight for no apparent reason.

I guess you could liken them to those low moments of our lives that tend to come just after a period of happiness or excitement, like the January blues or the day after your birthday. Perhaps it’s not so much the presence of something that makes you emotional but the absence of it. With nothing bright, shiny and fun to keep yourself distracted, the path is clear for intrusive thoughts and niggling insecurities to creep in.

But these moments, as consuming as they are, are only fleeting. Sometimes my “dip days” don’t even last a full 24 hours before a distraction comes along that pulls me out of it.

It’s frustrating to feel like you don’t understand your emotions

Psychologist Joanna Konstantopoulou explains that over the past two years, many of her clients have come to her with a similar experience.

“The minute we start to feel sad, most of us think there’s something wrong with us,” she tells Stylist. “But we have thousands of thoughts a day and it’s completely normal, human even, for not all of them to be positive.”

“My clients come to therapy and tend to think of it as a method to help them be positive all the time, but that’s not the purpose of therapy,” she continues.

Konstantopoulou says that many of the people she sees experience cognitive distortions – negative or irrational patterns of thinking that lead us to think in a very black or white, right or wrong way.

Because our moods are constantly shifting due to our hormones, chemical balances and outside environment, trying to get a grip of them can feel elusive and disheartening. After all, shouldn’t we be able to understand our own minds best?

It’s true that when it comes to our moods, then, we tend to see pure happiness as the goal and anything less as a problem, something within ourselves we need to fix.

However, Konstantopoulou stresses that while dip days likely have external triggers, such as underlying stress or external tensions, we’d be better off becoming more comfortable with the breadth of our emotions, not just the positive ones.

“We have to accept our feelings first before we can begin to work on them,” she says.

The message of neutrality towards our emotions is one I understand, but the reality is that as much as I’d love to be a chill, go with the flow kind of person, I still crave some sense of resolution.

Is there any hope that we can control our moods, I ask, or are we just at the mercy of our minds most of the time?

“We can’t necessarily change our moods, but we can change the way we’re feeling by altering our thinking,” Konstantopoulou explains.

“If we’re more flexible in how we consider the world around us – what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’ – we can learn valuable lessons about what our moods mean for us and how we can define our needs.”

“Reflection isn’t a bad thing, but it’s important not to get too hung up on feeling ‘happy’ all the time. Sometimes we’re just exhausted or moody or angry – and that’s more than OK.”

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health or emotional wellbeing, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website and NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS’ guide to mental health organisations here.

If you are struggling, you can also ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer.

You can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email [email protected] for confidential support.  

Images: Molly Saunders

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