A letter writer is experiencing random, unprovoked sadness.
It’s a normal, human emotion, says our elder. Here are some things you can do to help – and please speak to your parents about seeing a doctor if it persists.
Q. Dear EWC
I don’t know why I am writing this. I have written before when I’ve been in an emergency but today, I just felt like it was the thing to do… IDK why, though. I’ve been feeling unprovoked, random sadness for about five months. The sadness isn’t always there it’s sporadic and when it’s off my mind it doesn’t come. TBH I was reading some triggering stuff in August and the next day the sadness started. In the beginning and middle it was very bad, but now it isn’t as bad at all. I’m just waiting for it to end now… but it’s not. How do I make it end? I know this sadness is entirely self-created. But the million dollar question how do I get rid of it? I am a minor (very nearly a teen) and I don’t have a family history of mental illness.
A. Elder GrannyJ replies:
Thank you for writing to EWC. I’ll be glad to help. Let me begin by saying that sadness is a normal human emotion. We all experience it from time to time. Luckily most people have the ability to ‘bounce back’ from an episode of sadness, like you seem to have done in the past. I’m glad to hear that your sadness has been only intermittent, because sadness that persists can turn into depression.
This past year has certainly been a difficult one for many people, with all the hype in the media about the pandemic, politics, and so on. If a person tries to look at ‘the whole big picture’ and sees all the strife going on all over the world, it could be very anxiety-provoking and depressing. Children, in particular, have been affected by having their school routines disrupted, being separated from their friends, having parents who have experienced job loss, worrying about themselves or a family member getting sick with Covid, etc.
You did not mention any particular events that may have caused, or contributed to, your sadness. Perhaps you have been influenced by what has been going on and don’t really realize it. In any case, you do have it within yourself to exert a certain amount of control over how you react to things, and how you feel in general. It’s called being proactive – creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.
One thing you can do is what I call ‘taking stock’, and that is to look at all the good and positive things in your life, the things that make you happy and for which you are grateful. That varies from person to person, but my list includes things like my health, my ability to be active at my age, my comfortable home, the fact that my family members are all relatively healthy and safe. If you take stock of your own situation, and then look around at other’s, you will find that your life could be so much worse, and that will enable you to feel gratitude for your life situation.
Another thing you can try is self-distraction. If you encounter something that triggers sadness, try to replace your thoughts with some that make you feel peaceful or happy, maybe think about something on your ‘gratitude’ list. If you believe in prayer, perhaps when you feel the beginnings of sadness, you can make a prayer request for peace or grace. If you have a trusted teacher or other adult in whom you can confide your feelings, I suggest talking to them when you are feeling sad. Just being able to express your emotions to another person can unburden you and lighten your mood considerably. Another thing is to just get out and get active, be in sunshine and nature (sunlight is a great mood-booster, particularly in mid-winter), get some exercise, be around people and things that bring you joy- whatever it takes to break the cycle of sadness.
Another thing I would like to mention, and this is scientifically proven, is the effect screen time and artificial light has on emotions. If you have a lot of screen time just before going to bed, it can affect your sleep and your mood, as can all that artificial light from devices that seems to light up a room at night. It may help if you can try to modify these things a bit. I started using blue-light blocking glasses when I’m on my iPad just before bedtime, and I found I’m sleeping through the night now. You can get screen-protectors that are blue-light blocking. Just a thought.
Lastly, as I said before, persistent sadness can lead to depression, and depression is not usually something you can handle on your own. It often requires the help of trained professionals. If your sadness does, indeed, persist, and you find you are sad to the point of not feeling any happiness and don’t feel like doing the usual things you enjoy, please speak to your parents about possibly seeing your family doctor. This would be a good starting point, because he/she is trained to evaluate patients for possible depression, and make recommendations for appropriate treatment or therapy. Your doctor can also make sure your health is good, and rule out any underlying problems that might be contributing to your sadness.
I hope my advice will be helpful to you. Please write again if you need more advice. I hope things work out for you, and I wish you all the best. Take care and good luck!