Before I let myself wallow in a shallow depression, I have a checklist to go through. If I do them all and I still feel down, then I know it’s a valid emotion.
Sadness is normal and can be a reasonable, justifiable emotion. There’s often a completely valid reason for you to be blubbering into your sofa cushions.
Other times, it’s not. There’s no good reason. Maybe it’s rainy or you slept poorly or you only got one comment on your latest YouTube video, and it was someone calling you a twat.
The difficultly is sorting the valid sadness from the pointless sadness. They feel so similar, but sometimes they can be defeated if they don’t have a valid underlying reason. I have my own tool for this: the sadness checklist.
It works just like you’d expect:
If you feel like you want to dim the lights, break out the chips, climb into bed, put on a sad movie, have a little weep, or do whatever your chosen coping method is, first you have to go down the list and make sure you’ve done everything on it that day.
If you have, you then have full permission to hide away from the world and do what you need to do.
Here’s the list, with some notes in brackets to explain them a bit:
- Do 20 mins of exercise (walking is fine)
- Eat some vegetables
- Talk to someone (anyone who isn’t a stranger, not work-related)
- Tick something off my personal todo list
- Shower and put on fresh clothes (not gym clothes or PJs)
- Clean apartment (do dishes, make bed, do a general tidy)
And that’s it.
Sometimes, doing the list will re-center me. But not always. Worst case I’m still sad, but I’m sad in a freshly made bed and my special gentleman’s area is clean.
If it’s morning sadness you’re facing, you can get through the list in a couple of hours. More likely, most of them are done or pretty close to done by mid-day anyway so if it’s a night sadness, you can finish the list and hide in the closet before too long. There is some amount of willpower involved in doing things when you’re the least motivated to do them. I would suggest starting with the ones you enjoy the most.
You may have other items to add to your list, like ‘play with your kids’ or ‘walk your dog’ or do things that you find fun. I’m not all that into fun and I’m also the smallest and only being in my home so this is my list for my situation.
Also: you won’t always want to face your list. Sometimes you’re too sad to care about anything. That’s okay, as long as it’s not happening all the time. In which case, you’re going to need a lot more than a checklist. This list is just one of many tools that I find handy to keep in my back pocket.
It’s helped me. Maybe it will help you.
Sad dog photo from Unsplash / Andrew Branch