Everybody experiences the ebb and flow of different emotions. Sometimes we feel low, and other times we feel higher, and of course there are other times where our mood settles someplace in the middle. Low mood is recognised as feeling flat, and not like our ‘usual self’. You may notice that you feel different in your body, or notice that your outlook on life as shifted a little bit. Sometimes periods of low mood can be reactive to an event that has happened, and at other times it can be with us for no obvious reason.
When periods of low mood drag on this can makes us feel tired, worried, anger and exhausted. Sometimes consistent low mood can turn into depression.
What is depression?
Depression is when our overall mood is continually low and unchanging for a long period of time. We can begin to lose interest in things that we previously found enjoyable, find it hard to concentrate, we may sleep more, or even sleep less than usual. Our overall mood is affected and it can be really hard to see the other side. It can be difficult to explain to our friends and family why we are feeling this way. It can be difficult to understand why we feel this way ourselves. We want you to know that feeling this way is OKAY and you can get through the other side. The most important thing is that you take it one step at a time.
What could my next step be?
Being gentle with ourselves when we are feeling low in mood is tricky, but can really help us. One step in front of the other. One breath at a time.
Steps that can help when we are feeling this way:
- Physical activity – outside if you can. This may feel like the last thing you want to do, but the endorphins will help to lift your mood. Remember: this can be as little as stretches. Take your time and be gentle with yourself.
- Connecting with someone you trust – this can be a friend or a counsellor.
- Try to stick with some of the things you enjoy.
- Challenge unhelpful thoughts – you could do this by writing them out or saying them outloud.
- Look after your basic needs – sleep, hygiene and diet.
- Be gentle with yourself – sometimes a ‘down day’ can be restorative.
The reasons that children or young people begin to self harm are complicated and individual to each person. Self harming is often a secret activity which children and young people feel a lot of shame about. Some young people will know the reason that they self harm, while others aren’t sure.
Self harming can begin when people find big emotions too difficult to manage. The act of self injury can feel like a release, and act as a coping strategy or avoidance from the emotional pain that they are experiencing. Sometimes, it can be easier to deal with physical pain than emotional pain.
Some reasons children and young people may turn to self harm are due to some of the below reasons:
- experiencing depression, anxiety or eating problems
- having low self-esteem or feeling like they’re not good enough
- grieving or having problems with family relationships
- feeling angry, numb or like they don’t have control over their lives
Self harming can be a tricky cycle to break – but it is possible to find alternative and more healthy coping strategies for that urge to self harm.
Parents can support children with their self harm by offering them a listening ear, being supportive, helping them identify the reasons that they are self harming, and finding alternatives.
Some alternatives to self harm might be:
- Writing down how they’re feeling in a journal
- Drawing with sharpie on the place they want to self harm
- Doing some exercise
- Making a self sooth box (focus on sensory experiences like a stress ball/nice calming smells)
- Writing down difficult feelings on pieces of paper and then ripping them up
- Screaming into a pillow
- Hitting a soft cushion, pillow or bean bag
- Listening to loud music
- Having a shower
- Going for a walk outside, or taking the dog for a walk
- Focusing on their breathing – how it feels in their body to breathe in and out
- Wrapping up in a blanket or duvet
- Tidying or organising something
- Expressing themselves through drawing or art
The NSPCC website has lots of advice for parents of children who are self harming:
Preventing Child Self-Harm & Keep Them Safe | NSPCC
If you are a young person who is self harming – you deserve the time and space to talk about your problems, and not to bury them or harm yourself.
Home – Calm Harm App
How to make a self-soothe box | YoungMinds