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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Why Am I so Depressed Lately? 4 Things That Are Secretly Baffling You

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Why Am I so Depressed Lately? 4 Things That Are Secretly Baffling You

You can be feeling depressed without even knowing why. There’re different types of depressions and not all of them have an obvious cause that you can easily identify.

Our hectic life makes things go so fast that we don’t even realize we’re doing things that leave us feeling depressed. Or maybe we’ve gotten so used to our everyday life that we can’t notice what we’re doing doesn’t make us happy.

If you wonder why you’re feeling so depressed but can’t quite put your finger on why, then take a look at the list we’ve made over things that are secretly baffling you.

1. Isolation

Research shows that a lack of social connection can lead to a depression.[1] There are different types of isolation. If you’re not spending much time around people, but never had any problem with being alone before, this can still lead to a depression.

Even if you used to be happy with spending time on your own, this might change over time and could lead to you being depressed without knowing why.

Some people spend a lot of time around people at work or during social gatherings, but they can still feel alone and depressed. It’s possible to be around people, but still lack a social connection with them.

If you’re feeling depressed, then take a look at your social connections and consider how many people you really have around you. If you picked up the phone now and would call to ask for some help or just a normal honest conversation – how many could you call?

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It’s never too late to change things. If you’ve isolated yourself from good friends or family, try to reach out and see if things can be rebuilt. You can also try to engage yourself in a new activity where you’ll be able to meet some new people.

2. You can’t find meaning or purpose

It’s not only philosophers that spend time thinking about life and the meaning of it. When you were younger, you probably spent some time trying to figure out what you wanted out of life and what would give your life meaning. But as you’ve grown older, you’re just too busy with life that you forget all about it.

It can be hard to pin point your depression to a lack of meaning in your life. You can have a good family and a good job, but still walk around feeling depressed every day because deep down you have lost that connection with your original purpose and what you wanted in life.

Everyone finds meaning in different things. Some find it through work, relationships, helping others, learning or through creativity.

Take a step back and look at your life. What makes you happy? Do you remember what you originally felt was your purpose in life and are you living according to that still?

Maybe ten years ago, you thought you would find meaning in having a specific job, but now you realize that it’s not really what you want. Or maybe you went in another direction than you intended to, but you don’t feel fulfilled now.

It’s never too late to change things. Here’s the proof. Take some times to really look at your life and see if you can figure out some things that might look great on the surface, but is secretly suffocation you every day and ultimately making you unhappy and depressed.

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Ask a close friend or your family if they can help you see something you can’t, or just discuss it with a life coach.

3. Suppressed emotions

Everyone has primary and secondary feelings. The primary ones are feelings like sadness, anger or anxiety. The secondary feelings are the self-reflecting feelings we have about the primary feelings.

We may get sad about something, and then our secondary feeling will react to that sadness with a response. Maybe it will tell you that you shouldn’t feel sad, because it’s not a big deal. Or maybe you should feel something else because that emotion isn’t appropriate for that situation.

If we feel like our emotions aren’t right, then we’ll suppress them and that can lead to depression. Humans are the only ones that are able to get upset about being upset. We have another dimension to our brain that allows self-reflection.

Depending on how you grow up, we might be taught different values and were told that you shouldn’t be feeling certain emotions. It could be a teacher who told you only girls cry. It could come from some family values that you shouldn’t show others your anxiety or inner struggles.

These values have a way of sticking to us. If you get some primary feelings that don’t align with what you believe in, your secondary feelings will start to tear you apart from the inside and tell you that you shouldn’t allow yourself those emotions.

It can be hard to deal with suppressed emotions because you’re fighting against yourself; but it can be done.

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Start by figuring out why you’re upset about different stuff. Are you beating yourself up over stuff that aren’t even bad? Are you depressed but then tell yourself that you’re weak and you should just stop feeling so?

These suppressed emotions need to be dealt with out in the open. Try to take a look at yourself and see what you’re feeling and give yourself permission to feel these things. This might be enough for some and you’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders. But if you need help with this, seek out a therapist.

4. A critical inner voice

If you’ve ever been bullied or seen anyone be bullied on a daily basis, then you know how much this can take a toll on you and destroy your mood.

Now imagine this voice isn’t coming from the outside but is actually coming from yourself every day…

No one intentionally tries to pick on themselves, but a lot of us do it unconsciously. Maybe it started after a few mistakes or failures, or maybe you’re putting too much pressure on yourself.

It probably feels nothing at the very beginning, but if you slowly develop a critical inner voice and verbally attack yourself from the inside every single day, you’ll certainly end up feeling depressed.

It can be hard to recognize and diagnose this kind of depression because you can’t see how hard you are on yourself, and in this particular case – neither can the people around you.

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Start noticing your thoughts and how you view yourself closely. Are you putting a lot of pressure on yourself and feel really bad if you don’t live up to the expectations? Are you being over-critical all the time but have gotten so used to it that you don’t see it?

A critical inner voice can easily lead to depression. If you’re feeling depressed but can’t figure out why – then this might be the reason.

If you’re struggling with this, you can start out by writing down everything that runs in your head for one day, and then take a look at what you’ve written. Would you speak like that to someone else?

But sometimes, you do need another pair of eyes to help you. If your depression goes on and you can’t get rid of yourself, you should consider finding a therapist.

The bottom line

Depression is a mental sickness, so it’s important to take it serious and handle it. If you were really sick with the flu or had some back pain, you wouldn’t just ignore it and hope it went away. The same applies to depression. It won’t just go away unless you decide to deal with it.

Featured photo credit: Zohre Nemati via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: Connect To Thrive

More by this author

Maria Jensen

Specializes in personal and professional development.

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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