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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Why Do I Feel Depressed Every Once in a While for No Reason?

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Why Do I Feel Depressed Every Once in a While for No Reason?

Many people ask themselves, “Why do I feel depressed for no reason?”

The truth is that there is always a reason. They just don’t know what it is. The brain is a complex organ, and it takes a great deal of self-awareness to fully understand our thoughts and emotions.

Mild depression is quite common. We all have periods in our lives when we feel sad, and have trouble shaking it off. It may not seem like a big deal, but if we let mild depression fester, then it can diminish our health and quality of life.

Do you want to spend your precious time feeling down, or living life to its fullest?

Below I’ll discuss some of the common reasons why you may feel depressed, and then share with you some simple and effective tools for getting you out of your funk, and to help you develop the self-awareness and inner strength to prevent it in the future.

Why Do I Feel Depressed?

Understanding why you feel depressed is an important step to treating and preventing depression.

You don’t have to be a trained psychologist to figure out why you’re feeling sad. Sometimes, you just need to observe what is going on in your body, mind, and your life.

Here are some of the more common causes of mild depression:

Feeling Stress Out and Overwhelmed

Stress can be a major contributor to mild depression. Busy people have many commitments, such as work, family life, and extracurricular activities. All of these can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

The way stress contributes to depression is that when you’re so busy, you don’t have time to give your mind a rest. When this happens, your thoughts gain so much momentum that it’s almost impossible to slow it down. And when your mind is racing out of control, you begin feeling like you’re losing control of your life.

Physical Health Conditions

What is your body telling you?

There are various physical conditions that can lead to depression. One of them is Vitamin D deficiency. Studies have shown that approximately 42% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D. The numbers are much higher among Hispanics and African-Americans, 69% and 82% respectively.

The solution for vitamin D deficiency is simple. Either get more of this vital nutrient through diet or supplementation, and get a little more sunlight.[1]

Changes in hormones can affect your mood. The changes may be due to thyroid function, menstrual cycle, and level of physical activity.

Exercise, in the short-term, can make you feel irritable. In the long-term, it can help you feel better about yourself.

Lack of sleep can also negatively affect your mood, and your ability to focus, which can also make you feel irritable. Maybe you’re not getting enough, or good quality sleep.

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The Past Keeps Coming Up

The wounds from your past can affect your mood without you even realizing it. If you have not fully come to terms with painful past events, then anything that reminds you of them can make you feel depressed for no apparent reason.

Even if nothing reminds you of painful events, the unconscious memories act like an undercurrent of painful thoughts that manifest themselves in your behavior and moods.

For example, if a partner in a past relationship betrayed your trust, similar behavior by a new partner can trigger the same painful emotions, sometimes without you realizing where those emotions are coming from. The subconscious mind remembers everything.

Thinking That Everyone Else Has It So Easy

Does it seem like your Facebook friends have more exciting lives than you? It’s possible their lives aren’t as exciting as they may be portraying, and you may be comparing your life, including all the ups and downs, with the highlights of their lives. This is unrealistic.

Keep in mind that excitement is not the same as true happiness and fulfillment. Excitement is a temporary sense of pleasure, and true happiness is a general state of being. It is quite possible that other people are putting up a façade to mask the pain they feel inside.

The best thing to do is not compare your life to that of others, but rather to keep doing the things that bring you true happiness and fulfillment.

Being Disrupted by Changes in Life

A basic fact of life is that everything is always changing. Nothing ever stays the same.

And if you expect things to stay the same, then it’s just a matter of time before you’re disappointed, and begin feeling depressed.

A good example of this is intimate relationships. We all love that euphoric feeling of when we first fall in love with someone. Well, those feelings change. Sometimes people drift apart, or their love for each other changes to a deeper caring for their happiness, and not just our own.

Some people can’t deal with those changing feelings. If two people begin drifting apart, sometimes they do everything they can to recreate those initial feelings. They have trouble letting go and moving on.

People Are Not as Expected

Many of us have unrealistic expectations of other people. We can often be overly critical of others, while at the same time expect them to be forgiving of our faults.

If we only see other people’s faults, then we limit the number of people with whom we can have close relationships. And if we don’t have close relationships, then we are more susceptible to getting depressed for no apparent reason.

We need to remember that other people are fallible, and we can’t make them perfect, nor is it our job to do so. If we’re going to have any quality relationships in our lives, then we need to accept people as they are.

Wishing to Have More Friends

You’ve probably heard it before: Humans are social animals. However, some people have difficulty connecting with others. They either have not developed good social skills, or are afraid of getting hurt.[2]

Whichever the case, not having good relationships with other people leaves us vulnerable to depression. And pets are not enough. We need other human beings.

One of the ways that other people help prevent us from getting depressed is that they give us support in dealing with life’s problems. They can help us sort things out in our mind, and provide us with the support necessary to build our inner strength, which will make us more resilient to depression.

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The Changing Weather

Studies have shown that the weather can affect our mood. Sometimes, just a few rainy days can make you feel depressed.

During rainstorms, some people’s tendency is to turn off the lights and crawl in bed. Clinical psychologist, Tecsia Evans, Ph.D., says it is better to turn on the lights. Studies have shown that light can increase serotonin, which improves our mood.[3]

Prolonged periods of poor weather can give us the blues without us realizing that is the cause. The winter months are notorious for bringing on mild depression, and sometimes severe depression.

If you live in a colder climate, then you are more likely to be affected by seasonal changes. Interestingly, women are more likely to suffer from adverse weather-related depression.

How to Beat the Blues

Now that you have a better idea of why you feel depressed sometimes for no apparent reason, here are some measures you can take to lift your mood.

The first part is a list of quick tips to get you out of your funk. The second part is a list of preventive measures to help build your inner strength, and keep you from getting depressed in the first place.

Quick Tips

We sometimes feel depressed for no reason because our mind is focusing on unpleasant things that may be going on in our lives.

Here are some tips to quickly lift your mood by diverting your attention to more positive things. While they’re designed to treat mild depression, they can also be used as preventive measures if you incorporate them into your life.

1. Go for a Walk

One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to improve your mood quickly is to go for a walk. It helps you relieve stress by clearing your mind and getting out of yourself.

Walking can be even more calming if you do it mindfully. It’s simple. Just slow down your pace, and focus your attention on each step.

When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your footsteps.

2. Call a Friend or Family Member

Talking to someone else can help you sort things out in your mind, even if they don’t give you any advice. Sometimes just verbalizing what is going on in your life can help you figure out why you feel depressed.

Other people can also provide you with support. Just knowing there are other people who care about you can be enough to improve your mood.

3. Play with a Pet

Pets are great for giving us unconditional love. If you have pets, spend a few minutes of quality time with them. They can quickly brighten your day.

4. Make a Gratitude List

This is a powerful tool for helping you put things into proper perspective. We sometimes tend to focus on the things that are going wrong in our life. A gratitude list can remind you of all the things that are going right.

Just make a list of things you are grateful for, such as good health, a job, family, etc.

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If you don’t have these, then dig deeper. Do you have food, shelter, and clothing? Many people in the world don’t have some of the things we take for granted. Here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life.

5. Plan a Fun Activity with a Friend

We sometimes feel depressed when all we’re doing is working, and taking care of commitments to others.

Take some time for yourself to do something you enjoy, such as going out to dinner with a friend, or to see a movie. This will give your mind a rest from all your problems.

6. Hug Someone

Feeling the warmth of a friendly embrace can make all the difference in the world. If you have a close friends or family members, give them a hug. Chances are they can also use a warm hug.

7. Let the Sunshine In

You’d be amazed at how something so simple can make you feel better. As noted above, studies have shown that sunlight can improve your mood. Even better, open the windows and smell the fresh air, and listen to the birds sing.

8. Treat Yourself

As a general rule, I usually don’t recommend indulging in sensual pleasure to fix ourselves. However, sometimes it’s fun, and harmless, to be a little bad, so long as you don’t go overboard, or make it your go-to solution to all your problems.

So treat yourself to your favorite coffee, music, or restaurant. Want some ideas? Here’re 30 Ways To Treat Yourself No Matter What.

Preventive Measures

One important lesson I learned when I was young was that it is much easier to prevent depression, than to treat it after it sets in.

Here are some practices to address the most common causes of mild depression we discussed above. They are simple, yet powerful, practices you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule to prevent you from getting depressed for no reason.

1. Meditation

Meditation is a powerful tool for helping us develop a strong mind and stable emotions. By calming our mind, we can develop our ability to see things with greater clarity, therefore, gaining a better understanding of what is happening in our mind and emotions.

Meditation will also help us heal the wounds from our past, so that they no longer trigger the painful emotions associated with them.

Meditation has many other benefits that can improve your quality of life, such as lower stress, improved physical and mental health, better sleep, and more. It can even help you live longer.

On a basic level, meditation is simply giving your mind a rest from all the sensory stimulation, and letting it settle down naturally. The great thing about meditation is you don’t have to spend a lot of time to get some benefits from the practice, and you don’t have to do it perfectly either.

To meditate, all you have to do is sit comfortably in a chair, preferably in a quiet place for a few minutes. Close your eyes, and begin following your breath. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breathing.

Start with meditating for about 5-10 minutes a day or every other day, and then gradually increase it as you’re able to sit longer. Don’t worry about whether you’re doing it correctly, or if you miss a few days. Any meditation is better than no meditation.

There are more techniques to meditation, but this is a good start.

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2. Loving-Kindness Writing Meditation

Loving-kindness meditation is a common practice in some Eastern spiritual traditions. Generally, what they do is either listen to, or recite a set of positive affirmations, such as “May I be healthy and strong, loving, kind, and compassionate.”

With the writing meditation, you copy the affirmations by hand in a notebook. What this does is literally reprogram your subconscious mind, so that you naturally begin living according to the ideals of the affirmations without any conscious effort. Now, how cool is that!

What’s even better is that you only have to do the writing mediation for about 5-10 minutes a day, and you don’t even need a quiet place to do it.

You can find the exercise by googling “loving-kindness writing meditation.” Try it. It really works, and fast.

3. Volunteering

Volunteering

is a great way to help you stay grateful for everything you have, and keep you from feeling depressed. It helps you keep your life in proper perspective.

There are so many people out there who are struggling, and need your help. Yes, YOUR help. And I don’t mean monetarily. They need someone to talk with, to let them know they’re not alone with their problems, and that someone cares about their well-being.

There are so many ways you can help those in need. Here are a few of ideas:

  • Homeless shelter: These shelters operate with limited resources, and need help with their daily operations. You have valuable life experiences that can help their clients. It is truly gratifying to know that you helped someone get back on his feet.
  • Prisons: There are many inmates who have made mistakes in their lives, and sincerely want to change their ways. They’re not that different from the people at the homeless shelter in the sense that they need help learning life skills.
  • Nursing homes: One of the saddest things is to grow old, and be alone in this world. Many of the elderly don’t have any family or friends, as they’ve died before them. And even if they do have family, their visits are few and far between.

You can truly brighten their day by just being there and talking to them for a little while. Not only is this a gratifying experience, but you can also learn a lot. The elderly have great life experience to share with you.

4. Joining Social Groups

Participating in a social group is a great way to stay connected with other people who can help you navigate the challenges of life. There are many types of groups, such as hobbies and social groups.

While these are helpful, I think the ones of greatest value to help prevent us from getting depressed are support groups and spiritual groups. These types of groups are specifically designed to help you deal with life issues. You can also develop much deeper bonds with the people who attend them, compared to a hobby or social group.

A good resource for finding groups in your area is Meetup.com.

Final Thoughts

Feeling depressed for no apparent reason, or mild depression, is quite common in today’s busy world. The more activities we have, the more thoughts we have, and the more they can trigger painful emotions.

There are three basic ways to treat and prevent mild depression:

  • Cultivate a calm mind, i.e. fewer thoughts
  • Cultivate more positive thoughts
  • Transform the way you process events in your life

The suggestions discussed above will address all three. So, now you have the tools to not just treat and prevent mild depression, you now have a formula for being happy most of the time, for no apparent reason.

Featured photo credit: Daan Mooij via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Charles A. Francis

Author, meditation teacher, and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute

How to Start Living in the Moment and Stop Worrying 20 of the Best Guided Meditations for Sleep and Insomnia How to Learn to Let Go of What You Can’t Control How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life and Feel Better 10 Ways a Silent Retreat Improves Your Mental Health

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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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