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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

Why Am I So Sad? 9 Possible Causes You Shouldn’t Ignore

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Why Am I So Sad? 9 Possible Causes You Shouldn’t Ignore

Expressing emotions is difficult as it’s not always encouraged in society. People rely on comfort zones and a secure mask to get them through the day. You may feel emotions stirring and wonder, “Why am I so sad?” and not know where to begin in how to answer that.

In a way, being sensitive can be looked down upon. We ignore warning signs of sadness, depression and other forms of suffering because having feelings is something we cannot be open about in society. Stigma stifles us from speaking up.

It shouldn’t be something we are afraid of. With the release or catharsis of emotion, we find resilience and who we want to be. Sadness is one emotion of many. But it’s often the one most ignored. We don’t want to appear weak to others, or even to ourselves.

Ignoring sadness leads to repression. It may also lead to depression.

There is a difference between sadness and depression. Sadness you feel, depression may lead into numbness, intense sadness or a heaviness that cannot be easily coped with. You may go through all your coping skills for sadness, and it may still be there if it’s depression.

Typically, sadness is fleeting and brought on by something; it comes and goes, whereas depression holds us down for long periods of time maybe lasting weeks or so. It’s where we are in a hole we feel we cannot climb out of by ourselves, but we are even more afraid to ask for help.

When you are feeling sad, you are most likely feeling alone. You are most likely feeling helpless. You feel like it’s the end of the world or that you can’t go on. It’s a grief of something. But part of depression is feeling this way almost nonstop at a depth that can overrule your behavior.

When you feel sad, you may be at a juncture in life of confusion. Where do I go from here? What next? Or even, what is worth holding onto?

Do you find yourself hiding away from the world in shame or confusion?

Do you find yourself feeling hollow or empty, even though more tears may come up?

Do you find yourself feeling lost?

These are the key components to both sadness and depression. Sadness may hold on but it doesn’t linger. Depression doesn’t let go.

Seek a professional to help assist with either, but for now, reasoning through the causes may help to identify a way for a solutions.

Here’re 9 possible causes of you sadness that you shouldn’t ignore:

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1. Lack of Support System

We need people to know who we really are. We need moments of vulnerability or opening up to one another to feel safe and secure. When we can tell others what we are going through, we feel a sense of clarity and release.

We feel obligated to be our own heroes. We feel like we need to hold on rather than let go and let others in. When this happens, sadness increases, and we are no longer engaged with those we love.

People overwhelm us with their ability to smile, carry on and even be functional. But that’s not always their truth either. When sadness hits, we have to tell someone and build a support system. We may find we have some thing about ourselves in common with others.

Find people you trust: professionals, friends and family that you can turn to when going through a hard time. Let them in. You are not alone in this. You just need to allow others to see your weaknesses, which aren’t even true weaknesses. Feeling sad is not a weakness. Holding back in an effort to appear strong is, however, a weakness. When people know what you’re going through, they can better assist you.

“No man is an island.” — John Donnes

2. Inability to Communicate Needs

When we are the most sad, we have trouble communicating our needs to others. But sadness doesn’t form overnight. Oftentimes, the repression goes back longer and deeper. We expect others to read our minds. We don’t give them a chance to get to know the real us because we’re so afraid of rejection.

Your needs are more than food, shelter and clothing, etc. They include understanding, compassion, reassurance, empowerment and hope. When you let yourself become vulnerable, people can offer you these things. It starts with communicating your needs.

Maybe you were passed up in a promotion, rejected in a love affair, hurt over past childhood abuse, neglected in life because of your inability to speak up. All these things do not define us. What defines us is what we do with them, the lessons learned. We have to let people in so that we can decide what to do with them.

To communicate your needs, write a list of your values, goals, what you’re grateful for and what you want others to help you with in regards to these areas. Then, make a plan to ask for help. Let others see this list. Let them choose how they can help you.

3. Identity Loss

Our identities become wrapped up in what we want people to think about us. Instead of hiding in the same stigma of sadness, open up to the world to share what you are going through.

When you are wearing a mask, you cannot be authentic. And when you are not being authentic, you are not getting your needs in life met. You are not building a true foundation for success. You cannot be happy. You cannot learn others’ needs or identities. You cannot offer a solid answer to their own vulnerabilities. Instead, you freeze. You become numb to others’ suffering and isolated in your own.

That mask needs to come off. Otherwise, you’re just waiting for more sadness to consume you when isolated and alone. That mask is designed to distract others from your pain, but it doesn’t work in the long term. Eventually, that mask will break.

If you keep it on, you will look towards that mask as who you really are. You will pretend and lose sight of your dreams and goals. Instead of letting that happen, take the mask off.

The freedom that comes in being yourself is worth it. The sadness will shrink at the sight of who you really are.

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4. Hardship

Hardship does not define us. But it can take time to recover from one. Don’t speed up that process. Sadness is not an inherently wrong emotion to feel. It’s just uncomfortable. And when you go through a hardship, that sadness will be there. That sadness attaches you to what you lost that you loved. It gives meaning to it. It helps you understand yourself when you open up about your grief.

People will have solutions for everything. But the greatest answer you can give yourself is honoring that sadness and what it stands for, so that it doesn’t overwhelm and control you. You will be less afraid of the hardship’s long term effect. It will equate some closure. You will learn lessons from the hardship that you might have not learned any other way.

Hold space for the pain, for yourself to heal, and for others who might not understand right away.

Be kind to yourself. That’s the best way to handle sadness from a hardship. Know that it’s natural to be there, but it won’t be so pushy forever. That’s where your own abilities come into play.

You can keep going knowing that you will honor that notion that it carries the weight of what you once wanted. And maybe as you grow, you will change in what you want. But you will never change in what you need. And that’s healing, growth, love and honoring your journey that you got this far and are able to do much more than anyone knows. Keep going!

5. Negative Messages or Self Talk About Yourself

You are worth everything. Your sadness does not speak to what you are worth. It only tells you the story you tell yourself. And when you change that story, you can breathe. You start to see the positives in your day. You start to realize you deserve to be happy. You even let yourself smile maybe. You will not go down that easy. You will rise again.

In The Toxic Effects of Negative Self Talk on Very Well Mind [1], Elizabeth Scott, MS said:

“Studies have linked negative self-talk with higher levels of stress and lower levels of self-esteem.”

Both stress and lower self-esteem bring on the sadness in which we feel we are losing our sanity. But we can pick ourselves up again with positive self talk.

Positive self talk is sending message of love and hope to yourself when the world fails to do so for you. It’s taking control. You may not be able to take control of every aspect of every circumstance, but you can control yourself. That means you have something to give. You can show up, when you are struggling, and you can know you are safe because you can control the messages you are telling yourself.

Take control, today and everyday, and watch the sadness fade. Start with “I am worth it.”

6. Disempowerment

Maybe you’re not going through a hardship. Yet, you are not empowered. Maybe your circumstances are just not giving you what you want. You are having unfulfilling experiences. Your relationships are not healthy, your school or work simply drains you, you have no support system, you have an identity crisis, a lack of focus or meaning. Or all of the above.

In all of these examples, you feel a lack of power over your life.

Maybe you didn’t notice it at first, but the sadness creeped slowly up on you. Maybe you need it though as a wake up call. This isn’t the life you deserve. Maybe it’s time to change something.

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That’s when sadness can serve us. It can give us hope. That we can feel enough to know something isn’t right. You don’t need to explain it to anyone else. You just need to act on it. You’ve been white-knuckling through your problems enough. Use the sadness or when it rains to open an umbrella, and walk forward.

7. Lack of Focus, Direction or Drive

It may be a simple thing of a lack of focus, direction or drive for your reason for sadness. You may have a great life, but you don’t know which way to go next. You aren’t taking what you do have seriously. In fact, you may be taking what you have for granted.

The lack of gratitude may be the reason why you can’t see the good even though it’s there. You’re forgetting why you started. You don’t recognize yourself in the mirror because you’ve let yourself wander so far. But now, it’s time to get it all back.

Choose. Make choices. Act. It sounds simple, but it is not easy to get your drive back. You have to really want it. And that changes everything.

Your mindset is everything. If you can’t view things with a positive spin, you will have nothing to do that is meaningful or productive. If your mindset is causing you to overlook what you do have and what you can have, it’s time to change it. Just with positive self talk, getting focused is about realizing what you deserve.

“It’s during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” — Aristotle

If you want to find your drive, this article can help you: How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up

8. Oppression of Some Sort

Poverty, pain, wrong doing, injustice… Sometimes, there are things outside of our control. We may feel like there’s nothing we can do in our current circumstances to make it better. But we have to try.

You didn’t choose this, but you did decide your attitude about it.

You can either fight or stop. But stopping is not an option.

Instead of blame everything else, see what you can do to be a light here. Get yourself through it to get yourself to the other side. Don’t judge what you’ve had to do in the past to do just that. But now it is time to start over.

Forgive yourself. Let the sadness be a voice for what you’re going through. Express that. It doesn’t mean things will change right away. But you will change. That will make meaning out of your sadness. It will help you transform what you hope to change.

9. Depression

If your sadness doesn’t leave you, it may be depression.

A chemical balance may be the reason for it all. Or a sudden hardship, heartbreak, loss. There’s no one reason for someone to become depressed. It’s subjective to that person.

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Sadness enduring and growing stronger with a more hollow, empty feeling than you’ve ever had before is a sign of depression. Depression strikes when you are down. It’s like a weight on your chest. Sometimes, the sadness robs you of your sanity. You make rash decisions. You act in ways that do not appear healthy. You choose to retreat rather than open up the world. And therein lies the problem. You forget you’re human. You’re allowed to ask for help.

When the depression becomes numb, it could be a multitude of emotions lingering that the brain suppresses to help you cope. In that state, it’s time to reach out. Even if you don’t know what is causing it, it’s time to act.

If you need help, here’s a great organization to start with: National Alliance on Mental Illness describes depression as hopelessness, lack of interest in activities or even suicidal thoughts.

It’s also suggested to create a safety plan. This means you gather your supports, someone you trust, to help maybe take you to the ER if symptoms persist.

Call a suicide prevention hotline.

Note these aren’t fail-safe. It may take trying different therapies such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Maybe even medication. Meditation never hurts. But it’s up to you to be honest about how you feel, if something is not working for you, or if a counselor is not helpful.

Get ready for it all to be a process, to take time. There’s not a quick fix for your feelings. And when sadness becomes depression, you know to take it seriously. One day, there may be a cure, but for now, you will heal your sadness and depression by identifying and causes and coming up with a plan of action no matter what.

Final Thoughts

People don’t always recognize when someone is in crisis. They don’t know your internal dialogue. They don’t hear your negative self-talk. But what they do is love you.

You are not alone in this at all. Sadness can be very telling of what a person is going through. If it becomes depression, added steps are needed to getting help.

It should be viewed as any other health crisis. But due to stigma, it is not often so that we view it that way.

You can change that — just by showing up, just by voicing your concerns, just by living for yourself, your needs, and your goals. Because when it comes to sadness or depression, we often feel silenced. No more.

Good luck.

More to Cheer You Up

Featured photo credit: Casper Nichols via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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