Whether it is simply waking up on the wrong side of the bed or a bad week at work, many situations may trigger an onset of the blues. One University of Alabama at Birmingham mental health expert says feeling down is a form of depression and should be addressed.
"I think depression is a spectrum, and full-on depression is when you experience things like impaired appetite, disrupted sleep, lack of concentration and ruminative thoughts," said Diane Tucker, Ph.D., professor of psychology. "Feelings of discouragement or the blues are on that continuum, and I think it is important to be attentive to those feelings."
Tucker said when one is down in the dumps, he or she should look at his or her "life equation": how time is being spent and what is being done to help nourish self-worth.
"When people feel down, they're less likely to be doing things that help them feel centered and personally efficacious," Tucker said. "One of the first steps to feel better is to reach out to your network of good friends or social contacts. They can help provide a validation of the strongest parts of oneself."
In addition, Tucker said close friends can provide helpful feedback, including seeing our role in a difficult situation. Good friends let us know that we are not alone and remind us of the best parts of ourselves.
Other ways to beat the blues:
• Exercise and cook a healthy meal
• Do activities that provide internal satisfaction — like arts, reading or gardening
• Write down thoughts in a journal regularly
"With the blues, we lose perspective or it becomes distorted — people go over and over the things they're unhappy with, and they get psychologically stuck," Tucker said. "The challenge is to move beyond where you're stuck. Things that can help include writing in a journal, doing activities that give you satisfaction, exercising and being with friends."
According to Tucker, ignoring the blues can be detrimental, leading to subtle issues like poor job performance or compromised relationships.
"People are different in terms of biology and the way our brains work; some people are prone to depression, and others are prone to high blood pressure," she said. "If it becomes a chronic problem, most cases can be helped by medication or psychotherapy."