What to do when you are feeling very down

March 18th 2024

At times it can be hard to pull yourself out from under a black cloud. Here are some simple steps to help bring light back


Many people have been expressing that they feel very down. This is not atypical in the early part of the year but as I write this, it feels disproportionate in the number of people who are struggling, and the depth of those struggles.

Below are some of the steps that I use therapeutically to help people and indeed, have been dipping into them myself – no-one is immune from becoming susceptible to low moods!

1. The multi storey house method

When things become tough, we often relate to ‘darkness’ or ‘low’ moods.

Consider this to be in the cellar/basement.  It is dark, cold and often uncomfortable.  The desire is often to be in the penthouse with a wonderful view, up in the clouds.

To go from the cellar to this high level however is not reasonable.  The focus needs to be just to get back to ground level.

To get back to ground level you need to address the basics.  Once you are at ground level, then the first floor becomes accessible.  Once there, you can access the next level, and so on.

There is more detail on what you can do at each level here.

The key is to be realistic on what you can achieve as aiming too high, will only heighten your likelihood of falling further if you do not achieve it.

2. This too shall pass

When you are in that hole, it can often feel that you will never get out.
Never is a very long time and I have found little that it can be applied to.

It certainly is not true to our moods.  They change.  Sometimes they can change within a day.  How you feel today is unlikely to be the same as how you were feeling last week, or last month, or last year.  Therefore you can project that forward and know that you can feel differently in the future.  This gives hope and hope is a path out of depression.

Mantras are very powerful and one I use commonly is “This too shall pass.”  For more on how to create a mantra that may work for you, read on here.

3. This is part of duality

Duality is a concept developed by Carl Yung and Sigmund Freud – the fathers of psychoanalysis.  It is based on the principle that everything has it’s opposite:

Up has it’s down, front means there must be a back, hot and cold.

And the principle is you can only know one because you have experienced the other.  Ie you can only know you are hot because you have experienced cold.

This can be applied to depression and happiness.  You only know you are down because you have experienced the highs of happiness, joy, elation.

Therefore what a low mood can do is help you appreciate even more the positive moods when they are there.  And if you were happy all the time, it would cease to be happiness but just the norm!

So know that these feelings serve a purpose.

4. Flip it

This can be a trickier one if you are in a very deep dark cellar but it is still doable.

Flip it is about looking for the positives – because they are always there.  If you focus on the negatives, the gloom, that is what you see.  If however you look for positives, then you will start to see them too.

Gratitude is a very very powerful emotion and for most of us, when we find ourselves in that cellar, there are things we can be grateful for.  It is likely that there is still food in the cupboards, someone who loves and cares for you, a friend you can talk to etc.

There is a very simple exercise that by practicing for just a couple of minutes a day can really start to flex the positive mental muscle and with that, comes a huge strength.  You can download that exercise (how to develop an attitude of gratitude) here.

5. You are not alone

I am using the wisdom of the Dalai Lama here!

He promotes that moving your focus from your own suffering to that of others, a unity is created.  When we compare and see lack, it creates separation and in separation we become more vulnerable.

“A self-centered attitude is the source of suffering.  Shift your awareness to the suffering of others and the pain lessens.”

For more of this wisdom, I highly recommend the book “The gift of Joy”

You may decide to focus on one of these steps, or take actions from all of them.  Cumulatively, they can support a change in your outlook and mood.

These actions are shared with you for those times when life is tough and you are feeling down.  They will help you to get through that time and expedite reaching the times when joy is accessible again.

If however you are struggling with long term depression, please do seek professional help.

Caroline Cavanagh is an anxiety specialist  and hypnotherapist in Salisbury, Wiltshire.  She is an author and professional speaker and would love to talk to you if you would like to know more about her work

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