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Down and unable to cope

Why do I feel down and unable to cope?

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Life can be really tough at times and it can make you feel down and unable to cope. Sometimes you may know what’s causing you to feel this way, and other times there may be no clear reason. This can be really worrying, but it’s normal. We all feel low at points in our lives.

When we feel down, everyday things like going to school, hanging out with friends or even getting dressed can feel harder. We may also find that we don’t get as much pleasure from things we used to enjoy. Although it can be really hard to feel hopeful, there are things you can do to help you feel better.

There are many reasons why you might feel down or unable to cope. It might be because of something that you’re finding difficult, like exams, or you might be struggling with a mental health problem like depression.

Understanding what is making you feel this way can really help. If you're not sure, try thinking about how different areas of your life are making you feel, like: friendships, family, home, school, work, or relationships. This can help you to see what makes you feel good in your life but also what might be bringing you down.

If you're having negative thoughts about yourself

Sometimes things happen in life that make us feel guilty, ashamed, helpless, angry, or fearful. When we feel bad, we might start to tell ourselves that everything is our fault, or that we don’t deserve to feel good, but that simply is not true.

We all have negative thoughts from time to time, but if these thoughts become overwhelming, it is probably a sign that you need some support.

Things you might be struggling with could include:

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It's important to recognise when we need to ask for forgiveness from others, but equally, we need to learn to forgive ourselves. Often, that’s the hardest thing to do.

If you don't know where to turn, these helplines can support you

Sometimes, these negative thoughts can feel so overwhelming that you might feel like there is no way out. You might feel like the only way to cope is to harm yourself or to use drugs or alcohol to numb the pain these feelings are causing. If you are feeling like this, it is really important to get the help you need. Lots of people have felt like you do now and, with the right support, managed to get through it. You matter.

  • Samaritans

    Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support. N.B. This is a listening service and does not offer advice or intervention.

    Opening times:
  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
  • Life can be so tough, but if you’re struggling it doesn’t mean that you’re failing. Please hold onto whatever hope you can and know that you’re probably doing much better than you think you are.
  • Don't forget that your life is your own story so try not to compare it to anyone else's. It can be hard to see others doing well when you're not, but believe me when I say that when you start doing well again it feels even better after being through a tough time.

If you're struggling to look after yourself

We all have things we need to do to look after ourselves, like getting enough sleep, eating well and taking care of our personal hygiene. Staying on top of these things can make us feel good and help us feel more able to take on life’s challenges.

But, when you are feeling down, you might find looking after yourself more difficult. For example, you might:

  • have problems sleeping – your thoughts might keep you awake at night, or you might sleep too much and struggle to get out of bed
  • struggle to do things you usually enjoy – you might lose motivation, find it difficult to concentrate, or not get as much enjoyment as you used to
  • find it hard to do basic things like brushing your teeth or taking a shower

For more advice, take a look at Lorna's blog. She shares her tips for taking care of yourself when it feels difficult. 

How to do self-care when you're really struggling
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If you’re struggling with a mental health condition

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Mental health problems like depression can sometimes feel like they are taking over your life. You might feel like they are stopping you from doing things you want to do, or you might feel scared that you will always feel this way. But remember, these feelings are temporary. You can get through this.

If a mental health problem is making you feel down, read our guides for tips and advice:

  • Anxiety - if you feel worried, nervous or panicky all the time, you might be struggling with anxiety.
  • Depression - if you’re feeling down all the time, unable to enjoy life, and you are having a lot of negative thoughts, you might be experiencing depression.
  • Bipolar disorder – if you’re having very extreme mood swings, it could be a sign of bipolar disorder.
  • Psychosis - if you’re experiencing ‘out of the ordinary’ things, like hearing voices, or having hallucinations, these could be episodes of psychosis. In some cases, this might also be a sign of schizophrenia.
  • PTSD - if you have experienced something extremely frightening, upsetting or a life-threating situation you might notice changes to your mood and behaviour.
  • There are days when I feel completely defeated and need time to gather my thoughts and try again when I’m mentally prepared. And this is completely fine.
  • If you are feeling like this, try setting small goals each day to help you build a routine. Your goals don’t have to be big tasks; they can be things like getting out of bed or putting on some different clothes. This may feel strange at first, but it can really help.

If something traumatic has happened or is happening to you

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Whether it is something that has happened to you in the past or is happening right now, experiencing trauma can have a long-term impact on your emotional wellbeing.

Going through something traumatic can affect your mood, how you feel about yourself and how you interact with others. Whatever has happened, you are not alone. You are loved and you deserve support.

You might have experienced or be experiencing things like:

Recovery from mental illness is rarely linear, especially if you have trauma to unpack, explore and overcome. Be gentle with yourself in this process, giving yourself time to recognise and accept what you have been through.

Things you can do to feel better

  • Talk to someone you trust

    Talking to someone you trust is often the first step to feeling better. If you are not sure how to start that conversation, read our tips on reaching out for help.

  • Speak to your GP

    Going to the doctor can feel daunting, but how you feel is just as important as your physical health. If you're struggling with your feelings or mood, your GP can help you find the support available in your area. Here’s some advice on speaking to your doctor about mental health.

  • Take time out

    Doing activities that you enjoy can help you switch off and prioritise your happiness. Whether it’s going for a walk, drawing, or playing your favourite sport, these things can help you feel good and calm your thoughts. Find out more. 

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It is important in these moments not to make the situation worse by branding yourself weak – the last straw is often not the real cause. Looking after yourself in these moments takes immense courage and strength.

More tips and advice

Think about which parts of your life your low mood is affecting most. Here are some pages where you can get more specific advice and tips. 

Getting the support you need

Sometimes opening up and admitting you're not okay and that you need some help can feel like the most difficult thing. But opening up to someone you trust can make a huge difference. Find out how. 

Whether you love the page or think something is missing, we appreciate your feedback. It all helps us to support more young people with their mental health.

Please be aware that this form isn’t a mental health support service. If you are in crisis right now and want to talk to someone urgently, find out who to contact on our urgent help page.

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Please note:

This form is not a mental health support service. We cannot reply to this. If you are at risk of immediate harm, call 999 and ask for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E. If you are worried about your mental health, call: Childline (for under 19s) on 0800 11 11; or Samaritans on 116 123.

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