Feeling sad – When it’s ok to feel sad and when to seek help

  30 May 2022


Everyone feels sad or unhappy at certain points during their lives. Whether you’ve lost a loved one, gone through a difficult divorce, failed an exam, or missed out on a great job opportunity, there are plenty of stressful and upsetting events that can affect your mood in a negative way and trigger sadness.

Sadness is considered one of the basic human emotions and it is a natural reaction to challenging life events that are painful or disappointing. It is a healthy negative emotion to feel when faced with a difficult situation. But just like other emotions, sadness is a temporary emotion and it fades with time. 

One of the biggest misunderstandings about depression is that it’s similar to feeling sad or down. Although many people with depression feel sadness, it feels much more severe than emotions that come and go in response to upsetting life events. Knowing and understanding the differences between sadness and depression can help you recognise when to seek treatment.

Unlike sadness, depression can leave you struggling to get through your day. Sadness is just one element of depression. It’s temporary and usually passes with a little time, while depression is persistent and longer-lasting and can appear without any specific cause. Sadness can, however, turn into depression.

If you have been feeling persistently sad for more than two weeks, then it is possible that you could be experiencing depression. 

It is important to get help if you experience several of the following symptoms for two weeks or longer.

  • Constant feelings of sadness
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns 
  • Fatigue or lack of energy and/or being “slowed down”
  • Loss of interest in things that used to give you pleasure
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive disorders, and body aches
  • Feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts 
If you suspect that you may have depression, or you experience sadness for longer than two weeks, it’s important that you talk to your doctor as soon as possible about what you are feeling. Depression can worsen without treatment and severely affect your quality of life. Possible treatments that your doctor might recommend to treat your depression include medication, counselling, and psychotherapy.

It's more important than ever to set aside time to practice self-care and prioritise mental wellbeing. If you’re feeling sad, there are lots of things you can do to help yourself feel better. Self-care practices are different for everyone, so do whatever feels good to increase your happiness.

  • Don’t bottle things up. Connect with family and friends about how you are feeling.
  • Build in time each day to do things you enjoy. This could be cooking a delicious meal, taking a yoga class, listening to music, or journaling.
  • Make time to get outside for vitamin D which can be a big mood booster.
  • Get plenty of exercise. Studies have shown that just doing 15 minutes of moderate exercise a day can significantly decrease symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. Join a running club, go for a quick walk or attend a workout class.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, and protein, which will improve your energy levels and keep you nourished.
  • Get enough quality sleep. If you have difficulty sleeping, try meditating or taking a warm bath before bedtime.
  • Don't resort to unhealthy ways of dealing with your problems such as drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs.
If you think you are experiencing symptoms of depression and don’t know where to turn, consider contacting the dummy Expat Assistance Programme included in your healthcare plan. This service provides immediate and confidential counselling support, through live online chat, face to face, phone, video or email. dummy Find out more.