What Is Sadness?

Emotions describe our physiological and psychological reaction to any given situation. They color and describe our emotional experience and do a lot to shape how we remember things. Emotions can be confusing, scary, and upsetting at times, and are often the balanced counter-point of emotions that are uplifting, joyous, and shiny.

One of the most complex feelings we experience, is the feeling of sadness. Feelings of sadness often occur as a result of disappointment, loss, and grief. While emotions such as sadness may be very difficult to deal with, the first step is learning how to really understand what the emotion IS.

What Does Sadness Feel Like?

One of the most distinct characteristics of emotion is the fact that they have an intense physiological experience to accompany the intense emotional and logical experience. Many people have a difficult time learning how to identify and label the emotions that they feel, which can make it harder to understand and find a way to manage the feelings that you are experiencing, particularly when you are in crisis.

Physiological symptoms are those symptoms we physically feel in our bodies. Feeling sadness is no exception to this idea. The following are common physiological symptoms associated with sadness:

  • Heaviness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Stomachache
  • Restlessness
  • Aches
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Swollen eyes or nose
  • Runny nose
  • Crying
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Tired
  • Sleepy

While having any of these symptoms does not mean you are sad, experiencing these symptoms offers a clue in identifying what you are feeling. When processing an emotion, we often feel it in our bodies before we react to it. Understanding that when your skin feels prickly and you start to cry you are likely feeling sad, it gives you a leg up to understanding WHY you're sad, and to begin processing the situation.

Types Of Sadness:

Like many emotions, sadness has a very broad range in which it can be experienced. The immediate sharpness of a sudden loss is very different than a persistent, low-level sadness that you feel every day. Here are some of the types of sadness.

Agony: Agony describes a raw and powerful pain.

Anguish: Similar to agony, anguish is an intense emotional pain that is paired with feelings of despair.

Discouraged: This describes the feeling associated with real or perceived failure. After repeated unsuccessful attempts, it is typical to feel as though you will never be able to do said task. The situation feels insurmountable and your self-esteem plummets.

Distressed: This describes a feeling of helplessness, usually accompanied by an impending sense of doom. Knowing that something bad is going to happen and being powerless to stop it.

Distraught: This is a similar feeling to distress; however, it's slightly different in that it is a pervasive sense of upset that can be overwhelming to the point of being paralyzed to inaction.

Dismay: Dismay is a form of sadness that often has notes of hopelessness and regret.

Grief: Grief is one of the purest forms of sadness. It is a deep, consuming, powerful feeling of sadness, usually occurring around episodes of major loss.

Homesick: Homesickness is a feeling of sadness that comes from being away from where you feel most comfortable. This can be the result of seeing friends and family less, being in an unfamiliar situation or location, or after periods of change.

Hurt: Hurt is a powerful feeling experienced after you have been wronged or perceived to be wronged by another person, typically by someone you love or trust deeply. You may feel betrayed, that the action was taken with malicious intent, or that the action causing the hurt was personal in nature.

Unhappy: This term describes a general sense of sadness. It may not be specific to any instigator or trigger, and it may vary in it's intensity. This is often described as "feeling blue," or "being under a storm cloud." 

Sorrow: Sorrow is largely a feeling of sadness that accompanies a feeling of regret. You may feel sorrow after hurting another person, losing an opportunity, or when the outcome is not what you were hoping for.

Dejected: Dejected sounds very much like rejected, which is a good way to remember this one. Feeling dejected is a feeling of being put-out, as though you are not being accepted or appreciated.

Related Emotions:

As you can see, sadness takes many many forms for a variety of reasons. It is expressed by differing physical symptoms, emotional symptoms, desired outcomes and treatments. No sadness is exactly like another, and yet all fit under the umbrella of sadness. Because sadness is often related to a negative situation, emotions become more tangled due to cross-over emotions. Cross-over emotions are other emotions or feelings that occur directly before, after, or because of the feeling of sadness.

Because of these cross-over emotions, emotions can be really hard to detangle. Again, learning to physiologically categorize your feelings so that you can observe and describe the feeling will help you identify the emotions you feel. Here are some of the most common emotions that occur in tandem with sadness:

Anger: Anger is generally described by an escalation of your emotional state. Many people report feeling hot, revved up, energized, and explosive. Anger can also be cold, when it is laced with fury and cruelty. Anger is typically a defensive response to an uncomfortable situation in which we don't otherwise know how to respond to it. This can be born out of feelings of shame, guilt, hurt, embarrassment, or frustration.

Blame: Blame is when you assign measures of fault to another individual. By placing all the responsibility on another, it is easier to feel "wronged" and wind up your anger. While there are situations in which someone else truly is at fault, many many situations are a combination of fault on every side. Because it is difficult to admit to fault for many people, blame allows a person to hide behind the assignment of guilt to another person rather than address the discomfort around how he or she impacted the situation.

Stress: Stress describes the physical feelings associated with negative events. Feeling "Stressed out" is usually a term that refers to feeling emotionally depleted and overwhelmed. Because emotions can be so intense, it is draining to the body and the mind, and is summed up as stress. Typical physical feelings of stress include headache, stomach ache, changes to sleeping or eating, tight or sore muscles, and difficulty concentrating.

Guilt: Guilt is the term to describe a feeling that occurs when you know or believe that you have wronged another person. It is a feeling of fault that you assign to yourself, that leads to feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, or ashamed. Running away or avoiding a situation is a common reaction to feelings of guilt.

Grief: Grief is one of the most raw emotions we feel as human beings. It is largely a deep and pervasive sense of loss that is absolutely consuming and devastating.

Anxiety: Anxiety is a very general term that describes feelings of unease, nervousness, restlessness, or on some level, fear. 

Hopelessness: Hopelessness describes a feeling that things will never get better. Because you feel unable to change your situation or make any kind of meaningful change, you become hopeless upon acceptance of this as your immediate reality.

Myths About Sadness:

While much about sadness is undesirable and is not much fun to experience, it does serve a purpose. It is the counterpoint to happiness and joy, which provides a deeper range of emotional experience. It also helps us identify situations that we can improve for ourselves and for those around us. Here are some common thoughts around sadness.

My sadness brings everyone around me down. While sadness does impact those around you, it is not out of anger or frustration. Your friends, family, and loved ones care about you and want to help you as best as they can. Sometimes for the person who is sad, that is simply having someone to listen and validate their feelings of sadness.

No one understands my sadness. We are none of us alone. Sadness can be a hard window to look through, but there is always the outside, the brighter side, a way to get through this. While someone may not EXACTLY understand every detail of what you are feeling, humans are unique in their capability to empathize with others, and be attuned to other's feelings of distress.

I have no right to be sad when so many worse things happen to others. It is easy to feel this way; however, remember that it is apples and oranges. How you feel about your situation is no less or no less important than how another person feels about his or her situation. While there is benefit and value in recognizing perspective, it does not mean you should feel your sadness any less. You feel what you feel.

You should just snap out of it and focus on being happy. Sadness, like many emotions, can  be somewhat tempered by your mental attitude. However, there are other times that it can't be. For example, those who suffer from depression or dysthymia, have a biological factor that impacts mood.

You should stop choosing to be sad. As above. While to some degree we can choose our attitude, there is a lot to consider regarding why you're sad. Take a long look and evaluate your situation.

I'll get over it. Yes, it will get better. How long and how easily it goes depends on a great many things, including your emotional support system, your health, and your mental space to deal with things. We all have shit and sometimes it's hard to make space for it. It's okay to put it on the back burner, as long as it's not purely an attempt to avoid the discomfort. You will deal with it in your own time, and there are many resources available to help you, such as therapy, friends and family, or submitting a post to the Band.

What To Do If You're Sad:

Okay okay, so you're sad. You're tired of reading about the numerous ways you can feel sad and why you feel sad. But what do you DO about feeling sad? No one answer is perfect and it may take a lot of trial and error to find what works for you. It may be one thing, it may be a blend of many many things. It might resolve with time, or it might be the worst moment of your life. Just remember that all things pass, and that emotions crest and subside like a wave. You CAN get through this.

Sleep is one of the major factors that impact mood. It is well researched that poor mood and poor sleep correlate with one another. Sleep is often disrupted when we are upset because our bodies ache, we don't feel well, our mind races or won't turn off. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine that will cue your body that it's time to prepare for sleep. This can include taking a warm bath, a cup of tea, reading a book, meditating, whatever slows your body and mind down. Above all remember to breathe. Being consistent in doing this and going to bed at the same time will truly help you get quality sleep.

Diet can be really hard to control when you're upset. As our cortisol (stress hormone) increases, our natural instinct is to go in to "survival mode," which includes eating a lot of fatty foods and sleeping all day. Motivation and energy go out the window. On the other hand, some people stop eating entirely. Remember, food is fuel for your body and your mind. If you do not feed them properly, they are less efficient and make it harder for you to deal.

Exercise is the best, the ONLY way to reduce levels of cortisol in our body. While cortisol will naturally deplete itself, it happens very slowly to the point that your body creates more than it disperses at any given time. Exercise naturally reduces cortisol while increasing your feel-good hormones at the same time. Even if you start slowly by walking for ten minutes, it's okay. You're helping yourself even with that little bit.

Talk to someone, silence is the greatest ally of sadness. Feeling unable or unwilling to break your silence is a desperate feeling. The first step is the hardest step. Let someone in to help you.

Find an activity is a great way to refocus your energy. For some, it is building confidence through developing a competency, for others it's exhausting their emotions through physical activity. Whatever allows you to focus and relax your mind, bringing some logic and order in, will help you sort and organize everything going on, and allow you to take a much needed break.

Contribute to your local community. Help someone. It can be completely empowering to find ways to help others. Bringing joy and happiness to others is often contagious and it is a rewarding feeling that you are making a difference. Further, if you can help others, it serves to remind you that you can be helped too.

Journal or find another creative outlet to let it all out. Art, dance, music, writing - all of these allow you to just get it all out. Putting your thoughts to paper so to speak allows you to just SEE it from a different perspective, and not have to work so hard to just hold it all in.

Therapy is the act of talking it out with someone well versed in the psychological side of the mind. It can be a relief to find a neutral observer to give you perspective and advice. He or she may also be able to refer you to an appropriate health care provider to utilize medication treatments as relevant.

How To Help Someone Who Is Sad:

So taking this all in to account, what does that mean you should do at the end of the day? How can you help someone who is sad? This frustratingly is a complicated answer, as detailed there are many ways and reasons for someone to be sad. Usually the key is to say something, reach out, show that you care, and support however you can.

Ask questions - Don't be afraid to comment that someone has seemed down lately and ask if everything is okay or how you can help. He or she may not know what to say or do, or what he or she may even need, but by asking you're showing that you care.

Find information - Be a source of information and resources. Sometimes it's too scary to take the first step to call a therapist, or join a class. Gather information to reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Be a support - Show your friend or loved one that you care, through thick and thin. Be consistent, and be there.

Validate - Above all else, validate the person's feelings. Sometimes the best gift you can give someone, is helping to give them their voice.

Related Resource Pages On Band Back Together:

Feelings

Self-Esteem

Happiness

Guilt

Shame

Grief

Loss