On Your Mind: Meet your new online counselor

Dear Tom,

Lately I feel like I’m in a slump I can’t get out of. I don’t feel like doing anything, and my husband says I’m always in a bad mood. How do I know whether or not this is a real depression that needs treatment or just a passing phase? My husband thinks I should just “snap out of it”.

Dear Friend,

That’s a great question, and you’re definitely not the first mom to feel this way. A friend of mine who travels a lot for work recently said to me “I find myself eating dinner by myself a lot. It’s kind of lonely, and my wife says I don’t seem to have the same energy or mood when I get home. I wonder if I’m a little depressed.”

It’s pretty common for husbands and wives to notice these kinds of changes in each other. Most of the time, they’ll say something like “You seem like you’re in a bad mood all the time. What’s going on? You don’t have the same energy you did when we first got married.”

Feeling “blue” or low is one of the most common experiences in the world, no matter who you are.  At some point in all our lives, we’ll experience setbacks, challenges or losses that make us feel down. Sometimes we just feel like we’re in a rut or going through a low period.  So, when that happens, does it mean you’re depressed and need help or treatment? No, not necessarily. Here’s how you tell the difference:

Some of the signs for depression which may need the help of a professional counselor are:

  • chronic fatigue or low energy
  • feelings of hopelessness or despair
  • difficulty making decisions
  • sleeping way more or way less (insomnia)
  • less interest or happiness in most, if not all, activities of the day

For it to be a true depression, however, these symptoms I mention above need to be “chronic”. What chronic basically means is that the symptoms are bad enough to mess up your life and interfere with your ability to do the things you need to do on a daily basis — like function at home, work, school or interact with other people.

If the symptoms rise to that chronic level of changing your ability to handle day-to-day life, then it’s a good idea to get help from a professional counselor and don’t wait around too long to do it. A true depression is not something you can simply “snap out of”. And the great news is that there’s a lot of research that shows that even a couple of sessions with a counselor can provide relief from those symptoms mentioned above. It doesn’t mean you’ll be needing therapy for the rest of your life.

Here are a few other practical tips that can help:

  • Do something fun or energizing with friends or family.
  • Try regular exercise or yoga.
  • Volunteer your time to an organization you care about.
  • Give or donate to a local charity.
  • Make it a daily habit to give thanks or notice the good things in your life.
  • Do things you know will make you laugh. (Watch a funny movie; joke around with a friend, or surf some hilarious YouTube clips :-))

I know those tips sound simple, but they really can help you deal with those low feelings and swap them out for positive energy and happiness. So take a few minutes and think of what you’re going to do today or this week to put more fun and energy in your life. You don’t have to tell anybody. Just make your own “happy plan” and then stick to it. It’ll definitely help your mood and add some fun to your day.

Hope this helps. Feel free to write in again with anything that’s on your mind.


Tom Petrizzo serves as CEO of Ozark Guidance and has degrees in social work and law. He has spent the last 20 years managing non-profit centers in Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas. He has also served as adjunct faculty at the social work graduate program at three large universities. He’s married to Teri Classick, a licensed clinical social worker, and they have two daughters. When he’s not at work, Tom likes to jog, bike ride, read and he even belted out the National Anthem lately at a Northwest Arkansas Naturals Game!

Tom would be happy to answer your questions and read what’s on your mind. Click the butterfly icon below to fill out an anonymous submission form with your question or concern. The form contains NO identifying information and is designed to give local women an online place to share concerns with a person qualified to offer feedback. Tom will be back each month to answer another woman’s question.