We all have our rough times, when we feel stuck, depressed or just discouraged. I am prone to this, particularly towards the end of winter, or when I have overextended myself socially. Sometimes, it’s a creative paralysis– I don’t feel like I can produce anything, and it’s frustrating. We all get in a funk sometimes. Here are some ways that I have learned to get out of a funk.
1. Check out your biological balance. Take an inventory:
Are you going to bed at a decent hour? How is your sleep?
Are you eating well and keeping your blood sugars stable?
Could you be Vitamin D deficient? If so, supplementing is cheap and easy.
Are you stressing your liver with too much alcohol and processed foods?
Are you dieting or not eating enough calories?
Our bodies work hard to keep a chemical equilibrium at all times– but sometimes we need to consciously work on helping with that process. A chemical imbalance can (and will) absolutely affect our moods. So good sleep, nutrition and self care are not a panacea– they are critical in helping us regain emotional balance.
If you are struggling with sleep, it’s really important to address it. Be mindful of what works for you and which foods make you feel worse, then respect that knowledge by doing your best to nourish yourself well. Read The Nourished Metabolism by Elizabeth Walling and follow her simple recommendations to bring your body into balance.
2. Do time with the issues. As much as we would like to be able to simply transcend our worst mental and emotional struggles, we need to acknowledge them and take a look. Ignoring them is completely useless– our issues will continue to grow and upset us until they have our full attention. Acknowledging negative emotions is not the same as indulging them.
Our feelings are there to help us understand and explore the situation better. Don’t let them run you over; allow them to guide you. It is helpful to write them down. Start with a feeling: “I feel disappointed” and then go further– “I feel disappointed about….” Go deeper again. Whatever the feeling, it is completely worth the time and energy to spend a little longer defining it more specifically. Remember that specifics are more manageable than vague feelings. Do not be afraid to identify whatever it is that you are angry, sad, scared, or frustrated about. These feelings are valid and need to be acknowledged before they can then be released.
If you are struggling to identify your feelings, consider talking with a friend or a therapist to help bring some clarity to what you are experiencing.
3. Write about it. Journaling is not just for sentimental types! Writing down your thoughts can be extremely helpful in crystallizing your thoughts and feelings. One practice I especially recommend is writing “morning pages,” as described by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. The idea is that you write freehand first thing in the morning, filling three pages every day. It doesn’t matter at all what you write about– just put down whatever comes to your mind. This has an incredibly clarifying and freeing effect. At the beginning of the day, you get to notice and release all of the things that are clouding your mind as you begin. This process is very helpful for me whenever I feel stuck creatively or overwhelmed with my work or parenting, or any other kind of funk.
4. Create something. Using the artistic/ intuitive parts of your brain can help you bring understanding to the parts of your life that you cannot logically comprehend. Likewise, there are things that you cannot express through words– so use your creative side, engage your senses, or move your body through dance as a way of expressing yourself. This could also come in the form of learning a new skill– which helps get us out of our heads and more into our bodies.
5. Channel your energy in a positive way. When I am feeling upset about something, my house usually looks cleaner than usual. Anger really gets me cleaning, as does trying to problem-solve. If you are feeling stuck, consider your surroundings– are things piling up around you? What is your living space doing for your mood? Clearing out clutter and improving your environment can really help you shift your own energy, and focusing on a task like this can also give you space to think and work some things out.
I have a few resources to recommend for you, for when it’s time to do let go of some excess stuff. One is the ebook The Clutter Trap by Robin Konie– she has such a great approach to helping you minimize and streamline your life– this will also create a lot more mental space for you.
Another, stronger medicine is the 30-Day Guide to a Clean and Clutter-Free Home. This is more of a program, with lots of detailed instructions, charts, etc., for when you are really ready to make it happen and could use some extra support.
The other resource is for letting go of clothes you no longer wear. One thing that keeps me from clearing clothes out is the knowledge that these garments are worth something, and it makes it hard for me to just get rid of them! I recently tried a service called ThredUp– sent them my well-made clothes for free, and they bought them from me! They have a nice online shop where you can also buy second hand clothes– the prices and quality are great, so you should check it out! I should also mention that they accept kids clothes, too. It’s so easy to use, and I love that there are services like this that will hopefully help lessen the demand for excessive, cheap clothing production!
6. Get Bodywork.
Have you ever heard the saying, “We carry our issues in our tissues?” It’s true. I am a bodyworker myself, and it’s amazing how our emotions and life experiences find their way into our muscles and other tissues, and stay there, producing pain, limitation and even disease. Getting massage or energy work, or acupuncture from a talented practitioner can be extremely helpful as you navigate life changes and difficult situations. Releasing tensions in your body helps in also letting go of tensions and anxieties in your mind. I have witnessed powerful personal transformations as a result of effective bodywork treatments. If you can’t find or afford a good massage therapist, then exchange back rubs with your partner– human touch is very therapeutic.
A hot bath with epsom salts is also a powerful way to relieve muscle tension and stress. This is my easiest self care go-to when I am feeling overwhelmed.
Meditation is an excellent mind-body exercise to help you release stress and restore internal balance. Here’s a my simple meditation technique for beginners.
7. Give in to it, for a time. Make an appointment with yourself to be in your funk, and to explore those feelings. In the past, making a mixed tape (or CD) of songs that I felt embodied my emotional state, helped me. I listened to that music, and felt those feelings until they eased. This is the opposite of the advice most of us get– “If you’re feeling sad, put on some peppy music! Dance it out!” Although that can work sometimes, but I feel this approach is more of a band-aid than a healing process.
My go-to is often to clear my schedule, ask for the space I need from my family, buy myself some flowers, and take a hot bath. There may be weeping, there may be a sad movie (or an episode of this poignant show), there may be some chocolate cake involved. Whatever feels right to you for nurturing yourself and allowing yourself to be where you’re at is what you need.
8. Give to others. Kindness can heal, and gratitude does, also. When you begin to feel sorry for yourself, make a point of doing something kind for someone else. Or reaching out and thanking someone for the joy or nourishment they have brought into your life. This will take your mind off of your own issues and open the world up to you just a bit. And guess what? Kindness and good deeds are proven mood-lifters! Even making a donation to a charity helps.
Expressing gratitude can actually rewire your brain for happiness. So it’s is totally worth making a point of doing it daily.
9. Go outside and move your body. Taking a walk in nature is helpful in many ways. Invite a friend to walk with you if you want, and then you get three-for-one therapy: community, exercise, and talk therapy. I like to walk alone and think– it can be very clarifying. For me, there is no bad mood that can’t be dispelled by a walk in nature. Sometimes when I get there I am very skeptical about whether or not it will work, because I’m feeling so bad. But it always does, every time!
Exercising increases the oxygen available to your brain, and helps you to solve problems. So when you feel stuck or overwhelmed, take some time to see something beautiful, breathe deeply and move your body outside.
10. Play! Playing or having fun may feel like the last thing you want to do. But it can be so helpful. Laughter is an incredible stress reliever, and going out and doing something frivolous or silly helps put life back into perspective. This is also a great way to bring your family into your life when you have been brooding. Watch funny movies, look for good stand-up comics, play silly games with your kids. Do cartwheels if you know how– being upside down once in a while is good for you, too! Whatever it is that makes you smile, laugh, or forget about all the things that are on your mind– do more of that, and make it a priority.