We’ve all been there: the morning when you spill coffee all over your new pants, the day when you’re stressed out and falling behind on work projects, and the week that doesn’t seem to have any upside at all. Sometimes, we may rise to the occasion and overcome the obstacles in our way, but there are times when we are simply spinning our wheels and going nowhere.
Hitting a rut, or falling into a funk, best defines these lows you may experience at certain points in your life. No one is immune from this feeling; it is not limited to people with clinical depression and can affect anyone at any point in time. Although feeling unwell can be related to health issues such as migraines, mouth pain, and body aches, a funk often occurs when we are emotionally spent and spiritually worn down.
Too often, we set aside our personal feelings to give our time, effort, and energy to other avenues in life: our workplace, relationships, family, children, and friends. Perhaps you, like many other people, try to shake it off and push forward when you’re feeling tired out because you are afraid that any time for self-care is a selfish action.
The next time you find yourself falling into a funk, here are some creative ways to get yourself out of the rut and back on track in all areas of your life.
1. Write it Out.
Consider journaling as a means to unburden yourself from stressors and troubles that you may be carrying around with you daily in unhealthy ways. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help define and clarify what is on your mind and give you insight into how to address those issues through positive, healthy means.
Popular styles of journaling include using a bullet journal or following established models, such as Julia Cameron’s “morning pages” exercise described in her book, The Artist’s Way. This method encourages “freewriting” whatever is on your mind the first thing in the morning until you’ve filled three pages. The effect is incredibly freeing and illuminating. You can recognize and release anything that is clouding your mind through journaling.
2. Bark it Out.
If feasible, adopt a dog or a cat from a local shelter. Not only are you saving a life, but you are bringing home a friend who will love you no matter what. Studies show that companion animals significantly reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. They provide unconditional love and support while asking very little from you in return.
Owning a pet, particularly a dog, also gets you up and moving around more often, and movement can help you leave the blues behind. Physical action increases blood flow and blood pressure to the brain, elevating our moods and allowing our minds to perform better. The element of responsibility and knowing that your pet is depending on you can shift your focus away from negatively thinking about your problems to instead focus positively on the well-being of your pet.
If you’re not in a position to adopt a pet at this time, you can still reap the emotional benefits that animals provide by watching them in action. Recent research reveals that watching videos of cute animals reduces stress and helps us to concentrate and focus.
3. Walk it Out.
Exercise is often the next option presented to people who are down in the dumps. However, the thought of exercise in itself conjures anxieties and fears. Some people are not cut out for jogging or gym class, and forcing the issue is unlikely to help you feel much better.
However, movement is a means by which you can break through your funk or depression, so finding the exercise that works for you can accelerate your path to a lighter mood. Exercise can aid in establishing a better quality of sleep, which, in turn, leads to happier emotional and physical condition.
Keep it simple, and start with gentle walks outside. Focus on the sunshine, fresh air, and natural spaces around you. If you don’t want to exercise alone, consider bringing a friend with you to a gym class or walk your dog around the neighborhood. Eventually, you might want to turn walking sessions into hiking excursions over different terrain.
The body and mind are two sides of the same coin, so treating your physical side also benefits your mental state. Exercise is a keystone habit that keeps both your mind and body active, and it may promote positive changes in other areas of your life.
4. Talk it Out.
Although internalizing our emotional lows is often the easier and reflexive choice, we can become physically and emotionally damaged by holding our troubles inside. Therapy is a traditional option for people who may feel more comfortable sharing their concerns and struggles with a neutral third party. A therapist can be the sounding board you need to speak your problems out loud, and therapists can be essential motivators in guiding you toward better habits and perspectives.
Don’t forget to lean on your family and friends if they are supportive sources. Even if you don’t want to talk directly about what has you down, spending time around loved ones can ease feelings of loneliness and remind you that they are there for you.
Meet a good friend out for coffee one morning, plan to go shopping with a sibling, or have an outdoors adventure with your kids and parents. Intergenerational bonding can lift up your spirits and give you a sense of purpose. Texting can’t substitute for the emotional connection of a face-to-face meeting, but Skype or FaceTime can fill in for connecting to loved ones at a distance.
5. Try it Out.
One of the best out-of-the-box ways to shake you out of the doldrums is to try something new. Pick up a new hobby such as archery, painting, or home brewing, or travel to a new town or city to give yourself a fresh perspective.
Don’t limit yourself to hobbies alone. Find community groups to join and participate in, volunteer at local nursing homes or soup kitchens, take action by protesting the unjustness or unfairness that impacts your world.
Remember to include expanding your palate as well. Try some foreign foods, like edible bird’s nest, or take a wine tour and expand your aromatic horizons. New experiences activate dormant parts of your brain, and that may be all you need to get “unstuck” from your funk.
Use these options to break out of your funk and grace your life with unique opportunities and experiences. With luck and practice, these methods can help you develop healthy practices to apply each day.