Everyone has times in life when things look bleak and nothing seems to be going in the way we want it to go. No matter how hard we work to turn things around it seems to end up wasted energy. We throw our hands up and demand to know, “Why me? Why now?” As much as we resist our anger, sadness, or other unpleasant emotions, those darker times often give us a great opportunity for growth. Here are some ways to help yourself out of a funk when it strikes 🙂
- Acknowledge your situation. In Star Trek the Borg people take over and assimilate other cultures with the phrase, “Resistance is futile.” This applies here. Resisting your circumstances won’t change them! Insisting that things aren’t so bad or that everything is fine won’t help dissipate the situation or the feelings. Before a solution can be found or the situation can be worked through you have to first know where you are.
- Describe your situation with facts. “This is so bad, it’s awful, I can’t imagine things getting any better, my whole day/week/month/life is ruined…” Those are judging statements. Try facts instead. Facts come from what you can sense with your five senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, hear) and from identifying how you feel emotionally and physically, without judgment. (And try to skip the judging about the judgment – if you’re doing this and you catch yourself slipping into opinions and judgments, just note it and move on!)
- Reframe. Each experience we have is something that teaches us. Feeling low, sad, afraid, frustrated, and the like may be uncomfortable, but they aren’t “bad” feelings. Strong emotions educate us about what is important to us or not. They can teach us about our personal values and desires. Instead of warring against those emotions identify them and treat them like a tool that is helping you discover things about yourself.
- Grow Gratitude. If you find yourself feeling negatively and that feeling becomes something you can’t just shake, sit down and make a list of some things that you’re grateful for at present. It’s easy to focus on the “bad” in a situation that isn’t going how you’d like it to. We’re actually wired to do that – it’s part of our survival system to look for the problems in a situation, but it isn’t always helpful. Examining the things around an event or situation that isn’t going according to plan will often help reveal things that are going right and even give you a renewed sense of purpose in the moment.
- Stay aware. If you’re feeling intense emotions that you don’t like, it’s often because you’re thinking things that don’t support feeling things you do like. Thoughts precede feelings, so examine your thoughts. What are you thinking that supports the more negative feelings you’d like to better manage? Are those thoughts factual? Are they helpful? If they aren’t, what could you tell yourself that is factual and helpful? Try saying that back to yourself in place of, or immediately following more negative thoughts you notice yourself having.
- Feelings aren’t facts. Remember that emotions aren’t unchanging facts. They’re both temporary and subjective. Right now you may feel angry or sad, but later you will feel other things and before those feelings hit you felt other things. The expression, “This too shall pass,” has become a bit cliché with overuse, but it applies and can be helpful here.
- You aren’t your emotions. Our common expressions are structured like this, “I’m angry,” not, “I have anger.” There is a difference! Since emotions are temporary and subjective it’s also important to remember that we aren’t our emotions; we just have them. When we’re nonjudgmentally observing and separating ourselves from our emotions it is easier to be at peace even in turbulent circumstances.
- Exercise. Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins create a positive feeling in the body. Regular exercise helps improve mood, relieve anxiety and depression, and reduce stress overall.
- Try a guided meditation. Meditation may invoke images of people on isolated mountain tops sitting in uncomfortable positions, but there are guided meditations that require only some time, quiet, and attention that will work to get both mind and body back into a feeling-state you’re more comfortable with. My personal favorite: Andrew Johnson (find him on the app store for both Apple and Google!).
- Talk it out. Sometimes just speaking about an issue or feeling out loud can help you feel better. Try a friend, family member or qualified therapist.
- Get creative. Paint, write, or draw. Using your favorite creative expression (or even a new one you haven’t tried yet) can help you get a feeling out of your body and mind. Making it external helps express rather than repress what you’re feeling.
- Go natural. Spending time in nature has been shown in studies to help relieve stress, and improve mood. Sunlight, living plants, beautiful scenery, and fresh air can do a lot to ground you in a positive moment and be invigorating.
- RAOK. Performing a random act of kindness creates feelings of gratitude and goodwill. This can also release oxytocin into the body, which is a feel-good hormone. Putting your focus onto others who are in need can help you create connection with others and help you gain perspective.
- Keep your self-care in check. When you’re in a funk its easy to let your self-care fall apart. Taking care of yourself is essential to making sure that you feel good. Proper eating, plenty of rest, and other little self-care essentials (hot showers, fuzzy socks and other comforts) can help you stay on track emotionally, mentally, and physically to better manage stress.
- Watch your goals. People who are experiencing depression frequently set unrealistic goals. Setting goals is important to motivation, but setting unattainable ones increase feelings of dissatisfaction and hopelessness. Consider working with a qualified therapist to help create realistic goals.
- Practice self-kindness. When you ask yourself, “Why am I feeling so bad?” and the answer has to do with past events that evoke feelings of shame, regret, or guilt. It is harder to forgive ourselves than others. Keep your humanness in mind as you explore your feelings. Life is a learning process and if you relive your past too frequently it is impossible to put the lessons those mistakes have taught you into action.
- Know when going it solo isn’t good enough. When you try and try to improve your mood and nothing is working, reach out for help. Depression and consistent bad moods are detriments to quality of life and can lead to more serious issues. Depression, anger, stress, anxiety, and other issues are completely treatable! There are online services that fit your schedule and your budget that you can check out.