It happens to all of us from time-to-time. However, that doesn’t make it any easier. When your mood plummets, everything from your health, relationships, to career suffer. Even worse, you may not want to get better. It’s just easier to close yourself off and stay down. But, that’s no way to live. Instead, you have to kick yourself out of your slump so that you can enjoy your life and get back to being your bad-self.
Saying that from the outside, though, is easier said than done. But, I’ve been there more times then I would care to admit. And, through some trial and error, I used the following tricks to break free of my downward spiral.
Be on the lookout for red flags.
I’m going to tell you all an embarrassing story. Not that long ago, I was walking my dog before going out for the night. In my hurry, I didn’t pay attention to where I was going and tripped over a flowerpot. It happened so fast that I didn’t realize I was falling until I crashed to the ground.
Sometimes, that’s the case with slumps. There’s so much going on that you don’t realize that you’re down in a hole until you’re already in it.
Now and then, check-in with yourself so that you can spot any potential warning signs. While this varies from person to person, here are some of the more common symptoms that you may be in a slump:
- You’re bored day, in-and-out.
- You’re stuck in the past.
- Daydreaming eats-up too much of your time and energy.
- You refuse to get out of your comfort zone.
- You continuously don’t feel well.
- No one asks for your advice or feedback.
- You put others ahead of yourself.
- Business isn’t thriving.
- You’re searching for an escape, like vacation deals or selling your business.
If any of these ring true, then it’s time to admit that you’re in a slump. From there, you can begin to get to the root of the problem so that you can dig yourself out. For example, if the main culprit is your business, then maybe it’s time to consider selling it and moving on to a new venture.
There’s nothing wrong with helping others. Helping others is a proven way to increase your happiness. Which, in turn, can pull yourself out of your slump. But, you still need to take care of yourself.
Always putting others first is exhausting and can impair your work performance. What’s more, “when you put yourself at the bottom of your to-do-list, you’re more stressed and less energetic and creative,” writes Angela Ruth in a previous Calendar article. “Your sleep is impaired, and you may turn to other vices.” Overall, without engaging in some self-care, you’re harming your physical and mental health.
So, how can you prioritize yourself so that you don’t drive yourself into a rut? Angela suggests:
- Take a “me” moment, like blocking out specific times for you to something that you enjoy.
- Increase your emotional intelligence.
- Swap out the negative self-talk with more positive and supportive language.
- Take a social media break.
- Recite empowering mantras.
- Remove the toxic elements from your life.
- Get comfortable setting boundaries and saying “no.”
- Remember your “why.”
- Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses.
- Schedule downtime.
Decline your invite to the pity party.
Have you ever received an event to a function that you really don’t want to attend? You probably don’t hesitate to decline the invite.
Take the same approach whenever you have the urge to throw yourself a pity party. I know that it’s easy to fall into this trap and wallow. But, as Helen Keller correctly put it, “Self-pity is our worst enemy, and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in the world.”
Get your fill of inspiration and motivation.
Being in a slump sucks. There’s just no other way to put it. You’re not in a good mood. Energy and productivity have been drained. And, the things that you usually enjoy doing just don’t cut it anymore.
A simple way out of this? Surround yourself with as much inspiration and motivation that you can.
Inspiration and motivation are different for everyone. For me, I know that when I’m down, I might watch a comedy like “Step Brothers.” No matter how many times I’ve viewed it, it busts my guts every time. And guess what happens next? I’m in a slightly better mood and want even more. The next thing, I’m climbing out of my descent.
Whether if it’s a movie, song, podcast, book, or going for a hike, turn to the things that lift your spirits and give you a zap of energy.
Shock your system.
One of the easiest ways to get yourself in a rut is by staying within your comfort zone. You know how it is. Every. Single. Day. Is.The. Same.
The best way to counter this? Change things up. For example, instead of going to your office every day, try working somewhere else — even if it’s just one or two days a week. Try out a new exercise program or restaurant. Wake-up a little earlier so that you try out a new morning routine. Try out a new hobby, or do something that scares the crap out of you.
In short, shake things up so that you don’t get stuck in the same routine. And, if this is too nerve-racking, start small and work your way up. For example, instead of going to the same grocery store every Sunday morning, visit a local farmer’s market on Saturday morning.
Reach out to others.
The worst thing that you can do when you’re down is to keep it to yourself. As long as you’re reaching out to others because you’re looking for a way out of your slump — you’re not going to be bothering anyone. They are probably more than willing to listen and offer advice.
Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and calling a trusted friend or family member. In my experience, a family member or best friend should always be your go-to. If they’re not around, consider reconnecting with an old friend. If that’s not an option, then please consult a support group or mental health professional.
Research has found that gratitude has the power to change you and your brain for the better. Most notably, because it comes with psychological benefits like unshackling us from toxic emotions.
Best of all? Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be a complicated activity. It’s a simple activity that you can do daily. Examples are writing in a journal, saying “thank you,” and spending quality time with your nearest and dearest.
Of course, you don’t want this to become a frequent occurrence. But, everyone could benefit from taking a mental health day now and then. It’s most beneficial when you’re feeling rundown or don’t have any time off planned.
Whether you feel guilty about taking the day off, or don’t want to pry yourself from the couch, make the most of your day-off. You don’t have to go all-in like Ferris Bueller. But, definitely go out and have some fun. Indulge in a little self-care. You might take a moment to catch up on some cleaning or reading. Or, meet-up with a friend for lunch.
You’re going to survive, and work will be just fine without you for an hour or two or half a day. When wake-up the following day, you’ll find yourself refreshed and in a better state of mind.
Squash the ANTs.
And, finally, get those pesky ANTs out of your mind. Coined James Phu, these are Automatic Negative Thoughts that ruminate and prevent you from getting out of your rut.
The first step is to try to keep those thoughts from occurring in the first place. James suggests you can do this by avoiding toxic people, office gossip, and the news.
The next step is to become more self-aware so that you can catch any negative thoughts as early as possible. Some techniques that James has used are meditating, breathing exercises, and checking-in with yourself throughout the day. He also recommends using the rubber band trick. Whenever a negative thought pops in your head, “pull that elastic band and release.” That small amount of pain reminds you to stop and focus on something more positive.
Finally, find ways to defeat the negative. Gratitude, mindfulness, and keeping yourself busy are all great options. You can also try putting things in perspective and challenging these thoughts. For example, let’s say that you gave a presentation and made a couple of mistakes. You may tell yourself that it was a complete disaster. But, in reality, you got a standing ovation.