At some point or another, we’ve all found ourselves at a place in our lives where we’ve felt worn out, bored, stagnant or just plain blah.
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You might feel like you’re just going through the motions of life, doing the same things over and over again. It can start to feel like the days all blend together.
Maybe you feel like there’s nothing to look forward to or like you’re running in place while everyone else is moving forward. Or maybe you can’t pinpoint what exactly is wrong, but something just feels … off.
Psychotherapist Amy Brodsky, LISW-S, offers assurance and practical advice to help dig yourself out of a funk.
A slump, rut, funk or general feeling of weirdness is a fairly short-lived bad day or bad couple of days, says Brodsky.
Sometimes our slumps can be reactions to something that happened to us. Maybe you’re feeling lonely during a trip away from your loved ones or upset because you were passed up for a promotion at work. Perhaps you’re feeling like all your friends are getting married while you’re still single, or it could be that a toxic friendship is starting to take a toll on you. Other times there doesn’t seem to be anything specific that triggered the funk, which can be frustrating and confusing.
“When you can’t pinpoint or identify a reason for why you’re feeling the way that you are, try talking to someone,” says Brodsky. “Oftentimes, getting an outsider’s perspective can give you a better viewpoint of what’s really going on.”
Now that you know you’re in a funk, you probably want to know how to get yourself out of it. The main thing to remember is to be patient with yourself. Nobody likes stewing in a bad mood for too long, but trying to rush yourself out of it won’t do any good either.
Instead, here are some ways to get out of a funk and start feeling like yourself again:
First and foremost – don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling blue. Slumps happen from time to time and they can affect anyone. Most funks hit people for a couple of days before the clouds lift and you feel like yourself again.
“Going through a funk or rut is extremely common,” assures Brodsky. “It happens to everyone now and again and there are no hard or fast rules to getting through it. Everyone is different, so you’ll need to adjust and learn what works best for you.”
Digging yourself out of a funk begins as an inside job. Sure, some resources and people can help you, but ultimately one of the first things to do is to look within.
“Don’t be afraid to take some time to just sit with your feelings – they won’t harm you,” says Brodsky. “The good news is that if you give yourself time and permission to feel what you’re feeling or if you can name the emotion, it can help you start to move past it.”
“Feelings are like waves, they ebb and flow just like the waves in the ocean. When we fight a wave, it will often knock or pull us down, but if we go with it and accept it, it will move us some, but then deposit us back or close to where we began – none the worse for wear.”
So go ahead and watch that sad movie or listen to a sad song. It’s perfectly OK to nurture yourself for a few days while you work through whatever it is that you’re feeling. Take the time to feel cranky, sad, frustrated or just plain weird. Doing so doesn’t mean that you’re weak, it means that you’re human and you’re acknowledging yourself.
Another way to help you work through a hard time is to show yourself some self-compassion. Consider talking to yourself as if you were a friend. Often times we’re harsh or impatient with ourselves when we’re feeling sad or down, but if a friend came to us going through something similar, we’d show them kindness and understanding. We’d assure our friends that everything is going to be OK and we’d remind them that they’re a good person and that this won’t last forever. So go ahead and show yourself that same grace and gentleness.
As humans, we’re social animals. We need some degree of interaction with others to feel our best. You don’t have to do a lot all at once, either. If going to a party or busy social event feels like too much, there are other ways to make yourself feel connected, without depleting your social battery.
Whether it’s a phone call to a friend, meeting your parents for dinner or simply waving to your neighbor – connecting with others helps us feel more fulfilled.
It’s important for our mental and physical health to move our bodies, but it doesn’t mean you have to put yourself through the most intense and vigorous workout of your life. Movement of any kind is beneficial for many reasons, but can certainly help pull you out of a funk. It could mean dancing to the radio while you make dinner, taking a yoga class or playing with the dog on the floor. Even going for a brisk walk around your neighborhood can make a world of a difference.
Our mood and belly are connected, so it’s important to eat whole foods and watch our sugar intake, especially when we’re going through a hard time. It’s also wise not to reach for quick fixes like alcohol to feel better. Alcohol is a depressant, which could negatively impact your mood days after consuming it.
Sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Poor sleep negatively affects our health in so many ways, from low energy to forgetfulness and weight gain. Lack of sleep is serious and you should consider it a priority, especially when you’re not quite feeling like yourself. Try calming yourself down before bed by practicing sleep meditation, yoga or other practices that soothe you to sleep.
On the flip side, too much sleep — especially when it’s not good quality – can cause issues as well. If your funk is causing you to lay in bed and you feel unable to start the day, try taking small steps to get yourself moving. This could look like engaging in some morning stretches while still lying down, practicing deep breathing and just taking a moment to feel present in your body.
We’re bombarded with 24/7 news coverage and constant access to social media. While this can be helpful and informative at times, it can become overwhelming and either cause (or magnify) your mental funk.
Social media can cause you to develop comparison issues when observing others and what they have and what you perceive that you don’t. Being glued to the news and current events can put you in a spiral where the information is less productive and more harmful.
Brodsky recommends limiting watching news media to no more than twice a day, for 15 to 30 minutes.
Sometimes, distractions and self-care can be the best ways to help us work through ruts. And while you’ll want to try to work through your emotions, there are a few ways to speed up the process so you can start feeling like yourself again:
Most funks are short-lived. A couple of bad days here and there is really nothing to be too concerned about, says Brodsky. When the bad days or negative feelings seem to be lasting longer and longer, you might want to take some additional steps.
A telltale sign that you might be dealing with something more serious than a funk is whether you still have the ability to experience breakthrough moments of joy. You might feel sad, but you find that talking to a friend or grabbing a coffee at your favorite cafe helps to perk you up. Try to identify moments of your day where you feel OK and take note of how long it lasts. If you find that you are unable to feel happy or experience joy at all, you are likely dealing with more than a funk.
“When we’re dealing with clinical depression, at times the person is not able to identify happy moments from their past,” explains Brodsky. “It’s when you think that you’ve felt this way forever and it’s starting to really impact how you function or your obligations.”
Clinical depression looks different on everyone, but hallmark signs include changes in appetite, feeling tired or exhausted all the time, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed or even physical pain or achiness.
If you’re not experiencing any little joys or breakthrough moments of happiness, it might be time to reach out for support. A mental health expert can help you work through and manage your feelings.