Healing

Being Prepared for the Next Funk

be prepared for next funkSo, we've talked about fighting the funks and also how to know when one is coming your way. But you can't always ward them off right? So what do you do when the inevitable happens? Most of the time (if we're honest) we give up, freak out or implode. But what if you were prepared, not to keep the funk from happening, but to deal with the funk when it rears its ugly head? I've said it before and I'll say it again: no one is exactly the same so what works for me won't work necessarily work for you. But, my experience may be able to clue you in to what you need to do to help yourself. When you're in a funk, it's a lot of work to just function let alone fight off a funk and get back to normal. But the easier you make things on yourself, the easier it will be for you to deal with the funk and ultimately move past it.

Instead of a step by step list of "here's what to have on hand and how to be ready", I've divided my thoughts into categories so that you can figure out what might work for you personally.

Personal Health

The first thing that slips is, not surprisingly, physically health. Making sure that good, wholesome foods are on hand and easily accessible is one way to help curb the unhealthy tendencies that generally pop up during a funk. Keeping a regular sleep schedule is also important as is physical exercise. The more you can get into a routine with sleep and exercise when things are good, the easier it will be to keep those habits when the crap hits the fan. Yes, it will be hard and it will be rough. But it will be worth it.

Put Good Stuff In, Get Good Stuff Out

Just like with physical health, your mind requires "nutrition" to be able to be at its peak potential. We are absolutely bombarded with messages on a regular basis, many of which we have no control over when and how often we see them. But there are moments when you do choose what your brain consumes. Moments like listening to music in the car, relaxing on the couch at the end of the day or how you occupy your time while waiting in line or at a doctor's office.

Make sure you always have positive options at your fingertips. For me, this means having specific playlists on Spotify for various moods, a number of motivational books on my kindle and even uplifting quotes or images on my phone and as my wallpaper. A friend of mine, Angela Mager, talked about this in one of her latest posts and how you can strategically place motivational items around your house to keep you focused on goals and contribute to a healthy environment for yourself. The more good stuff you put into your head, the more good stuff will come out of your thoughts (and then your words, emotions, and actions).

Getting Your Pity Party Crashers on Speed Dial

I have some wonderful friends and family in my life and let's be honest: I know who to call when I want to indulge in a bad mood and those that will pull my head out of my ass and get me back on the path where I should be. I intentionally put my friends who love me enough to tell me the truth and hurt my feelings at the top of my favorite list in my iPhone because they need to be the first ones I call. Otherwise, I'll just be spinning my wheels. Again.

Know Thyself

I can't stress how important it is to pay attention to your moods, thoughts, patterns and behaviors. If you don't, then your funks will always surprise you and you'll never see them coming. Trust me, that's not the way to live. It is a good way to drive yourself crazy.

There are a ridiculously infinite number of ways to get to know yourself, but the first step is just to pay attention. Most people go through the day and never give a thought to what they're doing or why they're doing it. Even if once or twice a day you stop and ask yourself why you're doing something or really investigate how you feel, you're going to be ahead of the game.

What are some things that you do that help you prepare for the funks?

6 Ways to Tell When You Are Heading for a Funk

heading for a funkRecently, I talked about how I was in a funk but managed to get out of it fairly quickly. We all know the best medicine is prevention, right? That's not a surprise and to be honest it shouldn't be. Want to be healthy? Then don't get sick. The true is for your emotions. I am not a psychologist nor professional therapist and I certainly don't pretend to be one. I also am not a big fan of the term "expert" because I believe that implies that you know pretty much everything there is to know on a given topic and I am a self-proclaimed life-long learner.

But I do know me, at least to a certain extent. I am constantly learning more about myself as time goes on and that's because I've become more and more proficient at paying attention to what's happening. You and I are not exactly alike, nor should we be. Everyone is different. But I have found a stunning number of similarities between myself and the women that are constantly placed in my path.

So, let's get back on topic, shall we? When it comes to fighting the funk, the best thing you can do is not get into one at all. Boy, that would be great, wouldn't it? It's not exactly realistic because no one is in complete control of their emotions. (But imagine that for a second: what if you could control your emotions and feel what you want to feel when you want to feel it all the time? Mind = Blown)

So if you can't be in control of your emotions, the next best thing is to recognize what's happening with you so that you can be aware of it and take the appropriate actions necessary to bounce back. When I am heading to a funk, it's something I can feel. But undoubtedly, there are a number of tell-tale signs that pop up in the days leading up to the fall that can clue me in. Here are my big six:

  1. My eating / sleeping habits change - Most often, I notice that it's harder for me to wake up in the morning. I feel more sluggish and more inclined to hit the snooze button. When this persists, it's my top indicator that something is coming that I'd rather not have happen. I've also noticed that I stop eating in my generally healthy manner. I don't get crazy about being healthy, but I do try and take care of myself. That starts to go out the window and it's always gradual. If it's abrupt, I'm dealing with  more than a funk.
  2. I hear myself say "I don't want to talk about it" more often - I don't share a lot of personal information with the people around me, but I do have a strong support network that I turn to when I need guidance or advice. There could be minor things going on like stupid issues at work, or an annoyance with an acquaintance and when someone asks me what's going on, instead of talking through it to find a sound solution, I start brushing it off. A lot. When I start consistently doing this, I am beginning the process of isolating which is very dangerous for me.
  3. I start dreading social obligations that I generally enjoy - I am not what many would consider to be an extrovert. I like my quiet time and professional networking events tend to leave me exhausted, even when I genuinely enjoy myself. But I do have an intimate group of friends that I like to spend time with and some hobbies and interests that I can really get lost in. When I start dreading an upcoming knitting class or get-together, that's a clue that something is a bit off-kilter. For me, the next phase would be to cancel those engagements for no good reason, so I have to watch that.
  4. I stop daydreaming - I am a dreamer. I have no problem admitting that openly. Envisioning an exciting future is an enjoyable pastime of mine and it can encompass my personal life or my professional aspirations. If I notice that I haven't been doing that or that the thought of doing that is overwhelming or exhausting, something is up.
  5. I feel different (physically) - I don't know about you, but my funks FEEL different. I feel weighed down, pressured, sometimes even deflated like a balloon. I feel sapped of energy even when I'm motivated to do something that I enjoy. It's hard to explain, to be honest, but I know it when I feel it.
  6. My choice in entertainment changes - My preferences for entertainment are widespread. I like television, movies, music, reading, knitting... and I frequently change what I'm looking at or doing depending on where I am mentally. But when a funk is coming, the music that I listen to is different as are the types of books and shows I watch. It's worth mentioning that I could be in a good mood and if I start listening to aggressive or "downer" music or watch a depressing or particularly intense show, that can impact my mood. But when the funk is coming, it is reflected in my entertainment choices.

So, there is my list. There are so many other signs out there, but these are the ones that I experience most frequently and consistently. What are your signs that tell you that you are heading for a slump? Have you ever paid attention to that before? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

 

Fighting The Funk

Yesterday was not a good day. At least not emotionally for me. It really started on Monday. I could feel it coming. I knew it was coming. I'm familiar with these kind of days. They just sort of happen. It's most likely a chemical thing for me because these are the days when life is truly good and nothing is really triggering it. But there it is: a down day. fighting funkI've been having "down days" for years. They come and they go. They usually only last a couple days at most and if it goes longer then it's something else and I have to deal with it. But yesterday was a down day. I had no motivation, no focus, no drive. I was just sad. And I had no reason to be sad which just made it even worse.

It took all my energy to NOT go back to bed. Like I said, it was just one of those days. Having depression and anxiety can do that to a person.

But today, I'm good. In fact, I was much better starting at about 6 pm last night. A lot of times, these funks can last a while and I have to really push through them to function, to do anything that shows forward movement. But not this time. This time I bounced back and I was good.

So what happened? I thought about what I would tell a friend or a client. And then I took my own advice. Here's what I did:

I acknowledged what was going on

I didn't try to fight the issue. I just let it happen. I accepted the fact that it was a down day. I took it a step further too. I told a couple people so they knew what was going on with me. There's nothing like crashing a pity party by inviting some friends over.

I got moving

I got out of my seat. I got showered and dressed. I packed my laptop and I got out of the house. I went to a coffee shop and I got to work. I made a list of things that needed to be done. I let the overwhelm hit me. And then I kept moving.

I transitioned with music

This is something new for me. Instead of playing "happy music" to try and instantly boost my mood, I started with something a little easier and let the boost happen on its own. I have several different playlists on Spotify for different moods or activities. I have a mellow(ish) playlist that I call "Writing Music" that includes artists like Muse, Death Cab for Cutie and Mutemath. I let that music pull me up a bit and then I could listen to "happier" music.

I accomplished something

I have a ridiculously long to-do list. But I don't hate it. I love to be busy. On the down days, that list can be incredibly overwhelming (like yesterday) but it gives me a focal point. And I attacked it. I crossed off a few things (I'm talking less than 10% of what was on the list) but damn did that feel good. They weren't huge projects. They weren't monster tasks. But they were accomplishments.

So, now I'm good. Things are back to even keel. Will this work every time? I have no idea. But it worked this time. And that is what truly matters.

When The Student Is Ready

student is readyWhen was the last time you bounced back from something that could have (and maybe should have) brought you down? Last year? Last week? Are you attempting to do it today? Raise your hand if you feel like recovering from a tough time is not just hard, it's excruciating. Exhausting.

Keep your hand if while you're in the middle of it, you think, "Is this even worth the effort anymore?"

It's so hard to stick with the work of getting better, feeling better, living better. Often, it feels unattainable, doesn't it? The mere prospect of working through all the junk that keeps piling on is overwhelming and sometimes feels a lot like suffocating.

If you're at this juncture, I want you to think about other people in your life that have been through a tough time, possibly even to hell and back and yet they're... ok. They're happy. Maybe they're even THRIVING. How do they do it?

What secret do they know that you don't?

Why are they one of the lucky ones and you're still sitting here, struggling, frustrated, and lost?

What gives universe???

Was it luck? Was it skill? Was it perseverance? Is it even genuine? Or are they just smiling to save face?

To be honest, it depends. It depends on the person, their situation, their background, their goals... all that jazz.

But here's the thing... you can get there. You can get to a point where your current situation, whatever it is, doesn't have to determine your life's path and hold you down. You can overcome it.

Seriously. No matter what you're going through, you can overcome it.

Cancer.

Death.

Divorce.

Bankruptcy.

Addiction.

Disordered eating.

Scandal.

Depression.

Loss.

Pain.

Heartbreak.

"But Angela, you don't understand." Actually I do. I understand better than you might think. I've had bad moments. Bad days. Bad years.

But I'm still here.

That seems to be my battle cry, but I'm sticking with it.

I'm still here.

And so are you.

Resiliency is a skill. And the thing about skills is that they can be learned. That's right. You can learn how to bounce back. You can learn how to design your own comeback. You can learn how to develop your own rebuilding program. You can learn how to be healthy, whole and happy. Even if you've never been there before, you can do it.

It won't happen overnight. And it won't be easy. Let's face it: if either of those options were true, wouldn't the transformation have happened to you by now?

You may have figured out at this point that if you can learn resiliency, then you need to be taught. Which means you need a teacher. There is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

The opportunity is there. It's ready. Are you?

While Searching For A Short Cut to Happiness, I Found Something Better

happy shortcutThe pursuit of happiness sounds like a romantic idea doesn't it? Everyone just wants to be happy, content and fulfilled, right? Don't they?

In my experience, no they don't. If they truly did, they would do something about their circumstances and be happy. But here's what I find more often than not: They want happiness to happen to them, not be something they have to work for. As you can imagine, I've read a lot of personal development (aka "self-help") books over the years and there is a theme that has emerged that isn't really a secret, although many people don't fully embrace it. It's the concept that happiness is a choice.

Invariably whenever I bring this up, people love to argue with me.

  • "But what about depression? People don't choose to be depressed."
  • "I want to be happy but I'm miserable in my (job / home / marriage / body). If I choose to be happy doesn't that mean that I'm settling?"
  • "Whenever I make the choice to be happy, something terrible happens. It's like the universe doesn't want me to be happy."

I could keep going, but I think you get my point. And I'm not arguing that depression doesn't exist. Believe me, I know it's there. I live with it. But you can still get help. Medicine is a wonderful thing. But that's another topic for another time.

You see, there is a strong tendency to resist the urge to embrace the idea that we are in control of our happiness. Why? The reasons vary to be sure, but there are a lot of trends I see including resistance, fear, stubbornness and sometimes downright laziness. We don't want to do the work to be happy. It's easier just to blame someone or something else for our unhappiness.

In my reading and my hunt for keys to achieving happiness, I did learn one thing that really opened my eyes to my quest and what I was hunting for: Happiness is fleeting. It's temporary. It describes a small period of time that is gone (always) much too soon. "Being happy" is a now-thing. It's not a lifestyle or a way of life. It's an emotion that I'm feeling RIGHT NOW. I can't guarantee that I will feel this way tomorrow and it feels pretty elusive at the moment, but there you have it. I'm happy, so I've succeeded right?

Possibly. But I want something more. Don't you?

I'm a firm believer that you get out of life what you put in. If you treat people poorly don't be surprised when you don't have very many close friends to help you when the chips are down. If you're always too busy to help others, don't complain when there is no rescue aid society running to your side. What does this have to do with happiness?

Everything.

If all I'm looking for is happiness, then I'm basically just looking for highs. I'm looking for the temporary highs that can get me through until my next high. That's what happiness is. It's an emotional high. We're not meant to live in the state constantly. If we were high all the time, we'd lose appreciation for it and search for the next thing up the ladder.

So what are we supposed to do?

How about this: How about we live with JOY.

Joy is so much better than happiness. Joy is both an action and a result. I can be joyous and feel joy. I can show joy to those around me and revel in the everyday moments and I can let that joy wash over me when I least expect it. I figured out a while ago that happiness doesn't last very long and that it has a shelf-life. It gets stale after a while. But when I live with joy, it can go on forever. The only limits I have are the ones I put on it.

Joy can be found in everything. In every conversation, every interaction, every smile. It can even be found in every chore and task. It is everywhere. And it's not hiding from you. You just need to decide to notice it.

Joy is available to everyone who wants it. It doesn't rely on circumstances to align or people to give you permission. It's here and it's ready for you.

And by the way, it's way better than happiness.

Life Beyond the Pain

It can be more than a little difficult when you are sitting in the pain and the hurt to see what is beyond the immediate life beyond painmoment. The pain is so big and so... just... THERE, that it is hard to even think about looking around it to see what else might be coming. These are the times that you shy away from the clichés, the quaint sayings, and the adorable signs that you see at craft shows. These are the times when even the thought smiling and trying something new seems so ludicrous that it's laughable. The times that scream "nothing is ever going to be the same" and "why bother?"

I know what that feels like. I lived in it for a long time. But I found a way out. And so can you.

I want you to take a second and imagine what life can be like when the pain has subsided. I didn't say when the pain is gone... let's be realistic, shall we? But it can die down a bit and recede into the background of life. It can become part of the landscape rather than the focal point. And it doesn't have to beat you.

Take a second a imagine what your life could be if that happened. What would change?

Would you sleep better? Maybe sleep less? Would your energy bounce back?

Would you see friends again? Make new friends? Be ok without old friends?

Would you try new things? Resurrect old hobbies? Take a risk? Settle into comfort?

Would you take better care of yourself? Of others?

Would you express yourself through art? Through physical exercise? Through your professional life?

Would you get up and move? Or would you finally sit still?

Pain and grief affect people differently so the absence of them will also create different effects. What does freedom look like to you? What does it feel like? Because that is what we're talking about... FREEDOM.

What does being free from the pain and the hurt that follows you around and that has you under its constant scrutiny sound like to you? Is it terrifying? Exciting? Does it sound like a fairy tale? Yes Virginia, freedom from pain does exist. And the best news? Everything you need is inside of you. You just need to bring it to the surface.

Imagine your perfect day, free from pain and worry. Hold on to that image. Keep it close to your heart. Now take a deep breath.

You are one step closer to getting there.

Welcome to the journey.

 

Get Rested to Get Positive

So often now, whenever I ask someone how they are doing, I hear one of two responses: "busy" or "tired." How did we all get so run down lately?

A friend of mine just got back from London and she told me how the pace of the world over there is so unbelievably slower than here in the U.S.

I believe it.

So how does exhaustion affect your attitude? The better question is what doesn't it affect? When you're tired, aren't you just cranky in general? My junior year roommate's motto was "there is nothing so bad going on that a nap won't help." I've tested it. For the most part, it's true. When I'm rested, I am better able to handle life in general.

Here are 6 simple tips to get (and stay) rested:

1. Keep a regular bedtime. I realized this sounds very preschool level, but it's true. When I go to bed at a decent hour every night, I'm much more productive the next day. My body is also more regulated since I'm not switching up my sleep schedule every night.

2. Evaluate your schedule. Do you say yes because otherwise you'll "feel bad?" Say yes only when you really mean it. Get rid of some stuff that you're just doing to impress others or that you signed up for out of guilt.

3. Quit the caffeine (or at least cut back). I realized a couple of months ago that when I drink pop or coffee after a certain time, I have a harder time falling asleep. So I've cut back and that has helped quite a bit.

4. Meditate. Regular relaxation and peaceful meditation helps to clear the mind and put your head to rest.

5. Take the TV out of the bedroom. If you're like me, you love to fall asleep to the TV playing softly. But the rest you get while listening to a television program is not energizing. Your brain gets disrupted. Take the TV out of there and leave your bedroom for sleeping.

6. Exercise. Part of a balanced life, which results in a better attitude, includes a regular exercise schedule. From yoga to jogging, walking to pilates, getting out there and moving not only makes you feel better, but it will help regulate your sleep schedule and bring a more positive attitude.

Inspiration

Inspiration can be an innovative or a destructive thing. Innovative in that you can create something that really touches someone and allows them to draw inspiration from you in return. But, on the other hand, inspiration can tear you up inside if you don't let it out. Sitting on a great book idea, an amazing painting concept, a quality craft that you can't wait to put together... all these things can eat away at the very creativity that thrives in all of us. It is hard to accept that many are afraid of inspiration. The ability to think and let your mind wander... what on earth could come out? What honesty would we have to face? What disillusion that we have comfortably been living in would have to be shattered? Pain, while irritating, can be a very comfortable place because it is familiar. Because we know it well. Because it gives us an excuse to stay stuck and never risk. Pain has become a motivator for me in my creative endeavors. Instead of waiting for the pain to subside so that I can work, I am using the pain as a springboard for my creativity to flourish. Instead of trying to work in spite of the pain, I am using the pain as a vehicle for my thoughts, my words, my art.

There is nothing better than being able to create something regardless of how I am feeling. Feel something? Write about it. Feel something? Paint it. Feel something? Make art out of it.

Just make art. No matter what your definition of it is or what your idea of what an artist is, become one today. In your home, in your workplace, in your church, in your kids' playgroup.

Create for the sake of art. Create something beautiful.