There are slumps, and then there are slumps. Sometimes one bad day turns to another and before you know it, you’re stuck in a downward spiral of sadness, tension, or loneliness. I’ve been there more times than I care to admit. It becomes incredibly easy to stew or feel paralyzed under the weight of your thoughts.
What’s a gal to do when she’s lost in the fog of emotion?
Do what you do in any emergency situation – fall back on an emergency-proof procedure. Nurses check for “CAB” – circulation, airway, then breathing. Firefighters have “stop, drop, and roll”. These things are incredibly useful because they call to a part of the mind that isn’t affected by feelings of panic, hopelessness, or confusion. With that in mind, I came up with my own little procedure to help you press the escape button on nasty emotions.
Just “D.O. I.T.”!
D – Decide that you don’t want to feel this way.
I know, I know. You can’t just “decide” that you don’t want to feel like garbage. If it were that easy, antidepressants and therapy wouldn’t exist, right?
What I’m saying is that you CAN decide that you’re no longer going to be beat about the head and face by your own toxic emotions. You can’t force yourself to feel good, but you can force yourself to make a plan to no longer be held hostage by depression, anxiety, anger, or loneliness.
This is not me saying that you need to “snap out of it” or “stop being a baby”. Depression, anxiety, fear, and self-doubt are as real and valid emotions as any and you need to honour and understand those feelings. Maybe you need to stay sad and grieve a recent loss to understand how to move forward. Maybe you need to stay angry because someone was hurtful and you need to understand why it happened.
But it is important to realize that in order to move forward, you have to know when these emotions are no longer constructive for your personal growth. When your emotions are no longer useful, decide that it’s time for them to step down.
O – Own your emotions. Take responsibility for where you are now, and take responsibility for getting where you want to be.
This second point is crucial. Understand that if you are sad, angry, or generally feeling like doodoo, it’s because you’ve been feeding the wrong thoughts. Whatever you feed grows. Imagine for a moment that you have a vibrant garden with wonderfully fertile soil. What happens when a few weeds sprout up? Do you pluck them to make room for your beautiful roses, or do you allow them to grow and thrive, stealing precious nutrients from the soil?
Your mind is this garden. Sometimes these weeds of negativity and hurt show up out of nowhere, ones that you did not plant, that try to choke out your beautiful, healthy thoughts. Like in a garden, you must take responsibility both for feeding your constructive thoughts and plucking intrusive negativity. The state of your mind is a choice.
What emotions do you want to feed in your mind? Happiness? Confidence? Power? Purposeful?
What emotions to you want to pluck from your mind? Stress? Shame? Depression? Fear of being a failure?
Whatever it is, give it a name. Think of what those emotions look like.
I – Identify a way out.
Of course, all this talk will get you nowhere without a plan. Use these five tips to help you build a road map to the right emotion.
What do you need to focus on?
This is extremely helpful because it forces your brain to come up with an answer. If you wanted to feel lively instead of brokenhearted after a break-up, what kinds of things would you focus on if you were really feeling that way? Arranging a night out on the town with your gal pals? Seeing that BYOB painting studio that just opened up? Getting back into that hobby you forsook years ago? This is so much more constructive than wondering “Why can’t I get out of this rut?” or giving mind to your lousy ex or what they’re doing or thinking. Pluck those weeds.
What do you need to be around?
Is your environment pushing you towards where you want to be or pushing you away from it? For me, when I know I want to feel peaceful and productive, I light candles and listen to some good ol’ Hans Zimmer. I love having the windows open and working on an impossibly clean and organized desk (that would make that psycho from “Sleeping with the Enemy” look disheveled) with fresh white roses on it. It’s what keeps me “in the zone”. My friend cannot work unless he’s dressed to the nines, even if he’s at home and it’s 3am. Find out what puts YOU where you need to be. It can do an incredible amount to boost your mood.
What do you need to act on?
Obviously you can’t will yourself to feel a different way, and there’s only a certain amount of thinking that will move you in the right direction. Overthinking will only lead you deeper into the spiral that got you here and continue your subconscious feeling of helplessness. It’s time to take action. What are 3 things you can do today to help you move on a better path? If you want to feel lively after heartbreak, you can cut contact from the ex, arrange a day with your best friend, and do some self-care.
What do I need to remind myself?
Fighting against your nasty emotions is a full-time gig sometimes. It’s handy to have a mantra set up for whenever you’re fighting the same persistent bug, preferably written down. Just as the same nasty recurring thought can break you down, a positive one can set you free.
If you’re depressed after a break-up, you might remind yourself of a mantra like this:
“Starting, right now, I’m ready to stop feeling depressed and start feeling alive and joyous again. In order to do this, I need to focus on self-care, reviving my passions, and enjoying my friends and family. I need to be around things that give me my spark, like painting with my favourite music and being in nature. I will act on this by giving myself 30 days to “get over” the break up, and in the meantime, I will spend one day a week having fun with my friends and spending 2 hours a day to nourish my passions and do something to care for myself.
This breakup was a good thing for me, and while I no longer need my ex, s/he was a wonderful teacher. I am now better prepared for my next partner. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to explore my own life individually right now. And when my future wife/husband/partner comes into my life, I’ll have so much to share with them. ”
T – Take action.
This is the most important step. Like we already covered, overthinking will do nothing to move you in the right direction. In fact, I’d wager that you got into this unfortunate situation from being too much of a thinker.
So what’s the solution?
Take your action plan and just do it.
Don’t spend one more minute thinking, researching, learning, whatever. Take one small baby step towards building the mindset and lifestyle that you want.
But this is so much work!
I know, it seems big. But really, it’s not. And once you understand the thought process, it hardly takes more than a minute. And let’s be honest – if you’ve got time to feel gloomy and listless, you’ve got time to not feel gloomy and listless.
Besides – isn’t your happiness worth a minute or two?
And I sincerely believe that the quality of your life is controlled by the quality of your thoughts. Call it the Law of Attraction or hippie mumbo-jumbo if you want, but it often seems that those who think well feel well, which in turn brings about positive action, positive rewards, and a positive life. If nothing else, remember that if you can get into a downward spiral, you can equally (although with a bit more planning and effort) get into an upward spiral.
And more importantly, remember that you can do it and that you deserve great things.
All you need is the determination to get them.