Ruts-- we've all had 'em. For the past few weeks I've been in a strange sort of funk. Nothing major, nothing drastic, but just a real mehhhhhhh about everything. My energy's been sluggish, my mind's been scattered, and I keep feeling like I'm just not getting anything done. We've all had bad days, of course, but what do you do when one day turns into a whole string of meh? There's nothing worse than waking up and finding that you're STILL in a bad mood.
So I've started my own personal manual for getting out of these phases of womp. Everyone feels the womp now and again. But we're smart, powerful, strong beings, and with some intention and some patience, we can change things up, lift our spirits, and move forward. Here are my best strategies for movin' on and movin' UP!!!
1. Change just one habit. This one always trips me up. I'm like, yeah, I know I should meditate every day. But if I do that, I should really also exercise every day. And while we're at it I should also cut out sugar. And get at least eight hours of sleep. And cut out alcohol. And start a gratitude journal. And make more money. And take herbal supplements. And deep-clean my room. And exfoliate. Argh! Soon I feel so overwhelmed with all the things I "should" do that I end up doing nothing. Which, of course, changes nothing.
So don't try to fix everything at once. Instead try to change just one habit. That, in itself, is HUGE! Change is gradual. Positive change also gives you momentum. So I won't be able to change all those habits at once; just the thought makes me want to crawl into a hole and watch Netflix forever. But if I do begin just by meditating each day, then it will slowly become easier for me to also get more sleep, and that in turn will make it easier for me to exercise, etc., etc. But don't think about all that just yet. That's all in the future. Right now, you're in the present, and you're focusing on one thing. Just one.
2. Pump up the tunes. Music is one of the best instant vibe-changers I know. It's like a magic channel changer for your mood. I can be in the mopiest mood EVER, convinced I'll never feel energetic or strong again, and if I turn on Sia's "Unstoppable" I'm suddenly flooded with energy, power and drive. Keep a playlist of songs that are so infectiously peppy you can't help dancing around your room. It helps also if you belt along. This is scientifically proven (by me). I'm always returning to anthems by powerful ladies about strength, independence, and fierceness. A few of my all-time faves: "Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson (oldie but a goodie), "Girl on Fire" by Alicia Keys, and Beyonce's "Grown Woman".
3. Start in the morning. Morning is my favorite part of the day, so however I spend has a huge effect on my mood. I find it's super important to set my intention of having a good day early on; morning is when you're the freshest, you've got the most momentum, and the day is a clean blank slate. If there's stuff you want to get done or habits you want to implement, start in the morning! The positive affirmation you'll get from them will help keep you feelin' strong all day long. Having a morning ritual can really help, whether that's sitting on the meditation cushion, reading a novel with your coffee, or doing 15 minutes of yoga. For more ideas, check out this great video by the badass Kelly-Ann Maddox on how to "set your vibration" every morning.
4. Change up your look. This is a fun one! Changing up your hair or dressing in something super fun and bright can give your spirits that extra little boost for the day. Today I'm wearing overalls and a t-shirt printed with tiny aliens, BECAUSE IT MAKES ME HAPPY. Kate and I talk about this in our podcast "The Vanity Paradox", and it holds so true for me; certain things we wear really can act as affirmations of our identity and intentions. I always wear my wolf ring when I want to feel extra fierce. I dyed a section of my hair blue-green when I was going gaga for mermaids. These acts are fun, and they're not superfluous; they announce a change to yourself and to the world. As one of my all-time favorite characters, the all-knowing goddess Sortilege played by Joanna Newsom in the movie Inherent Vice, says: "Change your hair, change your life."
5. Map your energy. For me, being in a rut is always a sign of energy depletion. Unfortunately we humans only have so much energy to run on each day; we think we can push through and always function perfectly, but we can't. We have energetic limits, and once we hit them, we must rest. There are so many ways we expend energy throughout the day without even realizing it. Pay extra-close attention to how your energy waxes and wanes throughout the day; it will provide clues as to which habits are helpful and which are unhelpful. A few questions to ask yourself, to pinpoint where you may be losing your energy:
- Are you spending too much time with other people? Not enough solo time can really tax your energy.
- Are you not spending enough time with other people? Being alone all day can give us tunnel-vision. Seeing other people can give us that jolt of excitement, and take our attention off our own lives.
- Are you eating things that give you energy? This is a huge one. Pay attention to how you feel after your meals and snacks. Your body will tell you, if you listen to it, whether it's feeling energized or lethargic from different foods.
- Are you drinking enough water? This one is so basic, but so big! When I'm tired, my instinct is to reach for more coffee. But I've discovered over time that after my first cup, water actually wakes me up so much more than coffee does!
6. Get your blood flowing. Moving your body around and getting that heart pumping is another surefire way to induce a good mood. Your brain floods with endorphins after exercise, making you feel instantly happier and more awake. If you're feeling meh and it's hard to find the motivation, try going to a silly and upbeat group exercise class. It's easier to motivate yourself to go to a class because you don't have to direct your workout; all you have to do is show up. My favorite is Zumba; you can always count on insanely upbeat pop music as well as a room full of middle-aged ladies gyrating. It's a good time.
7. Look back at the past. Grab a journal and reflect on different times in your life when you felt really great and energized. What were you doing then, and could you incorporate some of those habits now? When I look back, I realize that I've always been happiest in phases where I was getting enough sleep, waking up super early, reading novels, and having a lot of time to myself. Those seem to be the magic formula for my energy and happiness. Knowing that, I can work to incorporate those into my present situation. Make a list of the habits that you've noticed, over the years, work to revitalize you. Gather information and evidence from your own life. Kate introduced me to the idea of making an "Absolute Yesses" list: a list of things you know you want to incorporate in your life. Make a list of your absolute yesses, and keep it somewhere you'll see it each day.
8. Be patient with yourself. No matter how much you write in your journal, make affirmations, dance around, and drink water, sometimes we just go through lower-energy phases. It's completely natural. So if none of these tips are working just yet, don't panic. There are so many factors at play in our mood and energy-- stress, transitional phases, weather, etc-- that we just can't control them all. Be patient with yourself, if your rut is lasting longer than you want it to. There's nothing bad about being slightly down or more sleepy for a few days; maybe it's what your body needs. Remember that no situation is ever permanent. No matter what, you are moving forward.
But please note: while ruts are totally natural and happen to everyone, if you have felt severely down and consistently hopeless for over two weeks, tell someone you trust or a mental health professional. These tips are for mild ruts, not depression. Ask someone for help if you feel depressed.