It crept in like a dark, wet fog, and self-care went south. Exercise gradually came to a stop. I had no schedule. My hair grew long and unruly, and the news, the neighbors, the masks—all of it rubbed me like sandpaper on an open wound. I didn’t know how to get out of A funk.
My immediate reaction was to deny it. I’m fine; I just need a weekend away, I said. But upon returning, I still felt agitated and out of sorts. Tense, edgy, and unable to relax, I read, analyzed, and read some more.
Aided by what I read, my experience showed me that I was going about it all wrong. I was running away from uncomfortable emotions when I should be embracing them.
It seems people who deny, numb, or suppress emotional pain are only kicking ‘the can of suffering’ down the road. The underlying mood remains superficially hidden and smoldering only to come back in full blaze later.
Research psychologists found that you can interrupt the downward spiral with a little literacy and grow your way upward out of stress, anxiety, despair, or, as I call it, a funk.
Three ‘growth phases‘ have been identified to educate us on how to get out of a funk.
- Change is pointing to things that need let go. Reflect on and connect with what you are feeling. Sit with it. Openly process the pain, fear, anger, and sense of loss. Journal, when researchers had participants write about their fear and anxiety—rejecting the ‘need to be strong’ and allowing the flow while acknowledging feelings, it set the stage for growth.
- Phase 2 is a bridge of sorts. You are in neutral. Loss is palpable but what will replace it isn’t clear…..yet. Continue to sit through this phase and feel what is flowing. Try to appreciate the fallibility and imperfection of the human experience. Summon the courage to accept yourself as you are. Be kind to yourself.
- Phase 3 is the new beginning phase where you begin to feel comfortable with the ‘new.’ These days, it could be you are comfortable wearing a mask and going out less or enjoying your own company—new contentment.
How to practice these three phases and learn how to get out of a funk
It was a mistake for me to spend no time slowing down, processing, sitting, and observing emotions and what I was experiencing. I was detached from my inner-Self, and this was a classic mistake.
In the instability of change, we get sucked into focusing on what isn’t working, and we try to make something work. We obsess on problems and don’t even consider our strengths. As a result, we get pulled into a downward thrust, also known as a funk.
However, if we focus on ‘bright spots‘, what we have done right, our strengths, we can initiate upward movement and prevent a funk from gaining traction.
When I sat still, I was reminded of my bright spots. I re-connected with the discipline that helped me develop a fulfilling exercise and self-care routine.
You may have noticed the growth phases force you to pay close attention and see what is coming up in your thoughts and interpretations.
Imagine your moods as a ladder. Stay connected to your internal state and watch where you are on the rungs of your ladder at any given time. This is how you get out ahead of a funk and influence upward movement.
It’s unrealistic to think we can leap from the lowest rung to the top. Give yourself the time and space to climb upward incrementally, one rung at a time. Find an area where you have done well, duplicate it, and spread that around.
Pay close attention. You could be at any one of these growth phases at any time. You may also go back and forth, crossing the bridge of phase 2, then experience a new loss that requires letting go of something else.
The important thing is to prevent your psyche from creating an adversarial relationship with change and discomfort.
Trust that self-examination and engaging in life’s problems from a solutions perspective will lead to growth and greater emotional well-being in the long-term.
Remind yourself that you are on the cusp of growth. The discomfort that conscious awareness brings has growth at its purpose.
An unexamined life is not worth living. —Socrates
This article first appeared on Medium…