We all just need to experiment and find an exit strategy out of that rain cloud. Maybe yours is to simply be sad, soak up all of the implications and complications of that feeling for a day, and then wring your body clean of the emotion like a damp rag. But dwelling in it doesn't work for me. Instead here are some of the strategies I've come up with to help get my mindset back on track.
- Try this once. When your focus begins to get a bit foggy, when you are so distracted by the negatives that you enter a tunnel where your happiness is blurred in a circle around the tunnel vision, throw yourself into your passion. Your work. Remind yourself why you do what you do, not just for the paycheck. Or perhaps your work is just for the paycheck. There's nothing wrong with that either. But throw yourself into whatever it is in your life that you look forward to doing. For me that's the music. When I hit that tunnel vision I eventually encounter a sign reminding me to follow the music. I refresh my practice schedule, remind myself why it is that I'm in this place. Why am I here, pursuing this elusive dream? Whatever that dream is, whatever your reasons are, renew your passion for it and see where that leads.
2.) How about food. What do you eat?
- This is key for me as well. As someone who can no longer deny the food sensitivities in her life, I can attest to the power of what we put in our bodies. Have you been living off of the same pasta dish? Oatmeal? Or are you mindlessly overindulging in the easily obtained snacks, salty treats, and sugary confections that lay in the discount aisle of the grocery store? Maybe you are eating healthy - but you eat the same hard boiled egg for breakfast each morning, the same chicken and vegetable lunch, followed by an identical pasta dish each night. Day after day. Sure, your wallet might be happy but are you? Try to reassess what you are putting into your body, ask yourself if this makes you happy (truly happy, not just in the moment pleased with the deliciousness of that cake but in the next moment feeling bloated and bogged down by the sugar). Don't mindlessly eat, think about why you want to put that food item in your belly.
3.) You're feeling stressed or down? Let's have a girls night!
- It's the freaking weekend, I'll drink to that! Have you been letting your negative feelings manifest into late nights out drowning your worries in drinks? Maybe you're not getting black out drunk each night, maybe you're not what 'they' would call an alcoholic. But are you letting yourself focus on frivolous outings with friends and alcoholic beverages distract you from some truth that you are feeling? Be honest with yourself. Sometimes you do just need to lighten up and go out with friends, and sometimes you need to realize that you're not lightening up, rather that you are throwing on your rose tinted glasses and becoming numb to the truth for a little while. Honesty is always the policy. If you can't be honest with yourself about why you are drinking (or doing anything, for that matter) than how can you expect yourself to get out of this hard place?
4.) It seems that 'they' say to exercise more... let's hit the gym!
- This is a biggie for me as well. Have you been ignoring your body? Please don't give me any of that Cartesian nonsense. I honestly believe that Descartes' mind-body dualism has radically changed the Western mindset in a negative and unhealthy way. You want to believe that the mind and the body are truly separate? Okay, tell me that next time you have a migraine so bad you are throwing up every few minutes and your vision is blurring and fading to black. Tell me how clear and concise your thoughts are then. No, instead of blindly following the man your intro to philosophy class heralded (I think therefore I am!) remind yourself that your body carries your mind. Maybe your negativity and pessimism is resulting from inactivity and decay. I'm 26 years old, am I done growing and starting to die already? Didn't I read that somewhere?! What am I going to do? Snap out of it. Go for a run, perfect a new yoga asana, hit a new PR in the gym, or maybe get into doing the aerial acrobatics that you've always secretly wanted to try. Why wait?
5.) Be honest with yourself. Have you started that journal yet?
- One of the best habits I've made since moving abroad was beginning a journal. Journal - the adult word for diary. You can make it however you want. Maybe each morning you'll wake up and write one word, the first thought in your head. Or maybe you'll write exhaustively what happened to you each day. For me I like to write on the page when the thoughts in my head are so convoluted that I'm confused and uncertain about how I even feel. Just start writing, don't tell me you don't know what you want to say, trust me, you will. Sometimes we vent to our friends about a problem and then, before our friends can even respond, we realize that we have already discovered the solution. Give your friend a break once in a while and try to just hash it out on the page. Maybe you'll learn something new about yourself, your relationships, and your feelings.
Feeling down, stressed, lonely, and unhappy is a natural and unavoidable aspect of being human. We are social creatures and sometimes we long for some sort of external approval or sign that we are on the right track. But I don't think we need to rely on others, I think we can find a way to remind ourselves every day that we are doing what is best for us. These are just some of the things that I like to focus on when I start to feel blue. Blue, my favorite color and also one of my favorite songs (check our Regina Spektor's Blue if you don't know it yet), and yet one of my least favorite emotional states. What metaphorical umbrella do you use to keep out of the rain?