Secret Antidote to a Blue Funk Day
Those of us who struggle with bouts of depression don’t have lives that glide smoothly across life’s landscape. Our brains make us travel over rocky terrain, and we feel every bump.
Sometimes our brains start right up and move us through our days like everyone else. And sometimes there’s just no spark in the spark plugs; we sputter and lurch to our destinations.
It used to be that on those no-spark days, I simply accepted that my brain was offline and that it was going to be a low energy, slow-thinking, blue funk day. I either crapped out and hibernated or forced myself to slog through my tasks, cursing my condition at every turn.
But that’s all changed.
A while back I discovered an antidote to these otherwise lost days–a way of hot-wiring my emotional engine when nothing wants to start.
The secret antidote is motion
Think of it this way: Motion balances emotion.
Motion is a high octane fuel that will significantly improve your mental and physical state.
This isn’t hypothetical, touchy-feely psychobabble. This is Truth. And because my brain will always need extra help and attention, I have to regularly implement this Truth.
Two weeks ago, I woke up feeling sad, overwhelmed and lost. This doesn’t happen to me much anymore, but when a handful of difficulties all happen at once, I’m still prone to it.
Recently, I’ve been waging a few inner battles. I’ve struggled with chronic left hip and sciatic pain that has been wearing me out and which may be leading me straight into the operating room. My work as a home visiting psych nurse has been filled with patients who are so chronically ill, little I do seems to alleve their suffering. My children are having some interpersonal struggles of their own, about which I can do little. And for the past several months, I’ve been working hard to learn all the technical things I need to know to make BlueFunkBeat work well.
In short, I’ve been living on a diet of helplessness. And helplessness is a dangerous, narrow, twisty road off of which you can easily slip, sending you down, down, down into the dark ravine of hopelessness. It is a road to be avoided if at all possible.
So there I was, lying in bed feeling helpless and, I admit, pretty blue. And inevitably, the old familiar feelings of paralysis, fatigue, and foggy thinking quickly followed.
Since I had no patients to see that day, I could have easily stayed in bed and no one would have been the wiser. I could have padded out to the living room, wrapped myself in a quilt, and watched Castle reruns all day.
But despite what my brain’s old messages tried to trick me into believing (i.e., “it will never get better,” “I’m a failure,” “things will never work out,” blah, blah, blah, blah,) I dug deep and found the strength to get out of bed and declare, “I am not going to voluntarily forfeit a day of my life without a fight!”
9 Small Victories Changed Everything
We all have a critical part of us that fights feeling any discomfort. I call it the Saboteur because, despite its belief that it’s protecting me, it actually sabotages a lot of the good stuff I want to do.
Sometimes, the Saboteur in me whispers some really shitty things in my ear. That morning it went like this:
“This is way too hard. You just need more sleep. You’re not going to accomplish anything feeling like this. In fact, you’ll probably feel worse if you push it.” It was early morning, I was still sleepy, and I felt bad, so I was vulnerable. In the past, I bought into these messages. But I now know the truth–the Saboteur lies constantly. So I got up. Victory #1.
“Wow, you can hardly move you’re so exhausted. This is pointless.” Be quiet. I have to do this. I brushed my teeth and got dressed. Victory #2.
“Go back to bed. The dog is still asleep. He can manage another couple of hours.” Now I was irked. Shut up. No one tells me to ignore my beloved Husky. So I walked the dog. To my amazement, I even found the energy to chat with a couple of security guards about Chico. Victory #3.
“OK, so you’re moving. Fine. But you’re brain is still thick with fatigue. You’re definitely offline. Today is gonna suck.” Really? Let’s find out. I decided to “act as if” my brain was online. I made a half-pot of decaf coffee and truly enjoyed every drop of it. Victory #4.
Now I’m determined to shake this. “Oh, hell no, you cannot exercise. You won’t last 5 minutes.” Screw you. I pushed myself to do 30 min of exercise. Victory #5.
The Saboteur is now admitting defeat and has quieted down the rhetoric in my head. I decided to stack the deck a bit more in my favor. I listened to the recording of an inspirational speaker talk about what it means to live with a sense of abundance instead of scarcity. It galvanized me. Victory #6.
With the negative messages no longer playing, I was able to sit in meditative prayer for 10 min, requesting that The Source of all miracles eliminate my pain and sense of scarcity. Victory #7.
I showered, dressed, and despite the temptation to skip it, ate something nutritious. Victory #8.
Because I had deliberately created positive momentum, I had the energy to get out of my apartment, go downstairs to my apartment building’s conference room with my computer, and begin a productive work day. Victory #9.
Was it one of my best work days? Nope. But that’s OK. I just wanted a better day than the one I had originally envisioned.
The magic bullet isn’t a single action. The magic bullet is taking successive action. That’s what brings us back from the brink of darkness. It’s taking small, positive steps–steps that help us take care of ourselves, nurture those we love, and look after those depending on us.
Taking any kind of positive action, no matter how small, really does mobilize mind and body.
Sometimes I go months without having a day like that. But as sure as the sun rises in the morning, those days and that Saboteur will undoubtedly pop up periodically in my life.
But I no longer take them lying down.
And you shouldn’t either.
What’s Your POA (Plan of Action)?
Don’t wait until you have a blue funk day to try to decide how you’re going to overcome your own Saboteur. Get a POA in place now. Here’s what I recommend:
Start by calling it what it is–a challenge. That’s all it is. It’s going to require a bit more force on your part, and a little less gullibility in believing what the Saboteur is whispering in your ear. So you’re not likely to set the world on fire that day. OK. But you’re also not handing that day over to your Saboteur to spend under the covers, either.
All you have to do is take just one small step. Anything. Just one.
Then, once you’ve secured that victory, take another small step. Anything at all will do when you’re in this state. Just remember to count that step as a victory. That is what gives you the sense of hope and success, and that’s the foundation on which more steps are built.
Remember, it may take 8, 9, 14 victories before you get momentum, but pretty soon, you’ll have re-engaged your brain in the hum of life…and you’ll have a long list of victories to feel good about.
So what’s your action plan going to be the next time you feel paralyzed, exhausted or overwhelmed? What is the very first victorious step you can take that will literally move you forward that day?
Is jumping in the shower, putting on make-up and getting into a nice outfit a kick-starter for you?
Does hitting the gym or attending a class blow out the cobwebs?
How about driving to your local state park and going for a walk?
Or spending some time in meditation or prayer?
Does playing a certain kind of music light you up?
Maybe it’s time to try something totally different like singing Uptown Funk (or rather, the playful “Naptown Funk”, an Annapolis version that skips the misogyny!) in the shower or the National Anthem in your living room.
Ever tried 30 min of jumping on a trampoline? Pretty tough to sing the blues after some air time!
Life is exquisitely precious and gone in a blink. So the next time your day is being threatened by your mood, what actions are you going to take to squeeze the most out of every, single moment you’ve been granted?