For the past two weeks, I struggled to shake a bad mood and get back in my groove. It seemed like at every turn, I was realizing something I’d overlooked or a detail that had escaped me. I felt extra emotional about tiny problems, and I felt unmotivated to do the things I normally enjoy. Nothing seemed to be snapping me out of it.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand to wave and get yourself out of a rut when you’re in one. However, climbing out of the valley I was just in afforded me some perspective on what it takes to ease your way out of the depths when you find yourself there.
Practice Self Care
Throughout my doldrums, I leaned into self-care, parenting myself the way I do my children. For me, that looked like sleeping as much as I could afford, hydrating, getting regular exercise, eating nutrient-rich meals with lots of vegetables, and making sure there was plenty of time for social engagement on my calendar.
When I was a kid, I never could quite master the underwater somersault. Most of my friends could do it, but when I tried, I’d get disoriented and feel as if I was drowning. Then, someone would come to help me and they would tell me that I just needed to put my feet down and stand up.
That’s true now, too, when I’m in over my head. I need to plant my feet on the ground and realize that I won’t be consumed if I simply just change my perspective. Yet, in the moment, when the panic strikes, it can be hard to find that perspective on your own.
The best, most tried and true method I’ve found to change my perspective is through writing a gratitude journal. Gratitude is like a ladder out of misery. It reorients you and re-positions you with a new lens and a fresh point of view.
For this particular rut, I also had the opportunity to have a change of scenery, and that helped significantly. Sometimes when you’re so close to the thing that’s overwhelming you, it seems ENORMOUS, but when you pull your focus out, you can see exactly how small it is.
This week, I was able to spend a few hours looking at the vast Atlantic Ocean, enveloped in only the sound of the waves as they crashed and the warmth of the sun, allowing the busyness of my spirit to find some quiet and my breath to steady. I don’t often have the opportunity to find a beach, but even just stepping out of your everyday for a few hours and looking at something beautiful in nature is often enough to remind you that what you're facing is small in the grand scheme.
Go Beyond Yourself
I’m blessed to have dear, wise friends who lean in when I’m down, asking me questions to help me process and move away from the things anchoring me down. If you have people like this in your life, accept their help in these moments, and show up for theirs.
And, if you don’t have people in this season, seek out a counselor or a spiritual mentor to walk you through. Their wise counsel and objective point of view, or even just their empathy for you in your tough moment can be enough to fill your gratitude list and eliminate the poison that plagues you.
Small Steps Forward
One day, you’ll wake up, and the world will seem a little bit brighter. You’ll feel tentative, because you’ve spent so many days in the valley, but instead you must take the small steps forward and begin to believe that you’re ascending out of the valley.
Small steps look like cleaning your house, or even your inbox. Making a meal plan with some fresh ideas (or, perhaps, meal planning at all). Adding a new, healthy practice to your day. Meeting up with a new friend for coffee. Taking care of that project you’ve put off for too long. With each small step, you’ll realize, you’re on your way to the next mountaintop and you’re stronger for having come through the valley.