Have you ever been there? Have you ever been in that place where you just feel down? Tapped out? Drained? Like you’ve given everything you’ve got and still you’re somehow supposed to give more? It’s one thing to feel it, but it’s another thing entirely to know what to do about it. So, what can you do? What do you do when you feel down?
Call it a hole. A pit. A funk. Feeling down. The blues. Bummed out. An off day…or two…or ten… It goes by many names and it answers to them all. But no matter what you call it, it comes with this sense of helplessness. This feeling of weakness. A debilitating pressure.
A feeling like no matter what you do you won’t be able to get out of this fog of uncertainty. You’ll never be able to get “back to normal.” No matter what you do, somehow you’re not good enough.
But is what you’re feeling real? Is it true? Is what it says true? What do you do about it? Is there anything to do about it? How do you get out of it? How do you manage to keep moving day by day?
Oh, my Friend, these are weighty questions. Questions that I’ve wrestled with myself on many occasions. Questions that are complicated and twisted and not only need to be answered, but unraveled before you can begin to answer them.
Know that Feeling are Real
First of all, you need to know that what you’re feeling is valid. Feelings are real emotions. It’s okay to feel down! It’s okay to feel bummed out! Your feelings are not wrong – or right – in and of themselves. They’re simply feelings. Your feelings and emotions give you a glimpse into what’s going on inside you on a deeper level.
But while the feelings themselves are not right or wrong, the key comes in deciding what you do with your feelings. You see, no matter what you’re feeling, you have a choice in your actions. You can’t choose what you feel because oftentimes that’s subconscious, involuntary. Almost like a reaction. However, you can choose what action to take once you feel the emotion.
For example, if you are standing in your kitchen and set your hand on the counter, not realizing that you set your hand on a hot cooktop, your immediate reaction (feeling) will be to jerk your hand away from the hot surface. It happens almost before you realize it. It’s a total involuntary reaction. But once you feel the heat in your hand, you have a choice. You can make the bad choice to set your hand back on that hot cooktop or you can make the wise choice to get your hand under cold water and put some ice on it. In this case, you felt the pain, you had an involuntary reaction to the pain, but you choose what to do about it from there.
Call it Out
Well, it’s one thing to recognize your feelings but how do you begin to deal with them? What do you do when you’re feeling down and you don’t know what to do?
The first step to dealing with this feeling is to recognize it. To call it out for what it is. Even if you don’t know exactly what it is yet, try. Even if you just have this vague feeling, try to put it into words. You see, the more you put words to what you’re feeling, the less power that feeling holds over you. There’s power in ambiguity. The more this feeling stays unidentified. The more it stays hidden by remaining undefined, the more power the ambiguity has over you. When you don’t know what you’re fighting, whatever it is you’re fighting has the upper hand.
But, when you are able to put words to what you’re fighting, when you’re able to identify what you’re feeling and call it out for what it is, it immediately loses some of its power hold over you. Now, this probably won’t happen instantaneously. It’ll most likely be a gradual process. You’ll need to work at this and figure out your feelings similar to how you put together a jigsaw puzzle. But bit by bit, piece by piece, when you start to find words to explain why you’re feeling down, you start to take the power away from the ambiguity. You identify what it is you’re feeling and maybe even why you’re feeling that way.
And knowing what you’re feeling gives you a firm place to stand. A place to start from where you feel you’re not just floating in the fog, not knowing what’s going on. But a solid spot to start working through what you can do.
You Are Not Broken
Sometimes acknowledging you feel down isn’t the hard part. Sometimes realizing you feel burned out or that you’re having an off day (or ten!) is almost relieving. It’s one thing to realize what you’re feeling, but once you identify the feelings that are there, another feeling likes to come in: Guilt.
Guilt likes to tell you – sometimes scream at you! – that you’re broken. That something is wrong with you because you feel down. It likes to tell you that you’re less than whatever because you’re burned out. It likes to whisper that you’re not enough.
Oh, my Friend, do not listen to guilt! Do not listen to its voice! There’s nothing wrong with having an off day. There is nothing wrong with feeling down. There’s nothing wrong with being in a funk. You are not broken. You are not less than anything for simply feeling bummed out. You are enough.
Now, it’s one thing to hear that and it’s an entirely different thing to believe it. Do you need to hear it again? There is nothing wrong with you! Feeling down and bummed out and having an off day or even a string of off days is something that everyone will experience from time to time.
If you’re really struggling with this, if you’ve been feeling down and bummed out for a while, don’t struggle alone! If you feel like you’re falling into depression, or even if you feel like you can’t see a way out of the fog, please go see a licensed mental health counselor. Seeing the perspective and wisdom of someone who has been trained to help can be irreplaceable. And know this: There’s no shame in reaching out for help.
There are times in life when getting the perspective of someone outside of what’s happening is absolutely essential for your emotional and mental health and healing. Don’t discount this important tool you can tap into. Don’t deny yourself the help you need. There’s no shame in admitting you need the help of a counselor as you walk through a tough situation.
What Can You Do?
Even when you start to identify what you’re feeling and start to put the puzzle together of why you feel that way, knowing what to actually do next can still feel like a mystery sometimes, right? It’s wonderful and necessary to take the time and identify your emotions, but what do you do in the day to day stuff? What physical actions can you take to start moving in the right direction? To start walking out of the fog? To start leaving that bummed feeling, that funk behind?
Here are 8 things you can do to start leaving the blues behind. Practical things you can start to do right here and right now to start bringing some sunshine back into your life.
#1 :: Allow Yourself to Rest
Give yourself permission to slow down a gear or two. Not to check out from the world completely, but to rest. To take some extra time and take care of you. It could mean having an extra cup of coffee on the back deck and watching the sunrise. Or maybe it’s taking a long, hot bubble bath or a nap. Maybe it’s spending time reading a book or journaling. Maybe it’s going on a long walk or a bike ride. Whatever it looks like for you to rest, give yourself permission to rest.
As a mom, it’s so easy to go and go and go and take care of everyone and everything else and put your own needs dead last. Yet, if you’re continually pouring out and taking care of everyone else, but you’re not taking the time to rest and do things that refresh your soul, you’ll start to burn out. You’ll start to feel drained and empty. One of the first things you can do is start to allow yourself to rest.
Now, this doesn’t have to be hours upon hours of time. If you want to go and take a 2 hour bike ride and you have the ability to do it – go for it! But if you only have 20 minutes to sit quietly on the porch and breathe the crisp fall air while enjoying a cup of coffee, enjoy every second of that 20 minutes. It’s not about the length of time you have to rest. It’s doing those things that speak rest and life to your soul.
#2 :: Lighten Your Load
It’s so easy to do everything for everyone isn’t it? It seems to be a part of this mom complex where you feel like you have to be everything to everyone and it’s your job to take care of everyone. And while some of that is true, particularly if you have very young children, it’s not entirely true. (To read more about this, check out my post on How to Overcome Perfectionism and Mom Guilt.)
You see, there are most likely things you’re doing that you don’t have to do. What are some things or responsibilities you can delegate or step back from? This could be teaching your children how to help with cleaning the house, asking for help making meals from your family, or readjusting the way you do laundry so you’re not the only one doing it. It could mean making a decision that you will not take on any more commitments outside your home for a time. It could even mean stepping back from something you committed to.
Lightening your load will look different for each and every person. Keep in mind, just because something is listed here doesn’t mean that’s what you need to do.
Do you want to know the best way to figure out what you can delegate and pass off? Sit down and make a list of all your responsibilities. All those things you do to keep things moving. Everything from making dinner and doing laundry to taking care of your children to working to paying the bills to anything else. Once you write all those things down (and you’ll probably be rather surprised at the size of your list!), go through and identify those things that only you can do. Those things that are impossible to pass off to anyone else.
Then, look through the list and see what things you can delegate, which things you can give up or say no to. There might even be some things on the list you can leave completely undone! Use this list as a launching point to help you figure out how you can lighten your load.
#3 :: Talk to Someone
It’s absolutely amazing how much an open, honest conversation can relieve the pressure on your soul. Other people can encourage you, inspire you, let you know you’re not alone, and help you through this tough time.
Now, I know getting together with other people can be hard – particularly in this season of social distancing! But when you start to feel down, your natural tendency is to withdraw. To pull back. To start isolating yourself. And while sometimes getting time by yourself is good, if you’re not careful getting time by yourself can begin to turn into self-imposed isolation.
Don’t allow yourself to be isolated! Reach out to other people – even if it’s just one or two friends you trust. If you can, meet up in person to talk, get a hug, and share a cup of coffee. If you aren’t able to meet in person, talk over the phone or even a video call.
No matter what you do, don’t walk through this alone. You need people around you, encouraging you, cheering you on, reminding you that you can do this. You are enough. And you can make it through.
#4 :: Do the Next Right Thing
Sometimes it’s so hard to know what to do, isn’t it? To keep up on everything you’ve got going. To keep that juggling act of al those balls up in the air. Sometimes it feels easier just to let them come crashing down all around you instead of trying to keep going, right?
Especially when you’re feeling down, it’s really hard to know what to do. It feels like your motivation has completely evaporated. Your “get up and go has got up and went!” You don’t know what to do. Oh, there are things to do, no doubt! There are things that need to get done, but you just don’t think you can do them all. You just can’t see a way to get it all done. What do you do in those moments?
What do you do when you don’t know what to do? You simply do the next right thing. Don’t worry about the next 10 things or all the things you need to do this week. Simply focus on that one thing that needs to happen next. Take the next task you need to do and simply do the next right thing. One thing at a time. One task at a time.
Remember, pogress – even slow progress – is still progress! And progress is what you’re going for, not perfection.
#5 :: Take Care of Yourself
When you start feeling down, it’s easy to start neglecting the little things of self care. Those little things that make you feel more like you. The things that make you feel better. More put together. Like you’re ready for the day- even if you’re not going anywhere!
Things like washing your face, washing your hair, trimming your nails or even painting your toenails. Things like taking a few moments to look out the window at the sunshine and the flowers as you sip your coffee or tea in the morning. Things like setting aside a few moments to read a chapter in your book or write down some thoughts in your journal.
You see, self-care is not selfish! There’s a harmony to be found in it, but you need to take care of you as well as taking care of others. Set aside a little bit of time, even it it’s just a 3-5 minute pocket of time here and there throughout your day, to do something purely for you.
#6 :: Sunshine for Your Soul
Never underestimate the soul brightening aspect of sunshine. So often when you start to feel down and feel in a funk, you want to hibernate. And many times that hibernating happens indoors, away from the sunshine!
Now, this may seem silly and trite, but this one simple thing is so impactful: Get out in the sunshine! Get outside and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Go for a walk outside. Grab your coffee and enjoy it on your deck while basking in the beauty of the sun. If it’s not possible to get outside, find a spot where the sunlight streams into your home through a window and soak up the sun through the window.
No matter what, allow the brightness and the warmth of the sun to not only brighten your day with its light, but allow its warmth to comfort you. To remind you that there’s more to life than one tough season.
#7 :: Start Moving
I get it. The thought of working out when you’re feeling burned out just feels like another burden. Another thing on your checklist that must get done. The last thing you actually want to do when you’re tapped out, right?
So, don’t think of this as working out. Think of this as taking a few moments to move. It doesn’t have to be high intensity, but do something to get yourself moving. Maybe it’s taking a walk around your neighborhood or on a nearby nature trail. Maybe it’s taking a bike ride along the same path. Do some stretching or yoga if you enjoy it. No matter what form it takes, get your body moving in some way, shape, or form.
#8 :: Set Your Mindset
One of the most important things you can do, if not the most important thing to do is to set your mindset. You see, when you set your mind on something, continually thinking about it, dwelling on it, and focusing on it, whether you want to or not, your actions and attitudes will start to follow that thought process. When you focus on the fact that you feel bummed out and stressed out and down, then your attitude will begin to change to reflect your mindset. Your actions with change to reinforce that mindset. And the more you stay in this negative mindset, the harder it is to shift your mindset to anything positive.
On the other hand, if you start focusing on positive things. If you start setting your mindset in a positive direction, your attitude and actions will start to follow that positive track. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that you deny reality and adopt a Pollyanna mentality where nothing can go wrong. Feeling down, bummed out, and burned out is a very real thing and it should be treated as such.
What I am saying is you have the choice in what you focus on. You have a choice to focus on negative things or focus on positive things. You have the choice to wallow in self-pity and isolation. You have the choice to look outside at the sunshine and be grateful for its cheerfulness, for its warmth.
You can choose your actions. You can choose to do the next right thing, to tackle one small task that will take you closer to where you want to go or you can choose to do nothing.
The fact remains that it all starts with your mindset. Your attitudes and actions flow out of your mindset, so take a few moments and choose what you will focus on. Carve out a little space for you, learn into your faith, get quiet and choose what you will set your mind on.
Seasons Come and Seasons Go
Do you want to know a secret? Feelings don’t last forever. Life moves in seasons. The only thing guaranteed in this life is change. And the seasons do change. This season of your life will not last forever. Oh, it may be harder than others. It may last longer than you would want it to. But this season will come to a close.
As you walk through this season, remember that you can do this. It is possible to conquer the blues. It is possible to have a day where you aren’t feeling weighed down by feeling down. And it is possible to turn your face to the sun and know that this season will pass.
If you’re looking for some inspiration and encouragement to start focusing on the positive things around you, why not join me for coffee? Virtual coffee, that is! I’d love the privilege of inspiring you every morning through your inbox to look at things from a different perspective. To bring you a smile and a positive thought to start your day. Why not join me for 10 days? It’s completely free and completely encouraging. Simply drop your email into the form below to start getting your daily dose of inspiration. All you have to do is bring the coffee! (It is rather hard to send coffee through an email….)
- Be Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado
- Gaining Freedom by Choosing to Overcome Your Emotions
- Unravelling the Truth from the Lies: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
- How to Overcome Perfectionism and Mom Guilt
- Improve Your Focus with Purpose: Lessons from Sunflowers
- Motivation to Keep Moving when Life is Hard
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.