By Leo Babauta
Sometimes you just aren’t motivated, maybe you’re feeling depressed (as opposed to full-blown clinical depression), maybe you just don’t have the energy to focus on work.
We’ve all been there from time to time, and the good news is, we’ve all climbed out of this funk to some degree.
I’ve found there are two main factors to finding yourself in Funk Town:
- You have low energy, from a lack of sleep, overwork, an illness, or overdoing the exercise (you know who you are).
- You get into a negative thinking spiral — one self-doubt leads to another, one bad thought about your life leads to another, until you no longer believe in yourself.
These two factors often work together — usually when I’m jet lagged, or just went through a family crisis, or am severely sleep-deprived, I start down the negative thinking spiral.
Here’s the first thing to know about how you’re thinking during this slump: don’t believe any of your thoughts.
That’s because your mind, when it gets tired and negative, enters a childlike state — not the “let your mind be childlike and playful” kinda childlike, but more like, “Gimme what I want or I’m gonna throw a tantrum” kinda cranky, selfish, petulant child. This is not your best self, but a self that is suffering and just wants to be comfortable. That’s completely understandable.
Here’s the next think to know about this slump: You shouldn’t listen to the urges and thoughts of the childlike tantrum-throwing mind when you’re in Funk Town … but do listen to the needs. Your childlike self wants to rest, doesn’t want to do too much work, is tired and maybe needs some comforting.
Comfort yourself when you’re suffering. Not with food but with love. Give yourself rest when you’re tired. Make fixing your sleep a top priority. Go to bed earlier, turn off all screens, let yourself unwind, meditate while in bed, make sure there’s no TV or other lights on, and get some great sleep.
Weirdly, it also helps to get active. Take care of sleep, and don’t overdo your activity, but if you’ve been working from home or stuck in an office a lot, it’s often better to get your body moving — go for a walk, play a sport, do something active with friends.
A third thing to know: When you’re in Funk Town, don’t believe what your mind thinks about yourself and your work. It will say, “I don’t want to do that!” or “I can’t do that” or “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t care about that anymore.” None of that is believable, simply because the mind that’s saying these things is in a state of panic and fear and extreme discomfort. That’s not a believable mind.
Instead, notice these thoughts, then tell yourself, “I’m just suffering right now. I’ll figure this out when I’m in a calmer state of mind.”
Once you’re in a calmer state of mind, feeling better, then take assessment of your work. You might find you still love it, or if you don’t, you might calmly find another path that’s even better.
A fourth thing to know: It helps a lot to talk to someone else, who has an outsider’s perspective. Talk to a friend, a spouse, a parent, a co-worker, anyone. I can’t stress this enough — don’t be too proud to reach out for help.
A fifth thing: Once you’ve taken care of your rest and your health, you should do some work. Not a ton, but some. Put in some diligent effort, get a little done. Just enough to feel good that you did something.
It also really helps to start clearing your plate a little, if you’re overloaded. Start saying No to work instead of Yes all the time, as a friend of mine did recently when he was in Funk Town, and you’ll feel some relief.
Finally a sixth thing to know: It’s OK to be in Funk Town now and then. We all do it, so you’re not alone at all. It’s human to go through ups and downs, to not always be on a high of amazing psychitude. We sometimes doubt ourselves, sometimes get really tired, sometimes suffer. Don’t worry about being in Funk Town. You’ll get out of it, and because of your experience in Funk Town, you’ll be stronger and wiser and ready to take on the next challenge with renewed gratitude