Getting out of a funk can be tricky at the best of times, during this pandemic it can feel impossible. Here's how you can reboot your life.
Sometimes you just feel stuck. This feeling can range from a sense of mild unease all the way through to a deep desperation to disappear. It can relate to a specific problem or the general circumstances of your life. In many cases, everything seems ‘fine’ and you cannot even pinpoint the source of your discomfort. It’s often simply the punishing speed, crippling demands and unhealthy lifestyles associated with 21st-century life. 2020 in particular has been a tough year for a lot of people and it is now clear that the path to recovery will be long and hard. But whether you are trying to overcome pandemic fatigue or one of life’s many other challenges, the prescription for getting out of a funk remains more or less the same.
There are certain things that we all need in order to function efficiently and live full and happy lives. A sense of purpose, meaningful connections with others, a healthy lifestyle and the ability to deal with stress all come to mind. Some of these things are well within our powers to control while others are influenced by external factors, meaning all we can change is our approach and outlook. There is certainly no silver bullet that will solve all of life’s challenges. We must each navigate our own complex mix of life circumstances, personal needs, unique talents and different forms of struggle. Sometimes, there is a simple fix that helps all the pieces to fall into place, but the journey can also be long and arduous. Below are some ideas to get you started.
Break the cycle
It’s easy to get stuck in a loop. Days, weeks, months and even years can be passed in autopilot until one day you wake up to the realisation that life is not what you expected it would be. On the other end of the spectrum, the passage of time is a constant reminder of everything you are missing out on or the pain you cannot rid yourself of. The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic was an unprecedented shock to the system. It has meant different things to each of us and has undoubtedly shifted individual and collective outlooks in drastic ways.
But the initial distraction has now largely been replaced by a form of ‘looping’ even more severe than that of the pre-pandemic world. The combined effects of lockdowns or stay at home orders, anxiety about a frightening new pathogen and a global economy in free fall have left many of us searching for a raft to cling to. You may even be a Covid-19 long-hauler or have survived a close scrape with death yourself. Many of us have lost loved ones and coming to terms with that is difficult no matter how they passed.
The first step of getting out of a funk is to break the cycle or the loop. This means making an intervention in your own life. If you aren’t totally aware of what has put you into your funk, start with some honest reflection and try to identify the main source(s) of your unease. This can still be a valuable exercise even if you are already aware of the things that are keeping you down. Identifying your own thought patterns, habits and preconceived ideas is extremely empowering. Being honest with yourself isn’t always easy but it’s the only way forward. If you are unable to do this on your own, consider looking for professional help or at least approaching someone you trust and speaking honestly with them. This journey of self-exploration may even be the key to breaking the cycle in and of itself.
You could also go on a ‘Spirit Quest’ and explore the myriad religions, cultures and philosophies of mankind. This could be anything from studying texts to trying a 10 day Vipassana (silent meditation retreat) or an Ayahuasca ceremony. If you’re the kind of person that normally calls these things “mumbo jumbo” or “hogwash”, perhaps now is the moment to go out on a limb and explore beyond your comfort zone. This option can become more and more appealing if modern medicine and psychology fail to provide meaningful answers. Ultimately, it is your journey and you must decide which paths you will travel. The only thing that is certain is that standing still will get you nowhere.
Make a change
Once you have identified the source of your funk, you need to decide what you are going to do to address it. At this point, we are forced to deal with a simple fact of life. There are some things that can be changed and others that cannot. The future is undecided, the past immutable. This leaves us with two simple options. Change the things we can or change our mindset about the things we can’t. Of course, both are easier said than done, but once again the only way out is forward.
The time is now
One of the most empowering realisations available is that the future and past do not exist outside of your mind’s eye. Everything happens in the present. Yes, the past really happened but your memory of it is imperfect and even this recall is happening now. The past is extremely useful when it comes to learning lessons but it is not a place to dwell in. Building your identity around past glories or traumas is equally futile. While these things may have played a major role in your development, they are just a part of your story.
The future can also be a useful construct and planning for it is certainly important. But this is also done in the present and is only productive up to a point. Dwelling too long in the future is equally as pointless as constantly reliving the past. For some of us this may come in the form of anxiousness about what could go wrong, for others it may be constantly hoping that things will be better in the future. Both are natural and serve a purpose. You cannot avoid bad futures and create good ones without being aware of the possibilities. But spending too much time fearing the future or dreaming about it will only hold you back from making the most of the present.
At a certain point, actions must replace thoughts if your desired future is to be created or your feared one avoided. Once again, if there is nothing you can do to alter the outcome, the next best thing is to alter your perspective. Patients with terminal illnesses often report that the final few months of life are the best of all because they learn to appreciate the time that they have. Why can’t we all do the same?
Taking the first step
Each of us faces a different set of challenges that requires its own unique solutions. But no matter how long or hard the journey ahead may be, it always starts with a first step. Finding the will or the courage to take that step can be the hardest part of all. Nobody can make it for you and waiting for fate to intervene is no sure thing. Now is the moment, all you have to decide is what to do with it.