This note contains reflections about what to do when you’re in a life FUNK. Otherwise known as a down, a pit of despair, or just a really tough life period.
Even if you’re not presently in a funk, you can use some of these ideas the next time one rolls around.
I was in a funk for a few weeks (it’s unclear if I’m fully out yet) – boy was I getting hit with the self-doubt and shame. So I’ve had ample time to reflect on how to navigate the downs of life.
And at the bottom of this note I’ll share links to other pieces of other work I’ve been creating.
Let’s get in it!
(Oh, and just to be clear, I meant this kind of cowperson,
not this kind:
The nature of downs
As I grow older, and continue to work on myself, I notice that life is only getting more rich and meaningful.
Overall, I’ve found that life is something like this graph. As time increases, life gets more awesome.
But the graph above doesn’t take into account that there are downs. So many downs. So many funks. So many dips, depressions, and feeling like a steaming pile of dukey.
So really life is more like the graph below. Life is up and down. It still gets better. But there are legitimate dips and life periods of hurt to get through.
But the graph above doesn’t account for the small funks.
How some weeks you feel like a shooting star made out of rainbow pop music.
And other weeks life feels hopeless, dull, and lifeless.
So really, life is something like the graph below.
So given the inevitable nature of downs, what should you do next time you’re in one?
Check out the reflections below, and see if any fit your current (or an upcoming) funk.
I’ll also note, I’ve never experienced clinical depression – so please account for my blindspots accordingly.
Navigating the downs
1. Name it as soon as you see you’re in it.
The sooner you can name your down the better. Sometimes all I have to say is “oh shit, I think I’m in a down” and that self-awareness is enough to start to shift things. Get to know the early signs of being in a funk.
It’s also helpful to know if you’re in a down that feels like it’ll last several years or just several days.
2. Don’t rush to get out. Let time play its course.
There are lessons in every down. Don’t try to sprint back into feel-good-land as soon as possible. Linger a while. See what there is to learn about yourself.
Is there a feeling you need to feel all the way down? Is there a pattern in yourself you’re getting a rare opportunity to see in clear form?
3. Remember “it gets better”
As my boy Adam Young writes in the song Embers: “There’ll be mornings when the ashes and embers are cold. But you’ll fight with a passion and you’ll never stop ’cause you know…it gets better and your story is yet to be told.”
Trust in change. Trust that it will get better. You’ll feel yourself again. You’ll find your mojo and your meaning again.
4. Snap self-care mode into red alert.
When your mental health is on the line, be willing to snap into a code-red. Prioritize self-care above all else.
You know when you realize you really need some introversion time, but you said you’d meet with a friend? Or you know your spirit reallllly needs some meditation, but you watch just one more youtube video?
Often, that’s totally fine. Life is usually forgiving of imperfect self-care. But sometimes if you’re in a down, there’s actually no slack. In a down, making self-care errors can very quickly catapult you from feeling “meh” to feeling fucking terrible.
So recognize when you’re in a code-red and do what you gotta do. Cancel plans if you need to. Spend 4 hours in the woods. Listen to your body, and do what it asks.
5. Don’t forget to feel
Sometimes when I’m in a down, it’s because I have been avoiding my feelings. So I feel emotionally constipated. Which results in me being numb and disconnected from myself.
In these times the best medicine is to feel, and feel big! Whether rage, grief, fear, joy, or anything else.
For me, I usually use a tantric self-pleasure practice to get all the way into my emotions. But find your own tools, and feel everything that wants to be felt. And then some.
6. Don’t hide it
When I’m in the pits and inundated with “you can’t do it!” voices, my impulse is to hide it. Don’t tell people! I don’t want them to think less of me afterall.
But this is a huge error. Hiding negative feelings is a fucking field day for shame.
Be open with your friends and loved ones about where you’re at. It’s okay. We all go through downs. Such vulnerability will likely create more connection.
7. Ask for help
Take #6 one step further. Don’t just admit to feeling crummy, go and ask for help.
Ask your partner to hold space for you. Ask your friend for cuddles. Reach out and work with a coach, a therapist, an acupuncturer. Whatever it takes – you don’t have to do this alone.
8. Have fun
Recently I was feeling depressed, and my solution was to isolate for a weekend and read a Buddhist book about death. Afterall, I’m a meditator, and all problems can be solved with enough solitude, meditation, and rigorous spiritual practice… Right?
Spiritual practice is great. But if you’re stuck in a swamp, sometimes you need a break from self-study, and you just need some joy to lift your spirit. Play boardgames, watch movies with friends, go dancing, or take a new class.
11. Give yourself love!
Accept that you’re going through a tough spot. And also accept that you are a beautiful being; you’re doing your damned best at life. You are totally on the right track. You’re doing a great job. You’re creating a life that you are proud of, even if you can’t always see it. You’re right where you need to be.
See if you can love who you are right now and exactly where you’re at, warts and all.
12. Turn your attention to the good
If you’re walking through a field of daisies and step in a small pile of squirrel shit, you can either put all of your attention on the shit or all of your attention on the beautiful flowers.
Our experience is composed of where we put our attention.
What are you grateful for? What are you proud of? What are you excited about?
What in your life is giving you pleasure?
Focus on those.
13. Zoom out your perspective
You are in the process of writing your life story. This chapter may feel like wiping your ass with sandpaper, but it’s an important part of your plot.
One day you’ll reflect on this period and realize how important it was for your greater narrative
14. Climb out this bitch
You may reach a point where it’s time to get out of the hole – and you have this keen sense that you can actually choose your way out of the funk.
It’s like your optimism and motivation appear next to you as two kind allies. And they say “hey chap, you’ve been through a ringer, and you’ve learned a lot. We’re ready to bust this popsicle stand when you are.”
Sometimes you can choose to be out of a hole, choose to be motivated, choose to care again.
I hope that was helpful
Hey cowperson! I hope you gleaned some use out of these reflections.
Enter your email to hear about upcoming workshops, podcasts, and posts about personal growth and intimacy.