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Thursday, July 24, 2014

How Do I Get Out of This Slump?

Have you ever experienced a slump?  It does not matter whether the slump is work related or personal, sooner or later we all find ourselves in Slump Valley.

Merriam-Webster defines "valley" as: a low area of land between hills or mountains and a low period, point or level.  What is a "slump", but a low period, point, or level?  No matter what the slump refers to, it is a low point surrounded by the hills and mountains of "I should be doing...", "I'm overwhelmed", and "I think I'm burning out".  And like many valleys, Slump Valley has its own little river running through it, "The Long and Whining River".  Like every river, it has a music to the flow of the water; Long and Whining sings "I'm so tired.  "Why is this happening to me?"  "Why is it taking so long to reach my goal?"   "I'm so bored".  "I'm not good enough."  "I don't have what it takes."

How long are you going to visit Slump Valley?  Listen, the longer you stay, the more difficult it is to leave.  You can really get into that comfort zone of pain. (Just because it's painful, doesn't mean you won't be comfortable.)  That's one of the worst things about Slump Valley. 

Why Slump Valley is comfortable

Comfort usually means there is no physically unpleasant feeling, and if you are visiting Slump Valley there are definite, unpleasant physical feeling. When in a slump you suffer from the constant tightness in the pit of your stomach because you don't want to be there.  You can manifest other symptoms too: headaches, anxiety, nervousness, stomach aches; the list is endless.  You don't want the pain, but if you stay in the slump you can get used to the pain, and use it as an excuse for maintaining the status quo.  The reason why we stay in a slump is because to climb out we need to get out of the comfort zone.  

What was the straw that broke your camel's back?  Find out why you went into a slump.  Was every hour of every day in your calendar filled?  In your enthusiasm to try something new and exciting, did you choose one too many new somethings?  Did you over-promise, and now have to deliver?  (You do know that you under-promise and over-deliver, right?)  By the way, it doesn't matter if you over-committed to your boss, your family, or yourself; over-committed will cause burn out before you can blink.  Are you one of those super-driven people who start a project and expect to meet your goal in an unreasonable period of time?  Are you, excuse my French, a per-fec-tion-ist?

Slumps are costly

Now you can stay in Slump Valley for a week, or a month...or (gasp) more. The longer you stay, the more expensive it becomes.  If you are in a work slump the money will not flow in when you need it.  If you are in a fitness slump,  those fat cells will plump right up again and your muscles will begin to feel "soft".  If you are in a relationship slump, your level of personal happiness and self-confidence will continue to plummet.  How long can you afford to stay in your slump?

It is normal to feel sorry for oneself when things are not going along at a rapid enough pace.  Realize that Sorry Lodge is a very costly place to spend your time in Slump Valley.  Sorry Lodge has doors that do not open, and windows hung with thick curtains that shut out the sun and the fresh air. Sorry Lodge does not encourage visits or conversations.  You need to break out of Sorry Lodge immediately!  Feeling sorry for yourself does nothing to change your situation.  The past is done.  The past, on any plane, no longer exists! The future does not exist either, except in your dreams and aspirations.

Tips to get out of Slump Valley

Take advantage of what you do have, the present.  Do something!  Set a timer for 10 minutes and something that will help you reach your goal. Organize your desk.  Clear your calendar; eliminate any unnecessary tasks. Write a to-do list of only the essential things that can be done in one day. Stretch your body.  The time will pass quickly, and you may just find the encouragement to continue.

Do something for someone else!  The act of doing for another takes your mind off yourself and the way you feel, and forces you to focus on another person. 

Get your heart rate going!  Pick an activity that you enjoy and use your handy timer set for 10-15 minutes.  Take a fast walk.  Do some squats.  Touch your toes and as you bring your arms up, do a little jump.  Get that blood pumping! Find something to do that will invigorate you.

Be sure to get enough sleep.  If you have trouble getting to sleep, try mediation; or just take 3-5 deep cleansing breaths and continue to count your breath (count "1" in,  count "2" out and repeat) .  This simple tip will relax you to the point where you will drift off.

Develop a morning routine.  Try this simple routine:  wake up, before getting out of bed stretch your body for 10-20 seconds.  Get out of bed, drink a full glass of water; perform your normal bathroom routine, get dressed, have breakfast.  It's important to not skip breakfast.  Have a bit of fruit and some protein (yogurt or cheese), maybe a piece of toast if you're not a breakfast person.  An easy morning routine that you don't have to think about takes the pressure off you to "get right to work", and eliminates anxiety.

Remember, your morning routine should set you up for the day, not continue until lunch time.  Learn how to say "no" to the things that will make you a slave to your calendar and set you up for rushing around to get things done. 

Ask for help.  There is no shame in asking for some assistance.  People who care about you are usually very willing to lend a helping hand.  Just be careful not to take advantage of this, it's your life and your slump and your intention is to take control of getting where you need to be.

Last, but not least, if you are a spiritual person, take time to remember that God knows what you can accomplish, and He has set things in motion to help you reach your goals.