Mar 16, 2016

How to Get Out of a Slump - A Frank and Uncomfortable Look at Feelings

Hi, my name is Jenn and I'm prone to wildly fluctuating moods and long, enduring downswings.  Typically my method is to wait it out, occasionally taking a sick day and reading in bed for 24 hours as a last resort cure.

Sometimes that's not enough.  Sometimes I get stuck, mired in my own negativity and I forget that it's temporary.  I forget to relax and wait it out.  I start to feel a bit desperate and hopeless and I find myself sleeping more and more.  Not enjoying sleep (which is a sad state of things, since I normally enjoy it quite a bit!), but using sleep as an escapism.

I know I've hit a low when my first feeling upon waking up is disappointment.  Not wanting to be awake.  Typically sleep acts as a reset button and whatever the hurts and sadnesses from the day before, the morning brings new possibilities.  But sometimes it doesn't, and that's when I know just waiting won't be enough.

I'm there now, in that uncomfortable, unmotivated, self-pitying pit of ugliness, and I'm ready to climb back out.  Here's my action plan.

1. Decide to Make a Plan

As a bit of a control freak, my first step to feeling better about anything is to make a plan.  Having a plan of action gives me an illusion of control over life in general, and reminds me that I really am in control of my own brain, even if it doesn't always feel like it.

2. Isolate the Source

Which area of my life is making me feel down?  Sometimes I know off the top of my head, sometimes I have to really dig into those uncomfortable, unpleasant feelings.

3. Is it Valid?

Is the problem the thing?  Or is it me?  If it's the former, then it's time to really think about changes I can make in my life (6 months ago that was changing up my job situation).  If it's the latter, then it's my attitude that needs adjustment (the case in my current situation).

4. Research (Optional)

I quite honestly used to research things like "how to be more optimistic" or "how to get rid of negative thoughts" but at this point I've read so many self help books that I have plenty of tools in my arsenal - I just need to use them.

5. Attitude Adjustment/Action Step

Really just anything to get my brain working in a more positive direction.  Sometimes this is affirmations (remember the selfie project?).  Sometimes this is a gratitude list or "self love" notebook.  With my current slump, the problem is my negative attitude towards external stimuli, and my lack of a routine to implement any of the healthy life initiatives I've come up with recently.

So I set myself a reminder for noon for the next 30 days - a time when I know I'll be awake and, most likely, near a computer.  My action steps are 1) Say something nice to Ryan (who's been getting the backlash of my negativity)  2) Set myself an affirmation or positive word to work towards all day  3) Selfie it out (I know I said I wouldn't do the selfie project again, but I'm feeling it right now) 4) Say something nice about myself  5) Choose one healthy expression of self love for the day (exercise OR cook a real meal OR chat with a friend - anything really, as long as it isn't wallowing in sugar and apathy)

And perhaps the biggest act of self love I can complete is just going easier on myself.  Setting fewer goals each day, and not beating myself up when it doesn't feel like I'm moving forward.  Sometimes time gets wasted, and sometimes things take longer than they "should."  I have flat rate projects (Photoshop sports jersey mockups) that I get paid $15 for and sometimes they take over an hour.  Is that a bummer?  Yes.  Is it the end of the world?  No.  And I've learned so, so much about Photoshop in the last couple of months that even when they take too long, they are way faster than they would have been without the skills I've gained since December.

We also have a new dog (did you realize?  I know I hardly ever mention this fact /s).  She is adorable, but she is also difficult.  Some days she's awesome, and some days she pees on the floor every time I'm not looking and howls when I crate her.  That's frustrating and distracting, and yeah, it's going to make my work less efficient and me less productive.  That's ok.

I got really busy last week and had to cancel all my social plans.  I don't think I realized how much I was looking forward to escaping the house and interacting with my friend and sister until this weekend when I was still working and hadn't interacted with anyone other than Ryan, Luke, and Toast.  It was hard to explain to Ryan why I was crying over missing a pedicure.  But you know... sometimes you really just need that time to take care of yourself and our home isn't currently a place I can do that, because I'm always too busy taking care of someone else.

So I'm rescheduling that m-effing pedicure and if work comes up, I'll politely let my clients know that it'll be a day or two until I can get it over to them, and that won't be the end of the world because normal people schedule their work in advance instead of dropping everything the moment someone contacts them and most clients are used to that kind of turnaround.

To sum up: Relax, breathe, get a pedicure, buy cheesy decals for your closet (I'm thinking this one), do some yoga.  I WILL feel happy again, even if I have to smack some sense into my own self to get there.

Do you ever have slumps?  What are your strategies for getting out of them?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design


  1. I usually read my way out of slumps, problems in books are always worse than mine.

    Have you tried giving Toast a Kong when you crate her? I give Marina a Kong with peanut butter and apples in it. She enjoys the Kong then naps in the crate, try it and see if she settles down. When Marina sees her Kong she heads to her crate immediately.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks - I mostly just meant it as "here's what I do" but if it helps anyone else that's fantastic as well!

  3. Love this, Jenn! I can get stuck in a cycle of self-doubt pretty easily. And it's tough. So freaking tough. Love your steps and I agree - the best thing you can do (which is also the hardest) is be easier on yourself. I am so hard on myself. It's something I'm actively working on because the person who is holding me back is me. Which is both a bummer and a relief. I hate being my own worst enemy, but I also have the power to change. And YES! I'm so guilty of taking on so much at once - probably because it's still a bit more feast or famine than I would like business-wise, so instead of setting reasonable expectations - I just do it. Boundaries, so important!

    1. Thank you! I totally know what you mean about it being both a good and bad thing. Having the power to change is an immense relief, but it's also frustrating to realize you're your own problem. Freelancing is so feast or famine!!! Right now it's a "feast" and at some point I realized I can't catch up until whenever it happens to slow, which should be depressing but instead it's kind of a relief. Because you feel free to push things to the next day. No point in getting all sleep deprived when you can't finish anyway. And now that I'm starting to feel comfortable with that, the business will probably slow and give me a break anyway. :P You just never know.

  4. I certainly get in slumps sometimes and try to do things that bring me joy to dig myself out of them. Usually that involves trying a new restaurant, reading a good book, playing Mario Kart or having a spa day at home.

  5. i totally get in slumps and i think we are very alike because my google history is a lot like yours lol. i love the reminder you've got set for the next 30 days, i think i could use something like that for myself. we all definitely need to be a bit nicer to ourselves, or at least just not as mean. enjoy your pedicure!

  6. Love the reminders idea- great actionable, accountable "thing" with immediate results. I actually just answered your question in the latest post (sorry, catching up!)- I usually read and/or clean. I don't like talking when I'm in a slump- I like hermitting and coming out when I'm ready. But if I'm stuck inside too long (or because of work) I get really upset too, and I think that's completely understandable! And YES- the clients will not die if they don't get their project thatverymoment! I hope you get that pedicure and start to feel better!

  7. I am the same way, although I usually have a mini freak out allow in bed for several hours before I start making the plan.

  8. I'm in one right now. Reading, painting my nails, walking the dogs or just walking outside in general help.


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