I recently decided to pull myself out of what I refer to as "a funk." Since no longer working outside of the home, I grew very used to staying at home all day in my pajamas, hanging out with the cats,and being online. At first, I felt anxious about it. I judged myself as being lazy. So, I would leave the house just to get out and would end up buying things I didn't need -- just to be out and about. When I judged myself for that, I felt guilty about spending foolishly and thought perhaps I should accept my situation for what it was and go from there.
So, I accepted that I no longer had a job. I no longer had an established routine and structure. No one was counting on me to get out of bed at a certain time (except my cats for their breakfast, of course, but even they give me a lot of leeway), and I had invested most of my social stock in my relationships with my coworkers, who were no longer in my life for complicated reasons, the beginnings of which that I no longer worked with them.
Sadness seeped in. I became apathetic and began letting one day merge into the next, often not even sure what day it was at all. Weekends were only differentiated for me because my significant other has them off from work, so he'd be around.
Although I knew that I wanted to change something so that I could feel more fulfilled, be less isolated, and have more joy in my life, I felt quite stuck. I got immensely caught up in the online world. Because in addition to my former job and now instead of it, I blog, I spend a lot of time online to begin with. Blogging takes place online. So does sourcing and creating graphics. As does promoting the blog and connecting with my readers through various social media outlets.
I found a lot of fulfillment and joy in doing this, but there wasn't enough of it to keep me occupied all day, and even on the days where there was enough to occupy my time, my posture and muscles suffered from the long hours at my desk. Not to mention, it seemed like when I was online too much, I took on too many of the world's problems instead of focusing on solving my own.
I had to find some balance. Clearly there were too extremes in front of me:
Always stay in or always go out. I had to find a middle ground, and I'm working on it now. Here, from my personal experience are five steps for getting out of a funk using Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT):
1.) Radical Acceptance:
I don't know about you, but I have a habit of putting on blinders and seeing the world the way I want to see it. It's served as a survival mechanism as a child growing up in an abusive home, but, since becoming aware of it over the past couple of years, I've noticed it's developed into something maladaptive. I want to see things for what they are. I long to consistently be aware of and accepting of reality. I'm missing out on life otherwise.
It's not always easy, of course. I got so good at pretending things weren't happening or that they didn't matter in order to protect my mind and spirit that I seem to automatically do this at even the prospect of emotional pain. It's something I have to consciously work on daily. For the circumstance of getting out a funk, being willing to accept reality as it is, is an important first step.
Keep in mind that accepting reality does NOT mean that you LIKE the circumstances or that you approve of them. It only means that you are acknowledging the reality of the circumstances. You are saying, "Yes. This is actually happening right now. This is how things really are."
Accepting doesn't mean you're content to stay in the current reality. It just means that you are aware of it and accept it as the truth of that moment.
For me, after accepting that I no longer work outside of the home and then accepting and letting go of the judgments that came up as a result of my interpretations of the situation, I moved on to accepting that only I could be responsible for creating a life worth living despite all of this.
I wanted to get out of the house in a meaningful way -- only I could decide what this meant and then put in the effort to make it happen.
I wanted to have some structure. Again, no one was going to come along and implement that in my life. I had to accept that no outside force was going to act upon me -- I had to do the work.
2.) Think Dialectically:
I had to find shades of grey. The extremes of thinking I either had to just stay home in my pjs all day everyday and deal with the isolation and boredom vs. the extreme that I had to get out all day every day were just that -- extreme. I had to find a middle ground. Don't judge yourself if you find that you also have some extreme, polarized thoughts about what your options are in your particular situation.
Black or white, all-or-nothing thinking is quite common with those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder. Once we become aware that we are dealing with polarized thinking, we can take steps to find shades of grey.
3.) Have A Goal In Mind:
Make it specific. Rather than just saying, "I want to get out of the house more," elaborate with detail, such as:
My goal is to get out for a few hours each day to engage in meaningful activities that allow me to connect directly with others while doing productive things (i.e. yoga class, doing my blogging at a coffee shop, shopping for groceries.) I'll allow for one day a week to stay at home all day in my pajamas, if I wish.
Setting detailed goals that include how long we want to practice, what we want to do during that time, and why we want to do it (our motivation -- in my case, connecting directly, in person, with others) will set us up for more success than a vague goal.
4.) Be Accountable For Your Goal:
Tell your goal to someone you trust. This can be a friend, parent, spouse, significant other, therapist, etc. If you feel safe sharing via social media, you could let your Facebook or Twitter friends know you are working on your goal and then update your status each day to reflect how things are going. This creates accountability. You'll know that people who care about you reaching your goal are watching, and you may be more likely to push yourself to meet your goal as a result.
I have one Facebook connection who mainly uses her account to report her progress with marathons. She reports whether she ran on a given day, how far, and how this ties into her goal. She gives dates of upcoming marathons and then reports how she did after the race. She is holding herself publicly accountable while setting a positive example for others. I personally think this is a great way to use Facebook.
5.) Release Judgment, and Keep Going:
It's doubtful things will go 100% perfectly. There will be days when you don't feel like following through at all. The good news is, even if you don't feel like it, you can still follow through. Using this opposite action - behaving in a manner opposite to the impulse of not following through, you'll:
- prove to yourself that you are master of your emotions, not the other way around
- build character and integrity -- I've had a history of not following through on things because I didn't feel like it. In retrospect, it was often very selfish and self-centered of me. Other times, I felt that I just didn't have the strength. There are plenty of people who wake up every morning and don't feel like following through on something, but they do. I wanted to be among them and have gotten much better at this. I'm no longer "the flake." :) You can get better, too.
It can take some work to get out of a funk, but it is so worth it when you begin to see things shift and start to feel better. I've started going back to yoga class a couple of times a week and getting out to blog in public places where I am surrounded by other people and can engage in conversations or a smile. It really is helping a lot.
I hope that you feel encouraged to start breaking out of your funk today. If you'd like some support using the DBT skills daily for a month, you might want to check out my new book Stop Sabotaging: A 31 Day DBT Challenge to Change Your Life.
I look forward to hearing about your goals and progress.
Thanks for reading.