The mind is its own place and in itself,
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven
Paradise Lost – John Milton
Have you ever felt like you were in a slump? What does it really mean to be in a slump, by the way? Let me get really creative here and provide you with a definition straight off of Google. Well the internet tells me, and I agree, being in a slump means “A period of decline or deterioration, during which a person performs slowly, inefficiently, or ineffectively.”
If this sounds familiar to you then you know exactly what I am talking about. Being a graduate student myself, in the pursuit of a PhD in Economics, I really cannot afford being in a slump continuously for a number of days. True, some days you just feel like you want to take a breather but if you end up feeling unmotivated for prolonged periods of time, like many days at once, it can really become a problem if only in terms of the amount of pending work.
I have had to pull myself out of such situations many a times and therefore, I have some handy tips that will work for you too.
Why do we feel like we are in a slump?
We are all born with the bare minimum knowledge of psychology 101. This is to say that we are more often than not, able to recognize that certain things are just a matter of mindset and prevalent feelings. Being in a slump is just that – it is a feeling – of not wanting to make an effort, of not willing to “move it, move it” so to speak. For me, a slump almost always sets in when I have consistently let myself fall out of routine with everything around me. It hits me hard when I am unorganized and a general mess in my everyday life.
Trust me, it is usually little things that are out of order that cram in your mind and cause a havoc. It is the storm they cause that cause the slump, believe it or not.
10. Give yourself time to reset
I have been there so I know what I am talking about when I say that you should give yourself time. Time to reset that is. Say it’s day 3 and you are in an absolute state. What should you do? Well, decide if you want to do something about it today or if you want to wait till tomorrow when it will be a whole new day. Give yourself that leisure because it is important. This is the first step because the unconscious part of your brain will know that “ok now we have decided to take charge tomorrow and that’s that”. Chill the rest of the day; spend it on your couch all day if you want; binge on Netflix if that’s what your heart craves; I would say make it even better and order take out! Treat yourself because you are human and you are just not in the mood and its OK!
9. Accept it & Whine: You are not alone
So the most important thing to do when you are feeling down in the dumps is to accept it. Be grateful for recognizing that you are not yourself today. Acceptance in this case, should come with some whining so go ahead and whine to your friends about it. Make a few calls and let it all out. You will realize it that a lot of people feel the same way. As a general advice, I would recommend calling people who are at least on the same wavelength as you in everyday life. That is to say the whining will probably be fruitless if you end up calling someone whose only mission in life is to be ahead of the curve – even if that has to be at a personal social cost. Not that it’s a bad thing, but that is not what your mind needs at that point in time. That kind of motivation has its own place in your life but its definitely not during a slump.
8. Let the Light In
Now this will seem like the smallest of all things but truly, it has a magical effect. There is something about the sun; it has the power to lighten you up from the inside. So let the light in. Open the blinds up all the way and stand in the window for a while if you want to. Just let the light in!
7. Start the Day Right
Starting the day right does not mean that you need to wake up at the crack of dawn and initiate a Youtube worthy morning routine. I am well aware that a task as simple as waking up on time can seem tremendously challenging when all you want to do is lounge around in your bed and flip through your social media platforms.
In the current context, starting the day right would mean that as and when you are mentally prepared to snap out of the slump and do something about it, you should start it right. Now even if you are reading this at 2 PM during the day all snuggled in your couch not willing to budge an inch, and suddenly you feel the motivation; it would be a right start if you cook yourself a good meal, make a delicious cup of coffee (or whatever your poison of choice is) and sit in the sun (preferably). You can flip through your phone but I would recommend that you reflect.
Reflection at this point means ponder over all things that are making you feel the way you feel; Is it because you have fell out of a cycle of good habits; you haven’t taken your vitamins for days; you haven’t done any productive work whatsoever; your pile of trash needs to be taken out; you haven’t cooked for a while and have been ordering takeout? Identify what’s bugging you. It is really important.
6. Take a Mind Dump
Ideally the next step after that brief spell of reflection would be to take a mind dump. Write it all out if you are a fan of writing in your journal. If not, just jot down a simple list of things that in your opinion would turn your day around. Let this list be everything you need to do to make this an ideal day. Literally scan your entire brain. Think of every little thing like doing the dishes to every major thing like finances. When you are ransacking your brain, you will find teeny tiny details within your regular days that have been unconsciously raining on your parade. Now look at your list! This is everything that has been on your mind. What can you do about it?
5. Do Not Turn on the TV
So it is the next day. You are taking charge and your are starting the day right. Do not turn on the TV or your laptop or which ever device you use to binge. There have been many a times when I have tricked myself into another day of no productivity by allowing myself an episode of my favorite show in the morning with breakfast. Before you know it, you will be on the 10th consecutive episode and it will leaving you feeling worse than when you started out. So no TV!! Leave it off! Come later this evening, you will recognize that this too was an accomplishment and a major factor in changing your day.
4. Start Small
Remember that list we made? We are working on it now. Take a good look at what you wrote down and highlight three major tasks – tasks that are exceptionally daunting to you at that point in time. Divide the three tasks into sets of 5 small tasks each. Now that is fifteen small tasks. Aim to accomplish one task from each of the three main subsets. That is all! That is all you need to do for the day. And you do not have to do it all at the same time. Punctuate these daunting sub-tasks with other little productive things.
3. Declutter – Fix your surroundings
Several times, it is just your surroundings that are reflecting upon your state of being. So in between your important sub-tasks, tidy up a little bit. Fold that laundry; take the trash out; download that budget management app you have putting off; respond to a couple of emails; organize your mail; make a grocery list and plan your grocery trip; prepare a preliminary meal plan; iron what needs to be ironed; make the bed; drink a tall glass of water and take your vitamins. Trust me, it is the smallest of things that will make you feel as light as air.
2. Plan an evening
You are going through your day, you are taking control of this slump situation and being productive and that’s a great thing. You can make it better by planning an evening that will reward you. It will be something you look forward to throughout the day while you go about your work – delayed gratification if you will. This can be binging TV for a couple of episodes as you wind down for the day as well. Plan to eat a good healthy meal, something that makes you feel good and light and enjoy that will a chilled carbonated drink (your choice of beverage). Top it off with something sweet, call some family and friends and just take the evening with ease. You totally deserve it.
1. The Next Morning
Wake up the next morning and take a walk maybe? Allow that sun to shine onto your being ( as psychic as that sounds – as well as cheesy I am aware but that is just how it feels). Think about your previous day and think about the current day – then make your list. Enjoy a cup of hot coffee and then take the reins. You’ve got this!
The Economics of it all
As my newly acquired very wise friend told me amidst one of my whiny sessions; look at the economics of it all and train your mind to re-strategize. By lying in bed and stressing about stuff you are not going to get anywhere and will still deplete your energy sources completely. Does that even make any sense? How is that wise? Reevaluate and actively rethink your approach as well as your mindset, when in a slump. Conscious thought will point you in the right direction and from there, it is just one tiny task at a time.