Saturday, July 18, 2009

Some ways to overcome a slump....

Everyone hits a slump once in a while. Some low periods are simply normal cycles in the ups and downs of life. Others occur while recovering from an acute illness or when enduring the flare up of a chronic illness. Some slumps might be tied to monthly hormonal changes, to hormonal changes after childbirth, or to perimenopause or menopause. Still others might be caused by a period of fatiguing overwork or after experiencing a time of distress, such as an illness or death in the family. Some slumps can even be a natural let down after wonderfully happy times. There are any number of reasons why we experience low periods from time to time.

In using the term "slump", I do not mean a prolonged period of deep depression or a severe physical illness. What I'm talking about is those times when you just don't feel up to par. You're a little tireder than usual. Or, maybe, you're just a bit blue. Maybe, you've overextended yourself for a time, and, perhaps, the resulting fatigue is bringing some touochy emotions closer to the surface. Maybe, you have moved far away from home, and you're having a bout of homesickness. Maybe, you are encountering a few aches and pains from aging. Perhaps, you just feel a bit sluggish for no particular reason.

For purposes of this article, I'm assuming that your symptoms are of the sort that will pass in due time and that they are manageable on your own. One caveat: If you experience new and troubling physical symptoms, it's wise to consult a physician. Sometimes, a period of new and sudden fatigue or a vague feeling of uneasiness can be the only symptoms of a physical ailment. For women, these things can even be signs of heart disease, which presents differently in women than in men. Also, prolonged or closely repetitive slumps might signal physical, emotional, or spiritual difficulties. If you have any doubts about the cause of your low period, be quick to seek help. Be urgent, but not panicky. Most likely, you will be reassured that nothing is wrong. Or, if a problem is uncovered, it will probably be something minor and easily treatable.

Otherwise, there is much you can do on your own to overcome down times. The first step is to admit to yourself that you are in a slump. Pretending to yourself that you are fine when you aren't won't make your slump go away any faster and might make it last longer.

Secondly, it's wise to avoid going these two opposing extremes: 1) expecting more of yourself than you can give in the current circumstance or 2) withdrawing and expecting so little of yourself that your days feel even heavier.

Some ideas for pulling out of a slump are as follows:

1) Set aside some time each day to think about things that nourish and uplift you.
2) Work in times for extra rest, recreation, and devotions. If you are a busy wife and mother, be creative in finding ways to work recovery time into your schedule. Consult your spouse for help in finding some time to recoup.
3) Declare a "fun day". On this day, keep your tasks simple. Make the beds; tidy the house; get dinner; clean the dishes. Then, dedicate the rest of the day to wholesome and fun activities with your children. If you do not have children in the home, take some time to do some things you enjoy. Include at least some time in your fun day for coffee or lunch with a friend.
4) Keep yourself well groomed, even if you don't feel like it. This is good for your spirits and for the spirits of your loved ones. Even if you feel bad enough to take to your bed, you can still keep your hair and teeth brushed and your face clean. You can also slip into sleepwear or lounge wear that makes you feel pretty. Don't reach for those sweats!
5) Resist the urge to become self-focused. Attend to any distressing emotions that accompany or precipitate your slump. Set aside some times to cry, pray, and talk things over with trusted friends, if you need to. If you are mourning a loss, expect that you will feel moments of sorrow at odd times. Otherwise, let your thoughts and conversations be as positive as possible, and do little things to show your love for others. Keeping an overall outward focus will do you good.
6) At the beginning of a slump, a day in bed might be just what the doctor ordered -- if you can manage it. Curl up with a good book or a bit of handiwork.
7) Overdoing rest time can be as draining as refusing to slow down. If a slump persists beyond a day or two, start setting simple goals every morning. Allow for the fact that you may not be able to keep up with your full schedule. However, it is most likely that you can accomplish a few things, even if your slump is due to the flare-up of a chronic illness. Setting small goals and achieving them will help build positive momentum, as well as provide the satisfaction that comes with accomplishment. At the day's end, focus on what you did get done. Do not dwell on what you could not do. If, on a given day, you complete your simple to-do list before noon, push yourself to do a few more things in the afternoon. Allow breaks between activities and tasks if you need to.
8) Resist the urge to over analyze the source of your slump. This is akin to keeping an outward focus, rather than becoming self-absorbed. A little prayerful reflection might be helpful, as it could reveal some area of your life that requires attention. Your spouse and trusted friends might also offer some objective insight. As I've mentioned, certain circumstances might indicate that a medical check-up is needed. However, if you find no obvious cause for a blue period or a period of fatigue, let it pass without dwelling on it any further. Consider such a slump as merely a passing cloud in the otherwise bright sky of your life, and go on about your days as best as you can.
9) If you suffer from a chronic illness that waxes and wanes, don't let your physical discomforts dominate all of your thinking. Do educate yourself about your disease. Also, come to terms with your limitations. However, don't get so caught up in your symptoms that you reinforce a fearful or brooding mindset. This will only add to your suffering. Instead, spend some time counting your blessings. Even if you don't feel well, you will find many things to be grateful for. Also, stay interested in the lives of others around you. Ask about their interests and be a good listener. Don't overwhelm others with conversations about your symptoms or your down times. The temptation to talk on and on about our ailments grows stronger the longer we endure a chronic ailment. It also grows stronger as we grow older and acquire more aches and pains. We do ourselves and others a service by thinking of more pleasant topics to discuss. That's not to say that we shouldn't be truthful about physical suffering or that we shouldn't ever express the frustrations that come with an ailing body. Talking about these things at the appropriate times and with people who can give us support can be extremely beneficial. However, we don't need to dwell on this in every chat that we have with someone else.
10) Don't waste time moping about past regrets or worrying about the future. Live one day at a time. When you are in a slump, this may be easier said than done. However, disciplining your thoughts to making the best of today is well worth the effort. This will help your mood tremendously. And, anything that helps your mood might also provide a little extra physical energy, as well.
11) Don't wait until you "feel like it" to take positive action. When you are in a slump, you might not feel like doing much of anything. However, you do not have to have just the right feeling in order to love God, to love your family and others, and to meet what you can of your daily responsibilities. Choose to do good, and your feelings will likely follow suit. You will probably find that your spirits lift quickly. Even if they don't, you will have made a positive choice to do something good. While our feelings are important, they are our servants and not our masters. Even when we don't feel inspired, we can choose to be patient and kind, to forgive, to act and speak politely, and to put into practice all of the qualities of love mentioned in I Corinthians Chapter Thirteen.
12) While you are in a slump, the last thing you may want to do is to pick up the phone and call someone or go out to meet a friend. It is possible that you may, in fact, need some extra private time or extra time within the comfort of your family circle. However, don't let this need isolate you. Take a day of privacy if you need to, but quickly get back to your friendships. Even if you are going through a difficult time, you can probably manage at least a short phone call a day or a weekly lunch with someone. We often find solace and renewed enthusiasm in the company of the people who know us best. If your friends and loved ones have a hard time understanding what you are going through, don't take it personally. There are still benefits to be gained from keeping up your relationships.
13) Some people who are perfectly well experience occasional slumps. If you are healthy, get a physical exam once a year or so. Then, unless new or alarming symtoms presesnt themselves, don't worry about your health.
14) When you are in a slump, you may find it harder to concentrate than usual. You may also find it harder to be decisive. Here's where some short-term planning can be helpful. Plan the next week, taking into account the fact that you are not running at full speed. Plan rest times. Plan goals. Plan easy dinners. Get input from your spouse if you need help with clarifying your priorities during your slump period. Planning ahead can help you focus, even when your brain feels foggy, and it can also help you eliminate guilt about not being up to your normal schedule. If you get to feeling well before the week has ended, go back to your normal routines.
15) Sometimes, you can predict when a slump might occur. If so, plan for it. If you know that you are not your best at that certain time of the month, schedule more difficult tasks or appointments during what will be your best weeks. Also, if you have a chronic illness and you know that you have a physically taxing event on the calendar, plan for a few days of rest afterwards. Think through events that might trigger fatigue or a flare up of symptoms, and cook extra meals beforehand. Also, do some extra cleaning if possible. You can always add activities to your schedule if you feel better than expected.
16) Sometimes, when you have a chronic health issue, it's tempting to overdo on the days when you do feel well. Do not skimp on sleep or nutrition even during your peak times, however. If you exhaust yourself too much, you run the risk of bringing on another slump.
17) When in a slump, ask yourself if you have attended to the basics of life. Have you taken time to seek God? Have you gotten regular sleep? Have you been eating nutritious meals? Have you gotten some exercise? We all get off course, at times. A slump can be a signal that we need to get back on track. Sometimes, merely returning to good habits quickly restores our good health and good spirits.
18) You may not be the only one in your household who is experiencing a slump. If your family has been through a loss together, your spouse and children may be feeling a bit sluggish, as well. Or, if your family has just come back from vacation or been through the holidays, your children may need some help adjusting to their regular routine again. If you have all passed around a flu bug or some other type of illness, everyone may still be a bit tireder than usual. Don't forget to look out for the emotional and physical needs of your household.


1 comment:

Buffy said...

Some good advice here. We have to learn to take the troughs along with the peaks in life!