I’m sure everyone has days or weeks when everything goes to plan. When you seem to jump out of bed in the morning and have a spring in your step and a can-do attitude. It is on days like this when nothing seems to get in your way and ticking things off your to-do list is as satisfying as it is commonplace.
I’m even more certain that there isn’t a person on this earth whose every day is like this. For whatever reasons these glorious runs of high-performing and super-positive productivity don’t last forever and are inevitably punctuated by their counterpart: the low, the downturn, the downswing or the rough patch – usually characterised by a lack of energy, positivity and a general all-pervasive apathy.
The ebb and flow
I’ve often asked myself why this happens and I’ve come to believe that the lows (as well as the highs) are just the way of things – the natural ebb and flow of life. If this is the case can we do anything about it? One of my fundamental beliefs in life is that we cannot control or change what happens to us but we can control or change how we react to things and that is the principle that applies for me here.
My time is precious. In order to get through the lows more quickly I’ve developed a five-point plan that I thought I would share with you.
1. Treat yourself
This sounds simple enough but my definition of a treat has changed somewhat over the years. What I used to do under the guise of treating myself, in actual fact, usually made me feel worse. If I was having a bad day I was more likely to treat myself by having a couple of drinks, eating junk food or smoking more cigarettes. I would convince myself that I deserved these ‘treats’ because in the short term they gave me a much needed boost or fix. However, over the years I’ve realised that getting drunk did nothing more than give me a hangover and make me feel depressed, eating junk food made me feel sick and bloated and smoking made me feel sluggish and gave me headaches and a sore throat. So in recent years I’ve worked hard to re-define what ‘treat’ means to me.
These days treats for me include:
- Eating or drinking something healthy (the vitamins boost my immune system and energy levels).
- Doing some exercise (releases much-needed endorphins).
- Getting an early night (often my lows are associated with lack of sleep and an early night can make all the difference).
- Doing something nice like getting a treatment e.g. a massage.
- Spending time with good friends.
- Do an activity I enjoy like reading, going to the beach, going for a bike ride.
2) Act as if
In the past, during low times, I would invariably put my life on hold and in effect wait for the rough patch to pass, or even worse engage in activities likely to prolong it. Lately, because of commitments I’ve made to things like this blog and the achievement of my goals, giving into the downswings hasn’t really been an option.
Nowadays, I try to act as if or to put it another way carry on regardless. This post is a perfect example, since starting this blog I’ve published a post every Wednesday without fail. This week, because I’m wading through a low, I thought about posting it tomorrow instead. The thing is I know if I don’t follow through with my commitments then it’s a slippery slope and soon it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t post anything for a month!
Acting as if, for me, means carrying on as if I’m not feeling low or de-motivated, even if in reality that is how I am feeling. I’ll give you an example. When I used to run regularly, I prided myself on keeping a steady pace which I did by getting into a rhythm. Once my body was settled into the rhythm I did every thing in my power to keep it, which meant not slowing down when I hit an incline. Mentally I knew when each foot needed to hit the ground and I did everything in my power to stick to that pattern even if the ground was getting steeper! Inevitably I would slow down somewhat but the technique helped me to keep pace better than if I gave in and slowed down at the first sign of a hill.
3) Talk about it
At times when I didn’t feel on top form, my tendency used to be to hide away from friends and family, cancel all social engagements and stay in with the phone on silent. These days I do this a lot less and find that being around people and talking about how I’m feeling to good friends often really helps. Friends and family can help to put your problems in perspective and give you support and understanding in times of need. I’ve found that a timely conversation with someone I care about can often help lift me out of my low patch.
There are times when staying in and putting the phone on silent is a necessity, I just find that this is the case far less often than it used to be.
4) Watch your thinking
In a post titled How to identify and silence your biggest critic I talk about that internal script that sometimes tells us negative and unhelpful things. It’s during the downswings that my inner critic starts to get cocky and strut its stuff. It’s almost as if it senses my vulnerability and thinks ‘here is an opportunity for me to get back into the driving seat.’ Don’t let it. When I’m feeling tired, under the weather or low for whatever reason, I’ve learnt that the best antidote is to show myself some compassion. This means not giving in to those negative self-critical thoughts, which left unchecked, can start to take over.
5) Give yourself a break
If I have tried all of the above and I still feel fed up then I just let it be and tell myself that this feeling won’t last forever. Sometimes letting go of the need to do anything can be the most helpful thing of all. Rough patches always pass and if you try your best to shake it and can’t then really the only thing left is to let it run its natural course. Those are the times when I get into my pyjamas at 8pm, turn my phone to silent and watch crap TV in bed. It happens a lot less than it used to but sometimes I just have to let it be.
Do you have any techniques for getting through the tough times or for keeping your motivation levels high? If so please do comment because I would love hear about them.