Our emotions can affect our productivity, for good or bad. When you’re in a “funk,” what can you do to address it and get back to getting things done?
Managing life when you’re in a funk
How do our emotions affect our productivity? How do we keep moving forward when emotions slow us down? I’ve received a number of questions from listeners regarding dealing with varying levels of sadness or moods when we need to be productive. Those questions, plus a friend asking on social media about getting out of a funk, inspired me to look into it and address the questions in an episode of the podcast.
What are the different levels of sadness?
- Being in a general funk or feeling down in the dumps. This isn’t necessarily full-blown depression. We’re talking about just being sort of down and feeling like we’re not at the top of our game. It can last for a day, a week, or longer. One article in Psychology Today describes being in a funk as feeling “listless, purposeless, unable to motivate oneself, or caring about very little.” You may not be able to point to anything in particular that led to this funk; it’s just a . . . mood. For more information, check out this article from High Existence.
- Discouragement about something in particular, such as a troubled relationship, stress from a job, or financial worries.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. This is a form of depression that usually occurs during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It generally lifts during the spring and summer months.
- Temporary hormonal disruptions, caused by events or conditions like PMS, the “Baby Blues” (mild depression and anxiety that typically reduce two weeks after delivery), perimenopause, stress, or illness.
- Depression. Each year, depression affects at least 10 million people, according to one article about how depression affects the workplace. Depression is more common among women than men. Women generally exhibit symptoms of sadness, worthlessness, or guilt, while men are more likely to be more tired, irritable, lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, or have trouble sleeping. According to National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression can include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
For people who feel some of these feelings persistently (nearly every day for at least two weeks, according to the NIMH), experts recommend seeking help from a trained professional. Mental Health America also has an article about these symptoms, as well as a link to a depression screening.
What causes these feelings?
People who suffer from clinical depression may have either too little or too many of certain brain chemicals called “neurotransmitters,” including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Changes in these chemicals can affect our mood and can cause or contribute to depression or, to a lesser degree, leave us feeling “bummed out.”
Negative Thinking Patterns
Pessimism or having low self-esteem can contribute to feelings of worry, sadness and anxiety — including feeling we have no control over life’s events.
Biological and Genetics
Some studies show those with a family history of depression have an increased risk for depressive illness.
Stress from life events or changes may contribute to feelings of depression, including such crisis events as losing a loved one, financial problems, moving to a new place, losing a job, or starting a new job.
Certain illnesses may contribute to a higher risk of developing what’s known as “Co-occurring Depression,” such as:
- Heart disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Thyroid disorders
- Hormonal disorders
Questions to Ask Yourself
Assuming this is not a clinical-type depression, there may be biological reasons for finding yourself in a funk. A blog post from And Here We Are includes some questions to take inventory of why a “funk” may occur:
- Are you getting enough sleep? And is it quality sleep?
- Are you eating well and/or keeping your blood sugar levels stable?
- Are you getting enough Vitamin D? Note: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and can be obtained by sun exposure, certain foods and supplements, according to the National Institutes of Health.
- Are you stressing your liver with too much alcohol and highly-processed foods?
- Are you dieting or getting an insufficient number of calories?
A Normal Phase of Life
We’re not always up and peppy — I’m not sure humans are meant to be that way. There are ebbs and flows throughout our lives. It can become a perpetual problem if we spend too much time focusing on the negative.
Our minds are like oceans. Like the tides, thoughts come in and then retreat back. When your mind is stuck, the ebb and flow of your thoughts are all negative. Each new thought process makes the negativity even stronger, creating a snowball effect.” ~ TinyBuddha.com
Are you avoiding dealing with some situational or emotional issues? Is there something in your life contributing to these negative feelings and emotions? Ignoring these issues doesn’t make them go away.
As women, our hormones may play a major role in our general feeling, overall. An article at PsychCentral.com says that more than 85% of women report some kind of symptoms in the week prior to getting their period. Vanessa Van Edwards of ScienceofPeople.com discusses the hormones that may contribute to that feeling of being in a funk and some tips to help increase the hormones we need in an interview.
How Does Being in a Funk Affect Us?
Work can suffer
Employers lose an estimated $44 billion per year due to workers with clinical depression, according to one WebMD article. Workers can find themselves struggling with issues such as an inability to concentrate, the need to repeat a job or task, and working slower than usual. Studies indicate that even minor levels of depression are associated with a loss of productivity,.
Relationships can suffer
It’s difficult to be positive and supportive when you’re not feeling your best, and our mood affects those we’re close to. A poll mentioned in a blog post from The Couple Connection said 67% of respondents felt miserable when their partner experienced mood swings.
Another study talked about on the Relationship Matters Podcast explored how emotions were linked between romantic partners. Men and women experience conversations about relationship matters differently. Men tend to fall in line with how their partner is feeling. That means when a man’s female partner is more positive, he becomes more positive; when she becomes more negative, he becomes more negative. Women, however, attempt to regulate the negative emotions of their male partners, so, for example, if her partner is negative, a woman may respond with positivity.
When we’re in a negative frame of mind or experiencing negative emotions, it’s difficult to find motivation to do the things we want or need to do. We may lack energy and focus.
What Can We Do About It?
We’ve talked in previous episodes about different ways to deal with negative moods and situations.
10 Ways to Improve Your Mood (Episode 46)
How to Stay Productive During Life’s Storms (Episode 36)
Dealing with Discouragement (Episode 15)
- Talk to someone. It’s easy to want to hide or stay home, avoiding social situations. Human connection, however, might be what we need to snap us out of it. So consider meeting a friend for coffee, or even just making a phone call. While social media may seem like a way to connect, it may not be the best solution.
- Explore the underlying issues that might be affecting your mood negatively. Write it down. Once article suggested starting by putting a name to what you’re feeling: “I feel disappointed,” then expand that thought to “I feel disappointed about …” Take the time to identify and think through the “why” of how you’re feeling.
Do not be afraid to identify whatever it is that you are angry, sad, scared, or frustrated about. These feelings are valid and need to be acknowledged before they can then be released.” ~ 10 Ways to Get Yourself Out of a Funk
- Consider “morning pages.” In her book The Artist’s Way, writer Julia Cameron champions this method of writing just 3 pages by hand first thing in the morning. It doesn’t have to be anything specific, just whatever comes to mind. This can release the thoughts and anxieties clouding your head. Tim Ferriss from The 4 Hour Work Week has written, “Morning pages don’ t need to solve your problems. They simply need to get them out of your head, where they’ll otherwise bounce around all day like a bullet ricocheting inside your skull.”
Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.” ~ Julia Cameron
- Write yourself a letter. What would you say to your best friend if she was feeling the way you are feeling now?
- If you can’t find the words to describe how you’re feeling, try expressing your feelings through art or something creative: Draw, paint, sculpt, dance, sing–whatever helps you express what you’re feeling.
- Clear your space. Cleaning of decluttering a space or a room can be a way to feel like you’re in control. It can boost your mood, and clearing the physical space around you may make room for thoughts to sort themselves out. For tips about decluttering, check out last week’s episode, The Art of Decluttering: An International Conversation (Episode 83).
- Take care of yourself. If the problem lies with something physiological, give yourself a break.
- Pamper yourself.
- Go to bed early.
- Calm down with a cup of tea.
Now is not the time to stress yourself out by worrying about others, when you should take the time to focus on your mood and needs.
- Give yourself permission to be in this funk for a specific amount of time.
- Create a playlist of songs for when you’re sad.
- Let yourself have a good cry. (One of my doctor’s once told me tears are a way of cleansing impurities from our system, and they are necessary.)
- According to Psychology Today, becoming aware of what we’re feeling helps prevent us from being swallowed by it.
Joy is more joyful when you know what it’s like to be sad.”
- Do something fun. Find a way to laugh. Watch a favorite funny movie. Hang out with a happy young child.
- Get outside and get into nature. Open the windows, if the weather’s nice. Go outside for a walk. (Don’t take your phone; just experience the peace and quiet.) Science tells us giving our brains a break from processing all the modern-day inputs is necessary and healthy, and it helps us think clearly. We’ve talked about this before in previous episodes, such as Developing Healthy Habits, with Bridgit Danner (Episode 82)
- Get some exercise. Movement and exercising boost the “feel good” chemicals in your system, and can burn off the stress that might be contributing to the sad or down feelings.
- Choose to think different thoughts. We can’t choose our circumstances or what our hormones are doing to us, but we can choose what we think about. I often have to ask myself, “Why do I keep thinking about that thing that makes me feel so bad?”
- Coach yourself. Setting aside true medical or physiological conditions, understand that our emotions come from what we think about. If you’re feeling sad, ask yourself:
- What thoughts am I thinking that’s causing me to think this way?
- What do I want to feel?
- What are the thoughts would make me feel that way?
- What can I focus on to make me feel the way I want to feel?
- Practice thinking those thoughts, not ignoring reality.
- You can journal these thoughts and answers, as well.
- It’s more productive to focus our attention on what we want to feel, rather than how we’re feeling. (We talked about Staying Focused and Paying Attention in Episode 79.)
There is real truth in the idea that we create our reality by what we choose to think about, what we focus our attention.”
Other quotes about changing our way of thinking:
“Even if you have to fake it at first, you can teach your mind to ignore negative thoughts.” ~ TinyBuddha
“People’s minds are not disturbed by events, but by their (own) judgments on events.” ~ Epictetus, 101AD
“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances.” ~ Martha Washington
- Express gratitude.
- List what you’re grateful for. Write or say these out loud to yourself.
- Think of someone you can thank. If there are people who have made a difference in our lives, remember to acknowledge what they’ve done for you.
- Get outside your own head for awhile. Shift the focus off you and do something for someone else.
- Find podcasts to help you get a different perspective. One of my favorites is Brooke Castillo’s The Life Coach School. A recent episode focused on the process of dealing with emotions that come “When Something Sucks”
Ask yourself, ‘How can this make me stronger? What can I learn so it makes me smarter? How can I use this? What do you want to create from this? How can you use it to make yourself better?’” ~ Brooke Castillo
- Reminisce about happy memories.
- Look at photos from happy events of your life.
- Journal about proud moments, which boosts serotonin — a “feel-good” chemical.
- According to an article on Forbes.com, “Connecting to a previous win reminds you that life has ups and downs, and that you are capable and deserving of victories. Success goes in cycles, so your next peak should be coming soon. Instead of focusing on the fact that you’ve found yourself in a ‘valley,’ focus your energy on figuring out how to best climb toward your next summit.”
- Create a bucket list of things you want to do. Doing so may make you excited and give you hope for accomplishing something you look forward to — this will boost dopamine. Taking action on a particular goal is even better.
- See your doctor. There may be physiological explanations for how you’re feeling that a trained professional may be able to help you with.
- Take a serious look at your life.
- Is someone or something in your life feeding a tendency you already have toward negativity?
- Is someone abusing you, emotionally or physically?
- What outside factors contribute to your feelings of negativity?
- Consider therapy. This is especially encouraged if this feeling of “funk” is a recurring or ongoing/long-term situation.
If you feel like you’re in a crisis, whether or not you’re having thoughts of hurting yourself, you can get confidential help immediately: Call the 24-hour, toll-free confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Links and Additional Resources
- 10 Ways to Get Yourself Out of a Funk
- How to Correct Your Mind to Get Out of a Funk
- Good Mood Toolbox: 20 Ways to Pull Yourself Out of a Funk
- How to Snap Out of a Funk
- 10 Ways to Get Out of a Funk in 15 Minutes
- 5 Ways to Get Out of a Funk
- How to Get Out of a Funk
- How Does Depression Affect Productivity
- Severity of Depression and Magnitude of Productivity Loss
- How Depression Affects the Workplace
- Depression: What You Need to Know
- What My Morning Journal Looks Like
- How Partners Affect Each Other During Important Life Discussions
- Does your partner’s bad mood affect your relationship? Poll results revealed
- PMS & Relationships
- 20 Ways to Pull Yourself Out of a Funk
What Do You Think?
Do you have suggestions for ways to deal with those times when you’re down? I’ve love to hear your comments on this episode. Please feel free to ask your questions or share your thoughts with me by emailing me, commenting on our Facebook page or leaving a comment below.
Reminders and Notices
- I’m available to speak at your events — women’s retreats and conferences, productivity workshops, business teams, etc. Send me an email or call me at 972.638.0308 to chat about how I can add value to your event.
- I’m planning to start a Productive Woman mastermind group soon. This will consist of a small group of women committed to becoming more productive and making lives that matter, and who are willing to commit to meeting regularly (probably every other week) via Skype to support and encourage each other in those efforts. If this is something you’re interested in, please email me about your interest, and put “Mastermind” in the subject line. For general information on what a mastermind group is, check out “What Is a Mastermind Group?”
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I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
On the subject of being positive and seeing the “bright side” of everything, I remember watching a comedian on Netflix (whose name escapes me) who said, “Find the funny”. I now use that as one of my mantras. So no matter how bad things get, always FIND THE FUNNY.
Laura McClellan says
That’s a great twist on the idea of looking for something positive. I like it. Thanks for sharing!
I’m feeling like being in a funk. In such moments I’m looking very carefully through my portfolio of podcasts and blogs. Sorting out all citius, altius, fortius episodes, looking for more substance. Sometimes there is this kind of coincidence. This TPW084 episode of yours is giving me a lift. Especially the two ways: Morning Post and Letter to Myself touched a nerve in me. I have already started. And what should I say: it’s feeling even more worse. But at the same moment I see and feel the way out of it. That’s more than I hoped getting up 3 hours ago. Thank you for this episode Laura.
Laura McClellan says
Georg – We all do have those times, don’t we? Interesting that in trying to address it–through writing about it–you find yourself feeling worse. I’ve felt that too, sometimes. I think maybe it’s because instead of trying to ignore the feeling, or suppress it, we are looking directly at it, acknowledging it, really *feeling* it, so that makes it seem stronger and more real for awhile. But that’s how we can really get to the root of what’s causing us to feel bad, and ultimately deal with those things and get through to the other side. I hope that’s what you mean by being able to “see and feel the way out of it.” And I hope you’re feeling better soon.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I’m grateful to know you listen to the podcast, and so glad you found something helpful in this episode.
Please stay in touch.
Thank you Laura for your kind words.
yes, I will (of course) see a way out of the trouble. Every hill needs its valley. Sure. Standing in the valley lets even the smallest hill look big. As even the longest trail starts with a first step I am grateful for your hints for this step.
Kelly Anne Liberto says
My biblical counseling instructor would say ‘get up and put one foot in front of the other’ until the depression lifts. It usually does with situational causes. Another comprehensive and balanced presentation of a very real problem to overcome. Thank you Laura! I’m going to use the write yourself a letter technique to nail the source of my funk. As always so helpful and timely!
Laura McClellan says
Thank you, Kelly. I’m glad to know it helped.