What is a Slump?
Everyone goes through a slump from time to time. A slump can look like an episode of depression, lack of motivation, work burnout, or seasonal stress. Regardless of where the slump comes from there are behavioral strategies that can help move you out of the slump and even prevent future slumps from taking over your life. There are 5 behavioral strategies I teach my clients to help them move past a slump which include: physical activity, sun exposure, socialization, creative or intellectual endeavors, and routine.
I use the term physical activity rather than exercise because I want everyone to be able to utilize this behavioral skill, no matter their physical limitations. Physical activity requires some sort of movement but does not require you to sweat or feel the burn or to gain strength with it. It can include taking a stroll, cleaning, doing laundry, working on your car or stretching as well as more traditional exercising, yoga, or running. To boost the effectiveness of physical activities, engage in them using one-mindfulness. Focus on just the activity and nothing else. Let your mind be aware of the sensations the activity is generating in your body rather than what you will do next in your day. One reason physical activity is important to getting out of a slump and maintaining feelings of well being is because human beings were not designed to be couch potatoes. We have evolved to walk, run, climb, fight, and etc. Physical activity allows us to release “happy hormones” in our brains called endorphins, which actually mimic the effects of morphine. With these hormones pumping through us on a regular basis throughout our day we feel happier and more relaxed.
The sun has a great impact on our mood and it also has great benefits on our physical health. Just 15 minutes of sun exposure daily can boost our production of serotonin, which is one of the “happy hormones” that is tied to our mood changes. Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression, so boosting your serotonin levels through sun exposure is a great way to boost mood and help your sleep schedule be more stable. So take a Mindful walk every day to enjoy the sun's warmth on your skin and take in your surroundings. In the North, during winters, more people tend to feel depressed or find themselves in a slump. This is believed to be due to a decrease in sun exposure. Today, therapeutic sun lamps are readily available and are quite affordable. If you decide to try a sun lamp be sure to use it only during daylight hours so that your circadian rhythm is maintained and you are able to sleep regularly.
Human beings are social creatures, we are tribal based animals, and we depend on others for our sense of safety and well being. Isolation and social rejection has been linked to depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, when in a slump, it can be difficult to motivate ourselves to reach out to others or to even pick up the phone when someone reaches out to us. In order to get out of a slump and ease depression it is important to maintain some sort of socializing, to push ourselves to reach out to others. It doesn’t have to be in person, but just making a call and talking to someone about your slump, other feelings or just joking around, can give you a sense of safety, comfort and validation. Daily socializing will allow you to feel connected and part of a tribe so that slumps are felt not as strong and are able to dissipate quicker. Additionally, socializing with people we love and care for releases yet another “happy hormone” called oxytocin, also known as the love hormone.
Creative and Intellectual Endeavors
We’ve talked about physical activity and its importance but keeping our minds active is just as important to our sense of well-being. When we engage in creative and intellectual endeavors we are exercising our brain and also releasing another “happy hormone” called dopamine. So when we are learning or creating something new, we are also generating happiness in our lives. Maintaining creative and intellectual endeavors throughout our lives has also been shown to keep Altzeimers at bay and stimulate our minds ability to learn and remember. To use this behavioral strategy you can doodle, bake, color, paint, do crafts, play music, create with legos, read a book, write, learn a new skill, watch videos that teach you about an interesting topic. The sky's the limit, so use your imagination.
Routines allow for structure in our daily life and give us a way to recognize productivity throughout our days. Without routine we tend to fall on the couch and do nothing, especially if we are in a slump. Human beings enjoy being productive, and routines allow for productivity to shine every day. Routines also can build healthy habits, such as incorporating all of the earlier behavioral skills into our everyday lives. If you are new to routines, start with just one! Usually creating a morning or a bedtime routine will boost the other to become healthier. Creating a good bedtime routine will allow you to have better quality of sleep and lead you to wake up in a better mood and with more energy to start your day. Having a good morning routine will start your day off in a better mood with greater motivation to do things throughout the day, so you will likely be more tired when bedtime comes around. Once you have these two routines set, work on a lunchtime routine to give you a break in your day so you can de-stress and reset yourself. You should find yourself feeling better and more productive with these routines in place.
Do it all Daily!
Use these strategies to get out of your slump, but continue daily practice to create habits and keep you feeling well all year long. If you are able to maintain these strategies on a daily basis you will find yourself less likely to fall into a slump to begin with, and when you do find yourself in a slump it might just not be as bad or as difficult to get out of as long as you keep your focus on what's important.