A guest post by Kayla Mathews
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Thomas Edison
There are a lot of times when life simply sucks.
Whether it’s something unexpected happening or some ongoing issue that’s keeping you down, life tends to put us on the outs now and again.
Many of us don’t feel like doing anything when life puts us in a slump.
It’s difficult not to think about whatever is wrong and to focus on being productive and motivated.
But here’s the thing: you can be productive, even when life seems like it’s getting the better of you.
Immediately before I left home for college, I started dating someone very special to me.
We had known each other for several years, but I had lost touch with him. Through a long and complicated string of events, we wound up reconnecting and discovered that we both had very strong feelings for one another.
Our timing was terrible, but we wanted to be together. So we began our relationship as a couple during a time when we lived over four hours away from one another. While the start of our relationship was wonderful and exciting, the huge chunks of time we spent apart was not. We both had very little money and couldn’t afford to travel to each other, except for maybe once a month (and even that wasn’t always possible).
I spent tons of time sulking around my college campus, dragging myself out of bed with every pitiful amount of motivation I could muster up. I felt depressed. Not exactly the most uplifting way to manage your first year at college.
I knew that I needed to focus on school and study to get good grades. If I let my emotions get the better of me and failed a class, or decided to drop out altogether (which crossed my mind just about every day), I’d be ruining the best chance I had for my boyfriend and I to have a happy future together.
So I pressed on.
I didn’t always feel like it – in fact I hardly ever felt like it – but I made myself stay productive in school. It was a very difficult year for me, and so was the next year. But I learned some very valuable lessons because of these hardships, and I think they bear repeating.
Life is hard, but it’s also beautiful and wonderful. Terrible things may happen, but you can only know that they’re terrible because of the great things that have already happened to you.
If life has you feeling depressed, out of control, miserable, or just fed up, you should know that it’s okay to feel that way. However, it’s not okay to idly sit by and let your negative feelings rule your life.
The best way to get out of your slump is to stay productive, even during the times when you don’t feel like being productive.
Here are some lessons I learned about how to stay productive when life has you in a slump:
1. Exercise for better sleep and to boost endorphins
Exercise is a greatly underutilized antidepressant. I know that some days it feels like you can barely get out of bed, let alone go for a jog, but exercising is a naturally proven way to increase your body’s feel-good endorphins.
Exercising for at least two and a half hours a week has been shown to significantly improve the quality of sleep you get at night, which positively impacts your overall mental wellness and your energy during the day.
In my personal experience, I’ve also found exercising to be a good way to relieve stress and frustration.
If you go for long jog, chances are that you’ll feel so tired when you get done you won’t even have the energy to be bummed out.
That and endorphin boost can do wonders for your mood and productivity.
2. Remind yourself that being productive now will improve your happiness later
I certainly didn’t always feel like going to class or studying for finals when I was in my slump, but I did it anyway because I knew it would be best for me in the end.
I know it’s hard, but you have to try to look beyond your feelings in the present moment and do what will be most beneficial to your happiness later. If you just sit back and wallow in self-pity, you likely aren’t going to feel better for a very, very long time.
You don’t have to be thrilled about whatever you’re doing, but at least do it so you can keep yourself moving forward, if only ever so slightly.
3. If you can, be productive on your own terms
Depending on what kind of job or daily responsibilities you have, this tip might be harder for you to put into action. What I mean by “be productive on your own terms,” though, is that you should do whatever will help you be most productive, even if it doesn’t seem like something a productive person would do.
There were some days in college when I knew I’d get more done if I spread out my books in bed and stayed in my pajamas all day, rather than going to the library. So I stayed in bed and let myself be motivated by the fact that I got to choose how I was going to be productive that day.
I didn’t go anywhere because I didn’t want to, but I also didn’t sulk in my room. I got things done…but on my own terms.
If it’s possible for you to control some of the terms of your productivity, do so.
It’s okay if they seem less productive to other people; all that matters is that you feel most productive working that way.
4. Be motivated by others in the same situation
Anytime I feel myself falling into negativity, I try to remember that there are definitely hundreds – if not thousands – of other people in the world going through the same thing. And, it seems, many of them don’t get nearly as down or stressed out as I do sometimes.
So, I figure, if they can face the same thing and carry on with their daily lives, so can I.
It’s also helpful to view yourself as part of a group working toward a common goal, rather than as an individual trying to reach a goal or achieve something alone.
5. Find something that you enjoy and do it every day
Another helpful tip for getting out of your funk is to find something that you enjoy and do it every day, even if you only do it for 15 minutes or so.
When I was in college, I discovered that I really liked playing video games on my handheld, so I invested in a Nintendo DS and started gaming on there for an hour or so a day. Even with all my schoolwork, it was perfectly manageable for me to set aside some time to play each day.
When you do something that you enjoy, you start to focus on that activity, rather than on whatever has you feeling down. This is a good way to start to wean yourself off of your negative emotions and feel something positive again.
If you aren’t into gaming, try reading a book, creating some kind of art, writing, or cooking.
6. Get out of your comfort zone
In addition to doing something you enjoy every day, it’s also important to take small steps outside of your comfort zone. This will help you get out of your slump by boosting your chances of discovering new interests, opportunities and new people.
As you begin to try new things, you’ll likely find new friends who can provide a healthy social support system.
It’s helpful to do things outside of what you’re used to, even if it means doing something as little as going to a different restaurant or sitting outside in the sun for an hour.
7. Engage in emotional or spiritual practices daily
By engaging in spiritual or emotional activities each day, you learn to become more connected with yourself and your feelings.
For me, yoga is an emotionally cathartic practice that makes me feel less stressed, more relaxed, and more in-tune with myself.
Whether you engage in yoga, prayer, meditation or other spiritual practices, know that these are all good stepping stones for fighting off negative thoughts and emotions.
8. Don’t judge yourself
In addition to feeling down because of whatever put you in a slump, you also tend to feel negatively about how you’re feeling.
When you know that you should be productive but feel depressed and sluggish, you’re likely to judge yourself and criticize your emotions. Needless to say, this does very little to help you feel better.
Don’t judge yourself for feeling down. You can’t help the way you feel.
You can, however, feel poorly and still do things that will help you be productive.
You can be miserable and still do homework. Sure, it won’t be fun, but you can make it happen.
Don’t be too hard on yourself when it comes to how you feel. Rather, try to accept your feelings and find ways to cope with them in your daily life.
9. Read or watch something motivational to get you going
If you find that the hardest part of the day is just getting out of bed, you might find it helpful to read or watch something inspiring. This can help you get motivated and get going in the morning and can fuel your actions throughout the rest of the day.
Read some more inspiring articles on Vishnu’s site, follow motivational social accounts, or watch some inspiring YouTube videos. These are all easy things you can do from your smartphone while you’re still in bed in the morning, so you can get inspired and start your day when you are ready.
It can be so easy to let your anger, worries, depression or fear get the better of you in life. But if you don’t do anything to pick yourself up and actively fight against your slump, you’re not even living – are you?
I hope that some of the things I’ve talked about today will resonate with you and inspire you to bounce back and live a productive life in 2015.
You can’t change how you feel, but you can take some of these actions I mentioned above to be productive and get things done.