Life seems like it’s getting more and more stressful. Natural disasters, pandemics, and political events can really bring us down, to say nothing of all those day-to-day stressors like long to-do lists and cloudy weather.
We might feel as if we are “supposed” to feel happy or as if feeling sad or anxious means something is wrong with us. The reality is, every single person on the face of the earth knows what it feels like to be in a funk. From actors and comedians to bestselling authors, CEOs, and meditating monks, we all know what it is like to feel sad, stressed out, overwhelmed, and emotionally stuck and have no idea how to get out of a funk.
Right now, more than any other time in history, we need to be there for each other. If you are in a funk, it can be helpful to remember that there are lots of people, even people you have not yet met, who deeply care about your well-being and want nothing more than to know that you are okay.
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The 3 Zones of Emotional Life
Pema Chödrön, the meditation guru and best-selling author, teaches that we experience three emotional zones throughout life.
Zone #1 Comfort
The first one is the comfort zone. This is the zone we all want to be in, but that isn’t necessarily what is in our best interest. In this zone, we experience a sense of security and pleasure, but little emotional growth happens. It’s like being on vacation rather than in real life.
Zone #2 Growth
The second zone is one of emotional challenge. Because most of us haven’t trained in how to hold space for challenging emotions, we often want to resist or avoid this zone and head back to the comfort zone.
The more we resist our uncomfortable emotions, the greater the chance is that we will feel stuck in them, rather than the exhilaration that can come from learning and growing.
Zone #3 Trauma
The third zone is one of trauma. We enter the trauma zone when our well-being gets jeopardized in some way. Perhaps there is a traumatic event affecting us, or our stress levels have reached a level that feels overwhelming. Our mind may seem as if it is on a hamster wheel, and our thoughts may be making things worse.
We may also enter the trauma zone when we are triggered, perhaps without even realizing it, and re-experiencing emotions from a traumatic event that happened long ago. Whenever we are in this zone, it is extremely important to reach out and get support.
Regardless of which zone you are in right now, here are some ideas on how to get out of a funk and support ourselves.
17 Ways to Get Emotionally Unstuck
1. Reach Out
If your emotions are too big to handle on your own or you think you may be in the trauma zone, it is very important to reach out for help. Especially during these challenging times, we need to check in with each other, be available for a chat, and be willing to reach out.
Reaching out for help can take different forms. We might call a trusted friend or family member, physician, therapist, coach, or help lines like suicide or mental wellness hotline.
Asking for help is a sign of true inner strength. As humans, we were made to collaborate, brainstorm, and invent in the community. When we talk to others about our problems, we usually see solutions and answers and gain insights we never could have discovered on our own.
2. Talk to Yourself (Lovingly)
Another helpful tip is to pay attention to that little voice in our heads, making meaning out of what we experience. What stories are you telling yourself about what is happening in your life? Are you putting a positive or negative spin on what you are experiencing? Is there another way to look at things?
It can be very helpful to have someone who is willing to stay with us through difficult emotions without trying to change or fix us in any way. Whether or not we have someone like that in our lives, it is essential to learn how to be that type of person for ourselves.
Sometimes we feel like we are in a funk because we believe the negative stories about something that may or may not be true. Could there be a reason to hope right now instead of feeling discouraged? Could something good come out of what is happening, even if it is your own personal growth? What is the silver lining?
We can learn a lot by paying attention to our self-talk. What would the perfect coach, parent, or friend who loved you unconditionally and believed that you were inherently good, innately wise, and perfectly okay no matter what say to you right now?
How about something like:
“You’ve got this.”
“You can get through this.”
“You are so wonderful and resilient.”
“Just focus on the present and be here right now.”
The more we can connect with that loving voice that truly believes that we are perfectly loveable just the way we are, the more confidence we will have when facing tough times.
3. Change Your Speed
Our bodies and minds are so connected. Sometimes, when we are feeling anxious, we move quickly but don’t really accomplish much. If this is happening to you, try moving slower. Sit down. Rest. Go outside and lay on the ground. Take a few nice, long, slow breaths.
Remember to connect with your loving inner voice and say, “You are doing great. Whatever you are feeling is completely okay. You are going to get through this.”
Similarly, when we are depressed or in a funk, it can help to move more quickly. Take a brisk walk, even if it’s just around your house. Play an upbeat song you love and dance, even if it feels silly at first. Do a few jumping jacks. Twirl in a circle.
If you are feeling angry, find creative ways to get any negative energy out of your body in a way that is safe for you and others. Find a stick and beat an empty box or a pile of pillows. Go for a sprint in an open field. Punch a punching bag. Jump up and down. Scream. Talk about it. Do whatever you can to get grounded and start to feel safe again.
4. Go Outside
Research has shown that being in nature directly improves our emotions. Head outside and pay attention to the small details around you. Finding something good in the present to fully enjoy and appreciate can help so much. Sit in the sun and feel it on your face. Treat yourself to a blast of vitamin D. Breathe in the fresh air deeply.
Notice what you are experiencing with all five senses. What do you see? Hear? Feel? Smell? Taste? How about your intuition? There are so many gifts in the outdoors waiting to be discovered. What do you notice in this moment? Can you find anything beautiful or that you appreciate while you are outdoors?
5. Eat Healthy Foods
Sometimes we fill up with empty calories, sugar, or caffeine that causes an emotional and energetic crash later, especially when you are feeling difficult emotions or feeling exhausted.
Try eating small, healthy snacks that are high in protein, like nuts, meat, nut butter, or something filled with antioxidants like organic fruits and vegetables frequently.
If you are craving sugar, reach for fruit. We often forget how delicious, sweet, and satisfying fruits can be. As you put good food into your body, try to bring your full attention to how it tastes and what it feels like to fully receive the gift of healthy food.
6. Drink Water
When we feel overly anxious or depressed, we might find we have forgotten to care for ourselves and give ourselves the basic things we need, like sleep, food, and water.
Being perpetually dehydrated can lead to other health problems, prevent us from feeling our best, and cause us to feel emotionally and physically stuck in a funk.
Challenge yourself to drink a certain amount of water every day. You might want to start slow, increasing eight ounces a day until you get to 64 to 80 ounces. Try to really enjoy the water as you are drinking and imagine it hydrating, cleansing, and refreshing all of your cells and your frame of mind.
7. Scan Your Body
Sometimes, our moods drop because of physical rather than emotional reasons. Set a timer for three minutes and scan your body, bringing your awareness to whatever you are experiencing with kindness and compassion.
Rather than trying to change anything, just gently send yourself love and acceptance as you slow down your breath and bring your attention to your body. Notice whatever you are feeling with gentleness and awareness, knowing it is all okay.
You might want to stretch, rub your neck, hands, or feet or hug yourself. Or, simply rest.
8. Help Someone Else
One gift that comes as a result of feeling difficult emotions is that we know what it feels like to need support, and so we have a greater ability to be present with others and offer real empathy and compassion.
How can you be of service to others? You might listen to a friend’s sharing or struggles from a place of deep understanding or maybe do a simple task that will really make a difference. You could also drop off food to someone living alone, buy flowers or run an errand for another person, volunteer at a local charity, or offer to help a friend with a carpool and childcare.
Furthermore, perhaps you could be extra friendly with the people you meet. It’s amazing how a friendly smile, eye contact, and a kind heart can shift our whole outlook and realize how much we really matter, even if it’s from a stranger. You can be that person for someone else.
9. Tell Someone “Thank You”
When we are depressed or in a funk, we are very focused on ourselves. When we find ourselves feeling grateful for something that another person has done for us, our brain shifts from a negative groove to a more positive one.
We step out of our own experience a bit and see a bigger picture. This can set off a flow of endorphins and positive chemicals in our bodies that help us feel better.
Saying “thank you” can take the form of a letter of appreciation, quick email, text or voice message, or just a smile and a word of thanks to a complete stranger for something like bagging our groceries. (Sometimes, the thank you letter we most need to write is to ourselves!)
10. Make a Gratitude List
Another form gratitude can take is making a daily list of things for which we are grateful. Share what you are thankful for with a friend or post photos on social media with the hashtag #grateful.
If you find this difficult to do, think of the love of a pet or a favorite flower or the feeling of the sunset or the ground under your feet. Better yet, spend some time with that pet or appreciate that flower or sunset in real time if possible. Or, take a moment and remember what that might feel like.
You might make a list of the good things in your life and remind yourself about them over and over again. Put them on post-it notes or decorate your refrigerator, computer monitor, or bathroom mirror with your gratitudes.
11. Let Yourself Feel
Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to really give in to the emotion. If you feel sad, let yourself cry. Tears can be very cleansing. Sometimes we feel stuck because we are afraid to feel a specific emotion. However, really feeling and moving through a feeling will get us to the other side.
If you feel anxious or fearful, notice where that feeling is in your body. Breathe into the feeling without trying to change it or chase it away. (If it doesn’t feel safe to do this, or you feel too fearful, trust your instincts. Simply reach out by calling a helpline or contacting a professional like a physician, therapist, spiritual teacher, or coach to help you feel your emotions safely.)
The more we are able to accept our emotions and really feel them, the more we also learn to accept all of ourselves, just as we are.
12. Write About It
Write in a journal or notebook about what you are feeling, thinking, and what is real for you in this moment. Imagine describing how you are feeling right now to a completely loving parent or friend who wants the very best for you and will not judge you in any way.
You might also audio-record yourself talking about what you are feeling and thinking. Then, listen to it with real compassion. Pretend you are a loving friend who loves everything about you, even the tough stuff. Relief comes when we can be a loving witness.
What do you notice? Do you have any new insights or words of wisdom? You can delete the audio-file when you are done. As you do, imagine letting your stories about your experience go so the only thing left is the present moment.
13. Get in “Flow”
Try to get yourself in that magical state of flow where you lose track of time and space and are just doing what you are doing, just for the fun of it. Take time to play.
You might want to sketch, color, or paint. Take some photos. Play an instrument. Write a haiku. Create a collage. Paint. Get out crayons or magic markers.
Set a timer for three minutes and doodle. The end product doesn’t matter. Just let yourself feel the joy of being in flow.
14. Listen to Upbeat Music
Music has a way of directing our moods. Choose music you really like and listen to it or have it playing in the background as you work.
Try humming along. If you can, try blasting music and making your house your personal dance floor. If you are driving, play the radio and sing at the top of your lungs.
15. Accomplish Something Small
Sometimes, our stuck feeling is a message from our intuition, telling us that we need to do something different or are ignoring an important task. What is one thing that you really need at this moment?
Maybe it’s drinking water or going for a short walk. Perhaps it’s doing that one small thing you’ve been procrastinating. Ask yourself what you really, really need in this moment, the way a friend would.
Take a moment right now to do that thing that is in your best interest. After it is completed, ask yourself again. It’s amazing how we can tend to ourselves one step at a time.
16. Clean Something
There is something very energizing, invigorating, and symbolically powerful about clearing, cleaning, and letting go. Clean out your refrigerator or junk drawer. Throw away 20 things. Wash a window or mirror. Keep it small and doable. When you finish, cheer!
17. Smile and Breathe Deeply
Tell yourself you are lovable, wonderful, and perfect just as you are. At the end of the day, the greatest cure for any emotion that feels too big to handle is love. Send love to yourself and tell yourself that no matter what, whatever you are feeling is perfectly okay, and so are you, just as you are.
The most important thing to remember about being in a funk is that you are not alone. We all experience difficult emotions. Accepting them and letting go of our expectations about how we are supposed to feel is the key to emotions shifting instead of staying stuck.
The next most important thing is to reach out. Get support. Imagine connecting with others all over the world right now that would want you to be safe and well if they knew you were struggling. Remember everyone who, at this very moment, is experiencing a funk, too. We always have more support than we know.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that we are each far wiser, more resilient, and more capable than we realize. You are completely capable of growing, expanding, and connecting with the inner peace, compassion, and goodness that is who you really are. You’ve got this!
I am sending you lots of light and love. Here are some more articles and resources about navigating difficult emotions and finding peace even in the face of tough times.
Tips for Overcoming Tough Times
- Understanding These 5 Stages of Life Can Help Us Navigate Tough Times
- How To Find Happiness Again
- 7 Things to Remember When Going Through Tough Times
- 12 Useful Ways to Get Out of a Rut
- What To Do When You’re Stuck
- Suicide Hotline: Talk To Someone Now 800-273-8255 (United States)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Get Help 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224 (United States)
- Substance Abuse Hotline: National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (United States)
- Depression and Bipolar Support (Not-for-Profit): Suicide Hotline & Helpline Information
- Mental Illness Support (Not-for-Profit): NAMI
- How To Know If You Need More Support (Not-for-Profit) HelpGuide: Depression Symptoms and Warning Signs
- Affordable, Online Therapy (Non-for-Profit) Open Counseling: Find Affordable Counseling
- Getting Unstuck from Habitual Patterns (More about Pema Chödrön’s Teachings) Lion’s Roar: How We Get Hooked and How We Get Unhooked
Featured photo credit: Kinga Cichewicz via unsplash.com