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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Help Yourself When You’re in a Mental Funk

How to Help Yourself When You’re in a Mental Funk

At various times of my life, I have found myself in a state of just feeling out-of-sorts. I am not depressed, but I have these feelings that are associated with listlessness, lack of purpose, and lack of motivation. I feel flat, empty, disconnected. When I am in this state, I feel unpleasant and I feel the need to help myself.

I usually feel like this when I have worked hard on a project and it has come to an end. I am exhausted and emotionally drained, and I am at a point where I don’t know what to do next.

COVID-19 has also created a lot of situations for me where I have had to work really hard not to stay in a mental funk longer than I should. With so much disruption and uncertainty in our lives today, we need to be extra vigilant so we don’t want to fall into the trap of continuously living our lives in a state of a mental funk.

What Is Mental Funk?

The first step to getting yourself out of a state of mental funk is to understand what a mental funk is all about. If you don’t know what you are dealing with, how would you know how to work your way out of the problem?

There are many definitions given for a mental funk. However, the definition given by the Urban Dictionary for Mental Funk resonates with me:[1]

“Temporary sadness. Feeling sad and down and not knowing why. No motivation to do anything and always tired. Almost like you’re missing something but not know what it is. Like a small phase of depression that only lasts a couple of days or weeks.”

There is science behind mental funk. In fact, there is a science behind our moods and feelings. They don’t just come out of nowhere. If you are in a mental funk, you are not going crazy—there is a chemical explanation behind why you are feeling the way you do.

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When you understand the science behind your moods, you are more informed about how you can snap out of your mental funk a lot quicker.

The Chemistry Behind Our Moods

Different chemicals affect our moods. Sydney Sprouse explains how we can harness these chemicals where we are in more control of our feelings rather than our feelings controlling us:[2]

“Hormones and neurotransmitters (those important chemical messengers) work in the limbic system and throughout the body. They generate the emotions you experience throughout the day. These compounds work in tandem with the events in your life to trigger your many types of mood.”

1. Serotonin

Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that helps us feel relaxed, balanced, and contributes to our well-being or state of calm. When your serotonin is out of whack, it feels like everything is out of whack in your life.

When your body is low in Serotonin, you are more susceptible to feeling sadness, lethargy, and sleepiness. When there is plenty of serotonin in your body you are more content, alert, and energized.

When you are feeling listless, low in energy, or emotional, you need to give your Serotonin levels a boost. One of the best ways to this is by journaling. This simple act of reflecting on your past achievements or thinking about positive memories produces Serotonin.

The secret ingredient for journaling to work, however, is that you have to commit to it regularly or else, your mental funk will keep appearing and will hang around for a lot longer.

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2. Dopamine—The Feeling of Pleasure

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released when we feel pleasure. It is a chemical that makes us feel like it is our birthday every day, and it is very important in helping us regulate our emotional responses.

If you have been in meetings all day or had a long day at work, you will feel drained and tired. The more we feel like this, the more “blah” we feel about life and our mood becomes “blah” as well. This is a sign that our Dopamine levels are low and we need to give it a boost.

This chemical is essential as it is the chemical that gives us a feeling of hope. It will help us fight our bad moods as long as there is plenty of Dopamine around.

To boost your Dopamine levels, you have to create pleasure for your mind and body. There are many ways to do this. You can pamper yourself, plan a holiday, create a bucket list, catch up with old friends, or reconnect with friends you haven’t seen in a while.

The key thing to do to boost your Dopamine levels is to take action. If you are not taking action and trying new things, this very important chemical will not be able to help you fight off your bad moods!

3. Oxytocin—The Feeling of Love

Oxytocin creates feelings of love and trust. That’s where the name “love hormone” comes from. The presence of this hormone in your blood helps you form emotional attachments to loved ones—friends, family, even pets.”

—Sydney Sprouse

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Oxytocin is the love hormone that makes us feel love and connection. Oxytocin is crucial to understanding our moods as our mind and body work together to find connection with others.

If you are feeling disconnected and alone, then your level of Oxytocin is low and you need to give it a boost. The best way to do this is to call in your support network. Do you have a friend who is a great listener or a person or relative who makes you laugh? These are the people who will help you boost your Oxytocin levels to an all-time high.

4. Endorphins—The Feeling of Excitement

Endorphins are a significant chemical that helps us to manage our levels of anxiety, stress, and physical pain. Endorphins are pumped through our bodies when we are active. This is the reason why going for a run or a workout makes us feel euphoric or as if we are on a high.

The best way to give your Endorphins a boost is to get active and go exercise. Do any activity where you can get your blood and endorphins pumping!

Beware of Cortisol: The Stress Hormone

To understand how Cortisol affects our moods, we need to understand stress. Not all stress is bad for us—in fact, good stress (Eustress) keeps you alert, goal-orientated, and focused. However, the problem is that we can let bad stress (distress) take over our lives. This is when Cortisol kicks in and has a huge influence on our moods and how we feel.

The triggers for bad stress can vary from personal tragedy, bad relationships, job loss, etc. With the increase of the stress in our lives, the feelings of uneasiness, tension, and anxiety accompany a rise in cortisol levels.

There are ways to manage the cortisol levels, but exercise and connection with others are by far the most effective. These activities can combat the anxiety and fatigue caused by distress and help you to move forward.

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There are a few more chemicals and hormones that can influence your mood swings, but I have selected the key chemicals that have the most significant impact on how you feel daily However, if you do want to get out of your Mental Funk quickly, here are 3 actions that you can do that will sort out your Mental Funk instantaneously!

  1. MeditationMeditation creates the space for you to give your thoughts some peace and quiet
  2. Laughter – Laughter brings you joy and creates a positive mindset. The more you laugh, the happier you feel about life. Set yourself a challenge to smile and laugh at least 10 times a day! If you do this, your mental funk will disappear completely.
  3. Get 8 hours of sleep every night – Your body and mind need rest and to replenish. The best way to do that is by regularly getting a good night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

We can’t prevent our feelings of malaise (Mental Funk) from happening, but we can tap into our power of choice and take action to move our feelings and thoughts into a more positive and optimistic mindset.

The more we know about what causes our mental funk, the easier it is for us to choose to do something about it!

“You are not the victim of the world, but rather the master of your own destiny. It is your choices and decisions that determine your destiny.” —Roy T Bennett

More Tips on Mental Wellness

Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Urban Dictionary: to be in a funk
[2] Ask the Scientists: Master Your Mood: The Science Behind the Types of Mood

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Published on June 22, 2021

Can Coffee Cause Anxiety Or Depression?

Can Coffee Cause Anxiety Or Depression?

Waking up groggy, eyes adjusting to the light, everything is a little blurry, you stumble into the kitchen and get your first cup of joe brewin’. The smell hits you first—a nice dark roast perhaps, and then finally, your first sip, ahhhhh . . . You begin the rest of your morning routine and that beautiful, aroma-filled beverage in your cup kick-starts your day.

But have you ever wondered if your morning coffee ritual is actually contributing to anxiety or depression? If so, I got some answers for you in this article

We’ve become a coffee-crazed culture—drinking it for pleasure, to relax, as a treat, drinking it to socialize, and not least of all, for energy. Suffice to say, all that coffee craze can lead to an unhealthy dependency. How else can we keep our energy up, treating ourselves along the way, to accomplish all the things we need and want to get done in life?

So, here’s the lowdown on coffee, anxiety, and depression.

Coffee and Depression

There’s some very interesting research out there about coffee and depression. It turns out that coffee might actually be a protective factor against depression and is even correlated with a reduction in suicide.[1] That’s a pretty amazing finding for coffee lovers and those who deal with depression or suicidality!

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In fact, studies have talked about this very interesting outcome. However, before we get too excited, let’s hit the pause button and clarify a few things. I do say “might” because research is research, and although this gives us some evidence, it’s always important to remember that each of our bodies reacts differently to different environments, circumstances, or substances, and there are a lot of variables at play, so nothing is 100%—but it is a good indicator for sure!

Some of the variables to consider in these studies include the overall lifestyle of subjects and control groups as well as a super important one—whether the coffee they were drinking is caffeinated or decaffeinated as much of the research isn’t clear. So, there’s some more work to be done there, but that’s encouraging!

And that’s not all. Coffee, which is most often connected to unhealthy habits, was taken off the WHO’s list of carcinogenic foods in 2016, a somewhat rare move. The WHO even reports that coffee may protect against cancer of the uterus and liver. And they are not alone, several other, well-known and esteemed organizations, such as The World Cancer Research Fund and the US Department of Health and Human Services, have also declared that coffee consumption in moderation (three to five cups per day) can have positive effects on your health and protect you from various forms of cancer.[2][3]

When it comes to depression, it was found that it may not be only the caffeine at play, as there are other impactful components in coffee. The more notable are chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid, and caffeic acid, all of which have been found to reduce inflammation of nerves which is found to be a factor in the brains of people suffering from depression. More good stuff!

Coffee and Anxiety

The research on coffee and anxiety, however, is not quite as positive for those who suffer from anxiety as it is for those who suffer from depression. And it’s not all that surprising either, but there was something that I did find interesting in all of the reading I did on this subject.

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By and large, it was found that if you don’t suffer from anxiety, coffee will likely not have too much of a negative impact on you when consumed in moderation. However, when caffeine doses increase to more than 400mg per day, symptoms associated with anxiety may appear, such as restlessness, jitteriness, and trouble sleeping. In those who suffer from anxiety, it will take far less to exacerbate their already present symptoms of anxiety—not too surprising.[4]

But anecdotally, there is a lot of documentation about people quitting coffee for a period of time and writing about the impact on their anxiety, which was found to be fairly negligent. So, overall, if you suffer from anxiety, there is a good chance that moderate coffee consumption will not have too much of an impact on your anxiety, though it certainly won’t help it.

How Does Coffee Affect Your Mood?

When it comes to your overall mood, the thing you should think about is how your body responds to caffeine as this is the primary issue for most people—depression or anxiety aside—and our bodies have different sensitivities to caffeine.

Some people can drink espresso right before bed and have no trouble sleeping but for others, it could guarantee a night of restlessness with lots of tossing and turning! And poor sleep contributes to irritability, less resistance to dealing with life stressors as well as other poor health indicators, and hence, lowered mood.

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential especially when dealing with chronic anxiety. So, if you fall into this camp, then it might be good for you to moderate your coffee consumption or even just evaluate and assess for yourself to see what the impact might be on a period of time with no caffeine.

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It’s important that you get to know your body and how it reacts to different substances and environments. Running a little experiment on yourself can be a fun way to get to know and understand your body and how you metabolize caffeine.

The Bottom Line on Coffee, Anxiety, and Depression

Overall, the research says that there are potentially a few health benefits when it comes to depression and coffee drinking than on coffee and anxiety—where it is found to have a negative or neutral impact. Furthermore, there is an array of other potentially beneficial health impacts from drinking coffee.[5]

Given all of this various research—some of it very promising (around depression) and some of it not surprising (anxiety)—coffee is not going to eradicate any mental health concerns, though it does not necessarily seem to cause them. The most important thing to consider when thinking about the impact of coffee drinking on your anxiety or depression is that it can aggravate sleep issues, which is a really important piece of your self-care when dealing with depression, anxiety, or any mental health issue for that matter.[6]

Wanna Cut Back on Your Coffee Drinking?

If you are looking to cut back a little on how much coffee you drink or even just run that little experiment on yourself that I was referring to, then you can start with a few simple tips.

1. Cut Back Gradually

Caffeine is a stimulant, and you will likely feel some physiological symptoms, such as a headache, brain fog, and general fatigue. This will last for a day or two, possibly more depending on how much caffeine you have been consuming. Before you start cutting back, it is good to know about how much caffeine you are drinking in a day. That way you can gradually cut back by a beverage each day or so.

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2. Make Sure You Stay Hydrated

Coffee—or caffeine for that matter—is a diuretic, which means that it will naturally dehydrate you, so cutting down will most likely help with dehydration. However, with that said, it is still important to make sure you are drinking enough fluids as that will help minimize the effects of the withdrawal.

3. Get Plenty of Rest

You will naturally feel a little tired when cutting back on caffeine/coffee, make sure you get enough rest, giving your body a chance to adjust and recuperate from the withdrawal.

4. Increase Your Physical Activity

Try to increase your physical activity a little. Physical activity is known to increase mood, which will counter the irritability you may feel when cutting back on your coffee intake.

5. Take Notes

Keep a little log or journal to write down how you are feeling on different days and how much, if any, caffeine you are drinking at various points in your “trial.” Think about your mood, how you feel, how you are sleeping, and possibly how you feel it is impacting your relationships and your daily activities. When you go back to look at your data, you will be able to assess the impact of caffeine and coffee intake more accurately.

Keep in Mind

How much coffee we drink and its impacts vary widely depending on many, many factors. The best bet for you is to know yourself, pay attention to how coffee impacts you, talk to your doctors, and consider your personal life circumstances. Taking all of these steps will help you to make an informed decision for yourself, which will likely change over time.

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Featured photo credit: Drew Coffman via unsplash.com

Reference

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