Feeling Down: Finding a Way Out
You can’t define it
but you know it
good, and you
wish it would go
away. Or at least
take a long winter
vacation. How do
you know how
much of this is
stuff and how
much of it
attention, possible professional
There are seeds
Disorder and Anxiety Disorder in most of the daily
discomfort we experience, but many times a few
practical steps can pluck us from the ennui into
☞ Give it a name. Most of the time “blah” can
be more precisely defined. Are you more anxious
than depressed? Are you frustrated? Angry? Are
your emotions a result of perfectionist qualities, of
unrealistic expectations? Are you hurt because of a
friend or family member but aren’t aware of it?
Awhile back, my kids returned from school with a
“vocabulary of feelings” they received from the
guidance counselor. Apparently, there are more feelings than just “bad,” “worse,” and “definitely not
good.” There are four emotions that start with the
letter A alone: angry, annoyed, anxious, apologetic.
Identifying a more accurate definition of your discomfort can help you better know the origins of it,
and what next steps might help you feel better.
☞ Practice mental hygiene. I won’t tell you
to brush your teeth while repeating affirmations.
This is not the mental hygiene I’m talking about. I’m
referring to keeping a regular schedule, which I realize can seem nearly impossible. However, as productive as you think you are at one in the morning writing song lyrics or the first chapter to the next great
American novel, your body is literally breaking
down. The inconsistency in sleep affects circadian
rhythms, our internal biological clocks, which govern
fluctuations in body temperature, brain-wave activity,
cell regeneration, and hormone production. The shift
in hormone levels absolutely contributes to malaise
and anxiety. So, while its great to want to express
yourself creatively or nurture that great thought,
you’d be happier if you did it before 10:00 at night.
It is also helpful to designate a set time to eat
meals and to give your day more routine, in general,
so that your body knows that it studies after dinner,
exercises after school, and so on. Our entire selves—
mind, body, and spirit—crave the structure, as boring as it may be.
☞ Close some doors.You
have lots of opportunities and
options. While it is right to feel
blessed to have so many options,
the reality is that opportunities
themselves create stress and
anxiety, especially for the introspective kind. Why? Choosing
one thing over another is like
saying good-bye over and over
again. It sounds melodramatic,
but you are, in effect, mourning a
loss with each decision.
According to Dan Ariely, a
professor of behavioral economics
at MIT and author of Predictably
Irrational, there is wisdom in
“A day dawns, quite
like the other days;
in it a single hour
comes, quite like
other hours; but in
that day and in that
hour the chance of
a lifetime faces us.”
Life is a mystery to be lived,
not a problem to be solved.
closing a few doors, even if doing so feels counterintuitive. He conducted a series of experiments
where hundreds of students could not bear to let
their options vanish. Dr. Ariely advises students and
readers that by closing the door to options, we free
ourselves from undue stress and burden.
☞ Stop multitasking. According to performance coach Heidi Hanna, Ph.D., we spend only 10
percent of our time in the current moment, 50 percent anticipating what’s
ahead of us, and 40 per“Days go by,
cent looking back.
Although most of us
I catch myself smile
brag about our ability to
multitask, the research
more than you’d ever expect.
says folks who completed two simultaneous
It’s been a long while
tasks took up to 30 percent longer and made
since it’s been okay
twice as many mistakes
as those who completed
to feel this way.”
the same tasks in
sequence. But inefficien—Duncan Sheik,
cy isn’t the only draw“Days Go By”
back of texting in
English class or at work,
multitasking also creates higher levels of cortisol,
the stress hormone responsible for most funks.
☞ Get a best friend. We are social creatures.
We need community to thrive. Intimate relationships
improve cardiovascular function and immunity and
protect blood pressure from rising. Social connection
has been tied to a release of oxytocin, a hormone
that reduces anxiety and improves focus and concentration. It’s all good stuff. But even better is getting a best friend. Having a really close friend helps
everyone get through those tough, stressful times.
So, if you are going to text in class or at work, you
should text your best friend.
☞ Unpack the Negative Thinking. It can
sometimes take work to stop engaging in negative
self-talk. One thing you might try to do involves
unpacking your thoughts. So, perhaps one box says,
“I’m going to fail school.” Inside of that box is one
labeled “I’m horrible at math.” Inside that one, “I
don’t understand calculus.” And then finally, “I
need to find someone who can help me with calculus.” The exercise demonstrates that most of our
big, looming thoughts can be broken down into
manageable bites that, with some action, don’t
always have to weigh so heavily on us.
down serves a good
purpose. It can help us realign ourselves with our
values, commit to a healthier lifestyle, encourage us
to define our feelings, inspire us to reach out for
help, and sometimes propel us into action.
Although it seems as though we are permanently
secured in that “blah” place forever, the way out is
© 2013 Saint Meinrad Archabbey, St. Meinrad, IN 47577.
Published by Abbey Press.
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Written by Therese Borchard
Designed by Mary E. Bolin.