For 5 years of my life, somewhere in the murky waters of my late teens and early 20’s, my life was like a slow-motion race to the bottom between eating a terrible diet, smoking cigarettes, partying too hard, driving too fast, staying up until dawn, mixing with people who weren’t resourceful to my cause, and harboring complete apathy towards anything beyond tomorrow.
I was going to live forever, so anything that involved responsibility or serious planning could wait until later.
Just a few years on, it seems like a hazy drug-dream already, but I can’t lie, especially on a blog called TruthInjected – it was fun. I don’t regret a thing (that I can remember).
But it wasn’t sustainable, and eventually, the mythical time of “later” came knocking.
It would be cliché to say that I woke up in an emergency room, after crashing my overpowered car, having a heart attack, or being diagnosed with a lung condition, and a light shone down from the heavens, enlightening me to the error of my ways and spurring me on to atone.
But that isn’t what happened at all. There was no cataclysmic health scare or smouldering car wreck.
Fortunately, reality was far more boring than that.
It was more like an itch – a gradual realization that I no longer wanted to be tearing around in a Subaru at 4am, with a Red Bull in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Watching cars do burnouts and partying until I passed out on a friend’s floor just didn’t hold the same luster it once did.
What was once the summit of my teenage lifestyle aspirations, gradually took on a gnawing element of dullness and self-loathing, over a few months. The writing was on the wall – I had outgrown my old concept of fulfillment.
Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t unable to function. I still got promoted in my career and had a stable relationship with my amazing girlfriend during this time, so from the outside, you could be forgiven for not even noticing anything amiss.
You might call this “part of growing up”, but for me, becoming aware of my juvenile habits and gazing up with a slack jaw at the mountain before me was my personal “rock-bottom”.
Not because I was broke or homeless or sick, but because everything needed to change, and I needed to start taking action. And over a year into the journey, it is still an ongoing process.
Your challenges are probably different to mine.
If your slump looks like a messy divorce with a demonic ex-wife who screwed your best friend and now wants to take your kids and house, or your boss fired you and you are staring down the barrel of foreclosure, you have my utmost empathy. There is no contest that your hell burns hotter than mine did.
But whatever your slump looks like, there will be a key parallel to mine – I guarantee it.
You need to make a lot of changes fast, in order to get out of the mess that you are in.
Even though the content may be different, the context is the same, and the way to address context is with general principles.
These are the steps that I took gradually turn things around:
1. Make a wish list
Let’s say you can magically change anything in your life, just by writing it down. What would you put on the list?
You don’t need to imagine this part – you can actually make that list. Take note of what is you want to see change. It might be a long list or it might be a short one. Just get everything written down that is contributing to your negative mind state.
Don’t even think about what the new solutions will be, how feasible they are, or how they are going to happen right now – that’s not your concern at the moment. Just write everything down that you aren’t happy with and go and do something relaxing.
You will probably feel lighter just for having everything on paper – as though the contents of your brain aren’t constantly bashing around inside your skull anymore.
Now that you have taken a break, put the list in order.
What is the most burning issue that you need to resolve? That goes at the top of the list, and so on down.
Again, don’t pick them based on how easy they will be to change (tempting, I know), just focus on each issue and how urgently it needs to be resolved, based on how heavily it is weighing on your mind. You will know this intuitively.
3. Set realistic goals
Now, it is time to start looking at the solutions.
They don’t even need to be fully-developed plans of attack yet – just go with a theme.
Is your crappy job at the top of your list? Make a resolution that you will update your resume by the end of the week. That’s much more achievable than making your goal to have a new job by the end of the month, and taking small steps is a good way to keep from being overwhelmed.
You can always set a new goal for this problem once your resume is updated.
4. Just show up
Realizing that you are in a slump can be draining. You likely won’t feel like you have the energy that you need to change your circumstances, and that in itself can become a self-perpetuating cycle of wanting to change, while feeling too exhausted to do anything.
But you don’t need to fix everything right now. You don’t even need to fix anything significant.
[RELATED: How to Eat an Elephant*]
Once you have you list prioritized, just chip away at one task each day and you will be amazed at your progress over a week.
This is a hard one for me to even add to the list, given my propensity to hole myself up for days at a time without speaking to anyone aside from my girlfriend, but it can be helpful.
Just having a connection to the outside world can make a huge difference – even if it is totally unrelated to your personal re-launch.
For me, just writing these posts and sharing what I have learned adds an extra layer of purpose – it motivates me to actually push on because “people are watching now”. Turn that discomfort at people holding you accountable into fuel. You will be less likely to give up if you have an audience.
Also, sharing what you have learned is a great way to ingrain the lessons into yourself, which is part of the reason for writing this post.
These are just some other tips and tricks that I have found useful, but may or may not apply to your personal situation.
If the things that you want to change are habitual, such as smoking cigarettes, eating too many cupcakes, or even negative states of mind, replace a bad habit with a good one.
[RELATED: How to Quit Any Habit FOR GOOD!]
I explain the process further in the above article, and elaborate on my own story of swapping cigarettes for a vaporizer while progressively reducing the nicotine content. Small steps add up.
Find Your Passion
While not absolutely necessary for all recoveries, a lot of slumps stem from a lack of passion or purpose.
[RELATED: How to Find your Passion]
For me, I always wanted to get my teeth stuck into something and start an “empire”. Building things from the ground up and finding ways to improve is a passion of mine, hence my obsession with games like Football Manager.
Video games are a notoriously difficult way to earn a living, though, and I am not good enough at them to win any awards. But I’ve always been pretty good at writing in a coherent, structured way.
So I combined the two and am now building a blog empire.
It should go without saying, but it probably doesn’t – this is NOT professional advice, and I am not a shrink. I’m just your friendly internet buddy sharing a story and telling you what worked for me. I obviously can’t guarantee it will work for you.
If you’re in something deeper than a slump, do seek out professional advice from someone who is trained to help.