Oh, GAWD – The Funk. I’m not talking about the teat-ridden Old Gregg kind either.
We’ve all experienced The Funk at some time or other. It’s shit. Really, really shit. But also… essential? Because really, it’s during funks that we begin to reevaluate things. After all, The Funk wouldn’t come for us at all if our lives were ticking along swimmingly.
For me personally, thinking of The Funk as something that has purpose can make things feel less grey. My most recent Funk was a long one from which I have only just emerged. Happily though, it not only made me realise that I needed to take better care of myself, but it also pushed me to change certain things in my life for the better. I have emerged happier, more focused, and free of some toxic individuals and situations that I found the strength to walk away from. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t feel fucking horrible at the time.
As such, I have compiled some tips for dealing with The Funk while you’re riding it out. These tips will not make The Funk go away – only time will take care of that – but they will make it a hell of a lot easier to live with.
1.Stop fighting the funk
The belief that we can control how we feel is at best misguided and at worst, damaging. Emotions are natural. Yes, they are sometimes irrational, but they are essential; they’re what guide us through life. We know not to walk down that dark alley with a terrible reputation at 3am because our fear tells us not to. We know the kind of people we want in our lives because we feel positive and rejuvenated after spending time with them.
You wouldn’t tell yourself that you shouldn’t have these feelings – so why do you tell yourself that you shouldn’t have The Funk? The more you deny its existence, the more insidious it becomes. You’re already feeling crappy, right? So why make it worse by heaping guilt and shame on yourself? Why exhaust yourself by denying it?
Do yourself a favour, and just accept that The Funk is where you are right now. And that’s okay. Funks are part of the human experience. It’s okay to have bad days, months or years. It’s all about how you manage them.
So try this…
2. Practice a little gratitude.
Now I’m not saying you should leap out of bed every morning, kiss the floor, throw your arms skywards and shout “THANK YOU FOR MY LIFE!” Unless that’s your bag, in which case go ahead.
What I’m suggesting is being thankful for the little things. Make eye contact with the bus driver and say thank you; don’t just tap your pass and run along. Leave a note thanking the cleaner for busting his or her ass to make your desk habitable long after you’ve gone home. Thank the lecturer after class. Acknowledging the seemingly small, everyday things that other people do for you can make a world of difference.
You can also take a moment to be mindfully thankful. Something I do when I’m feeling low is to take a few minutes or so to think about all the good things in my life. The beauty of this is it that it can be performed anywhere – you just need a few quiet moments to yourself. Close your eyes and do it on the bus. Sit on your bed when you first wake up in the morning and run your mind.
It might feel like everything has turned to shit, but you’ll be surprised by just how many things you can think of – even acknowledging the things you take for granted, such as having a roof over your head, can make you feel just that little bit better.
Speaking of running your mind…
3. Listen to what you have to say.
You are likely in the throes of The Funk because your life has taken a wrong turn somewhere, big or small. It’s a good idea to think about what you are trying to tell yourself right now. Are you ruminating on something specific? Are you dissatisfied with your job, for example, or are there problems in your relationship? Don’t dismiss these thoughts. Yes, it can be painful to focus on what it is that’s making you feel crappy, but you’re going to feel it at some point. The longer you try to squash these thoughts down like items in an over-packed suitcase, the harder they’re going to bite you on the bum when you can’t fight them off anymore. Trust me, it will happen.
Luckily, discontent really is the first step to change. You might not be able to fix everything right away – hell, you might not even have the energy because The Funk has a habit of draining that right out of you – but the first step is knowing what you need to fix. If your head, heart or gut are ever telling you something that you don’t want to hear… well, that’s usually the best sign that you should swallow your pride and listen.
Then you can…
4. Take control.
Being in a funk can make you feel helpless. I suggested accepting that you’ve got The Funk, but I never said anything about submitting to it. So take control. Prepare for change.
Start by making a list of everything that’s not right about your life right now. Consider relationships with the people around you, frustrations with where you’re at in life, things you aren’t doing that you should be or want to be… anything at all you can think of that you would like to improve. Be really, really honest with yourself.
Then, one by one, think about how you want to tackle these things. How are you going to salvage that sour friendship? Can you sit down and talk it out? When and how will you do it and what will you say? Maybe you just missed out on a promotion, or didn’t get the grades you were expecting. What made you fall short this time and how can you improve? How will you work towards the change? Make little plans. Remember the SMART targets that were shoved down your throat at school. They’re cheesy but they work. Just sitting down and really thinking everything out will automatically make you feel better, because you’re doing something. You’re taking the first few steps to send The Funk on its merry way.
Consider also the small things you can do right now to make life feel a little brighter. Working towards good health is an important consideration. The benefits of exercise on our mental health are well documented. Maybe you could squeeze in a run in a couple of times a week, or even think about taking a brisk walk during your lunch hour. Or perhaps you could take ten minutes in the evening for a quick meditation session. If you’re new to meditation there are hundreds of brilliant guided meditation videos on YouTube, of varying lengths and on different topics.
It doesn’t all have to be about you, though…
5. Make someone else smile.
Ah, the simple compliment. It’s funny how a quick kind word to another person can boost our own mood. Like someone’s shoes? Tell them! Think they did a great job on whatever they did a great job on? Let them know. Seeing their eyes light up will make you feel warm, and knowing you boosted their day will feel pretty good in itself. Putting positive energy out into the world is the best way of ensuring it flies right back at you, like a warm and fuzzy boomerang.
Gratitude also comes into play again here. Let a treasured friend or family member know how much you appreciate them. Perhaps they’ve been supportive whilst you’ve been fighting your funk, listening to your troubles and offering solutions. Send them a heartfelt card to say thank you, or take them out for a meal at their favourite restaurant. Of course, you don’t really need a reason to do these things; it’s always nice to make someone else feel appreciated.
You could even take it one step further and think about volunteering. If you love animals, maybe you could help out at a local shelter for a few hours every weekend. You could also helps others by volunteering at a soup kitchen or joining a befriending scheme for vulnerable people or the elderly. Helping people will bring you outside of your own troubles for a while and better still, make a real difference to their lives.
And when you get home, you can…
6. Treat yourself!
Sometimes, it’s the little things that make us feel better. If you’ve had an especially rough week, treat yourself to a massage or a haircut. If you can’t afford it, put on some relaxing music, get yourself a cheap face pack and spend the evening pampering yourself. Absorb how good your moisturiser feels on your skin, breathe in the smell.
You could also treat yourself to something naughty, maybe some chocolate whilst you watch your favourite film, or order in a pizza to chill with when you’re feeling too beaten down to cook. Don’t make a habit of this, especially if you’re prone to comfort eating when you’re feeling down; you don’t want to get into that cycle and thus prolong The Funk.
Getting out of the house is great too. Purchase a ticket to the cinema or the theatre, spend a day out in a museum or an art gallery; anything you like. Just make sure you’re reminding yourself of the simple pleasures in life. Or even the not so simple ones – take a holiday if you can afford it! I am a great advocate of taking city breaks by yourself. It’s a chance to get away and do exactly what you want to do. Seeing new places will again remind you that there is life outside of what you’re experiencing at the moment. Big old world out there.
The bottom line is that it’s important to remind yourself that you can still experience pleasure. And make yourself do it too; the more you decide you haven’t got time or motivation to do nice things for yourself, the further into The Funk you will sink. Which leads me to my next point…
7. Do what you love.
Not only can hobbies and interests be a great distraction from feeling crappy, they can also provide a sense of purpose. Engaging in what you love reminds you of who you are as an individual. It will not only give you something to look forward to, it will remind you what having fun is like, something that might feel long forgotten in the everyday throes of Funkland.
Whether it’s playing an instrument, hiking, painting, writing a blog about daffodils… get on it. Work on developing your skill, or just do it because it makes you happy. It doesn’t matter. This might also be a good time to try something completely new. Have you been meaning to sign up for those local ballet lessons for a year and a half, or do you want to try pottery? Do it! Can’t be bothered to do it? Force yourself! You never know where trying something new will lead you. If you can just show up and give it a go, everything else will take care of itself from there.
So, here you are doing all these great things to help yourself and improve your life. But if you can’t do it all alone…
8. Seek counselling.
Even if you have the greatest, most supportive people in your life who are willing to talk things through with you until the cows come home, sometimes going one step further and seeking counselling is just what you need. Talking with someone who doesn’t know you and can help you fight The Funk with a degree of objectivity can really help you make sense of things.
Here in the UK, CBT is available on the NHS and you can ask to be referred through your GP. CBT is extremely beneficial and suitable for just about everybody, but be prepared that you may have to wait for a couple of months to be seen depending on demand in your area.
The other, quicker option is to pay to speak with someone. The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy provides this list, where you can find someone who either provides general counselling or someone who specialises in something more specific to your own issues.
Realistically, a private counsellor is too pricey for many of us. Another option is to seek counselling through a charitable organisation. Some mental health and wellbeing charities will offer free counselling, although this does depend on the area. Other charities will ask you to pay, but their fee schemes will usually be based on a sliding scale, where they will ask you to pay depending on your income. Free self-help talking groups are also an option. Have a browse online and see what’s available in your location.
You could also call The Samaritans. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be suicidal to speak to them (although if you are, please get your ass on the phone to them right now, or better still get your ass down to A&E). It is free to call them in the UK on 116 123. It’s completely confidential and the number won’t show up on a phone bill.
Finally, keep in mind, no matter how bad things feel right now… it will pass. The Funk sucks, but it’s always temporary. Keep fighting.