In a slump? Unmotivated? Feeling that if only this would change and when that happens.. then you will be confident enough and energised enough to take action and make progress?
There are bound to be things you want to change about your life, you wouldn’t be reading this if that wasn’t true. On the other hand, it’s hard to make progress when you’re feeling stuck and down, so that needs tackling first. Particularly when you’re working on matters related to your career, which can be so hard on the self-esteem.
So how do you pick yourself up?
If mindset is key, what can you practically do?
The easiest and most effective ways to change mindset are not forcing yourself to be happy, beating yourself up, remembering others are worse off, or chanting fake affirmations.
The best actions are not radical changes to your situation, or at least not those BIG changes you intend in a rush of enthusiasm, only to fail at and feel worse. Equally it’s not about doing nothing, pretending all is fine or just wishing and hoping. Some action is needed.
So, based on what we know about the human brain and psychology at the moment, what is key to making a shift then? Excluding any longer term or specialist help, here are the practical things you can do TODAY:
- Sleep well - we all know it, but if this isn’t happening you could make the decision today to do what you can to tackle the issue.
Gratitude - I know, urgh feels a bit sickly. You don’t have to fake this. You can always find something and if you find 3 things every day for a month research shows your self-esteem with improve for, on average, 3 months. However bad life is, if you have a bed to sleep on indoors then you can be grateful for: a roof over your head, your bed, and the s**t day you just had being over. Ideally 3 different things each day. Morning or night time or both! If you struggle with ‘grateful’, thats okay I have an alternative.
- 'Satisfying' is easier than grateful. So it might be as simple as the comfort of your pillow, the smell of your coffee, anything at all and you can find the smallest things throughout the day. This sort of bring us onto number 4..
- Meditation or Mindfulness. You don’t have to sit in the lotus position on a cushion, though of course you can. It’s just getting away from electronic devices, turning off the radio or TV and going about routine tasks in a way that you are present. You then become aware. Aware of your thoughts, feelings, emotions. Not in order to judge or control them but just to become aware. This can be a revelation for many people if done regularly. From a position of increased awareness you can find thoughts and feelings you want to work on changing, but that’s for another time. If you want and can sit still that’s great. Or perhaps get outside in nature, a walk is ideal. Which links to the next habit to try.
- Exercise. Some people already know and experience the dopamine hit of exercise, for others (like me) it’s never been something they’ve naturally turned to. But I have now made a morning walk a habit. If I can go from “yeah I know I enjoy once I’m out but today I’m feeling a bit tired, it’s a bit cold, I should do x instead” to the point of not even thinking about it and just going every morning...then so can you. Be kind to yourself though. Don't expect the habit to form quickly you need to stick with it and keep trying. Go for habit over intensity, i.e. tiniest walk most days is better than 3 long hikes then stopping before it's a habit.
- Help someone else. It doesn’t have to be anything too heavy or emotionally draining, start small. Being ready to give directions to someone who is lost, striking up a conversation at a bus stop, helping a neighbour with heavy shopping. Just saying good morning or paying a compliment. Making others feel good will make you feel good.
If you can start by making any of the above regular parts of your routine, you can then add in another and another. Any change (even if we know it’s good for us) can cause resistance in the brain so can take time.
But once you get past a certain point your brain will say “oh, okay you’re serious about this, so I’ll move energy away from having to think about each time and make it a habit”.
Once something is a habit then the magic happens because questioning and resistance go down, it uses up far less energy and you get a greater confidence that you can do whatever it is you were intending to tackle.
The knowledge that you can count on yourself to follow through, on top of the above being good habits for well-being anyway, makes such an impact on what you can get out of life. Momentum builds and before you know it, you will be 'unstuck'.
When you can face some of the above steps and feel better, you can then set about taking action in relation to your career goals. Those can be particularly daunting, so I have another blog post (or two) coming soon on how to make those steps easier.
Alternatively, if you are in work but feeling stuck and ready to make a change now, then the bet investment in yourself and your future might be one to one support.