6 Practices to Escape Anxiety, Befuddlement and “the Funk”
I sat in my car last week with my eyes closed. I felt “off my game” and anxious. Only minutes remained before a very important scheduled meeting with a client. I’d never met this executive before and a lot was at stake based on whether she liked me and what I had to say. For no particular reason, I was just in a fog as I watched the clock on my dashboard.
Once inside, I was met with an aggressive and impatient personality. The executive fired questions at me, while my mind remained slow. My thoughts halted and jumped around. The words came out mixed—and also long-winded, as I somehow thought more words would add up to something coherent. My chest ached. I wanted to crawl under a rock.
After the meeting, I got back in my car and closed my eyes. The unsettled feeling wouldn’t go away. I thought, “I wonder if I could fall asleep in this parking lot and wake up feeling normal.” But the GPS told me I only had minutes to spare before driving to another meeting across town.
The next meeting was not much different. I spoke too quickly and too long. I don’t remember much of what the client said. I walked out feeling even more anxious.
Back at the office, a co-worker stopped and said something nice to me. My response was befuddled and slow. “What I just said sounded stupid,” I said to myself as I walked away, smothering any good feelings from my colleague.
Why does this happen to me some days? Does it ever happen to you? Do you ever feel the ache, the anxiety, the cloud, the confusion?
This part of being human is hard. It’s especially hard on days when you can’t hide, when the world expects you to show up for your job, your kids, your commitments.
My week improved each day after that hardest day. Intentional choices helped the cloud to lift. With the full understanding that sometimes we need professional/medical help, below are six intentional choices that helped me. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
- Routine. Daily disciplines channel my path through the activities that give me life. When I’m not feeling myself, my inclination is to lie in bed, sit in the car or hide. But going to sleep early, getting out of bed, exercising, praying, and getting to work on time have a way of moving me through the darkness.
- Remember. When I’m in a funk, I forget. I forget who I am, why I have value, that I’ve been in funks before, that I’ve gotten out of funks before and that it’s part of being human. I need to talk to myself: Matt, remember who you are and why you have value. You’ve been here before, and this will pass. Hang in there.
- Restore. I’ve figured out what fills me and what depletes me. Certain people, places, music, food and activities restore me…and certain ones drain me. So, last week in the funk, I ate healthy food and listened to Miles Davis radio on Pandora. Waiting for our kids to return from sports practice, I powered down all screens and sat in the dark relaxing. That filled me.
- Relate. There’s something about the connection with another person on an authentic level. In the midst of the funk, I was able to connect with my wife, a couple of dear friends and my parents in a genuine way. Just simple comments like “hard day,” “that’s rough,” “I’m with you,” and “hang in there” breathed life into my body and mind.
- Reproduce. Feelings follow actions. I reproduce energy when I act energetic. I reproduce positive feelings when I make positive comments. I begin to reproduce confidence when I act confident. For me, this isn’t about being a fake person. It’s about building the feelings by performing the behaviors that generate those feelings. Smiling, for example, tends to make me feel happy.
- Remain. Stay in the game. Don’t lose heart. That’s what I need to do when I’m feeling like checking out. Just keep showing up. When I check in, stand up, speak up and keep going, I begin to forget how I’m feeling because my focus shifts to other people and the tasks at hand. As Dale Carnegie says in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living: Keep busy.
This is what it means to be human. If you’re not feeling the funk, you can be sure that someone around you probably is. What gets you back to feeling like yourself?