March can be rough, especially up here in New England where the promise of Spring rings hollow when you're tromping through the snow. If you, like me, are finding yourself knee deep in a classic funk, here are five things you can do today to help move yourself in a more positive direction. I won't call them easy because absolutely nothing is easy when you're in a funk. But these steps are short and straightforward and might give you just the jolt you need.
1. Go outside.
I know. It's cold and icy, and the fuzzy socks you're wearing are too thick for your boots. The couch and the blankets are embracing you in one giant soft hug, and they would probably be sad if you left. Also, you were just thinking about maybe doing some dishes. Maybe. And you can't do dishes if you're outside.
I know all of this. Go outside anyway. Look up at the sky. Look down at the ground under your feet. Put the palm of your hand against a tree. Breathe in. Breathe out.
2. Put down the food.
Do not stop at the gas station for donuts. Shove that jar of peanut butter back into the pantry. And for the love of God, step away from the Cheetos. I'm not bashing the Cheetos - they're delicious. Except when you're eating them day after day after day to fill a void. Any food consumed for the purpose of filling a void tastes like cardboard dipped in nothing sauce. Even Cheetos.
This might be the hardest thing you have to do. Remember how it feels when the bag is empty and your fingers are orange and all you can think about is another bag. Hint: it feels like sh*t and not at all like being satiated.
3. Call a friend.
Stop pretending that you lost your phone or that you can't hear me over the noise from the nine-thousandth episode of 30 Rock you've watched today. Put down the block of cheese, and dial the number for someone you like. Ask them how their day was, what's been going on with their marriage or their job or their kids or their art or the cute guy they've been obsessing over.
Listen. Listen to something other than the cranky ramblings of your own mind.
I know. Your legs are sore from walking up and down the stairs to get more peanut butter. And dancing is the absolute last thing you want to do. You're tired - exhausted really - and not interested in anything so rambunctious. You're not even sure you could will your body to move in a happy way.
Maybe you're right. But try this for me anyway. Go into your kitchen (kitchen dancing is the best) and put on your favorite peppy music. No sad stuff. I know you like at least something with a beat. Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift or Sir Mix a Lot or the Four Seasons or the Beastie Boys or your Pitbull Pandora station. Absolutely no Adele. Give yourself ten minutes. No pressure. Just nod your head along to the music. See what happens.
5. Get it done.
Your to-do list is out of control, or else you've just stopped keeping one because honestly, you're so lazy and disorganized that what's the point? Your sink is full of dishes, your bedroom looks like it was robbed by a psychotic clothes whore, your inbox is a disaster, and everything you've ever promised anyone you'd do has fallen through the cracks.
I hear you. You're a complete and total waste of space. But just humor me on this one. Set a timer for 10 minutes. And then go. Don't think. Just do. Make your bed. Answer an email. Wash some dishes. Just for 10 minutes. Then this is the most important part: when the timer dings, pat yourself on the back. Literally reach your arm over your shoulder, pat yourself on the back, and say (out loud), "Hey, good job, you." Go sit back down on the couch or do another 10 minutes. Either way, well done.
Above all, be compassionate with yourself. You won't be perfect, and getting out of your funk takes time. Try not to berate yourself if you don't wake up tomorrow morning feeling like a million bucks. Also, one word of caution: when you're in a funk, being compassionate can get a little confusing. What seems like compassion at other times - hey, I had a long week. It's okay if I veg on the couch for 4 hours tonight watching a Friends marathon - might not be compassion when you're in a funk. When you're in a funk, your compassion might need to be a little tougher. Compassion might need to get you up off the couch and outside for a walk because staying there and watching the next episode guarantees you'll stay in that funk.
If you hadn't noticed, I could have titled this post "Dear Katie," but I thought there might be some other folks out there who'd benefit from the same advice I've been trying to give myself. And being nice to people is another thing that can help get you out of your funk. So there you go.
One final note: I'm not a therapist or a medical professional. If you think you may be clinically depressed or could just use someone to talk to, please seek out a therapist. Therapy is for winners.