Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Slumps, Ruts and Cycles

Sometimes the universe gives you a nudge.  Sometimes the universe grabs you by the shoulders, shakes you and says “Pay attention to me!!  I’m trying to make a point here!!”.
I recently was pulled into a conversation with someone about how a mutual friend has fallen into something of a slump.  This sort of thing has happened with before with this person and they seem to break out of it within a few weeks. I was relieved, because I have seen many times where what is originally more of a cyclical slump becomes longer term if not permanent.
I see cycles all around.  The economy is a good example, of course.  I personally tend to cycle up and down with regards to my creativity.  The effects of cycles, both up and down, are particularly apparent and pronounced when it comes to those in the sales profession.  A salesperson can be going great guns one month (the feast), and barely getting by the next (that would be the famine).
There’s always a danger of letting a cyclical slump gain a foothold and become long-term or even permanent.  I’ve seen it happen and I’m not afraid to say I’ve let it happen myself.  Something’s off... your sales are down, creative output is diminished, that job opportunity evaporates... and your attitude might suffer (even temporarily), thus affecting other spheres of life.  You then have an effect of one domino knocking over another, until a new set of problems arise.  While you might be able to rise out of that down cycle/ slump/ rut/ call it what you will there is often collateral damage along the way.  Many don’t understand that isn’t a permanent situation and will back away.  Sad but true.  That happened to me not so long ago, but I have bounced back in a spectacular fashion.   

Be consistent with the important things
When you fall into a slump it’s easy to let things slide.  You feel a little down and it’s harder than normal to give your best effort.  That’s exactly the worst thing to do.  You have to, at minimum, put forth at least your normal effort... otherwise things can really begin a rapid downhill slide.  Your best bet is to put forth even more than your normal effort.  That may be what’s required to break that slump and to keep that slump from turning into something longer-term (what is often referred to as a rut).

Change your routine with the little things
Sometimes what you need is a break or change in your routine.  Doing so can help get your head into a slightly different place and perhaps cause you to view yourself and your situation from a slightly different angle. I’m not talking about major changes here...
  • Take a different route to (or from) work.
  • Listen to a band you’ve never heard before.
  • Shop at a different grocery store.
  • Go somewhere different for lunch.
  • Check out a random book from the library and give it a read.
  • Etc.
You get the idea.  The point is to get you out of your stressed out/ bummed out headpsace and thinking differently.  Every little bit helps.

Watch out for the domino effect
So that great job prospect evaporated.  That sale your were counting on didn’t come to pass. Such is life.  It becomes very easy to let other things slide.  You quit that exercise program.  You start drinking again.  Others may want to spend less time with you, since you seem so down.  Etc. Etc.  
Draw a line in the sand.  Don’t let what’s happening seep into other spheres of your life.

Check your attitude and control your emotions
It’s easy to get sucked down into a whirlpool of negative emotions when a slump starts to take hold.  You may get angry at yourself or others.  You could get more and more depressed.  As above, draw a line and take control.  Be conscious of your emotions and how they are affecting you.

Get support
Just as there are people who will back away and even abandon you when you hit a down cycle, there are those who will stand by your side no matter what happens.  While you can’t expect someone else to solve your problems for you, there’s a lot to be said for just talking it out.  You might find that others have been there too and have come out of it.  You’ll soon realize that you will too... if one person can rise up, you can as well.

One of the best things you can do for yourself when you hit a slump is to workout.  This is true for a couple reasons.  For one thing, working out (especially when you don’t feel like it) shows mastery of yourself and this sends a definitive signal to the rest of your psyche that you are in charge.  You are in control.  You are empowered.  That is exactly what you need.
Exercise also releases endorphins, often referred to as “nature’s happy drug”.  The onset of a slump often results in at least a low-level depression and a dose of endorphins will help stave that off.  I’ve come to realize that there is a strong mind-body connection, one that goes both ways.  A few good workouts can help break a negative emotional cycle (best of all, you might find that you actually like it).  
Understand that I’m not necessarily suggesting you take up CrossFit or tackle P90X (though if you’re so inclined, more power to you).  A walk around the block can work wonders.  Perhaps some yoga as well.  You might even want to try this...

Momentum: hold on to it for dear life
You made that sale. You got the job.  You finally finished a short story you’ve been working on.  Whatever the case, you know have a strong foothold in getting out of that hole.  Take full advantage of that momentum and energy.  Vault right out of that hole you’ve created for yourself and back where you know you should be.

When an airplane takes off the pilot has to go full throttle.  Once the plane is at a cruising altitude, the pilot can ease back on the throttle and cruise.  Conquering that slump is a lot like that.  It will take a lot of energy, effort and courage at first, but you will reach your own cruising altitude soon enough.
I’ve done it and I’ve seen others do it too.  Now it’s your turn.

Here’s some links with more helpful ideas...