WE ALL GET FRUSTRATED AND HIT ROADBLOCKS. DO YOU HAVE THE Right TOOLS TO GET BACK ON TRACK? HERE ARE MY HACKS
You know that feeling when things just get overwhelming; a project that you normally love is all the sudden stressful, your attitude sucks and you feel like the whole world is against you? Or you just feel down and need a serious perspective shift?
If you’re an artist, entrepreneur, or hustler in any way – this is guaranteed to happen from time to time, and nothing kills your productivity more than a bad attitude. So what do you do when it does?
Over the years I’ve developed a few hacks that help me get my mental game back on track. At least one of the following techniques almost always works. Sometimes the very first one, sometimes I have to try a few.
Take a minute to reflect what tends to make you feel good, and make your own list for when things get tough.
Here's my list to help you get the juices flowing.
1. Think of someone else or group of people that are or have ACTUALLY suffered, then count yourself lucky.
This almost always works for me. It’s essentially a gratitude exercise. Is your life or situation really that bad? Have you ever been travelling or even just been walking in your neighborhood and seen someone in a situation you felt bad for? Think of that person. Think of the struggles they probably have to go through on a daily basis – what their reality is like.
Or what about victims of the Holocaust, or the Rawandan genocide? I don’t mean to be depressing, but these people ACTUALLY suffered. Can you really even compare your situation to theirs? Probably not. You are blessed and lucky, don’t forget that (listen to Natalie Merchant’s “These are the days” – you won’t regret it;-).
For me, I often think of the “Butterfly” boy. He’s a little boy (probably a young man by now), with a very rare skin condition where his skin literally falls off everyday. His mom spends 4 hours a day wrapping him with guaze and bandages, which basically serves as his skin because he doesn’t have any in some places. CAN YOU IMAGINE??
The poor little guy is in serious pain every single day of his life, can barely walk, and still manages to have an amazingly positive outlook on life. My heart goes out to this kid every time I think about him, and I either end up getting chills or tearing up when I write about him. I’m sorry to say it, but your situation probably isn’t as bad as his. BUCK UP.
2. Practice Negative Visualization
Negative visualization is a technique popularized by the Stoics. It basically works like this: take a few minutes to visualize something bad happening to you or someone you love. I know this sounds morbid, but just trust me. It can be something relatively mild, or even something more serious. The important thing is to take some time to sit with how you feel.
If you’re an athlete and you visualize that you got in an accident and had to have your leg amputated, how would that make you feel? How would it affect your life? Really try and pretend it happened. It helps if you close your eyes. After you sit with it, open your eyes and look at your leg – you still have it. Thank God, right? How thankful are you for that leg all the sudden? Take the time to be grateful that bad thing didn’t happen.
3. Get something done
I don’t know about you, but if I’m feeling unmotivated or like a piece of shit, there is usually a direct correlation to something that is not getting done. Even something simple like that dirty laundry that is piling up. It’s piling up because I am putting off doing it, and that is likely not sitting well with my psyche (see mental clutter, 2 minute rule). If I start to do some of these small tasks, especially first thing in the morning (my morning routine), my piece of shit feeling starts to recede. Plus, this stuff is easy, just bust it out and you will be on your way to entering the Zone.
4. Call somebody you care about
I use this technique when I really get in a funk or weird mental space. I’m a writer and entrepreneur. I work alone and independently A LOT. I am literally cooped up in my little apartment, pounding out the work or procrastinating in some way or another. Sometimes this leads to misery (Btw – you need to learn how to be miserable, but that’s another topic for another day).
If you are in the business of building something (blog, business, art), then you, in the words of one of my favorite authors, you have:
“Volunteered for hell, whether you know it or not. You will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation. Because this is war baby. And war is hell.”
– Steve Pressfield
In war, we need allies, and if, scratch that, when this starts to happen you can utilize any of the methods in this article, but I find this one especially useful when I’m feeling isolated.
Just do it – call your buddy you haven’t talked to in a while.
Of course you can call your mom or your best friend, but I find that because you are so comfortable with those people, it isn’t as effective to jolt you out of your misery funk. Sometimes I’ll also just go out into the world, a coffee shop or something, and strike up a convo with a rando. The goal is to push the mental reset button. Usually interacting with someone about something completely non-related to your work does just that.
5. Go outside for no reason
Again, the idea here is to reset. Go outside. Get some fresh air. Take a walk and get your heart pumping a bit. If you have somewhere to go where you can observe nature, do it. Beautiful landscapes have a way of calming us down, and cheering us up. It works for me every time.
Let me say right up front, this is an area I am still exploring and by no means an expert in. Although I have always been fairly introspective, intentionally focusing on my present state of being is a work in progress. Have you ever heard the phrase “If you’re depressed, you are living in the past. If you’re anxious, you are living in the future. If you’re at peace, you are living in the present.” Yeah well, I kinda find that to be true.
Mindfulness is all about the present. Sitting with it, being in it. Experiencing things literally as they come, and only focusing on that. What thoughts are you thinking, what feelings are you feeling, how does your body feel at this very moment? Take a moment and close your eyes and just focus on your breathing. Nothing else. Just your breathing. Count your breathes if you need to, one on the inhale, two on the exhale.
Thoughts will jump into your head. Just let them come and then slowly let them fade away and try and bring your focus back to your breathing. Don’t judge yourself if thoughts keep coming. Just try to focus, and if it’s hard just accept it. You will get better as you practice. After a while you’ll really start to notice some great benefits. You’ll feel more calm, able to focus throughout the day, etc.
7. Plant love
It might be sound a bit odd to some of you, but plant love is real (in my opinion ha). You pet owners will be able to relate. How much do you love your pets? A shit ton right? You give them love and they supply the love right back. I’m a big dog guy. I had them during a different phase in my life, but right now while I don’t have them, plants are a great substitute. I seriously treat my plants like pets. I talk to them, give them love by touching them and sending them good energy.
I had a friend that did this. At the time I was like, ‘is she nuts.’ She swore it helps the plants thrive. I’m a total convert. I used to have plants and they would always die. Now, I give them love – and what do you know, they are thriving! And it makes me happy. This probably isn’t for everyone, but if you are curious, give it a try – it’s pretty fucking awesome.
8. Wishing for random people to be happy
This one works. Every. Single. Time. If I’m pissed, upset, and feeling in a funk, or even when everything is fine and I just want a little boost, I do this exercise. Here’s how it works. Pick a person in your life. It could be someone you know really well and care about a ton, a total stranger like someone you passed on the street this morning, or the concierge person at your apartment building – you get the idea.
Btw, I find picking a stranger is incredibly effective and makes me feel even better. Reason being, of course we want our family and friends to be happy – kinda a no brainer. Most of us actively do things to contribute to this happiness. The thing about a stranger is that we have no idea what their situation is. Maybe they have the coolest life with tons of people that love them. Or maybe they are struggling and are lonely. Either way, send them some love.
Okay so back to how it works. Pick your person, then spend a few minutes hoping that they are happy and what that might look like for them. Visualize it if you can. How might some really cool thing happening to them affect their life? Try and send that person good vibes. Sit with it. You might be shocked at how it makes you feel.
9. Go do a hobby
For those of you who read my blog, you know I have a lot of interests. When I’m feeling shitty, I try and carve out time to go do things I love. I try and reflect for a second, what is it that I feel like doing right this second. I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes some of my favorite things in the world just don’t sound appealing. If that’s the case, just pick one of your things that doesn’t sound the worst.
It sounds so obvious, but if something sounds okay at that moment, do that thing. Your soul is talking to you, and you probably need that thing. This gets tough when you’ve got plans with other people, but you should be surrounding yourself with the type of people that if you’re ‘not feeling it’, that you can be comfortable saying so with no hard feelings. If you’re sick of your hobbies or don’t have any, go learn something new. Maybe it will turn into a hobby, and end up providing a lot of joy later on down the road.
10. Listen to some good music
I’m a music freak. Some of the most profoundly meaningful moments and experiences in my life have centered around music. So, for me, this almost always works. Again, its highly dependent on my mood. If I’m low energy and want to get pumped up, I usually put on my favorite EDM or something political (Rage Against the Machine or Michael Franti to get me going ha). If I’m pissed, something that I can just jam out to with an intoxicating beat always makes things better. When I’m like this, I routinely put some music on full volume, put on some big over-the-ears headphones and hold them tight on my head. I close my eyes and let the beats consume me. Magical things happen when I do this and it is guaranteed going to make me feel better.
One last thing, and this might not work for everyone, but sometimes when I’m sad I put on really sad music. My go to is Elliott Smith. Something about making myself even more miserable when I’m already sad makes me feel happy. Is that the fucking most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard? Probably. But who cares. It works for me. I think I just like FEELING something, even if it’s kinda negative. Anyway, do what works for you.
Good luck, be happy, and get some shit done!