By Matt W. Sandford, LMHC
You know, the blahs. It’s that stage of life when you feel heavy and sluggish and low on energy, even when you got a good night’s sleep. In fact, you often feel like you want to take a nap. You job doesn’t hold a lot of excitement, or worse, your friends are either annoying, or trite, or maybe kind but yet can’t seem to understand, and you don’t feel you have anything to look forward to. Maybe it’s money troubles, or maybe you’ve experienced a setback of some kind. And you can’t just ‘snap out of it’. I’d like to offer four ideas on how to move successfully through the blahs to get back to your “old” self.
1. Eat Your Peas
• You know how, when you were a kid, there were those foods you had to eat to “grow big and strong”. But they happened to be foods that were yucky. My mom was always trying to get me to eat green vegetables, and I was always trying to get out of it. Usually she encouraged me to just try some and eventually had to settle for me eating the minimum that I could get away with. Well, there are likely some things that you need to do to get out of the blahs that would be similar and that it may feel like the feeling you had when you had to “eat your peas”.
• What this means is that we sometimes need to do things even when we don’t feel like it or do things that we don’t want to do. I don’t mean taking out the trash. I mean to do the things that would help to get out of the blahs. And to not wait until you feel like doing them to do them. Things like making appointments to spend time with friends, or keeping a routine, getting up out of bed, taking a walk, going to church, journaling. Self care requires some thought and energy and oddly can be one of the first areas that we give up when we don’t have energy. But getting back energy and motivation is not about waiting for it to come back, like it went out of town on vacation.
2. Be Authentic
• When you are in the blahs, you are feeling something, something negative. And what many do is they stuff their feelings. Pretend that everything is fine. Chin up. Press on. “Fake it till you make it.” Some are scared that people won’t understand or care, or worse, reject them or mock them. And some just learned to cope by repressing or denying negative emotions.
• I’ll let you in on a little secret. This stuffing is how many folks get stuck in the blahs in the first place. Burying and hiding our real selves from others causes us to develop more anxiety rather than help us. We feel the need to keep up the façade and the pressure grows. We start to believe that others are actually doing fine and it’s just us that aren’t feeling quite right.
• Maybe we had opened up to someone before – but they were critical or demeaning or maybe they tried but we still felt like they did not get us. Or maybe you did not have someone in your life who you thought you could open up to.
• So here’s the complicated formula – talking = good, stuffing = bad. Even if you had a hurtful or disappointing experience before. Even if you are really afraid. Even if you don’t know of someone whom you feel is safe. I get that there may be really good reasons why you are not sharing your heart with so and so. Maybe they aren’t the person I am suggesting that you go to. But go to someone.
• I am not advocating venting. Venting often can churn your emotions up but does not bring about release or resolution. What I am advocating is telling someone about your thoughts and feelings and processing your feelings by exploring what they mean to you.
• There is much that could be said about developing safe relationships and developing healthy personal boundaries. And they have been said in books like Safe People and the Boundaries books and others.
• If this feels overwhelming to you, consider seeking a counselor to help. Being good listeners and having empathy is what I expect them to do very well.
3. Make a Plan
• Part of the blahs is getting in the rut of “whatever”. You become fatalistic and you allow life to just take you where it wills. When you lose motivation and energy, life just seems to swirl around you, and you feel powerless.
• Recognize that these are feelings and not statements of reality. Even if something or somethings happened that were beyond your control. Yes, there is much of life that is beyond our control. That does not mean that we, therefore, have no power or that our efforts do not matter.
• In fact, the more we drift, the more likely we are to slide into the blahs. This is a slippery slope. Once we start to doubt that our daily efforts and choices matter, then we may begin to lose the energy and motivation to pursue our life goals with gusto.
• Making plans gives us something to look forward to. It gives us direction and can renew our motivation by reminding us that there is something we can do, something that is important.
• Begin with your long-term plans. Where do you want to be in five years? What kind of person do you want to become? How can you make a difference?
• From there, develop shorter-term goals that help you to reach your long-term ones.
• Seek wisdom and help from others as you develop your plans. Proverbs 15:22
4. Get Perspective and Find Grace
• What do your blahs represent in terms of your thoughts and beliefs? Use your processing with a safe person to fish around in your blah feelings to understand yourself better.
• We need to challenge our defeatist notions and unhelpful ways of interpreting our experiences. Do we have a tendency to catastrophize? Do we tend to see things in rather black and white terms? Do we sometimes have unrealistic expectations?
• If you tend to get in the blahs due to comparisons, reevaluate who you usually compare yourself to. When I was in college, my friends and I used to get the blahs around finals time. But when one of us got into moaning about our work load or such, someone would eventually say something like, “Yeah, the poor and the sick have it so good!” And then we’d laugh together at the reminder that life really could be a lot worse, and is, for a lot of others.
• Above all, ponder what God is thinking and how he views your situation and you. Are you blah because you have forgotten that God is for you? Do situations in life lead you to feel that God is not for you? Bring it all to God and dialogue with him about it. Tell him your stuff and then listen to him. Hear what he says about you in the Word.
• How you are wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14),
• how he will complete the good work he began in you (Phil 1:6),
• How God does not condemn (Romans 8:1),
• That God does not forget us and has compassion on us (Isaiah 49:14-16),
• That God is for us and can and will give us what we need and bless us (Joshua 1:9, Romans 15:5 and 13, Ephesians 3:20)
Getting out of the blahs is about getting back motivation and perspective, meaning it is about renewing our hope. Hope is found not just in better circumstances but, more significantly, in quality relationships, meaning it’s not just what I am going through but who I am going through it with.
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