I was out of whack and in a slump yesterday (and the day before and day before and probably the day before that). The sludge is still lapping at my ankles today.
I hate falling into a slump.
While I know I know that it won’t last forever, you could fool me when I’m knee-deep in it. The slump pit feels endless and horrible. Cue feeling helpless and depressed.
I continue to learn that the quickest way out is through: be where I am (nix the fighting!) and keep practicing the solid foundation/self-care routine I’ve been cultivating.
Slump Pits and Self-Care: Actually Useful
Yes, slump time is where a self-care practice really matters. I’ve learned that I do it in the good times to help make it a (very) practiced useful habit so it’ll be easier to do it on a hard day, because that’s where it can make a huge difference. Then I do it on the slump days. Even if it feels pointless. Even if I don’t feel better after doing it. Because the act of doing it is a step in getting out of the slump, even if I can’t see it right then.
I’m talking the daily, non-negotiable kind of self-care that you do rain or shine, rather than a special one-off delight such as, say, going to the spa for a massage and then out to lunch (which can be delightful, absolutely, though isn’t part of my day-to-day). This kind of self-care isn’t about getting glowing skin, toned abs, or becoming some kind of perfect version of yourself. This kind of self-care helps get your brain in order and work out the wonkies on a regular day so you can show up with snapping at everybody and maybe even do/create some cool stuff in your day. And on a hard day when things look bleak and terrible? It’s something to help pass the time, shake up the old thought patterns, and help you head out of a slump.
I came across the idea of self-care several in my twenties. At first I went the “should” route of what I “should” do for a “good” self-care routine (which, for me, meant lots of exercise and being “good” with my diet). Yeah, this didn’t work out so well. It became self-torture rather than self-care. And I couldn’t do it “right.”
When I was pregnant and could no longer handle the sorts of vigorous exercise I thought I should do, I walked around the neighborhood. It wasn’t long, far, or strenuous — and yet I found myself feeling better somehow: head clearer, body less kinked, irritability diminished (at least for a moment). Eye-opening, and it got me thinking about what self-care might actually be.
Fast forward to today: I have a morning routine I do without fail. Wherever I am, whatever time I get up.
For me it involves exercise, stretching, and meditation (note that it might look different for you). It doesn’t involve any special equipment, going anywhere, nor someone to watch my kids so I can do it. I can do some version wherever I am, and I’ve done it every day without fail for probably the last two or three years — because it helps that much. It’s my personal antidepressant. I find it nudges my brain, if just for a moment, out of the slump and sludge rut. I might even forget for a moment about whatever loop my brain insists on spinning round in. And each nudge inches me closer to solid ground, out of the slump.
Slump Pits and Self-Care: What Do You Think?
Ever thought about what self-care looks like for you? Maybe it entails some exercise, stretching, and/or meditation. I met a girl a few years ago whose morning makeup routine was self-care for her — she enjoyed the practice of artfully applying whatever struck her that day. Yup, that was her self-care for good days and slump days alike.
It doesn’t have to take hours. It can take two minutes. It’s something that feels doable and easy (and stupid simple is a good place to start). Start on the easy days. Do it today, and then again tomorrow. Then the next day. If it feels too hard and like pushing a boulder uphill, try an easier version and/or something different. The specifics are much less important than making the time to do something.
Note we’re going for the “this feels good to consider doing, it feels solid on an inside level, and it doesn’t leave me with a sugar/alcohol/emotional vomit hangover” kind of good, rather than the “I just had a donut and espresso and am so wired!!!!” or “Now that I’ve had a glass of wine, life is good again!” high.
It sucks to be in a slump. It may feel like you’re regressing in life. And it’s okay. Slumps happen. Maybe an old pattern got triggered or you’re more tired than you realized or you’re not feeling great. Then you realize you’re down in the pit. Things just feel hard. Bleak. Maybe hopeless.
You’re not failing. You don’t need to be fixed. You’re human.
Slumps happen. Self-care just might help. (And when we do self-care? We’re modeling slump pit help for all of those around us.)