Ah, the funk. Life is weird.
Sometimes it’s magnificent; sometimes we feel like we’re soaring, coasting out along the windswept crest of a towering peak, standing fully upright and embracing the world with limitless energy, indefatigable hope, and inextinguishable zest. Sometimes we are unstoppable. And sometimes we are not.
Sometimes we slip and suddenly realize that we’re floundering, wandering, totally lost and feeling utterly anonymous. We’re not sure how or why it happened, but we plummet from our pristine mountaintops and realize that we’ve got nothing going for us and nobody knows our names anyway and those dreams that seemed so close are a lot farther than we thought. We realize that we’ll probably end up either homeless and alone or camping out in our parents’ basement. And we lose interest in absolutely everything and believe in almost nothing.
We all experience “the funk”. It’s a curious thing, really—a slow, arching spiral that sucks us into lethargy and apathy. We don’t feel right. There is a guilty feeling because we’re lost and we’re not productive, but we don’t have the energy to pull ourselves upright and get ourselves moving. We feel oddly squishy, like life is passing and we can’t catch up, like we’re being buffeted around by the cackling winds of a sadistic world that already forgot who we are. We lose interest in our hobbies, our occupations, our relationships, and the things that usually make us happy.
But at the same time, it’s not depression. We’re not really sad. We’re not plunging into the depths of despair. Instead, we simply go limp: we go through life like unformed grey blobs, obeying the mechanics of life but feeling like ghosts. Everything is bleak, but we know better than to overindulge in self-pity. Our hearts beat, but for nothing in particular.
It’s just…a funk.
Everybody experiences the funk. That’s normal. The tricky part is climbing back out of the chasm of listlessness. Trust me, I’ve been there, and I know that it sucks. Thankfully, I know that it’s not indomitable. The funk isn’t the end; it’s just another obstacle to your ultimate goals.
The first step is to figure out why you feel this way. The funk can be caused by almost anything, but it’s most commonly associated with boredom, fatigue, and rejection.
Our routines are comforting when we’re living high-stress lives or emerging from some sort of trauma or discomfort, but riding out a “groove” for too long can wear that groove into a rut. If you’re living through a stuffed schedule but finding joy in none of your activities, you’re basically begging to feel burnt out. You will end up bored, apathetic, and inexplicably tired. Even if you’re working hard, you’re working without zeal, which is even worse. There’s no friction, there’s no push in your efforts, so, like some grunting troll, you’re just dumbly slugging forward without the passion to keep you going.
Or, if you’re the type of person who drives forward relentlessly in a highly competitive field, the rejection you’re likely to meet can take its toll. If you’ve worked for years to accomplish ____ but can’t quite seem to make your big break, that rejection can bury you in futility. Realizing that all your work might come to naught is disheartening, and when that heart has been your engine, then you can sputter and gurgle like a broken-down car.
Even relationships can cause the funk. If you’re staying in every night eating Chinese food with your boo who’s gone from tight jeans to sweatpants, then it’s probably time to mix a few things up. Here are some things that I’ve learned over the years, just to help you out next time you’re feeling like you’re getting intolerably bored:
It’s tempting to stop working when you’re in the funk, to stop moving toward your goals. Unfortunately, that’s probably the most counterproductive thing you can do.
If you sink into laziness, you will sink into lethargy, apathy, and eventual stagnancy. Stagnancy is the enemy here. Fight the urge to take an indefinite “break” and keep plowing through. Keeping yourself busy might be mind-numbing, but stopping working will be worse.
Don’t give up on what you want or need. In the end, you’ll still want or need it, and if you’ve lost all your progress, starting from square one can too be daunting and discouraging to even begin again. Sticking to your goals eliminates the possibility of going from funk to full-on bottoming out.
In the meantime, get off your a** and enjoy life again. In the same way that you can’t stop working, you can’t keep yourself holed up in a little pouch of routine.
I know it sucks, but even when you feel like just curling up in a bubble of negativity, get dressed and get out. Go out with your friends and find something fun to do. If you don’t have friends, then go out by yourself—go hiking, go trying new restaurants—it doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as you’re not sitting on the couch.
Even just light physical activity can help your spirit breathe. Instead of lounging in old sweatpants, go for a walk. Something that simple can help you more alive, more awake, and more energetic.
Listen to new or inspirational music.
Music has a particularly contagious quality that can transform your mood. If you need to be revved up, then listen to music that revs you up. My personal favorite is hip-hop about personal trial: Macklemore, B.O.B., Eminem, Kid Cudi, etc. Listening to Snoop obviously won’t change your life, but listening to hard-ridden artists who write honest raps about genuine struggles—all backed by thumping beats designed to get your blood flowing—can really accelerate your pulse.
If you’re not into hip-hop or no specific genre has a powerful impact on you, then perhaps try something new. Maybe jazz or reggae or even something in a niche like electro swing. Broadening your horizons and experimenting with new tastes can help yank you out of that music rut you might not even realize that you’re in until you realize that you’ve been listening to the same playlists you made your first year of college.
I can’t say this enough: exercising and eating well will do wonders for your heart, your mind, your energy levels, and your self-esteem.
Most people associate exercise and dieting with losing weight, which resolves insecurities on a vanity basis. That’s helpful and it’s definitely not wrong. Feeling better about the way you look improves confidence and lessens social neuroses, which can help you be more social and smile with less hesitation.
It’s more than that, though. Exercising and eating well produces chemical changes in the mind and body that can sharpen your focus, alleviate a basic level of anxiety, and amp up your energy levels. The endorphins from exercise alone are enough to get out of bed and go for that morning run you’ve been planning for weeks—it will be worth it.
One of the best parts about exercise is that it’s the best addiction you can have. The “health cult” is all the rage right now because it’s wonderful: it’s addicting, fun, beneficial, and—most of all—it can become a hobby. Next thing you know, you’ll be looking forward to spin class and maybe even leading your own.
But I’m not talking bout becoming a fitness freak or training yourself into the ground. Just the basic act of trying is wonderfully inspiring and motivating. You’ll feel about yourself knowing that you’re working for something worthwhile.
Find something you’re passionate about.
Which leads me to the most important item on this list: passion. Finding passion in life can be tricky and sometimes seems impossible, but it’s what makes life worth living.
Start a new hobby. Pick up anything—yoga, hiking, knitting, baking, kickboxing, photography, gardening, even just restaurant-hopping or journaling—anything that teaches you something new. Start a blog. Start running. Sign up for a ballroom dancing class—and actually go.
Learning something new is a way to discover new talents and a new zeal for life. Having something to look forward to, even if it’s only once or twice a week, can inspire you to feel happier, more accomplished, more interesting, and more curious. Going out into life and discovering what you love about it is one of the most beautiful parts of living it.