getting out of a slump
Joe and I experienced a particularly rough winter this year. Not because of worse weather or darker skies. We just moved to New York in October, and to be perfectly candid, we let a lot of anxiety from that decision and from the move build up inside us.
Every winter, I feel a slump from being stuck inside on cold, snowy, or rainy days, from long nights, and not enough light, but this year was the worst. The absolute worst. Joe and I had been fighting a ton which was unusual for us. We’ve been together for 10 years, and I’m not saying that fighting is unhealthy in a relationship, but it was becoming to constant. We felt so disconnected from each other. Hindsight is 20-20, and looking back, it’s obvious we both were dealing with problems within.
I had a really bad week in January, where I just about cried every day and felt so confused and worthless. This is super hard to write about now because it’s hard to be this vulnerable or even remember myself like that. It was the most depressed I had ever felt and the most depressed Joe and I had felt collectively. We didn’t tell anyone because we were embarrassed. Also, we thought, who could really help and who could really understand what we were going through? I know someone could have understood, but when you’re depressed, you feel so isolated. As if no one else could possibly feel like you do. The other side of that is the worry of being a “drag.” I’m so scared of dragging people down.
(Side note: this is a classic example of adding emotion to your emotion. I’m adding feeling “embarrassed” or “pathetic” to my already present emotion of “depression” which makes everything worse. I talk about this a little more in my post about self-awareness.)
After reaching a peak of negative feels, we decided something needed to change. Serendipitously, Joe was leaving for Palm Springs the following week to have a little hang-time/retreat with a friend. At first I was so so jealous of the desert sun he would soak up, but then we talked about how the trip couldn’t have come at a better time. His plan was to meditate and read books and chill. We thought of it as a reset. I was left alone in New York with Pilot and a cold which I used to my advantage to watch multiple seasons of Downton Abbey and eat large amounts of chips and salsa (the spiciness helped unclog my nose). One of the nights, I remembered a course we had bought by Jen Sincero (an author I like) that was supposed to help you achieve a goal in 8 weeks. Like any good online course, it had captured our attention for about a week or so before we forgot about it heh.
But, I remembered one of the initial videos had been really inspiring to watch and I thought, “Why not watch it again?” so I pulled it up on my laptop.
It was a good idea, as it turns out, because it sparked the following.
First of all, I realized I was carrying so much stress. Every day since I moved to Portland, I had an anxiety pit in my stomach because I always felt that I had to be doing more and building more contacts and moving forward and working on new projects. I recently found a journal entry from October 7, 2015 where I talk about how stressed out I am about freelancing and not having any money. It was really shocking to realize I’ve felt the same way for the past 3.5 years.
I’m sure you can understand as a fellow freelancer. Moving to New York, as it happened, was a culmination of feelings and emotions. It was the biggest “doing more” we had done yet and the pressure was on. I learned I was way too attached to my anxiety, too addicted to feeling inadequate and constantly forcing my mind to search for more and more things to do. I had turned things I loved into things I hated. I was terrified to look at my email or answer messages. I never rested my thoughts. Sure, I had glimpses of peace and even meditated sometimes, but I never understood just how much was building up inside me.
Here are the notes I took from that video and other thoughts I wrote down that night that led me to get out of my way, slow down, and heal.
High Vibe, High Five
Get in touch with your feelings. Really feel it, breathe into it, identify where on your body you feel it, and then let it out.
Create a ceremony for yourself. Put aside time every day to connect with yourself. Meditation/walk/coffee/etc.
Pay attention to your surroundings. Surround yourself with high energy people and if you don’t know anyone, find a therapist or a coach. Also keep your surroundings at home or work nice and clean.
Give something, do a good deed every day (as simple as a compliment).
Remember that you are always learning; constantly be studying or reading something.
Pay attention to what “raises your spirits.” For me it’s listening to upbeat music, watching a funny movie and ordering pizza :), going for a walk in nature, calling a friend, going out to eat at a favorite restaurant, reading a good and uplifting book.
Next I felt like I should think about my goals again. What do I really want? So I came up with this list.
To be happy
To be confident in myself
To have fun
To have freedom
To have an amazing relationship with Joe
To have friends I love and trust
To be successful financially
I read this list to Joe over the phone while he was still in Palm Springs, and he said, “those sound so pure.” I knew what he meant. They were simple and so many of them were going back to the basics. Honestly I could do without the last one if all the others were true, and for the first time, I really do mean that.
Now it came down to the changes that needed to be made, and so I made a pact with myself.
Pact: For one month I will…
Take things a little less seriously and be lighter
Meditate every day
Write every day
Read my goals every day
Read this list of high vibe things every day and try to incorporate it into my life
I didn’t trust myself to be completely perfect in this, but I followed through. From February 5 to March 5, I meditated 24 times. That’s 22 more times than I normally would do in a month! I read my lists and focused on my new goals. I read uplifting and encouraging books almost every morning with Joe over breakfast and coffee (always be learning and reading). I began to put my phone on airplane mode and set it in another room around 9 or 10 at night, and left it this way until after I had started my day - have you ever tried this? It’s soooo nice. I started to write again, and it felt so good. Joe and I made sure we were doing at least one thing a day for our mental heath, and healing our brains became our top priority.
After a week, I noticed a physical and mental difference. The anxiety pit in my stomach was smaller, and I didn’t feel so terribly worthless. In fact, spending all this time on myself had made me less concerned with myself. My mood swings lessened, and Joe (who made a similar pact) laughed about how different we felt so quickly. We grew closer and closer and our relationship mended. After the full month, neither of us could remember how badly we felt in the beginning. I had so much more energy and life within me. We actually felt happy - I’m not promising this to anyone, but the possibility for this change is real. It was seriously a laughable change, a life change. I am committed to protecting my mental health from here on out.
I see now how I was the only one who was standing in the way. My mindset was shaping my experience of life, and I was speaking horrible things to myself. Negative thoughts were going past me completely under the radar. I had let it get completely out of hand, and it was destroying me. I’m not saying this to blame myself. It’s actually quite empowering to think that you do have control over a lot of your life. But if you stop being vigilant, you can get carried away by yourself.
I used to think being positive was corny, but the opposite is not helping you. You can’t go all the way to “Yippee, I’m actually so loved and everything will be alright!” when you’re depressed. First you have to go to a place where you can just “be” and breathe.
We are miles better now, but are continuing to meditate and read daily. I’m not going to pretend I’m some sort of expert in this stuff, but if my experience can help someone, that’s amazing. If you are interested in helpful resources, I’m going to list our favorites below as well as books we’d like to read next. Books are so cheap, and they offer so much wisdom!
Headspace: this is the meditation app I’ve been using. I like the little animations it has to help you visualize certain meditation techniques, and I also like that it has 30-day courses that are based on a certain theme you may want to work on. For example I was just listening to the “managing anxiety” course.
Psycho-Cybernetics (Updated + Expanded) by Maxwell Maltz: this is one of our favorite books at the moment. We’re reading it through a second time. Broadly speaking, it’s about the power of thought and how your beliefs about yourself or the world can drastically hinder or help you.
Mind Platter by Najwa Zebian: this book was recommended to me by my sister-in-law, and it’s filled with one-page-long inspirational writings. It’s good to wake up and read one page before you start your day or read one page during a tough moment.
You Are a Bad Ass At Making Money by Jen Sincero: this was the first book that sparked off my craving for mental improvement. It’s a very easily digestible book, fast to read, with down to earth explanations, stories, and humor. It boils down to the power of thought and mindset.
Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Joe Dispenza: This is one of Joe’s favorites; I have only read the end (I know; I’m weird). This one has a 4 week meditation as a practical application to what you learn in the book. Joe is on week 4 and says he has never experienced such direct results from a book/guided meditation before. I’m excited to read it and try it!
When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manual J. Smith, Ph.D.: we listened to this book on a road trip and realized how much we were afraid to say “no” and how much emotional manipulation is casually used in day to day life to keep you from saying “no.”
The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz, Ph.D.: This one is also about the power of thought. It’s written from a very old perspective, so you have to take some of it with a grain of salt. The author loves using anecdotes about traveling salesmen. (1950s gangster voice) Salesmen, see?
Leaving the Fold by Marlene Winell, Ph.D.: We’re reading this book through a second time as well. It’s about healing from indoctrination and learning to trust your own intuition.
Choose Your Self by James Altucher: I haven’t read this book, but it is one of Joe’s favorites. It’s about power of thought/believing in yourself and putting yourself first. He says he likes it because it’s very practical.
The Acne Answer by Marie Véronique Nadeau: this one was really good for my skin care knowledge. I actually went to see the skin care specialist who helped write this book and now I use a ton of the Marie Véronique products. My skin has never been better. I’m planning on writing about my skincare once I’ve consistently used it for 6 months or so.
Heal: this is a Netflix documentary we recently watched and then watch again. Super recommend! It’s about the power of the mind.
Freedom: The Courage to Be Yourself by Osho: found this by chance at Barnes & Noble, and I’m super excited to read it!
The Body Keeps Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.: this was recommended by a friend on instagram. Hi, friend!
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz: A couple people have recommended this book to us on instagram. I don’t know much about it, but the tagline’s got me interested.