Many of us are experiencing an extended stay in Funkytown. And it is not, unfortunately, the place of groovin’ energy the disco band Lipps Inc. sung so longingly about in the 1980s.
And honestly, who can blame us for feeling a little overwhelmed or down? The world as we knew it just a few weeks ago has significantly changed. Not only have we been asked to practice social distancing from family and friends, some of us have had family members contract a virus that’s not yet fully understood. Divisiveness is ramping up with public debate on proper responses to the pandemic and widespread social justice demonstrations. As we continue to wade through various puddles of misinformation, we are facing difficult choices that sometimes seem to pit our health against our livelihoods. We are learning new tools, processing daily life in new ways, and bombarded with viewpoints about all of it.
Whew. Take a deep breath – or two. Now, here’s the good news: A funk, which some people describe as having the blues, is a temporary and limited low mood. While it can be a symptom of a larger behavioral health issue, such as depression, many suffering from a funk can take intentional steps to help elevate their emotions. Below you’ll find 10 things you can do right now, but please remember that if your low mood persists or repeatedly interferes with your day-to-day functioning you should seek help. There’s no shame in asking for a hand up.
Research indicates negative emotions can be made less severe when we acknowledge them and name them. In other words, it is OK to admit that you are sad or in a bad mood. Doing so may also help ignite an emotional shift.
It’s true. You truly can run, walk or dance right out of Funkytown. When low moods take over, we often don’t feel like being active and sometimes need to force ourselves to give it try. Some studies have shown as a little as 10 minutes of physical activity can boost our focus for the next two to four hours.
So, try taking a 15-30 minute brisk walk or bike ride each day. Learn yoga or workout with an online cardio video. If dancing is your thing, why not be ironic about it while you giggle and wiggle your way through Funkytown?
Exercise your imagination to get your creative juices flowing. Get crafty with the stuff you already have at home. Take time to play with a friend, child or pet. Paint or draw a masterpiece. Write a new song. Begin a gratitude or audio journal.
No doubt we’d all benefit from a virus-free vacation in an exotic location, but finding joy doesn’t require something so fantastic and unrealistic. We have all have small activities that bring us joy. Maybe it is cooking, or binge-watching a television series. It could be a long soak in the bathtub, taking a drive along the countryside, or completing a craft project. The point is to find an activity or project that brings you joy and that you can do right now.
Think about a person who makes you feel happy. Studies show this level of connection can boost the hormone oxytocin, which is also known as the “love” or “cuddle” hormone because it helps us feel loved and connected. So, who makes you laugh? If social distancing rules allow, make a point of sitting down with that person. If you can’t be physically together, remain connected as much as possible using the phone and computer. And while we’re talking …
Acts of kindness are great for others, and good for us. Researchers have linked acts of kindness to the release of oxytocin and dopamine, which carries messages of euphoria to the brain. This so-called “helper’s high” can also increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps with mood regulation. To get the best results, researchers recommend making kindness a practice – something we work into our daily lives.
Spending time in nature can help reverse the effects of stress on the body. Just 20 minutes in green space reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol by up to 18 percent.
Disruption of our daily routines, including reduced exposure to natural light, can leave us with unusual dreams and grappling for quality sleep – even when we are sleeping more. Dreams are composed of the elements of daily life, as important memories gathered throughout the day are shuffled into our long-term memory. For many of us the lack of a daily routine has left our subconscious to linger on past experiences. To combat this, try to keep a routine, even if it is somewhat new to you, and boost your quality sleep by turning off screens for an hour before bed and avoiding alcohol intake.
Emotional or comfort eating happens when we try to suppress negative emotions with food. And, as our stress levels increase, the body craves calorie-rich foods to fuel the energy required to cope. And, this feels really good in the short term since sweet treats release bursts of dopamine. But there is a bad side too as high-fat and high-sugar diets stymie brain function, including our ability to focus and learn. Combat this cycle by stocking up on healthier snacks and grab-and-go foods like nuts and fruits.
There are things, people and activities we are all missing right now. Remind yourself that this moment in time will not last forever and begin to sketch what you want the future to hold for you. Maybe you want to plan a trip to a place you’ve always wanted to visit, or you want to plan a family reunion. That conference you planned to attend in March will likely be rescheduled for next year. Put it on a calendar. Make a list. If you can see even the most faint light at the end of the tunnel, you can ease the funk of a current circumstance.
Finally, remember you aren’t in any of this alone, no matter how much it feels that way. If your funk persists, we’re here to help.