This Saturday, I woke up in what could best be described as a “funk.” It had started sometime during the week as a kind of low-grade irritability. But by Saturday, I was in deep. I felt tired, unmotivated, and somewhat unhappy, and for seemingly no reason. 

We’ve all been there at some point. When you’re in this situation, you have two choices:

  1. Stay there and go down that spiral
  2. Pull yourself out of it

The first option is easy. And yes, sometimes we need to sit and be with our feelings, without judging them. Toxic positivity — that gaslighting “Ignore your problems and just be happy!” mindset — never helps anyone. (And I don’t mean this about dealing with the big things — grief, depression, or trauma. This is the inexplicable bad mood that hits you out of nowhere. If it does persist, it’s important to speak to someone about it.) 

But as creatives, we can’t stay in this state forever. So the second path to change our mood is far more difficult. And it was what I proceeded to work through the rest of the weekend.

How did I manage to get through it? I wondered the same thing and began to examine my weekend. I then realized that if I could turn things around for myself that quickly, there had to be something I could share with others to help them do the same.

So here’s my list of the action steps I took this weekend. I hope that if you find yourself having an “off” day, you can use these tips to get back on track:

1. Recognize how you’re feeling, and remind yourself it’s temporary.

I knew that something was off when I woke up on Saturday and felt like I’d been run over by a very slow steamroller. I pay close attention to my mood each day, and feeling this glum is not my natural state. So once I realized just how awful I was feeling, I knew I had to investigate where the feeling was coming from and take steps to remedy it.

If there’s one bit of advice you take away here, let it be this point. Everything that we feel at any given time is only temporary. Our emotions are always in flux, and it’s natural to feel both the highs and lows. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling bad because it’s okay to experience it. But remind yourself that it’s not a permanent state. I promise you will get through this, and you don’t have to “just get over it” ASAP. Take your time.

2. Remember there’s a bigger world out there. 

It’s easy to be stuck in a bad mood when we’re staying in the same spot. This might mean going outside, taking a walk, visiting a favorite park, strolling through a museum, or anything else that changes your surroundings — even for a few minutes.

I had wanted to go to a park over the weekend but just didn’t have the energy. I managed to step outside for a bit, and breathing in some fresh air also helped boost my mood. But mostly, I stayed indoors. So what helped me change my perspective?

I started Saturday afternoon, lethargic on the couch, and eventually decided to trick myself into “productivity” watching MasterClass. I love learning, so this was a natural serotonin boost for me. And the topics I explored were relevant to my career and my personal projects. (If you’re curious, I watched classes by author Daniel Pink, advertisers Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein, and, much later, drag performer RuPaul.) Everything wasn’t magically perfect afterwards, but I was, at least, not wallowing any longer.

A change in perspective isn’t necessarily about where you go or what information you learn (or whether you spend any money). It’s easy to find free resources online about nearly any subject. Some suggestions to get your started:

  • Read long-form essays and news articles (Longreads is a good place to find them)
  • Watch a documentary
  • Look up TED talks on a subject you like — or something new to you
  • Sign up for a free online course (I like Coursera for this)
  • Visit a museum (virtually) by looking through their online exhibits
  • Watch a simple how-to video on YouTube
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Google a question you’ve always wanted to know the answer to and solve a lifelong mystery. (Mine, recently was how to beat a summer camp game called Johnny Whoop — over two decades later!)

No matter what you choose, pick something that will help you see the world differently than you saw it before.

3. Practice a bit of creative destruction.

One of the more complex emotions I was dealing with was the illusion that I was somehow stuck. I didn’t think I was making any meaningful progress on some of my goals. And that gave way to a feeling that nothing could change or get better.

I had to think about the things that I could control in that moment. My website was one source of “stuckness.” It had been in the same layout for over three years. I had been using the Words & Wands brand name for nearly five years, but I no longer felt connected to it. It seemed like a part of me that I’d outgrown, and I’ve been ready to move on from it for some time.

So late in the afternoon, I opened up my laptop and began dismantling my website, page by page. I stripped it of old services I’m no longer selling and took out a ridiculous number of graphics. I trimmed the copy on my about page. I set old, off-topic blog posts to drafts.

Then I created. I made a mess of my site changing WordPress themes a dozen times. I designed a new logo. I chose new brand colors. I coded — which is not my area of expertise, but I love figuring out how to tweak the CSS. I refined my offerings. And at the end of the day, I made something that I’m much more satisfied with.

So even if you’re in a mood, try to make something. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Make an absolute mess if you have to (either physically or digitally). And if your current project isn’t making you happy, or you’ve been “stuck” on the same task for some time, then scrap it. I mean it. You have permission. There’s no one holding a gun to your head saying you have to finish a project, or have it look a certain way, or do what you’ve always been doing. It’s safe to experiment and try something new. Tear down what’s not working and put something new and improved (or at least adequate) in its place.

4. Do something good for others. 

You might have heard the phrase, “Think globally, act locally.” With the internet, it’s possible to do both. Giving funds, donating time, and spreading awareness are ways to help others and, by association, ourselves.

I’ve been telling myself to do the former for a while. Like many things in life, I said I’d “get around to it” at some point. But I’d had enough of my own excuses. I chose to give to COVID relief efforts in India as well as a local food bank so that I could act globally and locally. Knowing that I can help others in this way helped me feel a bit less alone in the world and reminded me that in some way, we’re all connected.

No cash to spare? That’s okay. It costs $0 to be a good person. Here’s a few other ideas you can use to help others:

  • Do a favor for a loved one
  • Be a willing ear for a friend in need
  • Participate in something that helps you collect donations
  • Volunteer for a local organization
  • Use your platform (social or otherwise) to spread the word about an important cause
  • Simply spend time with someone else, without any agenda

It might sound like an ulterior motive to do something good to make yourself feel better. Most likely, the person on the receiving end won’t know about your reasons. If you help a friend or loved one, they’d probably be happy to know that they helped you, too.

It’s all a process

To summarize:

  • Remember that it’s all temporary. It sucks now, but it won’t suck forever.
  • Explore what the world has to offer. Whether it’s in your favorite place or from your laptop, there’s so much out there to see and learn.
  • Destroy to create. Give yourself permission to be messy, release what’s not working, and make something new and/or improved.
  • Do good for others. It’s a reminder that we’re all in this together.

This isn’t about ignoring our problems. We need to sit with our pain when we feel it… and the transform it into something else when we’re ready to. You don’t have to do all four of these steps, or any of them, in fact. Taking care of ourselves is an ongoing process — not just something that can be done in a weekend. My mood improved, but I still know I have plenty of things to work on, too. And that’s okay.

Above all, get yourself thinking differently. Change your surroundings, learn something new, and remember that we are all a part of something greater.

What do you do when you’re having a bad day? Sound off in the comments.

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