When you feel stuck in a rut, a bad mood, or negative mindset, it can be challenging to get out of that funk when you are deeply entrenched in it. Sometimes you might just wake up in a funk that you can’t seem to shake. You might wake up feeling anxious, generally more pessimistic, stressed, or grumpy, for seemingly no reason. Moods can strike at any time, and sometimes these moods seem way out of alignment with what your current circumstances might actually be presenting you with. Trying to “think positive”, “just snap out of it”, or “just let it go” is not helpful advice, because in those moments it may feel like, sure, I would if I could, and wouldn’t that be nice if that could be the case— but when you feel stuck, most likely, you can’t just let it go.
Emotions are powerful, important, and necessary. Emotions provide information about how you are experiencing the present moment through your physical body. When you stuff, repress, or suppress your emotions, they only fester, they do not go away. When you bury emotions, you bury them alive.
The good news is that you actually have more ability to manage your emotions than you might think. However, it takes practice to develop emotional awareness, and a willingness to be present with feeling states that are uncomfortable. When you are struggling with shaking the feeling of being in a funk, it’s important to explore why it’s even there in the first place.
Emotional congruency occurs when you are experiencing an emotion that is providing direct information about your current experience. The emotion is directly congruent with the cause. This is so important as it creates an opportunity in the moment to make a choice about how to respond to the emotion. When you can evaluate the emotion, and begin to understand the message of the emotion, you can then make a sound choice about how to feel, process, and cope, or just be with the emotion. This allows an opportunity to move forward from the feeling state in a way that feels empowering. This is very advanced emotional awareness and intelligence and comes with intentional practice over time. However, now is always the best time to practice.
When we are experiencing an emotion that feels incongruent, like when we wake up in a funk, anxious, stressed, grumpy (or any other uncomfortable internal experience that does not seem to relate to our current experience), it may be time to do some emotional exploration, excavation, and awareness building. Emotional incongruence causes mood states that can take over and feel uncomfortable, and these funks can occur for a number of reasons. Below I’ll explain ten common reasons you might be in a funk, and further down I offer some suggestions to help yourself understand the funk, and hopefully begin tp help yourself out of the funk.
-1. There is an emotion that you have suppressed or repressed that wants to be expressed, felt, understood, and processed.
-2. You are living outside of the present moment. If you evaluate how you are feeling and there is no triggering or causal experience conjuring this emotion, then you might ask yourself, is this feeling connected to something from my past or a worry about my future? If so, there is actually a lot that can be done to help move forward from this feeling state.
-3. You are struggling with a more chronic mental health challenge and it may be of great benefit to talk with a therapist or other medical professional about what you are experiencing. There are so many tools that can support mental health including a variety of therapeutic techniques, lifestyle practices, medication, and supplements. Please don’t suffer alone, there is help available.
-4. You had a rough night of sleep and feel unrested, not fully ready to take on your day and tiredness is impacting your mood.
-5. You had a bad dream that is difficult to shake off, and it’s left a residue of fear, frustration, or other uncomfortable emotion.
-6. You were triggered the previous day and haven’t yet re-stabilized into a feeling of being connected to your body, you still feel unsafe/uncomfortable.
-7. You have created a habit of mindlessly going through the motions of your day, and you feel uncomfortable with and disconnected from your life.
-8. There is something in your current life circumstance that is draining your energy, and you are not confronting it, you are not changing something that you know needs to change.
-9. Your life feels out of alignment with your goals, desires, dreams, and personal needs.
-10. You carry the negative internalized belief that you function best when you are in a state of negativity, self-punishing, and pessimism (these are subconscious, limiting beliefs).
There may be many more reasons you might be in a funk, or experiencing a mood that seems to be incongruent with your present experiences. However, the good news is that when you can evaluate the why, you create more self-awareness. With greater self-awareness, you can make a choice about how to respond to the why, and determine how you can feel empowered rather than powerless to your moods.
Here are some ways to help support yourself and possibly un-funk yourself for each of the above 10 possible causes:
-1. If you are suppressing or repressing emotions, it is most helpful to start creating some type of practice to develop emotional awareness. When you have a greater understanding of why you might be avoiding, suppressing and/or repressing certain emotions, you can begin to do some emotional excavation. This is where therapy can be tremendously useful, EMDR therapy in particular. However, there is a lot you can do on your own as well. Having a feelings wheel handy, and spending time linking emotions that you most seem to avoid feeling with either past experiences or triggers, you can begin to unearth these emotions and learn to process them.
-2. If you are living outside of the present moment, you are letting feelings about the past or future impact your present experience. Practicing mindfulness consistently allows more awareness of how to live in the here and the now, not the past or future. If you think about your life in terms of a set of journals, consider that all of your past journals are filled with feelings, experiences, and memories. If you are living in the past and re-experiencing those feelings in the present, it’s like reading those old journals over and over again without wanting to do so. If you are worrying about the future, it’s as if you are trying to fill up your future journals before you’ve had the lived experience, and often you are filling those journals with fearful, worst-case scenario material. If you imagine the journal that you have for this moment, it is simple, you are writing out your experience based on what is true right now. With each moment, you write only about NOW. If you have material from your past that just keeps showing up, you may benefit from doing some form of therapy to process those memories with a professional. You also may benefit from developing a mindfulness and/or meditation practice to learn how to live more consistently in the here and the now. If you are struggling with constant worries about the future, there are wonderful therapeutic treatments for anxiety, reach out and find the support you need.
-3. If you are struggling with a more chronic mental health challenge, and you feel there is no specific trigger for your current mood state, I encourage you to consider some form of mental health treatment as help is available. You deserve to find a way towards healing. As I previously said, there are so many tools that can support mental health, including a variety of therapeutic techniques, lifestyle practices, medication, and supplements. Please don’t suffer alone, there is help available.
-4. If you had a rough night of sleep, can you practice self-compassion? Remind yourself that if you did not sleep well, it will have an impact on your mood, energy, focus, and your ability to fully engage in the tasks that need to get done. Be gentle with your rough mood, and try to get some rest. Creating a sleep hygiene practice that you stick with consistently for at least a month can help shift your sleep schedule into one that is more restorative and restful.
-5. If you had a bad, uncomfortable, or distressing dream, and now you just feel icky from it, it can be helpful to journal about your dream. One technique that is very helpful is to write out your dream but re-write a new ending. This will help to release the lingering uncomfortable emotions and therefore help to un-funk your mood.
-6. If you were triggered on a previous day and not yet feeling stabilized or grounded in your body, it can be helpful to do somatic exercises. Somatic exercises help to release distress from your physical body. Some examples are, deep breathing, visualizing the discomfort as a color that you can clear out with your breath, shaking out your body all at once while lying down or even just through one limb at a time. Tensing and releasing your body from head to toe—or toes to head—can be helpful to exaggerate the discomfort, but then to release it with a deep exhale to practice letting the discomfort go. You can use your five senses to ground into your present place and time to feel more connected to your body. This may look like naming something you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch and let your senses create a connection to your body in the present moment. Yoga, exercising, stretching, tai-chi, and other movement can all help release somatic discomfort lingering from a trigger. Journaling, talking about your trigger, and addressing it in therapy can also be very helpful.
-7. If you notice that you are going about your daily life mindlessly and living for the perceived “fun times” such as the weekend, vacation, or some other experience that you have to wait for, you are going through the motions rather than truly living your life. If you are feeling as though you are lacking meaning and purpose in your daily life, you might benefit from working with a coach, volunteering, taking up a new hobby, and journaling about what brings you a sense of meaning, and pursue how to bring that into your life more consistently. You also can try to find meaning and purpose in the small, simple joys of life, stretch out your day a little and find pockets where you have space to breathe, to stop and smell the flowers. Find what enchants you, and pursue that daily. Learn mindfulness techniques to live in the present moment more consistently.
-8. If you just feel like something is off in your current day to day and yet you are doing nothing to address it, it is helpful to get honest with yourself. This might be a relationship that is draining your energy and impacting your mood. It could be someone at your job that you are not happy with, or any other circumstance that is troubling you, and you are actively avoiding it, as you are really attempting to avoid the perceived discomfort you will feel through confrontation. Typically, these types of moods fester and can become more difficult mental health struggles if left unaddressed. Many people struggle with confrontation and/or fear having to change something they aren’t sure how to change. If something feels off in your life, and you are not considering how to deal with it, I encourage you to talk with someone you trust, a therapist, coach, mentor or otherwise, to help you create a plan for how to move forward with more intention so that you can address and cope with what is robbing you of joy on a daily basis.
-9. If something feels out of alignment with your goals, dreams, and personal needs, it is helpful to address this as well. For example, it could be something such as you feel you have pursued a particular career, only to find that you don’t really want to do that for the rest of your life, or that you aren’t satisfied with your peer group, where you live or otherwise. This is a scenario that is usually more connected to a lack of fulfillment versus a deep unhappiness with the direct circumstances you are in. Working with a therapist, coach or mentor can help you sort out how to proceed, how to live more in alignment with what brings you a sense of personal fulfillment. Life is too short to not live in alignment with your dreams. Sometimes you have to make a radical change to create a life you love.
-10. If you struggle with negative self-talk, you may feel that you are motivated by the negative inner language that gets you up and going each day. However, this negative self-talk also causes you to feel pretty bad about yourself most of the time. If you are running your life based on negative internalized beliefs that can be changed! If you feel you need to beat yourself up to get things done such as get out of bed, exercise, eat nourishing foods, even simple daily tasks like brushing your teeth, there is a better way. Having self-compassion, speaking to yourself as you would a friend, and giving yourself the opportunity to motivate yourself through believing in yourself will actually help you go much farther in the long run.
If you carry negative internalized beliefs, such as I am not good enough, I am unworthy, I am a failure, I have to be perfect to be loved, I am unsafe… (the list goes on and on)… please know that you are not alone and that there is help to rewrite these old negative cognitions and beliefs into their opposites. EMDR is a powerful therapeutic modality that is evidence-based, and proven to help release negative beliefs and create positive ones through the course of treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness techniques, self-compassion practices, compassionate inquiry, and traditional talk therapy can all help as well.
I am going to be back to talk more about common emotional incongruences soon, but in the meantime, I hope you will take a deeper look at the mood states you are experiencing and just get curious, ask yourself, “is this about what I am currently experiencing, or can I look deeper within and learn more about my emotions, my present experience, and is there anything I can do in the here and the now to feel empowered to un-funk myself?” If so, I hope you choose to do it, so that you can feel more hopeful, grounded, and aligned. I hope you choose to take hold of the power within yourself to live and feel in alignment with how you want to live and feel in this very moment.