We all experience it—feelings of being tired, overwhelmed, having a short fuse and just feeling like we can’t keep up with the demands that we ourselves and the world place on us. We sometimes feel that the things we loved doing have lost some of their luster, that we’re trudging through our days and are at work just thinking about how we’ll go home and nap or find a way to tune out. You are not alone, this feeling of “adrenal fatigue” or we can also call it “spiritual exhaustion” is so common in the western world that it is the norm that most working people constantly struggle with. In this article I aim to share a deeper understanding of what causes this “funk” and how to get yourself out of it and back into a happy, fulfilled state of mind. There are numerous causes for a feeling of being worn out or overwhelmed, ranging from the physical to the psycho-spiritual. In the physical sphere aspects like our diet, daily movement, quality/quantity of sleep and work/rest balance are of paramount importance. In this article we will however focus more on the psycho-spiritual causes of manifestations of mental unwellness like anxiety, depression, apathy, burnout and just plain out exhaustion. In my experience I have found that when the psycho-spiritual is sorted out, everything else in life follows and against much less resistance. Some of these suggestions will resonate more with you, and others less as we all are different and the causes of our suffering are so unique—so choose those that stand out to you and give them a shot when you’re down or feeling in a emotional or spiritual “funk” 1) Get out into nature: Find a park, trail, or just walk down your street and take some much-needed time for yourself. We live in a culture that is obsessed with productivity, and forgetful of the importance of quiet time alone in our true home-nature. There are many studies showings that a practice known as “forest bathing” which involves spending time in a forest and focusing on all the natural sights, sounds and smells, can be incredibly beneficial to our state of mind. Why is that? I believe the answer is simple- we are natural beings living in an unnatural environment. We are constantly surrounded by electronics, stressed by emails we need to respond to, stuck on social media looking for the next boost of dopamine. The truth is that we are fundamentally disconnected for the REAL world, the natural world which exists all around us. When we connect to the natural world, our mind settles and we can come in contact with that truest part of ourselves—some call it spirit, others call it the highest self, or the subconscious mind but the important thing (as that one lame joke punchline goes) is to CALL IT. When we spend time in nature, basking in the electromagnetic fields of the forest, grounded to the earth, breathing the freshest of air and devoid of distraction, we can find deep peace. So, take the time to go out into nature, turn off your phone or put it into airplane mode and just go “off the grid”. Think of nothing other than what is around you and bask in the glory that is nature.
2) Find a spiritual/mindfulness practice that resonates with you: There are so many ways to reconnect to ourselves and train the mindfulness and positive feelings that make all of life worth living. Humans are the divine animal, but our culture tends to only focus on nourishing the animal part and disregarding the divine part. Whatever you believe in religiously does not matter, what matters is that you have a daily practice that connects you to the best parts of yourself. I personally like the practice of mindfulness meditation so I will share that technique with you. I have had much success with it and seen much benefit in the patients I recommended it to. a) Sit down in a comfortable position with back straight: This is particularly beneficial when done in a natural spot, I like to sit by a tree and have always noticed a special energy of mindfulness that comes along with that. Focus on your posture and let yourself breathe naturally and deeply. Breathe in and out, deeply and naturally. Turn your attention to your body, noticing any tension in your body. Start with your face, letting the tension go from your facial muscles, then allow your neck to relax, then your shoulders, arms, hands and then down your back all the way through your legs. As you breathe in you can say to yourself mentally “as I breathe in, I relax” and as you breathe out “as I breathe out I release tension”. Go through a scan your body saying this mantra and letting yourself breathe in relaxing energies into your body and breathe out all the tension of the day. Focus your mind on the body and if you find your mind wandering, take a few second break and then get back into it. b) Bring your attention to your breath: as you feel your body and muscles relaxing gently bring your attention to the sensations of your breath, the feeling of the air going into your nostrils and out. Notice the feeling of the air—is it cool, warm, or how does it feel. Notice how it feels to breathe fully in and out in your belly and allow yourself to go deeper into the pleasantness of breathing. You can say to yourself as you breathe in “as I breathe in, I am filled with joy” and as you breathe out say “as I breathe out, I spread love to the world”. Repeat this mantra and along with your breath and allow yourself to go deeply into the good feeling of deep, relaxed breathing that is natural and unforced. Try to control your breath as little as possible, simply let it be and allow it to be as deep as it needs. c) Reflect and envision what you are grateful for: As you feel your mind and heart begin to be filled with peace, reflect on a few things that you are truly grateful for having in your life. Say to yourself mentally as you breathe deeply in and out “I am grateful for being alive”, “I am grateful for those I love”, “I am grateful for the opportunities I have” and other things that you are truly happy to have in your life. Bring your mind to the great positives in your life and focus on them, allowing yourself to reflect on what makes you happy. Then envision what kind of person you want to be, what you want to accomplish, what good you wish to do in your mind’s eye. Feel the deep emotions associated with these dreams and give thanks for the spirit within you that always guides you towards your own well-being. You can reflect on those in your life that are suffering and say to yourself mentally “As I breathe in, I take in the pain of this person” and “as I breathe out I send green healing love towards that person”. It is particularly beneficial to do this towards people that you are close with but may have some negative feelings towards because of something they said or did. Know that people only act negatively because they themselves are in pain. Take in that loved ones pain and breathe out healing light towards them. This is the path of the spiritual warrior, or the bodhisattva as it is called in Buddhism. This is a person who takes on the woes of the world and seeks to make them better, to decrease the unnecessary suffering of others and ourselves. This part of the meditation is focused on cultivating positive emotional states and can be very powerful, many times it brings me to the point of tears. Whichever aspect you vibe with the most, that is the practice that you will find the most helpful.
3) Do something good for someone (or yourself) or reflect on how your actions impact others positively: Often we get into a kind of funk when we focus too much on ourselves and our own problems. Depression is fundamentally a state of isolation, a hyper-focus on what is wrong with us, our life and our faults. When we expand our vision out to see how our actions can impact others in a positive way, we find deep meaning in what we do and forget our own problems. Tell someone you love them and why, offer help to someone in need, or do a random act of kindness to a stranger and just see how quickly it lightens your day. We are fundamentally social creatures, and our spirit manifests in our experience when we find meaningful connection with others. Everyone is having their own struggle, when we realize this, we find that even something as simple as offering encouraging words or listening to someone’s pain when no one else will—evokes a deep kind of compassion that allows us to transcend our self-centeredness. Do not forget yourself though, you are just as worthy of love and compassion as others, so offer that same encouragement and good words to yourself. You’re doing as well as you can with what you have, and you should be proud of that. And if you’re not living up to your own expectations, it doesn’t matter, you are still worthy of love and encouragement. Allow yourself the ability to take time for yourself or others when you are feeling overwhelmed. It is also very helpful to think about how one’s daily activities are making a positive benefit in others’ lives and to focus on that rather than all that we lack and all our hurt that comes from our lack.
4) Accept yourself, your situation, & your life: So often we struggle and fall into dark places because we do not accept that reality of what is. Accept your faults, your shortcomings, your mistakes and know that they are part of who you are and are so crucial for your growth. One of my favorite practices is to sit down in a quiet spot and kindly repeat to myself mentally or out loud “I accept myself as I am, I love myself as I am, I am sorry and forgive myself for any way I have let myself down”. Repeat these phrases deeply, and allow yourself to accept where you are, forgive yourself and share some love with yourself. Life is not easy, there is much pain and struggle, and what we need most is love. So, offer that love to yourself, offer that acceptance to yourself, and forgive your faults. What you will see is that if you treat yourself as someone worthy of love, you will be able to be so much greater than you can imagine. It is not by beating ourselves down when we are overwhelmed that leads to our success, but rather by accepting what is and loving it. Where we are is the greatest place we can be—our current reality. And if we can’t accept, acknowledge and love where we are—we can never change our situation or mental state.
5) Laugh more, have more fun, do what you love and spend time with those that make you smile: When I’m in a funk nothing cheers me up quicker than putting on a comedy and seeing the humor in life again, or spending time with friends laughing, talking and doing what we love to do. Sometimes we are so focused on productivity and “getting things done” that we forget about the things that actually make life worth living—friendship, family, animals, community, enjoyment and those things that we love doing that may have no practical use. Spend at least as much time focusing on what you truly enjoy doing as you do focus on the daily grind or work. Schedule time or spontaneously engage in activities that nourish your soul. Our life is limited, and our time is not infinite so really take time to engage in activities that stir your heart, that make you smile and that you truly enjoy. If you’re in a funk it is possible that you have been working too hard and playing too little, so take that much needed time to just do something that gets you excited, or allow yourself without guilt to watch some shows that spark your interest. We think that we can increase our productivity by repressing our fun activities but in the end all we get is burnt out and less productive. Find what you love and enjoy doing and do a little of it every day. As you read this you probably have some things that come to mind that you’ve been wanting or meaning to do. Go ahead and do them, there is a time and place for work and sometimes it can wait although it rarely seems that way. When we nourish our spirits with meaningful and fun activities our daily work becomes much more pleasant and enjoyable as well. When we are in a funk, we tend to isolate ourselves, yet these are often the times that we need to be with people the most! Everything in life needs to be balanced our else our mind becomes imbalanced and we stop seeing the beauty and the joy in life. So, go ahead, give yourself permission to have some fun and NOT be guilty about it. Think about things you used to enjoy when you were little and let your inner child out to plat! Consider it your reward for doing all the great things that you do every day without taking notice, and that time to yourself will make you a much better and more cheerful human being!
Thanks for reading! Written by Bogdan Makartchuk, 4th year Naturopathic Medical Student with a focus on natural mental wellness