Getting out of a rut

YOU have had one of those days. It is like everything has conspired to unnerve and annoy you and every little thing ticks you off. Everywhere you look seems to be out of place and depressing. If you are leading a team, this could get out of hand, and your bad mood can affect your team’s overall disposition and even productivity. No one likes a boss prowling the hallways like an enraged bull ready to gore down anyone unlucky enough to be in his path. You do not want to be that bull.

So how do you get out of the rut when this happens to you?

One of the best things you can do is to eat. People coined the term “hangry” to indicate irritability because of hunger, hence, the mashup of the words “hungry” and “angry.” Eating the right kinds of food alleviates your mood and keeps you up and about. In my team, we started a Biggest Loser contest last January and one of my teammates, who was not part of the contest, commented on how some people’s behavior changed over the past weeks. He said a person’s mood when on diet is different from when they can eat whatever they want. This just goes to show that you need to eat properly to keep the hunger pangs at bay making you less irritable.

You can take eating to a new level by eating outside. It does not matter if you bring packed food or if you buy food. Just eat outside. Sometimes it is the office environment and the stress it brings that makes you irritable. Being in a different environment helps you find your center and gives your mind a break from the stress or monotony of office work. If you cannot go out, find a spot in your office where you can look outside while eating. A new perspective will boost your mood. So do not be guilty by taking a break. When being in a bad mood comes from being tired and hungry at the same time, a quick bite can go a long way to improving your mood. So go ahead and treat yourself. You deserve it.

Sometimes the bad juju comes from feeling estranged from people. One of the common sources of being in a bad mood is the feeling of guilt, which can be easily remedied by apologizing to the person we offended and making amends—and leaving it at that because that is all we can do. So you also need to forgive yourself for your shortcomings and find ways to make yourself better. But to dispel the lingering sense of guilt, you can use distraction techniques to equalize your mood. You can watch a funny video clip or listen to your favorite artist to get your mind off whatever is bothering you.

Social media can also contribute to your irritability. People started labeling anxiety caused by fear of missing out with the acronym FOMO. You posted a photo on a social-media site, and after a few minutes, no one has liked it. For some, this can cause irritability. In case you are like this, do not take it personally. People check their social media on the fly, and sometimes they do so while waiting in line or being stuck in traffic. One of the things I did was a social-media fast. The last time I checked my social-media accounts was last September. I realized some of the things I read there just irritated me and got me worked up, so I stopped. That gave me more time to focus on people I care for and have more interactions with them.

Speaking of interactions, sometimes a bad mood is caused by a feeling of disconnection. You might be missing a family member or a really good friend you have not talked to for a long time. Calling familiar people who love you unconditionally is an effective way of boosting your mood. A safe person keeps you feeling good about yourself and your accomplishments. They know all the right words to say to make you feel better and know you well enough to chastise you when needed.

Another effective mood booster is to help someone. Altruism increases oxytocin levels and makes you feel good about yourself. When you help someone, it makes you appreciate what you have and thankful for all the things not everyone can enjoy. The feeling of satisfaction from helping someone gives you a natural high because your body also reacts by releasing endorphins, which are the happy hormones. In turn, you feel better about yourself. Helping someone also acts as a small win, which gives you additional fuel to do your other more difficult tasks and helps stave off the feelings of frustration or anxiety.

Challenging tasks also have a way of getting you down. Aside from breaking them down into smaller tasks and spacing them off into realistic timelines, you also need to accept that are some things you can and cannot do. For the things you cannot do, let them go. Instead, focus on the things you can do and excel in them. In my line of work, dependencies from other groups can really weigh down the completion of a project. While we encourage, push and then later on demand deliverables, we still need to accept their limitations and work around them. Do not sweat the small stuff and focus instead on what you and your team can do.

Like what a wise and important person in my life once said, do not be bogged down by the small trivialities that just agitate and frustrate you. By focusing on what you can do, you lessen your frustration and you do not overly exert yourself on something that cannot be helped.

What you can actually do is to exert effort to exercise. One of the benefits of exercising is it keeps your body in top condition to face the challenges of your work and your personal life. Like what I said in my previous column, it releases endorphins, which make you feel good and helps you think clearly. I cannot overemphasize the need for exercise as part of your regular schedule because it has numerous benefits.

For future pick-me-ups, write a gratitude journal. Get a notebook and, at the end of each day, write just one thing you are thankful for. Not only does it force you to see the good in your day but it also becomes a repository of the good things that happened to you. So when the day comes and you feel really down, read some of your entries. It will make you appreciate where you are now and give you enough fuel to get through the slumps.

Feeling down is normal, but staying there isn’t. There are so many things you can do to get yourself out of a rut. Try one or two of the things listed here. You just might find a breakthrough, which will help you overcome that slump and be on your way to a happier and more productive you.


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