Two ways to get out of a funk

IB Publisher Jody Glynn Patrick blends work and life in this very clear departure from both her column for In Business magazine, and the other bloggers. Awarded national recognition for her previous work as a newspaper columnist, she brings us all back "Closer to Home" with her insights and remembrances. A nice place to be "After Hours." Check back often! Read Full Bio

Notice the word “funk,” which is a transitional state of mind. I must open this with a caveat: If you are clinically depressed, do not stop at the self-help section of a bookstore or sidestep serious help by reading this “mental reset” advice for people just having a bad day – this article could, in fact, make your depression worse. My advice, if that is your situation, is to immediately seek help. Reoccurring, chronic depression that interferes with functionality, or that leaves you feeling hopeless and helpless, is a clinical situation requiring professional intervention.

Now, for you funky people who are just having the occasional blues or a few bad days strung together, here are hints for getting over the hurdle of a negative mindset.

Suggestion #1: Count your blessings – especially in the midst of your adversities. If you’re stuck in traffic, for example, be grateful you’re not in the wrecked car causing the delay (had you been in traffic a few minutes or seconds earlier, it could have been you – do you really and truly get that? It’s a reason to count a blessing!)

Remember the Great December Blizzard of 2010 and the pain it was to shovel your driveway? The annoyance you felt if your staff wasn’t able to get in to work? Here’s a new perspective: Mary Ann Drescher of Attic Angels told me how her agency, which provides a myriad of housing options for older adults, including high-level care, fared during the huge blizzard. See if her story doesn’t make you feel better, in hindsight, about your situation:

“This past December 12, when we had the blizzard, I got a call about an internal disaster at 2:30 a.m. The snow was so heavy that the ceiling in the kitchen fell down. The water pipes broke and were flooding. The fire ceiling fire extinguisher system flooded the kitchen with Unsel [a chemical fire retardant].

“This was third shift for us, and we already were light staffed due to the storm and serious transportation issues. Then the gas and heat went out for four hours and it was 20 below with wind chill outside. We normally would have relocated clients, but the bus transportation service had been pulled due to the weather. So we concentrated our people where they could stay warmest for the longest period of time.

“Our maintenance people, for the ceiling, were called in – it took them two and a half hours to arrive from Beaver Dam due to road conditions and the blizzard.”

Still, after the event, Mary Ann counts her blessings:

“After the disaster was over, we marveled that we were able to feed everyone, no one was hurt, and the staff was amazing. They all were just amazing … but I’d never want to do that again!”

I wanted to give the Attic Angels staff a big public pat on the back for (1) staying calm; (2) really being the loyal, resourceful people that Mary Ann often brags about; and (3) for putting on their adult panties (boxers or briefs) and just dealing with it. Applause, applause!

Tip #2 for help sweating the small stuff, if that’s what puts you in a funk: Find someone with bigger troubles than yours and put yourself in their shoes for a few minutes – and then celebrate being able to kick those shoes off and walk away.

Wondering how your day could get any worse because the dog pooped on the carpet and your car wouldn’t start? Be careful what you wonder: Things can always get worse.

If you’re one of those people who often finds yourself sweating the small stuff and can’t stop that annoying habit, you’re welcome to start following a blog I write called Bereaved Parents’ Watering Hole. The comments that parents are leaving on the site will help you put into better perspective what’s going on down at the Capitol, or your latest skirmish with your annoying co-worker.

For example, here is a comment from a woman named Bonni posted just before I sat down to write this blog – it’s a response to an article I wrote about how to survive the suicide of your child:

“I feel like there is nothing left to me or for me now that my son has died by suicide. I feel I have failed and I stay here only for my other children but I feel I am failing them too. I want nothing more than for the day to come that I can lay down and die and be buried besides my son. I just do not want to be here anymore. I’m terrified for my other three children, too.”

Here’s another one from this month, from a woman named Kate:

“The comments about the seduction of suicide describe my messed up feelings after my darling son died. I have two other sons to live for, but what if something happens to them? I am terrified.”

Terrified…. If you mentally put yourself in their shoes for even an instant, I bet you kicked those shoes off just as quickly, because the idea of burying a child is terrifying. Bereaved parents don’t care what Wisconsin looks like on national television. If their dog pooped on their rug, they wouldn’t be surprised: Life already has pooped on their head and they are left to clean up the mess as best they can.

These people have reason to be clinically depressed or in a funk. We’re wrong to think “it is what it is” with regard to our lives: It is what we make it, given the circumstances that happen and those we create (and wisdom is knowing the difference). When the best you can do is survive, that’s reason to be in a funk.

The rest of us owe it to people we love in our families or our communities who suffer significant losses to truly appreciate what he have. To be mindful of our blessings. To stop sweating the small stuff.
And we owe it to ourselves as well.

Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore? Good for you!

I think feeling petty or great annoyances and joys are important because they energize us. I’m not preaching from the mound about giving those up. I’m suggesting you bury funk in a mound, instead. Funk is the lack of energy. The lack of engagement. The lack of joy. I’m anti-Funk, not anti-Life.

I have a thing about “traffic calming circles.” They suck. They are stupid. I’ve told Mayor Dave my opinion of them every chance I get. That’s not small stuff to me, and it doesn’t put me in a funk – it makes me mad every time I see a snowplow dump an 8-foot pile of snow in front of my corner house because he couldn’t leave any on the side of the road because of a stupid circle. I can’t change that, but I can express my thoughts about it and hopefully deter any more nilly-willy circle sites.

If you looked at the faces of the protesters at the Capitol building (pro or con), you saw engagement. Fury and Passion, with capital letters. People trying to change what they could change. That isn’t the small stuff. That’s the important stuff. How we look to Jay Leno – that’s the small stuff. Who cares?

Living a good life is a balancing act. I get annoyed, but it’s fleeting and appropriate (I think) to the situation. I don’t get depressed without good reason. If you’re waking up anxious, fearful, or unengaged, it’s important to first define whether it is a clinical depression or funk – if it’s the first, get outside help. If it’s the second, get “inside your own mind” help. Figure out what’s going on, try to reframe the situation using a more appropriate scale or perspective, and then put on your big girl panties (or big boy brief or boxers) and get on with it.

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