Winning Over Slumps and Getting Back on Track

Success lies in learning and moving on from mistakes and problems smarter. But as we can all attest: getting over a slump is as hard as waking up when your work is no longer satisfying. Incidentally, hitting a slump is responsible for “not feeling like it anymore,” sounds familiar, right? It happens to the best of us. We go through moments when we lose our mojo. We no longer feel fired up. Our performance slows down, and we become inefficient and ineffective. It is natural, our comfort and safe zones turn into painful ruts, and even that secure job may become boring.

Unfortunately, no one is immune to the slump? We all hit the rut and face up and downs in motivation, inspiration, and engagement. What matters, however, is how we rise above the tiredness, lack of inspiration, and the meh moments.

Since hitting the rut easily breeds depression, extreme addiction, and unconscious anxiety, we have to find a way of getting out. As an entrepreneur, you cannot afford to lose time, and when your business stops being a challenge, you may not advance as fast or much as you hoped. Also, if you are waiting for motivation to kick in you will wait for a very long time!

Note, Walt Disney wasn’t an overnight success. Besides his first animation company going bankrupt, legend has it that Walt Disney was turned down a record 302 times before be finally got the money to get started with creating Disney World. Richard Branson has his share of failure with Virgin Cola and the Virgin credit cards, Mark Cuban failed terribly before he got rich, and there’s also J.K Rowling who was not only deeply depressed but also had her manuscript rejected 12 times before the first Harry Potter Series was published. These are just examples of people who hit a slump but got go over it. None of these people waited for success or the slump period to lift, they worked on their dreams, hard.

Surefire signs of a mental slump

Nothing looks or feels different: if you get back to work on Monday and it feels the same as it did on Friday,and your weekends don’t seem to rejuvenate you, you are in a rut. You need to look forward to the next day. If your days are indistinguishable, you should act. It also applies if you are only trying to get through another day. Studies show that more than half the working population feel that they have a job rather than a career and this makes every day a tough day that results in a work rut. In the long run, these feelings of not working in something you are passionate about will hurt your career and chances of success.

Feeling unfulfilled: if you are in sales and you are bringing in more sales, but the job is not fulfilling, you are on a slump.

Lack of motivation: if you feel as if your creative engine just ran dry and the regular oil is not working, then your plugs need to be reworked

You fear change: this might not be so obvious, but a clear sign of, and a cause of getting caught in the hamster wheel lies in fearing change. Sticking with the status quo will not help.

To understand how to get out of the hamster wheel, we should first understand why we get there in the first place.

Why mental ruts

We get stuck in mental ruts because of the brain’s habitual electrical patterns. We know that our past experiences shape our present and future behaviors. What we don’t know is that when we are faced with new circumstances,our brains react by applying rules based on those past experiences, to match our current contexts. And, a part of your brain is specifically wired to do just that – use past experiences to shape your future. This part of the brain is called the pattern seeker or the dorso lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC).

Getting out of the rut involves shifting the patterns in the brain – changing how the brain fires its electrical signals. In the lab, this is done through trans-cranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) which stimulates the brain tissue just beneath the scalp. The positive electrode stimulates the brain tissue while the negative electrodes inhibit the brain tissues. What this shows is that you can break free from a negative space or habit when you look at things differently. You cannot employ the same tactics all the time if you want to push yourself out of the comfort zone.

It’s also been shown that we get into mental ruts and work slumps because of hedonic adaptation – getting used to wonderful things that cease being wonderful with time.

Besides, the brain is an elastic organ. When we engage in new experiences, the neural pathways change, and we make new associations.

These bring us to all the unique ways that will help you break free from a mental rut or slump. Instead of blaming the economy, your boss, the industry, culture, or resources, do these:

  1. Identify what you are struggling with

Have you hit a slump because you are bored with that project? Do you have issues with your teammates or employers? Do you think you’ll feel better working in a different field or industry altogether? Figuring out the ‘whys’ of life is a tough process. But, once you figure it out, you become unstoppable.

Now that you have identified the cause of your slump acknowledge it. Like any problem you face, you will only come up with working solutions if you know what you need to resolve. Sticking your head in the sand will take you deeper into that slump and getting out will be difficult.

2. Take care of yourself

The most effective way to deal with a mental slump and getting out of that rut starts with self-care. Assess how well you have been taking care of yourself:do you eat well? Are you taking in too much junk? When was the last time you worked out? Do you have adequate social support? Have you been getting enough sleep? Addressing the problem from the inside is effective in resolving the problem.Think about the number of times your performance has dropped because you didn’t sleep well? How about the mental fog that comes about from long periods of inactivity? By taking care of your health, you can get rid of a mental slump a lot faster.

3. Change something… Or Everything

Once you’ve identified the cause of the slump, and you’re embracing self-compassion, it’s time to switch things up. Alter your routine. Take a cold shower to shock your brain. Wake up earlier than you always do. Leave work later or earlier than usual.

We are all creatures of habits. But, habits take us down mental ruts fast. So, despite being an introvert, strike up a conversation with your colleagues or a stranger. Have fun – watch a movie, go for a dance, or enjoy a thrilling afternoon in the park. Just do something that will flood your system with adrenaline.

Change also involves trying out something new. It doesn’t have to be related to your work. A cooking class, for example, or a new show will give you a different feeling. Spontaneity kicks boredom out of your life, lifting you and the slump off your shoulders.

4. Be Positive and patient

Slump bursting is east when you are patient and positive. It means that you shouldn’t put yourself down and you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself when you fail. Note that being overly critical of self will only worsen the situation. You may get depressed, and you may lose your ability to work through the problem.

On the same note, do not rush yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you didn’t get that degree in a month, and that promotion didn’t come by without hard work and getting passed over. As your own coach, be patient, praise and reward the small steps you take, and never give up on yourself. Remember that your chances of losing or failing at an attempt to get better involve taking pressure off yourself.

Patience allows the brain an opportunity to churn new ideas and solutions. So, be actively patient and don’t lose your self-control.

You’ll have to change your attitude if you want to get out of the rut. Read, listen to and watch things around you, and pay attention to the things that uplift you. Stick around people who uplift you.

5. Control your Focus

The chances are that the reason for your slump is lack of focus on what really matters or focusing on too many things at the same time. Change your state of mind and learn to only focus on the now. If you give your brain mental time traveling, you’ll certainly hit a slump or worse, suffer a brain block. When you let your mind wander, your confidence will suffer, and you’ll become more fearful.

6. Refocus your goals

Creating a goal is a powerful action that can take you out of the rut. But, you’ll have to dig deep down. Why? Well, hitting a slump is a common consequence of walking through life with blindfolds on. So, dig deep and identify a target in your future than work backward from there. With a target in mind, you wake up each day knowing what you need to do to achieve your goals. Keep the target as specific as possible.

On the same note, you should find your purpose. Have something to motivate and drive you. Something you can look forward to. Start small. Have something to look forward to tomorrow or this Friday then next week, and so forth.

7. Leverage your bursts in energy

During the day, you have pockets of time when you feel the most active and motivated, or you’re used to, right? Leverage those time pockets even if they last a few minutes. During that time, focus on one activity and give it your best. Doing this will not only improve your productivity but also help you make big and powerful wins in less time. All you need to do is to create clear and reasonable targets. When you meet these goals, you appreciate your progress, and you feel motivated.

8. Spend more time outdoors

Being out in nature has a positive impact on your life. For example, it reduces self-referential rumination that is linked to severe depression, it lowers depression, stress, and improves your overall mental well being. Nature also improves creativity and boosts your mood. So, if you are looking for a simple way of getting out of your head, clearing your head, and figuring things out, go outside.

9. Practice mindfulness

Being mindful means being aware of what’s happening in the present moment, without judgment. This process integrates our neural pathways differently, and we have space to see things as they are rather than how we want them to be. Breathing meditation is the basic route to mindfulness. Showing gratitude is also effective in making us more mindful.

10. Write things down or journal

We all get lost in our thoughts, and we end up in a mental slump. As mentioned above, giving your brain time to wander makes it difficult to get out of a slump. Instead, write down those thoughts. As random and muddled up as they are. Some of those ideas are great, and you could have lost them. When you write those thoughts down, you’ll have a point of reference and a clear mind.

11. Clear your calendar

Should you attend or do all those activities in your calendar? Can you push others to a later date? Can you decline others? When you reassess your calendar, you will only say yes to what you can do, and what matters. You won’t be overwhelmed, and you will be able to get through your days less stressed. Clearing your calendar also recharges the emotional and mental batteries.

12. Focus on what is working

When in a slump, it’s hard to see the positive notes. Take a few minutes daily to reflect. You’ll realize that you have something to smile about. Be grateful for those things. Otherwise, the burdens you are thinking about will wear you out.

13. Stop the comparison wheel

We are naturally competitive and you want to be the best in tax audit, finance, economics, marketing or anthropology. Unfortunately, comparing yourself with the achievements of others drives you deeper into that mental slump. It’s bad for you psychologically, kills your mojo, and it makes you unproductive.

You may be a long way from getting your mojo back up. But, embracing a positive attitude and making small changes in your life will slowly get you out of the rut. As you work on boosting your motivation, take small steps and reward yourself.

Author: Eddy

Eddy is the editorial columnist in Business Fundas, and oversees partner relationships. He posts articles of partners on various topics related to strategy, marketing, supply chain, technology management, social media, e-business, finance, economics and operations management. The articles posted are copyrighted under a Creative Commons unported license 4.0. To contact him, please direct your emails to editor.webposts@gmail.com.