I was lying in bed curled up in a ball, unable to do much more than glance around the room, trapped in my own head.
I wasn’t physically ill. I wasn’t coping with some great loss or catastrophe in my life. I admittedly didn’t even have that much to be upset about. But that didn’t change the fact that I was here – internally caving to the throes of life that all of us deal with.
I won’t bore you with the details, but a string of things occurring in my professional and personal life had left me mentally and emotionally paralyzed, unable to do anything other than retreat to my bed for the majority of this particular weekday.
I hesitate to use the word depressed, because there are people that have clinical depression deeper than I can even fathom, but that’s what it was a form of – depression brought upon by a string of setbacks. As the saying goes, when it rains it pours, and it was pouring in my world.
Staring at the ceiling trying to process what was going on in my life, I was at a loss for what to do next, at a loss for how to claw my way out of another low point of life.
But being a writer that focuses on the mindset and habits that allow us to create our best selves, I knew the answers were at my fingertips. I just needed to dig in and apply them. So I set out to do what I’ve done so many times in my life – simplify the situation and execute on the solution. Here’s how I did it.
- Focus on Strengths All of us are good at some things, and not good at others. This was a moment in time where I needed to get back to focusing on my strengths. When you’re in a depressed state, any minor thing can set off a string of emotions and reactions. You’re frustrated, on edge, and sad. Doing things that are a struggle for you can result in deepening that state. Instead of pushing myself in areas that I struggle with, for the next two weeks following my bed-ridden day I only did things I was good at and that came easy to me. More on this in point #2.
- Help Others My outlet to do these things was other people. I gave hours and hours and hours of my time away to others, using my strengths to help others in the areas they weren’t as strong in. I joined the board of directors of a company I deeply admire. I spent a day with a founder helping to craft a management strategy. I spent a day with another founder helping to craft a sales strategy. I picked up the pen and wrote what you’re reading right now.
In effect, I just kept giving myself minor rewards by doing things I knew I was good at. When you do things you’re good at, you naturally receive the egoic reward of success. Couple it with giving that thing away for free to others, and you double dip into the tub of happiness by also receiving the egoic reward of giving.
I would be exaggerating if I said this was a perfect recipe for getting out of my low state. While it did get me out of it, I am still regularly returning to the state, albeit for shorter periods of time. What was days-long prior is now hours-long. But now when I dip back into the state I am armed with tangible and recent experiences of getting out of it. This helps me understand that it’s temporary, and these things pass in due time (and due action).
Life is not perfect. Even for people like me who write about creating the best version of ourselves. The reason I write is because, like all of us, I also have that worst version of myself that I’m trying to keep at bay. Creating our best self sometimes just means slightly improving our worst selves. And that’s okay. Because this too shall pass.