Not Running On Empty, Not Running On Full

Photo by Cris Saur on Unsplash

I tend to be positive to a fault. It’s not just a silver lining I see, but a blaze of light projected the outlines of clouds. Honestly, my positivity is borderline toxic (a border I am wary not to cross for the sake of those around me.) Although I am not naturally a morning person, I like to get up at 6 am, express my gratitude to the heavens (or the universe), get a workout in, and spend some time meditating. For most of the pandemic, I managed to maintain this routine, but I just haven’t felt the same for the last few weeks.

I live in the Philippines, which has pretty much been on lockdown for over a year now. Many friends and family praised how I stayed optimistic and upbeat the past year, even though the extended lockdown severely impacted all my work. Credit it to the momentum of small positive habits like forcing a smile when I wake up, but I just managed to overlook the fecal storm (trying not to curse here) going on in my country and the whole world.

Things were going swimmingly (albeit open water swimming against a strong current) up until mid-April. I just hit a wall. One morning, I skipped all my alarms and just got up at 8 am, groggy as a toddler who missed nap time. “It’s just an off morning,” I told myself. Then it happened the next day and the day after that. I couldn't bring myself to walk outside or even stretch when I woke up. I started skipping my morning “thank you’s,” and forcing a smile was getting too tiring. I was “bonking” (shoutout to any cyclists reading this); I hit a wall physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but I wasn’t sure why.

To be clear, I don’t have depression. I know many people close to me who have it, and I have been there for many of them, so I am aware of its toll on a person. Out of respect for people suffering from depression, I will not exaggerate by claiming that I was suffering from it. What I do know was that I was at a valley, a low point.

When my closest friends asked me how I was doing, I’d surprise them by saying, “Ok. I’m at about 60%.” 60 percent was just some arbitrary number, but on a general scale, I felt like that’s where I was. You might say, “That’s fine,” or that this shouldn’t even be worth writing about, but I guess these are all relative. We all experience life differently, and we all take to suffering differently. Coming from someone who works hard to live at 90–100%, that drop was fairly significant and was noticed by those around me (as much as possible, I don’t want to be the guy bringing the energy of a room down.)

What’s the point of writing all this? First of all, I am sorry for taking five paragraphs to get to the main point. This was written in a stream-of-consciousness this morning as I semi-miraculously woke up to the birds chirping (literally) and went for a 6 am walk for the first time in weeks. My main point is that we all go through cycles. We all have our highs and lows; some will have higher highs while others will have lower lows. I realized that I became too complacent when it came to my contentedness. Confusing as that may seem, it is true. I kept the same routine for months and was just going through the motions without thought. Life needs to be lived thoughtfully, even in the most relaxed lives. The quote, “Take your pleasures seriously,” makes more sense to me now.

This spiel isn’t completely pointless. I can sort of pinpoint what happened that helped me get out of my funk. Hopefully, anyone (probably literally just one other person might read this) who reads this can relate and try these steps out to get out of their funk.

Talk to someone. I mean, have a long, deep talk about what you really feel, what life has been like, what you would want in the future. You can either pour your heart out or listen intently to someone else’s plight. In my case, one of my friends more prone to actual depressive tendencies called me up, and we talked for an hour. Actually, he talked for 55 minutes, and I talked for about 5. The interaction was what mattered. This friend of mine always calls me because he knows I can lend an ear and maybe throw in some friendly advice. I guess the call gave me some sense of purpose that I took for granted before. My friend was surprised to find out that I was also feeling down, but the call ended in a hopeful tone. It was reassuring that we were on the same boat, but we had each other for company and support.

Accept that you feel down. I’d think that this should be the first among the tips I will list, but, in my case, it took that phone call with my friend for me to realize this. Although I had verbally acknowledged that I wasn't feeling 100% (with my arbitrary 60% spiels), I didn’t really take it to heart until yesterday. I have a habit of never admitting that I am feeling down (maybe crossing the border of toxic positivity here?), but I didn’t beat around the bush on the call with my friend. It was probably some form of release to truly admit that I was feeling down. As I said, we all have our highs and lows.

Treat yourself to a good meal. I had a hell of a good meal last night accompanied by the coldest beer possible. This was the first beer I had in months, and I definitely didn’t take it for the effects of inebriation; it just went perfectly with the tempura. Good here is relative as well. For those who binge eating unhealthy foods, a good meal could be a healthier one. It could be something new, or it can be a dish that brings back good memories.

Go for a walk. Get some fresh air and some sun. Change your immediate surroundings for a little while. I won’t bother explaining the science behind it here. We all need this.

Honestly, this is all written in hindsight. I slept last night with no plans of waking up early to go out for a walk. It just happened. I can’t even say that the momentum will carry on till tomorrow and the days after. However, while my mind is clear and my body is energized, I wanted to get this all out. It serves as a reminder, a guide, a what-have-you that I will sometimes get off track (you can probably notice it in my writing :p). May we put in place the necessary systems that can pull us out of our lows.

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uncurated rambles for my posting pleasure

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Tan Emmanuel

Tan Emmanuel

uncurated rambles for my posting pleasure

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