Why We Have Slumps And How To Get Out Of Them

Lonely path

(Image: James Wheeler)

Slump: A period of decline or deterioration, during which a person performs slowly, inefficiently, or ineffectively[1]

Recently, I slipped into a slump. If you’ve been in a slump before, you’ll know how disempowering it feels. It feels like you are stuck and can’t get anything done. While you can clear simple tasks like check email, it’s different for higher-level tasks. For these tasks, it’s tough to get started. You may set aside time to work, but nothing much gets done.

After a while, you feel drained. Since nothing you do amounts to anything, you feel like doing nothing. Eventually, you turn to sleep for comfort, hoping that everything will be better when you wake up.

My Slump for the Past Few Months

That was exactly what I had experienced for the past few months. Initially, my productivity declined in bits. I responded by increasing the time I was spending on work, at times even pulling all-nighters. I thought that by spending more time, I would get more done.

Not really. My productivity continued to decline, leading to an overall reduced output.

Weirdly, even though I had been busy with my training and other work, it felt like I wasn’t making progress in my life. Other than my one-to-one coaching sessions and workshops which were ongoing commitments, I felt like I was not accomplishing anything.

For example, one of my current projects is to write a book but it was tracking behind schedule. Despite spending a lot of time on the book, I couldn’t get into the flow of writing. I had wanted to kickstart my video channel but kept getting occupied by little things. On the personal front, my lifestyle was falling apart. I was falling off the wagon for my exercise regime. My diet was off-track and I had been eating a lot of junk food. My sleeping hours were out of whack — I was sleeping at 3-4 am on average.

To rub salt into the wound, I fell sick with flu, sore throat, and fever. My limbs felt sore, my body was aching, my stomach felt queasy and I was constantly sneezing. Even as I’m writing this now, I’m still sick but I hope to recover in the next few days.

Uncovering The Cause

It was worrying. I remembered thinking it was just January 2010 — the start of the year! If this continued, there was no way I could bring my goals to life. I felt like I was losing control and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

As I shared in my past article on creating real change, there is always a root cause for every effect. To create real change, you have to address the root cause. I knew I had to get down to the root of the issue rather than tackle the effects (my reduced productivity).

So I reflected on the issue. Nothing constructive came up at first. I couldn’t imagine why I was in a slump. I was pursuing my passion, doing what I love. I was connecting with incredible people every day through my blog and in person. I was helping people change their lives for the better. I was doing something that had real meaning, more meaning than anything else I have done.

So, why then? Why was I in a slump? I went jogging. I meditated to clear my mind. I also journaled to drill to the root of the issue.

Realizing the Cause of the Slump


(Image: Claudio.Ar)

The answer soon hit me. I had sunk into a slump because I had not taken time out for myself.

And it was true, very true. I can’t remember the last time I took time to rest. Ever since I pursued my passion, I had been occupied with work. I lost the concept of weekends, simply because I felt there was no reason to take time off if I truly loved what I did. I forgot a very important principle — If you want to cut down a forest of trees, you need to sharpen your saw.

Sadly, I had forgotten to do that — sharpen my saw. While I did set aside time for non-work-related activities such as social outings and recreation, I would always be mentally occupied with work even during those activities. I never truly relished in my time “off,” so even after my “break times,” I would still feel exhausted.

Unfortunately, many of you are likely guilty of neglecting yourselves too. How many of you constantly push yourself to get things done? How many of you constantly put yourself through heavy amounts of punishment without giving yourself a breather? This is a signature trait of neurotic perfectionists.

Have you ever driven a car? If yes, you must have experienced times when your car ran low on gas. During these times, did you:

  1. Continue driving without intending to stop? OR
  2. Stop at a nearby gas station to refill your tank?

Naturally, you must have picked #2. After all, you need the fuel to continue driving.

Yet, many of us choose #1 when it comes to ourselves.

Take Time Out For Yourself

Have you been so busy that you haven’t taken time out to relax and unwind? Have you been busy sowing seeds rather than enjoy the fruits of your labor? Have you been putting off fun and recreation in the name of work? Have you been neglecting your needs for the sake of others?

When was the last time you took time off for yourself?

Slumps are signs that we are running low on internal fuel. Rather than rest and relax, many of us do the exact opposite — we push ourselves to work.

This was exactly what I did, and it backfired. Instead of increasing my productivity, my productivity went down further. To the point where it came to a halt and took a toil on my mental and physical health.

If you are in a slump, it’s a sign that you are way overdue in the rest department. Take a day off work. To be honest, it may seem like there are so many urgent things at work that you can’t take a day off, but really — the world isn’t going to crash if you are away from work for just a day. There may be lots to do, but if you aren’t in your prime condition, nothing much is going to get done at all.

Spend the time doing things you enjoy. Go out and take a walk. Catch a movie. Shop if you like. Read your favorite book. Watch your favorite shows. Rest at home if you just want to get quiet rest time. Whip up a meal if you love cooking. Buy something you’ve been meaning to get. Spend some time out with your favorite friends, or just spend time alone if you prefer that, You deserve this, trust me.

Today, I intend to take some time off to rest and relax. I’m going to catch up on a TV series, take a walk, and run some simple errands. I look forward to getting back to my full self soon. Most importantly, I’m going to make a point to allocate time for rest from now on.