10 Ways to Find Strength and Inspiration When You Feel Lost in the Daily Grind

Self on 01.30.12
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Photo: Ed Yourdon / Creative Commons

Lately I've been feeling unmoored. I gave up a lucrative career to watch my daughter while I work as a professional blogger. While spending time with her and making sure she has the best nurturing environment I can muster is wonderfully fulfilling and feels right, I can't pretend that downscaling my career doesn't affect my family negatively in other ways.

Frankly, it's stressful to feel needy in the money department and it makes me question my current choices. I know ultimately that I'm doing the right thing, as long as I take the steps necessary to foster my current career path, to bloom in creativity, and bring home more dough and bacon.

But how do I do that? Recently, my internal well felt dry and I needed to muster strength from the outside. Here is where I turned, plus some more ideas for when times are tough:

1. Connect With a Loved One

Last night, my husband and I sat down for an hour and talked. Really talked. Sitting down across from one another until well after midnight. Anyone who knows me and my sleep-crazy ways would say this was nutso. But I can't begin to tell you the strength and happiness I gained from our interaction.

Paradoxically, it can be hardest to turn to the ones we're closest to in our time of need. After all, we feel (erroneously) there's way more at stake if we say the wrong thing. However, over the course of a lifetime, it's more dangerous to say nothing and allow distance to come between you with absolute certainty.

2. Ask Friends Who Seem on Track

Last week my friend Frugal-Momma blogger Amy Suardi posted an awesome list of books to help you fulfill your dreams and keep your life on track. Reading her list sparked something in me. I knew that her list was going to be a valuable source of help for me, but I was concerned about my tendency to over-research and underperform -- what if I were only looking for more research to do by reading all of those books. So I asked her for help.

After I described my goals and setbacks, Amy was able to hone in a couple books from her list that could help me get on the right track. Again, it took a little bit of vulnerability on my part to ask for her help, but I'm so glad I did.

3. Fake it Til You Make it

Ask yourself what you want your life to be like. See it in your mind's eye. Then play pretend to get there. Taking action will help you build momentum.

From Pick the Brain:

...if you articulate your goals, and start to accomplish them, easy ones first, you will develop a mindset of success. This, in turn, makes it easier to feel confident.

A boost in confidence will make it easier to take action going forward. Hence the saying "Success breeds success."

4. Consider Professional Help

Maybe you are too far down in a deep rut, you feel hopeless and dejected and don't have enough energy or drive to even consider faking it. Maybe the thought of connecting with family or friends sounds terrible. What do you do now? Consider getting in touch with a professional counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist to help you get moving again towards connection, fulfillment and happiness.

If you don't feel comfortable sharing that you sought mental help with the world, then keep it a secret. Let's put it this way: if you sprained or broke something physically in your body and had to get professional rehabilitation for your injury, you would just do it. Give your mind the same courtesy (and excuse, if that's what you need to get the time and space.)

5. Invoke Someone (Alive or Dead) That You Admire

The first step is to name your patron saints. These are people who are examples you admire. You don't need a template; you might admire women as diverse as Mother Teresa and Lady Gaga. It doesn't matter what the outside world thinks of these people -- it only matters what you think. For example, Lady Gaga helps young people to accept themselves, love themselves and to celebrate their uniqueness, which in turn helps them to accept and love other people, which gives others hope, love and acceptance, and so on.

Don't try to choose a saint holier than thou just because it looks good to judgmental people. Choose someone who inspires you. Take stock of the qualities that you admire and want to emulate. Use that spark to help you achieve your own goals.

6. Find Your Community

Use books or the internet to find people who have overcome or who are struggling with the same issues you have. This could mean finding a mommy group, an exercise club, a book club, a blog, or any other motivational group of likeminded individuals you can connect with to help you get a leg up on your struggles.

For an added boost, create an in-person element. Reach out and make plans to talk face-to-face on a regular basis to achieve a greater level of connection and inspiration.

7. Create a Structure or Routine

Sometimes we know exactly what we need to do, but knowing is not doing. What we really need is the time and space in which to accomplish our goals.

One of the first steps to accomplishing a goal is chunking it out, or breaking down the big picture into tiny baby steps. Figure out what small steps you need to take to get moving along your yellow brick road. Then decide how to best arrange your life to make these baby steps happen. Look at your plan weekly and readjust your schedule accordingly.

8. Get Fresh Air

Do you need a change of scenery, or a daily dose of vitamin D? Imagine running through a field of daisies in the sunshine. Take big breaths of fresh air, bathe in the sunshine, exalt in the beauty of the blue sky. Do you taste freedom? I know I do.

Seek out some nearby nature and move your body. Ignore the fact that the weather isn't cooperating. Just do it. Daily, if possible. It'll help boost your mood and work the kinks out.

9. Get Exercise Daily

This is related to number 8, but not dependent on it. Get some vigorous, heart-pumping exercise. It's well-documented in scientific studies that exercise relieves stress and depression. It also has tremendous health benefits. Frankly, it's pretty difficult to be in peak physical condition -- I mean healthy, physically fit, and active (not skinny fat or mal-nourished) -- and to be stuck, lost, or depressed. The exception to that rule is if your only goal in life was to get fit. "Okay, I'm fit. So now what."

What does your health enable you to do? Play more with your kids? Be active in community theater? Deliver newspapers in the morning? It doesn't matter, but make a connection between fitness and a more fulfilled existence.

10. Reach Out to Someone You Admire

Who do you admire? This could be a blogger, a celebrity, a local reporter...or the checkout lady in the grocery store who has a smile and a kind word for everybody. If you're feeling lost, write them a note or have a heartfelt conversation. Tell them what qualities they have that you admire, and ask them for their inspiration. They might have a quote or some insight to share. Bonus: they will feel flattered that you noticed, and that'll make you both feel good.

The next time you're feeling stuck or down in the dumps, check this list and pick somewhere or someone to turn to for a boost of strength and inspiration.

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