I ignore my alarm and get out of bed an hour late. McDonald’s for breakfast, watching two episodes of BoJack Horseman. The glorious taste of the egg Mcmuffins, (yes I have two), is soon dampened by feelings of guilt and shame. How is it 11am already, and why am I still so tired? Anxiety grips my chest like a vice, you’re disgusting. The coffee that was supposed to perk me up, only makes me feel more unsettled. Sat at my laptop, I attempt to do some work but I make the colossal mistake of checking Instagram. I’m greeted by streams of people who unlike me, have their sh*t together. You haven’t even washed your face yet, you pathetic slob. I snap my laptop shut in protest and leave the room. It’s lunchtime. I’ll get on it after lunch.
I make pasta and wash it down with diet coke, the TV lures me back to the couch. With a belly full of carbs, I watch more BoJack and feel numb. I’m so tired. Maybe a nap will snap me out of this? Hating myself I crawl back to bed.
I wake up two hours later with a start. YOU ARE A LOATHSOME PIECE OF SH**! It’s true, how can I argue with that? I roll out of bed and back to my laptop, fighting my way through endless emails.
By 6pm I feel panicked, the negative thoughts circulating through my brain have become aggressive. I reach for the white wine in the fridge to take the edge off. It helps, so I pour another. Dan will be home soon and I need to cook dinner. He deserves better. You’re repulsive, do you know that? Eventually, he’ll see it too and leave.
It’s 10pm and I’m drunk. Not obviously, but I know it. Maybe an early night will help? I take something to knock me out and crawl back to bed a final time. Tomorrow will be different, tomorrow I’ll get up early, eat healthy, work through my ‘to do’ list and exercise. Tomorrow is the day.
This is what a rut looks like. I was stuck in this particular one for a week.
The self-loathing, followed by overindulgence, followed by fatigue and then more self-loathing. It’s what they call a perfect storm, one that anxiety and depression feed off. The desire to get out of a rut, but not knowing how can be frustrating. Why is it so hard to do the things that are good for you? The brain really is a sucker for instant pleasure and punishment.
Defeating the rut!
- First of all. Check in with your brain. Why do you think this happened? In some cases, yes, it could just be that you’re going through a lazy cow spell! However, it could also be an indicator of something else. For example, weeks before the rut, I’d be working myself too hard. Setting unrealistic goals, without adequate downtime. Therefore, when my brain did receive a break, it clung to it like a child with a bag of Haribo! Extreme behaviour triggers extreme counter behaviour. In order to stop patterns repeating, we need to make changes. Therefore, when I did get back on track, I scheduled in my downtime, as I did everything else and was strict about keeping it.
- The night before is crucial! We’re twice as likely to ‘behave’ if we have a plan in place. Therefore, make a list of what you want to do the next day. If you can include times, even better. E.g; 7:00 – get up and wash. 7:30 – porridge for breakfast. 9:00 – complete X task. This will give your brain something to focus on when you wake up and the negative thoughts descend.
- If you have trouble getting out of bed, use the ‘five-second rule’ trick. In her book, Mel Robbins writes about metacognition. Basically, we can trick our brains into complying without protest if we act quickly. This is something that I’ve been doing for years, but couldn’t explain why it worked (Mel can and does)! So when you’re alarm goes off, countdown out loud “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and on 1, launch yourself out of bed. Splash cold water on your face immediately and you’ll be wide awake.
- Ensure the healthy food that you want to eat is simple to prepare, (if not do it the night before). We all know that the bad stuff is also easy, it’s one of the reasons we fall for it. Also, make sure that the healthy stuff also tastes good, otherwise where’s the reward!
- If you want to exercise. Pack your gym bag the night before and leave it by the front door. Tell people that you’re going, as feeling accountable makes it more likely that we’ll act. I work from home, so on the days that I want to exercise, I tend to put my gym clothes on as soon as I get up.
- If the negative thoughts are swarming, begging you to stay in bed, eat pizza for lunch, or watch Youtube clips instead of job hunting… take a moment and visualise how you want to feel later. It might be uncomfortable, but in one hour would you rather feel proud or disappointed in yourself? Use this to keep yourself on track.
- If you get up thirty minutes late or eat the wrong thing. THAT’s OK! The day isn’t ruined. Remember, the schedule is there to help, not punish you. Simply use the 5-second rule to get yourself back on track.
EVERYONE gets stuck in a rut at times, I don’t care who you are… Obama, Beyonce, Jesus! The brain can quickly turn into a small child, digging it’s heels in, (especially if you have anxiety or depression). However, with a little prep and determination, the child can be coaxed.