How to Battle the Blues // Sarah from Yes and Yes

How to Fight the Blues by Sarah from Yes and Yes.  Wonderful encouragement for times when you are just feeling blue.
Dear Sarah Von,
I feel slightly ridiculous writing this email but I'm writing it nonetheless.  My life is good and I have very little to complain about.  I graduated last year with a degree in studio art and got a decent job doing graphic design for a mid-sized newspaper.  I live with my boyfriend, I've got a small but close group of friends.  I have an awesome dog and a cute apartment.  I use my vacation time to visit places that interest me.
So why am I bored and listless and slightly depressed?!  I can't help but feeling overwhelmed by a sense of "Is this it?"  I'm pretty sure that this is the life that I've always been working towards but it just feels so.... mundane.  Get up, sit in traffic, work for 8 hours, sit in traffic, get home, make dinner for the boy, watch TV, go to bed, repeat.  I don't know what I'm doing wrong!  I remember starting college and feeling so excited about starting my 'real life.'  But now I'm here and it's not doing anything for me.  What am I doing wrong?
- Oddly Listless

Dear OL,
You are not alone.  This feeling of listlessness is an epidemic that affects tens of millions of people.  That doesn't mean that it's 'incurable' or that it's not valid but know that just about everybody feels like this from time to time. Me very much included!

Here is my prescription for the Isthisit Blues

* Compartmentalize the suck
You list the activities in your daily life - commuting, cooking for your boyfriend, sitting in traffic.  I would imagine that one or two of these things carries more suckage weight than the others.  Have a good think about the aspects of your daily life that are bringing you down; experiment a bit with compartmentalizing the suck.  How do you feel if you do everything the same - but don't watch TV?  How do you feel if you do everything the same - but bike to work instead of drive? 

Once you've cornered the suckiest components, work to lessen or remove them all together.  If it's the commute that really drags you down, get some awesome podcasts, ask your boss if you can work from home on Fridays, move closer to work when your lease ends.  If you hate cooking and washing up every night, get your boyfriend to cook on Mondays and Wednesdays or find a really cheap takeaway place.  If you hate your job?  Well, that deserves a post of its own.

* Get rid of the TV
Or at least cancel the cable.  You literally burn more calories sleeping than you do watching TV.  New studies show that it's actually possible to become physically addicted to tv.  Television shows promote unattainable lifestyles and body types and every time I watch The Housewives of Whatever my blood pressure doubles. 

Spend your evenings catching up with friends, going for runs, trying new ethnic restaurants, volunteering, attempting complicated recipes.  Or if you're too worn down from work for all that?  Read a book, play with the cat, listen to smartypants podcasts, skype with friends in different time zones.  You don't have to go cold turkey off TV, but save it for programs you really, really like.

* Craft some awesome new goals
Your current life is only 'it' if you decide that it is. 

Personal anecdote:  My best friend is Capt. Smartypant McHardworker.  She met her now-husband when she was 16, landed her current (awesome) job at 23 and bought a house at 25.  Super impressive, right?  Oddly, she found herself completely frustrated by her impressive life because she had not anticipated being a well-salaried, married home-owner until she was in her 30s.  She had everything she'd planned for five years too early.  She spent some time mooning around malcontentedly and then feeling guilty about her chronic malcontent. 

But!  Then!  She and her husband decided to try something new!  They decided to start a brewery! She is completely excited and thrilled and so, so happy to be doing something new.  Her office job and house were not 'it.'  They were just one part of the story, one phase in her life that will inevitably have many phases.

So if you're feeling stuck and listless start thinking about the things in life that really excite you.  Travel!  Fashion!  Micro pigs!  Start crafting some new goals involving the things that excite you.  Realize that this is just one little phase in your life.  And if you don't like this phase, work hard to start a new one.

* Do new things
So let's say, for the sake of argument, that you can't really navigate out of this phase of your life.  Maybe you have kiddos or a mortgage or you take care of your parents.  That doesn't mean you're destined for a life of monotony, digging yourself further and further into your muddy little rut.

Try mini-new things:
a new recipe, a new vegetable from the Asian market, a new TV show, a new body wash, a different park, a different drink at Starbucks.  When we start making mini changes and we realize that the world does not actually come crashing to a halt because we ordered an Americano instead of a Cappuccino, we can slowly build up the courage to try big new things.

Helpful links!

Are you overwhelmed by the 'Is this it?' of your life?  How do you deal with it?


Libby said...

This is amazing. Thank you.

Hanner said...

When I get down and bored like this, I usually think of some way to help others who are in need. If it's volunteering at a food bank, offering to help someone with house cleaning or even just taking a visit to someone you know is lonely and down just like you, it makes all the difference in the world!

Most of the time we focus entirely too much on ourselves and forget the big picture. Helping others in need gives a great feeling of joy and never gets mundane!

ashley said...

this is so timely for my quarter life crisis...thank you!

Elle said...

Love this post! I think we all feel a little bit like this some times. And it can be scary to do new things or step out of the little box of a life we have put ourselves into - but it is almost always worth it!!

Rachel - Firebird said...

Sarah Von, sometimes I could eat you all up. Just brilliant.

Alyssa said...

The story about your friend really hit home for me, thanks for sharing <3

Laura said...

I think this feeling that the advice-asker is describing is what some people are now calling the Quarter Life Crisis: the feeling of disappointment with what "real life" is like once school is over. You've spent years working towards it in school and building up all the possibility and awesomeness of it in your head, and then it happens, and it's underwhelming. A lot of the time it's even... boring. It's such a huge let down.

I'm 31, and I went through a rather extreme sense of despair when this happened to me in my mid-20's. The good news is that the feeling tends to pass after a few months or a couple years... nearly all my friends & colleagues went through it and we all got past it as well without anything much changing.

But I think Sarah hit the nail on the head with her advice about adding goals and new activities to your life. Your life seems mundane to you because it's become routine. If you went travelling to exotic places for a year straight, I bet you sightseeing would start to feel routine after awhile too. It's just become too normal for you. So break up the normal. Have something bigger to work towards, and maybe one evening during the week go out and do something fun that's not one of your normal go-to activities. Check out an art museum or go go-karting or something different. And do something new or different on the weekends too. Lo and behold, you'll find your life feels more interesting very quickly. Not only that, YOU'LL be more interesting, because you're having more interesting experiences.

Caitlin said...

Love this so very much, very timely for me.

Megan said...

This is so great. I love the advice to keep things from getting too mundane!

Ayla Rose said...

oh my gosh...thank you so much for this post! Very timely with all the things I have going on in my life... definitely saving this post and the great links! Thanks again!

Kitani said...

Great advice!!! Gonna try quite a few of your tips.

thinkpriddy said...

this was very helpful! thanks for sharing!!

Sarah Von said...

I'm so glad you guys liked it - thanks for having me, Moorea!

venusaeterno said...

I am going through my own quarter life crisis right now and your friend sounds almost exactly like me right now, just the ages were about a year off on the job and house part, it was kinda creepy! Also my husband would love the idea of starting a brewery but thats not gonna happen! I do need to try to do some new things and I am hoping that September will allow me to since I am working a lot less hours than I have lately. Thank you for posting and having the courage to be you(I found your blog because the post about you as an introvert was linked in another blog)

Darcie said...

dudes, maybe we should skip the brewery and start breeding micropigs!! CUUUUUUTTTTTEEEE!!

Lylim | Flyleaf said...

This is such a great post, the tone, it's so gentle. Nothing's worse than having everything in your life be seemingly fine but still feeling inexplicably down. You wander through your days wondering why there's this faint feeling of depression dogging you and you literally have no idea why.

Carolyn said...

I love this post! I'm a recent graduate and the "real world" has been a super drag so far. Setting goals is my number one fix for getting out of a rut. I find setting goals almost more exhilarating than reaching them! I love your 'compartmentalize the suck' advice, it really helps to break things down and put everything into perspective.

primandpauper said...

Exactly what I needed today!

j.lowe said...

Thanks for posting this! I've been feeling a lot like this lately. I thought I was burned out and just depressed. I'm also going through a lot of major changes/life choices, so some of it may be just readjusting all over again. I'll certainly keep these ideas in mind!

desha peacock said...

This is just fantastic advice. One thing I know for sure is we are the creators of our own circumstances, so if you've created something you don't love, time for a change- whether it's big or small- each change should lead to a happier existence, but calls for lots of self-awareness, faith in the process, and sometimes a bit of risk taking~

desha peacock said...

BTW, I'm your newest follower, check my page out here:

SP said...

It sounds so simple when you lay it all out there like this, but it's all so true. Life is just as much, if not more, about the little things as the big changes.

Today's Gift said...

I love this! I will definitely have to try this since I have graduated and am working, but I need something more.