August 25

Dealing With Anxiety & Dark Days In Paradise


You’re on vacation one of the most beautiful islands in the world and all you can think of is…I want to leave now.  

Maya Bay pic I had just returned from a 3 week vacation  in  Thailand, where I had many amazing  experiences from taking Thai cooking  classes and connecting with great people  from around the world to spending a day  at an Elephant Sanctuary, where we fed,  bathed, and hung out with these beautiful  elephants in a natural habitat.

10 days into my trip, I was in Koh Samui,  having just left Maya Bay, a magical setting  where they filmed the movie “The Beach”  with Leo DiCaprio (Where the picture was taken) and I was sitting in my hotel room and my thoughts were:

*I wanted to return home now

*I had another 11 days left and was anxious about not being able to leave

*What excuse would I tell people if I returned home early

It’s interesting that now, having overcome the anxiety and Panic Disorder that I struggled with for years, sometimes people are surprised when I tell them that on occasion, I will have anxious thoughts or feelings.

I understand their perspective, but there’s a big difference going from anxiety controlling your life to having occasional anxious thoughts and knowing how to calm it down and continue forward…we’re all human and part of the experience is these types of thoughts and sensations.

So as these thoughts of wanting to leave Thailand were going on, a feeling of guilt set in, as I thought about how fortunate I was to be able to have the time off for this trip, the funds to pay for it, and be physically able to do it.

It was like being stuck in a vice as you have compounding thoughts of wanting to do listen to what you are feeling, but then guilt for having these negative thoughts when in reality, your life is great…have you ever experienced that? 

So while this situation often snowballs into a massive wave of feeling depressed, lost confidence, and missing that zest for life, here’s what you can do to  fight back and regain happiness.

5 Strategies To Boost Your Mood When Feeling Down

1. Identify your trusted circle

We’re social beings and as such, speaking with someone about your feelings is an excellent way to gain perspective and start feeling better. While this is a great step, be careful to avoid calling someone who will just tell you to “get over it” as that will only make you feel worse and possibly resentful.

Review your list of friends and family and identify who you trust, who will allow you to vent, and will provide balanced feedback to your situation.

Personally, in my list of friends and family, while they are all great people and I value their relationships, there are 7 people that I would call in this type of situation and out of those 7, only 2 that I regularly contact for these specific situations.

By listing your trusted inner circle, you will experience an increase in confidence because what often drives these sad feelings is isolation. Knowing that you have one or two people you could turn to, reduces this feeling as you know you have support should you need it.

2. Contact your trusted circle

Now that you’ve identified whom you could contact for support and are feeling more connected, it’s time to “reach out and touch somebody.” (Lame reference to old AT&T ads)

When doing this, it’s important to set the context of the call right away so the other person knows why you’re reaching out and will adjust accordingly.

Example: “Hi, I’ve had a rough day and am calling you as I would appreciate your support.”

It doesn’t have to be this exact phrase and you will want to say what best fits with you. The key is to identify the reason for the call and let them know you’re having an off day, so you’re both on the same page.

As much as a good vent session can be helpful, to the person on the receiving end, this can be overwhelming, so you will want to describe the situation, the challenge you’re facing, and the options available.

This allows both you and the person on the phone to have a clear picture of what you’re dealing with and also gives them the ability to possibly identify other options/perspectives you haven’t thought of and provide additional insight.

Caution: There is a chance that they’re feeling off themselves or not in the right mindset to deal with this now. If they say they can’t talk now, don’t take it personally, just ask when would be a good time to speak.

3. The 80-20 Rule is your friend 

The Pareto Principle, more commonly referred to as the “80-20 Rule” is used to identify that in events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This is applied in many ways and is commonly found in business where 80% of your income comes from 20% of your clients, but in this post, we’re looking at the 80-20 Rule in terms of your life.

There’s a tremendous amount of pressure being put on people to be happy, fulfilled, successful, wealthy, fit, great career, large social network, great family, etc.

While this pressure can be a motivator, it can also make people feel like they’re not achieving enough, which social media often perpetuates, but we’ll cover that next in tip #4.

At a lunch meeting 3 years ago, I was speaking with a lady who was a Psychologist turned Financial Advisor. She was very successful in her career and as we discussing self-employment and the challenges faced, I mentioned that at times, I questioned if this is my path because while I was passionate about what I do, sometimes I was frustrated with work and the commonly referred statement that:

“Find your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life”  

This wasn’t always my experience, so I felt that perhaps this wasn’t what I was truly meant to do. She shared that one of her principles for success was that if she was happy 80% of the day, then she’s on the right path.

As simple as this statement was, it had a pronounced effect as it allowed to to give myself permission to move away from setting an impossible standard of having to be happy all the time when working. The reality is that we all have off days, frustrations at work, difficult people to deal with. I apply the 80-20 Principle by reflecting:

*Was 80% of my day good?

*Was 80% of my week good?

*What positive actions did I take today?

Why this is effective, is it gives you “permission” to feel off, which is especially important to combat the unrealistic portrayal of people that are perpetually happy. This constant belief that you must be happy 100% of your day is not realistic, sadness is a normal human emotion.

If you find yourself in a state of depression, seeking help is highly encouraged, but if you are feeling a bit down, look inside of it, observe what is making you feel sad, this is often a great revelation as it’s identifying potential areas for you to change so you improve your levels of happiness. I find that changing my environment, going outside, walking, exercise, connecting with friends is often what’s needed to change my state.

4. Use Social media with caution 


I have a love-hate relationship with social media as it’s excellent for keeping updated on what people are doing, spreading messages, and has been great for business, but the downside is it’s negative effects, such as it’s addictive nature and specifically how it creates this comparison culture of constantly being reminded how you measure up amongst your peers.

With my clients, one of the main issues that regularly comes up is social media because when we look at happiness, they often tell me about certain Facebook friends that are living a better life than they are, making more money, in better shape, better relationships, etc.

While this may be true, we must use social media with caution as most of what is posted on social media are the highlights of people’s lives as users can select how they want to be portrayed. Rarely will people share their struggles, frustrations, shortcomings on it and while it’s good to see positive messages, viewing it with a filtered lens can make it more realistic.

There’s 2 aspects to use social media for your benefit:

*When you see someone that is living a life that you would love to have, identify which specific elements you most resonate with, then ask yourself what are the first steps you can implement to work towards that goal.

*Compete with someone everyday, but make that competition with yesterday’s version of yourself. We’re all different people with unique skills and circumstances. View others as motivation, then compete with yourself daily to become the best version of yourself.

5. Break events down to see reality 

The event that inspired this post was being on vacation in Thailand, on an amazing beach, and having a day where I felt down and my focus was on wanting to return home asap and dreading the rest of the trip. This lasted for about a day and I followed the exact steps outlined above, felt better the next day and went on to have a number of amazing experiences.

The last aspect I want to share with you to help when you feel down is on breaking down the event to gain perspective.

This works for a couple of reasons:

*When you start to reflect on your situation, you remove yourself and go from being the person directly affected to the observer. This creates distance from the emotions and allows greater perspective.

*When you’re feeling off, there’s often a number of reasons that are compounding to create this feeling. One of the biggest contributors to feeling stressed/depressed is when you don’t know why you’re feeling this way. By listing out the factors, you start to make sense of what’s contributing to your feeling, which makes you feel more in control as knowing this allows you to identify what needs to be changed to feel better.

When I did this exercise, a number of contributing factors were identified:

-I hadn’t been sleeping well, combination of jet lag, hotel beds, and late nights out.

-I wasn’t eating healthy, too many late night meals, lack of vegetables and balanced meals was taking it’s course as I was feeling (and looking) bloated.

-Lack of exercise. At home I have a regular yoga and workout routine, while the only exercise I had been getting was walking around and eating, lol.

-Was out of contact with my support system of friends and family

-The night before, I had a meal that didn’t sit well and had been throwing up out of both ends 😉

-Too much alcohol and sugary drinks.

-Didn’t have my vitamins and supplements

These were a few of the factors identified and while many can be accepted as normal parts of being on vacation, they all have the ability to change your mood.

After reviewing this list, I made the decision to regain balance by contacting my inner circle, started eating healthier, found a yoga class there and then my stomach started to feel better and mood improved.

This was one of my best trips ever and going through this situation of feeling down in paradise was excellent to create a game plan to stop it in it’s tracks and regain control.

Next time you find yourself feeling down, go through these steps and let me know how it helps.


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