Words of Wellness: Time for a Reframe

December 16, 2021 - Culture of Caring - Claudia Finkelstein

Feeling stuck? You’re not alone. In a recent mindful popup session, I mentioned my own sense of stuck-ness and was interested to hear from several of the participants that it had struck a chord. What’s going on?

In addition to seasonal mood fluctuations many of us experience this time of year, we are now in our second pandemic winter. The holidays may make things worse for some who are just not feeling the forced cheerfulness or are experiencing personal or family hardships.

A recent article by Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, really captures the mood. He describes languishing as being in the zone between flourishing and depression, a state of “meh.” In this state we may be oblivious to the “dulling of delight or the dwindling of drive” in ourselves. After reading this article, I noticed that despite being a generally optimistic person, and in spite of being the wellness person, I had been waking up feeling flat lately, and in despair about my fellow humans more days than not.

Fortunately, though I’ve never been through a pandemic before, I have been through seasonal mood fluctuations and have been meditating long enough to know a little bit about impermanence. On some level just noticing and naming what is happening is a relief. I’ll walk you through a few steps you may consider if you’ve also been feeling a little off.

The first step is to allow yourself to notice what you’re feeling and to try to name it. Is it tiredness, boredom, sadness? Your body can be a big help for this*. Once you’re aware of your emotion, notice any impulse to resist or push it away. Try to allow the emotion to exist without doing anything about it. Often, dropping the inner storyline helps put things in perspective. Telling yourself “this is human sadness” not “I am sad because my co-worker said…” is an example of that. Experience the feeling without telling yourself a story or needing to fix it. That said, you can still create conditions that favor the passing of this state to shift or unstick the blues without denying your emotions. One way is to create a helpful reframe; rather than seeing yourself as stuck, call to mind the dormancy which precedes germination. The stillness required in preparation for the coming growth.

Other suggestions you can try include:

  1. Reflecting on your answers to this quiz.
  2. Remembering what helped you get out of a slump in the past; music, a haircut, some time alone, or outdoors- fill in your own activity- each of these done purposefully and with appreciation can help.
  3. Keeping track of what you are grateful for.
  4. Doing something good for someone else.

And finally,

  1. Knowing that “this too shall pass” and that you’re not alone can help.

Commitments to yourself such as “I will go outside for 10 minutes a day, read an inspiring passage, feed myself at regular intervals, or I will listen to music that stirs me” are all great starting points.

Small steps, in these days, will favor germination and blooming as the light returns.

If you notice persistent sadness, it’s worth evaluating whether it’s just the winter blues or if you have slipped into full blown seasonal affective disorder or depression. The tips I offer might help if you have Major Depression but will not likely be enough. You will want to see your doctor or a therapist**.

Please reach out to me finkel22@msu.edu if you’d like to chat or for some resources. Consider joining a  mindfulness session and know that the solstice and longer days are ever closer.


Read more Words of Wellness from the Culture of Caring.