20 practical things I do to get out of a slump

First, I want to start with letting you know that you are loved, appreciated and cared for! :) Always remember that you are valued and you’re important. Further, for clarity reading this article, my definition of slump is: a dark place, a time of sadness, or inability to do things. It’s very important to recognize this state and know how to get out of it. That’s why I wrote this.

A month ago, I slipped back into a weird slump that I just couldn’t get out of for 14 days. I could barely do any work, I was always tired, annoyed, lazy, and slow. I thought about what is happening and I knew I was back in a cycle I spoke about in one of my talks — the work, crash, burn cycle. I had just came back from Nepal and got thrown into school, meetings, work — and honestly didn’t manage correctly. So, one day I just started to do things I thought would make me feel better. And a few days later, I started to feel really good again.

After a week of feeling better, I made a list for myself. The list was the things I did when I felt like I was in a dark place. So, I figured if some of these things worked for me, they might work for others. And if I can save you two weeks of what I went through, I would be very happy.

A 5 minute talk I gave at Stanford where I shared my personal story about the importance of self-love.

Sometimes, we all burn out or go in that phase where we start feeling really bad, be unproductive, waste time, and if you’re like me, sometimes it can take you up to 2 weeks to get out of that place. It’s a tough mental battle. But, you can get through it!

This list is based on things that have worked personally for me. Please note and understand that although this works for me, it might not necessarily work for you. I encourage you to try some of these things but to also create your own list and see if there are different things that will work better for you.

I suggest you do these in the order I put them, but it’s up to you! I would also encourage that you do this list over 2–3 days. You don’t have to cram everything into one day. See what comes naturally and go with it.

1. Countdown 5 seconds and jump out of the bed/couch/place/room you’re in

I watched a great video by Mel Robbins where she talks about the simplicity of the 5-second rule. It’s an easy way to get yourself to do something without overthinking it. The first easy thing you can do is to simply get out of the space you’re in.

2. Take 3 deep breaths

Breath in through your nose (use your belly) for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 3 seconds. And exhale for 6 seconds. Do this 3 times. You can use this video if you’d like: Breathing Exercise.

3. Drink a liter of water

I love cold water. Drink water — it’s important for your body to get lots of water and your brain too.

4. Watch this Kevin Hart video about an ostrich

I hope you laughed as much as I did! Hahahaha!

5. Take a shower

Once you’re out of the physical place you’re in, find a shower you can jump in. Do both cold and hot water. And take as much as you need, but don’t spend too much time in there to the point where you’ll feel bad.

6. Pray or do something spiritual

If you believe in God, this is always a good time to check in and ask for some guidance and help. For me, every time I pray I feel something in my heart that I cannot describe. If you’re not religious, go to my next point!

7. Meditate

Nothing too crazy. Try this guided 2 min3 min5 min or 10 min guided meditation. It’s simple, low-commitment and not too hard to follow.

One of my close friends, Danny, wrote a great piece about meditation here.

8. Stay off social media

At least for a few more hours. Don’t check it, don’t respond to people or notifications. Free yourself from that burden and commitment.

9. Reorganize the space you’re in

I did this with my bedroom. Start small. Throw your clothes in the laundry, organize them, fold them nicely. Afterwords, look at your bedroom and see if you can change up things. Move the bed to a different side. Throw all the useless things out (this feels extra good, you’ll probably find old papers, things you don’t use, clothes you don’t wear that you can donate).

10. Go outside. Now!

Go get some sun light! You can walk in the park, by the river or anywhere really. Try to do this for 30 minutes.

11. Write 3 things you are grateful for

If you can’t think of anything, try being grateful for being alive — a luxury that can be taken from us at any moment.

12. Write more (Journal)

Try free-writing. Write about what’s happened the last week, about what’s making you happy or sad and what’s bothering you. Journaling is an awesome tool that has helped me with getting my emotions and thoughts out.

13. Watch this talk about appreciating your life

You’re alive and granted another day and moment to have an impact on your own life.

14. Spend time with someone you love

Spend time with someone you care about and love. This can be a close friend or a family member. And be open with them about what’s happening. The best thing they can do is listen to you — and give you a perspective from their experience. You’ll be surprised — people really care about you and love you.

15. Try doing a physical activity

I hope by this time, you are getting more clarity and feeling a little better. Try going out to do something physical. This can be: a run, a jog, a long walk, any sport (soccer, football, ping-pong, etc.) or any class. I tried boxing classes with my sister and although it was super hard, I felt so GREAT afterwards.

16. Cancel commitments for self-care

It’s okay to say no to things you’ve previously said yes to, but no longer feel like doing. You don’t have to go to the bar or go to a party when you feel like you need more time for yourself. Put you first.

17. Read an article or a book

Pick up something and just start reading it. It can be literally anything — from hip- hop news to a book about history. Reading is awesome and fun, only if you allow it to be.

18. Get a good night sleep

Sleep for 8+ hours and don’t let anyone disturb you. The whole notion of “sleep is for the weak” is one of the stupidest and most destructive quotes that I am strongly against. You need your sleep to rebuild your body, rest your brain, and get ready for the day ahead.

19. See a therapist

If you’ve been experiencing or feeling really down for a time longer than two week, I encourage you to seek professional support. I saw a therapist and after talking through how I felt and what’s been happening, I felt so relieved afterwards. Sometimes it’s not very affordable to see a therapist, but if you are able to, it always helps! If you’re a college student, look for your college’s wellness or psychological center — they usually offer free or very affordable therapy and other resources. If you’re not, you can check out more affordable options like Talkspace (online therapy).

20. Get a haircut, get your nails done, etc.

For me, getting a cut always makes me feel so fresh, renewed and more confident! You can do anything related to personal grooming and I bet it will make you feel good afterwards too :).

Everything on this list has made me feel incrementally better. Collectively, they all helped me get back to being myself, reducing stress, and feeling good again. Like I mentioned before, please make sure you understand certain things may or may not work for you, and you should figure out other things to do on top. Generally, I recommend that after you do the list, you do things on the list every week (I try to do them all every day!) so that you can keep up with taking care of YOU.

Everything on this list is a form of self-care and showing love to yourself. It’s important that we stop neglecting our needs and constantly putting everyone else first. It will hurt you before it ever makes you a better person. Self-love is the single most important skill in my opinion, and I hope this list of practical things to do helps you invest more in you.

As a final note, if you feel like this is more than a slump and you are struggling with mental health issues, I highly encourage you to seek professional help. I am including some resources here for you to tap into!

If you would like to meditate, check out HeadSpace and Calm for a simple start.

To monitor the time you spend on your phone, and hopefully as a result decrease it, Moment.

Watch great content by Prince EA to get more inspired.

For affordable online therapy, check out Talkspace.

Other cool apps recommended by friends include MoodPath (For Depression & Anxiety) and Pacifica (for Stress and Anxiety).

For more resources and if you are having suicidal thoughts and need support right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741–741 to get text support 24/7. More suicide prevention resources here.

Thanks to Danny Tsoi, Khandker Ahamed, Aichatou Nimaga, and Ashley Meyer.

Mahmoud Khedr