Sometimes, no matter what you do, life will hand you some lemons.
It’s really easy to respond to that with a trite “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” but sometimes that just doesn’t work. Things you’ve been preparing for and working on for years have blown up in your face. The big dreams you had for the future are deflating. The worst part is that you feel like it’s not your fault – and it very well might not be.
For example, let’s say Bob has done everything right for the last few years. He has a nice emergency fund and has most of his debts paid off. He’s been working on a big project at work that he thinks is about to pay off and become a major project.
One day, his boss calls him into his office. The project is cancelled. Bob is being let go.
On his way home, Bob is trying to deal with this when all of a sudden his car overheats.
When he gets home, he tells his wife about the job loss and they have a huge fight.
Bob’s probably feeling pretty defeated at this point.
I know that feeling from personal experience. I’ve felt pretty defeated at several points in my life. It left me making tons of mistakes in my personal life – spending money foolishly, cutting off valuable relationships, and so on. In fact, it was my own rebound from a period of feeling defeated that led me to launching The Simple Dollar.
Several things got me back on the right track, but before I go into them, I want to point out this research from the British Psychological Society which indicates that the feeling of being defeated is linked to both anxiety and depression. Not only are these links I’ve seen in my own life, but they’re ones that are being scientifically validated and investigated.
It turns out that most of the things I did to get myself back on track were basically identical to techniques that people can do themselves to treat mild anxiety and depression. Here are six things that have always worked for me.
Eat a ton of fruits and vegetables
Hit the produce section hard. Bananas, apples, oranges, spinach, broccoli, radishes… all of that fresh stuff. Bring it home and eat it as freshly and simply as possible. Eat apples for snacks instead of other things. Steam some broccoli to eat at meal time. Eat a fresh salad. It really helps – and you’ll discover that produce is pretty inexpensive food.
Get some mild exercise, like taking a walk
Go outside and walk around the block. Do a simple yoga routine at home – there are tons of them on Youtube. Move around a little and get your blood flowing. You don’t have to go out there and do cross training. Just get your blood moving a little bit.
Do something social, even if you don’t feel like it
Find a community event in your area that sounds interesting and just go. I often find that when I’m feeling defeated, I’ll plan to go somewhere, but then I’ll try to talk myself out of it when the event gets close. Don’t let yourself do that. Go to the event and participate. Being around people who are involved with something and want to be there really helps.
Get a few good nights of sleep, but not too much sleep
Most people thrive on something between seven and eight hours of sleep. My optimum sleep seems to be close to seven. If I get more than eight, I’m groggy all day. If I get substantially less than seven, I’m usually okay for the next day, but if I chain multiple nights of low sleep together, I begin to feel awful. If I’m feeling defeated, I strive to get about seven and a half hours of sleep per night.
Find small and specific actions to take to fix the problems
When things fall apart, the amount of effort needed to rebound from that situation and get back to where you were at can feel overwhelming. Instead of dwelling on recovering everything you once had – which can be prohibitively difficult – focus on specific tasks you can do to recover some of what you’ve lost. Assign yourself a few small and very clear-cut activities each day. Today, I’m going to polish up my resume. Today, I’m going to make genuine contact with five people in my career path. Today, I’m going to write a long letter to my spouse. Today, I’m going to put on my happiest possible face and play a game with my children.
If I feel really defeated, the last thing I want to do is make myself act as though I’m happy. I don’t want to act. However, what I’ve found is that if I push myself to act happy, the people around me act much happier toward me, which in turn lifts up my genuine feelings. If I act quiet and “down” around my family and friends, they’re not going to act exuberant, either, so they’re not going to lift my mood too much. If I force myself to act happy, everyone else will behave in a happier fashion, which will help to lift my own mood.
All of these things help me deal with situations when I’m feeling defeated by life. Getting myself back on track as quickly as possible helps me personally, professionally, socially, and financially.