Stuck in a rut

We hopefully return from our Summer breaks feeling refreshed and renewed. Full of new ideas and hopes for our future. But Monday morning comes around, the hectic diary kicks in, the emails start coming and we quickly settle back into our old routines. The same old, same old. The classic Groundhog Day. Our Summer dreams get lost in the commotion. We begin to feel stuck in a rut. We enter an emotional funk, a sense of flatness, that ‘blah’ feeling.  We tred water, ensuring we stay afloat but with no direction or actual progress.  A life on autopilot. 

One point to keep in mind is that we are not alone. Everyone gets stuck once in a while. I’ve certainly have. Sometimes my rut has felt massive and other times its smaller and easier to wriggle out of. But either way, it’s something pretty universal. Another point to remember is that this stuckness is only temporary, even if it feels never ending. You will be out of it soon. 

Why does this happen?

Our main reason for being stuck in our lives is fear. It could be the fear of trying something new, the fear of disappointment or failure, the fear of looking silly, fear of being judged, to name but a few. Being stuck in our comfortable and familiar ruts is preferable sometimes to taking a risk. It’s completely understandable why we can get stuck. And inevitable given we can’t always be taking risks all the time. We are naturally fearful beings; our fear is what keeps us safe on a primal level. 

A major part of getting out of our rut is to recognize and ultimately face our fears. This will naturally propel us into action and out of our rut. Within our fears we might uncover such things as limiting beliefs (I’m not good enough, I’m not creative enough etc.), a martyr complex  (I can’t be that selfish, people need me) or past experiences (I’ve tried taking risks before and it was a disaster). 

I believe that feeling stuck isn’t necessarily a bad place to be. Yes, it’s tough to experience and acknowledge but being in it does help inform us as to what might not be working in our life. 

Gestalt, a mode of therapy, supports my feeling about being stuck.  Gestalt therapy views stuckness as a positive part of the cycle of personal development.  Its positive given the potential for change is greatest at this point.  I cannot agree more. The more we get stuck, the more our frustration (and discomfort) builds, and the more energy we manifest to get us out of our rut. The tension eventually builds to a point where action is inevitable. 

How to get unstuck

  • First acknowledge that you’re feeling stuck. Where do you feel stuck the most? Is it with your work, family, romantic life, diet etc.?
  • Can you identify possible pathways out of the stuckness? Be it changing jobs or careers, or starting a new hobby or going on that first date. (If you can’t see any yet, it probably means you need to surrender more to the stuckness).
  • Is there a fear of change? A fear of taking that next step? What are you afraid of? What’s holding you back?
  • Acknowledge the benefits and downsides of feeling stuck. Maybe being stuck is more comfortable than taking that difficult first step.
  • Start to get a bit more comfortable with change.  Put in place some really small changes in your routine; take a different route to work, do something different in your lunch hour, start a journal, take a photo every day of something which moves or interests (Day One is a good App to use), collect pictures which catch your eye (maybe make a collage). 
  • Start to build your support network. Connect with positive friends and family (emphasis on the word positive).  Talk to a therapist, counselor or coach. Maybe seek some mentors too (those you admire have felt stuck too). 

You might have gathered one of the main solutions to feeling stuck is actually (and ironically) to stay in it until you really start to feel the discomfort.  That discomfort is a sign of something happening, a process is underway, progress is being made (even if it doesn’t feel like it). I know it sounds counterintuitive, but surrendering to the stuckness is the way forward. I’ve heard stuckness described as quicksand; the more you try to get out, the deeper you sink. It’s only when we allow ourselves to sink that a valid action emerges. 

Photo by Pim Chu on Unsplash

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