Even when you are in the best of circumstances, life can throw you a curve ball and challenge you. Whether you are a middle-aged working parent, a retiree, or somewhere in between, we all have times when we find ourselves saying, “I'm stuck.”
I am very familiar with the feeling of having low energy levels and a lack of motivation to the point where getting out of bed can be a struggle that you fight every morning before going to work.
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When it comes to writer's block, I frequently deal with my own struggles with feeling stuck. Words can flow out of me like lava from an active volcano at times, but at other times, my motivation and willingness to engage in thought feel completely dormant.
What are some of the tools or techniques that one could use when they can't seem to get out of the hole they've found themselves in?
One major point I'd like to emphasize in discussing ways to overcome the feeling of “I'm stuck” is that it's completely normal. We will all encounter it at some point during our journey to find happiness.
Too many people experience a decrease in encouragement and joy and allow it to alienate them from the people who love them the most. This leads me to the first step in overcoming the sense of being stuck in life.
1. Accept the Sensation of Being Stuck
You must recognize that the feeling of “I'm stuck” is a natural one that we all have, whether in our work life, a relationship, or perhaps a scholarly or business endeavor.
You must accept that life is difficult and that there will be days, weeks, or months when you do not feel like you have enough fuel in the tank to continue onwards and upwards.
Whatever obstacles you are facing that are preventing you from being excited about your weekly activities, you must first recognize that these are not abnormal thoughts to have, and you are not alone in experiencing them.
If you can allow yourself that small but crucial realization, you will be well on your way to breaking free from the cycle of feeling stuck and unable to progress in your life's pursuit.
2. Determine the Cause of Your Difficulties
Struggle is an impediment that will never be completely removed, no matter where you are in life. We will all face adversity at some point in our lives.
How you handle adversity, on the other hand, will be critical in managing your emotions, temperament, and the overall outcome of your life as you try to regain your internal confidence and begin breaking free from the mental chains you've found yourself in.
“We act like wind-up toys, repeatedly bumping into the same walls, never realizing there may be an open door just to our right or left,” writes Susan David, a Harvard Medical School psychologist, in her book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life.
Susan is essentially saying that when we get stuck in a situation, we often continue to use the same approaches that got us stuck in the first place, rather than looking for a different way forward.
When you start saying, “I'm stuck,” it's time to start a full evaluation of your situation to try to figure out what's causing that feeling.
If you are stuck or in a rut, try to go back in time and figure out what put you in this mental state in the first place.
Perhaps your office has a new boss who is more critical than the previous one, so you are lacking confidence. Perhaps you're thinking about going back to school but are concerned about the cost. It could be any of a variety of things.
Knowing why you are apathetic and working to understand the internal causes of your apathy will enable you to make the necessary changes to get out of that funk and begin your climb to a more productive self.
3. Reorganize Your Schedule
It's all too easy to get caught up in negative routines or unhealthy habits that contribute to that lull in your life when you don't feel like doing anything at all.
As you work to identify the root cause of your stuckness, you should begin to evaluate how you spend your time.
“I don't have time to work on [fill in the blank],” I frequently hear, as an excuse to continue down a path of unproductive behavior that will only entrench the individual further into a hole that they never wanted to be in to begin with.
As a result, it is critical to examine how you spend your time. Create a time budget in the same way that you should have a financial budget.
I don't just want you to make a time budget for what you want to get done in a week. I also believe that it is critical to develop a time budget that accurately reflects your current week-to-week behavior.
Observing how you spend your time in the present moment may be eye-opening if you have been binge-watching Netflix shows, being overly consumed by social media, or working yourself to death.
By making a time budget, you are creating a plan that will help guide you through the times when you've had enough and don't feel like you can go on. With a more established schedule for how you will spend your time, you can train yourself to be more naturally productive and keep those “I'm stuck” thoughts at bay.
4. Be Honest with Yourself
Isn't it interesting that we can often give sound advice to a friend, family member, or coworker without hesitation, but when it comes to our own decisions, we often feel paralyzed and unable to make a decisive move?
I like to use a technique I call “talking to the mirror.” Essentially, I try to step outside of my own internal monologue or perspective and give myself the kind of advice that I would normally give to a close friend or family member.
I'm able to better gauge my perspective and whether or not it's healthy or realistic when I step outside of the confines of my own mind and feeling of being stuck.
By committing to such an exercise, you have the potential to improve your chances of success in reflecting on your life path. You may also learn more about yourself and why you feel trapped where you are.
In their study Focusing on the Future from afar, authors Kross and Ayduk claim that:
“Previous research shows that self-distancing improves adaptive self-reflection on negative past events.”
In line with the concept of “talking to yourself,” you must recognize the importance of treating yourself with the love and compassion that you deserve as a human. People will work quickly to ensure that those around them feel loved and cared for, but they will neglect themselves in the process.
It is critical to have self-compassion and build yourself up with positive self-talk rather than viewing yourself only through a negative lens, similar to the simple idea of treating others the way you would like to be treated.
5. When Needed, Distract Yourself
I spend a lot of time in my mind's creative areas, working hard to create original music for myself at home or even writing for my blog. It's a healthy release for me because it allows me to step outside of my normal day-to-day routine and escape.
If you are feeling stuck in one area of your life, take a moment to step away from it and refocus your attention on another area that gives you life and energy.
When I've been working on one song for several weeks at a time, it's helpful to try to write a new song or revisit an old one to shake things up and keep them fresh.
We all have daily routines that can become stale and leave us feeling frustrated at times. Changing things up and finding new ways to divert your attention is a great way to break out of that mental rut!
If you find yourself at a crossroads and can't seem to find the motivation to keep going, a little side quest might be just what you need to get you back on track.
It's like an academic attempting to solve an equation that appears to be impossible to solve. Sometimes you have to take a step back and zoom out.
Taking time to distract your mind with something new can provide you with the motivation to return to something that was once tired and worn out and renew your passion for pursuing it! If you're feeling stuck, try picking up a new hobby, participating in a sport, or participating in a new family activity. Who knows what will change your mind.
6. Increase Your Productivity!
Next, look for ways to put your time to good use when you're stuck on another project.
When I'm stuck at work and unable to continue with the 40+ hour work weeks, I try to find productive ways to spend my time outside of work that give me something to look forward to.
Sometimes it's as simple as spending an hour playing with my daughter and letting go of the stresses and anxieties of work, even if only for a brief moment.
Other times, I look for projects around the house to work on, such as hiding the wires behind the TV or building a new side table for our bedroom. It doesn't take long for me to realize that working to find more effective ways to spend my time makes me feel more fulfilled and better prepared to deal with life's ups and downs.
Using your time productively in the evenings after work helps to avoid feelings of apathy or laziness, which can lead to that all-too-familiar stuck feeling.
Keeping yourself busy with productive activities both inside and outside of the workplace in moderation can be a great way to keep your mind occupied. It can also assist you in developing better habits in your spare time that will make you feel more capable of achieving your goals and experiencing newfound levels of success and motivation.
7. Take a Look Back and a Look Forward
The final piece of advice I'd like to give you is to remember that no change comes quickly in life. I wish it were as simple as saying, “1, 2, 3!” and snapping your fingers to feel like your best self.
Breaking out of a funk in your internal perspective, however, takes time, energy, and a strong support group of friends or family.
If you try to break free from your “I'm stuck” feeling but fail after a short period of time, don't give up. Continue to work on it and try to adopt a more positive attitude toward your situation.
I usually give myself at least 30 to 60 days to try out a new strategy in my life approach. Then I take a breather to assess my progress, or lack thereof.
The key to success is not only in doing. It is also evident in the examination of your actions prior to a change, during the adoption phase of a change, and after the change has begun to take root in your life.
If you don't reflect on where you were, you'll miss out on important insights into your own life journey.
Journaling can be especially helpful in this situation because you'll be able to look back and see where you were a week, month, or year ago. Check out this article if you want to give it a shot.
We all progress through life at different rates, and as a result, we will all face difficulties and moments when we want to give up. I cannot emphasize enough that these feelings are completely normal, and you are not alone in experiencing them!
I hope that these steps encourage you to reflect on your own behavior and make the necessary changes to live a more fulfilled life. Instead of feeling trapped, you will feel empowered to be the best version of yourself!
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