What to do When You Feel Stuck in a Rut

There’s nothing worse than feeling stuck in a rut.

Just the other day, I was in that dark place.

Overwhelmed by big decisions. Feeling fears of failure. Worrying about the uncertainty of moving away from the place I’ve called home for 3 years.

Some days, life can feel like an insane dream, where you don’t know where you’re going, and you aren’t quite sure how you got there.

On days like this, where you feel stuck in a tough place, never forget one thing: The way out of a rut is small steps.

How to Get Yourself Out of a Rut

I’ll say it again: the way out of a rut is small steps.

Putting this principle into practice breaks down into two parts:

1. You don’t get out of a rut by sitting on your butt.
As the saying illustrates, you have to take steps to move from where you are. Nobody is going to pick you up and push you forward to take action. That’s on you!

2. You don’t get out of a rut all at once.
There is no get-out-of-jail-free card when you’re feeling stuck. Although you may be facing many challenges, in different parts of your life, you simply can’t conquer everything at the same time. You move forward by doing one thing first. And after that, doing one more thing. Progress takes patience!

Just stay focused on the basics:

  • Taking action
  • Continuing to move forward by doing one thing at a time

If you do that, sooner than you know it, you’ll be back on solid ground.

And you’ll see that it was worth it.

That whatever you went through, although perhaps not pleasant in the moment, was necessary to get you where you are today.

And in fact, you’re better off for having gone through it! Perhaps it was the best thing that could have happened to you.

That’s because you are adaptable.

Your Limitless Asset: Adaptability

Some things in this world cannot adapt to change. When a wooden structure is built by the sea, it slowly decays. With each passing storm, it moves one step closer to collapsing.

But you are not a seaside shack! You are a strong, independent, capable human!

And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that humans are adaptable.

The entire human body has evolved to survive in a range of conditions, and adapt to the changing stressors it faces every day.

One example of this is muscle development. When muscle tissue is broken down through strenuous activity, like lifting something heavy, the body overcompensates for this additional stress. So your muscle fibers grow back stronger than before. That way, when you face those same stressors later on, they aren’t as bad! The body works to protect itself.

The same frame of logic applies to the rest of life. Challenges in life don’t deteriorate your being. They make you stronger!

Just think back to when you just started the job you’re doing now. Chances are, you floundered, and flopped, and had no clue what you were doing.

But over time, you adapted to this new set of challenges and circumstances. You’ve grown and learned, steadily over time.

Get Moving and Stay Moving

To make the process taking action easier, I wanted to share a few of my go-to strategies for getting moving and staying in motion.

3 Tips for Getting Moving

1. Move your body
“Stuck” feelings often result from thinking too much.

So if thinking too much got you into the rut, don’t try to think your way out of it! Take a different approach.

Moving your body with some vigorous exercise (even just a brisk walk or jog) is a surefire way to change your mind-state.

Stay present to your workout, and keep moving until you feel your mental energy shift.

2. Do one thing at a time
Anxiety and overwhelm kick in when there’s a lot going on.

But even when you have a lot to do, it’s impossible to do everything at once. The most effective way to make progress towards any goal is by doing one thing at a time.

Make a list of what’s most important for you to do. Do one thing first. Then, move on to the next. Keep repeating until your day is through. When you get distracted, come back to the one thing you’re focusing on.

3. Consider the opposite
How might this challenge you’re facing actually be the best thing that’s happened to you?

It might feel strange at first, but give it a go.

After all, your thoughts about a scenario dictate how you feel about it.

3 Tips for Staying in Motion

1. Decide today what to do tomorrow

The morning can be a tough time to get moving.

Give yourself a stepping stone to start your day by setting tomorrow’s Most Important Thing at the end of your work day.

Or, use the start of each day for a planning session:

  • What are my goals?
  • What might I do to reach them?
  • What feels most important from that list?

2. Work in a rhythm

Once you get moving, it can be tempting to keep your head down and never come up for air.

But it’s far more sustainable to work with set breaks throughout the day.

Create a rhythm of working time and break time through your day to stay in motion. This works nicely together with the “one thing at a time” approach. (e.g. I will work on one thing, this proposal, for 25 minutes. After that, I’ll take a 5 minute break. After the break, I’ll get back into the proposal! Anything else will come later.)

3. Celebrate your progress

Take time to appreciate what you’ve done, instead of just seeing what’s left to do.

There will always be more to do.

Don’t let that weigh you down! Instead celebrate the little wins each day. Before you leave the office, or before going to bed, take time to write 3-5 awesome things that happened throughout the dayLet no win go un-celebrated!

Onward!

It’s no fun to be stuck in a rut.

But with a bit of action and persistence, you’re always capable of making progress in the right direction!

Sure, it’s easier said than done. But who said this was all supposed to be easy?

This is not the end. It’s just a new beginning.

Now let’s do it!

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