We all have times in our lives when we feel stuck in a rut. We’re going through the same motions, each day, without actually getting wherever it is that we want to be.
Maybe you’re feeling bored at work, struggling to make any progress on your to-do list, or are unmotivated to try something new. Trust me when I say that we’ve all been there, but that doesn’t make it any easier to sit in this metaphorical rut.
Getting unstuck often requires making active changes in our lives, but whoa that can feel pretty daunting. As a mental health coach, it’s part of my job to help people understand what changes they want to make, identify any potential obstacles, and begin to take steps towards what they want. Since change is messy and unpredictable, I’m here to help guide you through it.
Signs you’re stuck in a rut
Sometimes we don’t even realize that we need a change — we just know that we don’t like the way we feel or how things are going. Curious if you’re feeling stuck? Here are a few common signs:
- Every day feels the same. Are you having trouble keeping track of what day it is because of the monotony of your routine? When we’re going through the same motions, our days can start to seem indistinguishable from one another.
- You’re unable to find motivation. Doing things like going to the gym or taking on a creative project can be daunting when you can’t tap into the motivation to get started.
- You lack enthusiasm. When was the last time something in your life sparked excitement? When we’re stuck, it’s easy to feel less than inspired as we move through our days.
- You’re scared of trying new things. Sure life is feeling a little dull, but the idea of trying something new and possibly failing is just too much to take on. And anytime you do try, the imposter syndrome gets pretty loud.
Getting realistic about change
Let’s start by setting up some realistic expectations. There’s no magic one-fits-all solution here — making changes and creating new habits takes time and dedication. And it’s often a nonlinear process where we experience microbursts of progress, followed by times of plateaus or small set-backs.
Instead of thinking of our progress moving in a straight line, I like to think of it as an upward spiral. We are most likely going to move forward and backwards on this spiral throughout our path to change — this is completely normal and something to be expected.
There may be times when you feel like you’re back to square one, but it doesn’t mean it’s time to completely give up on your goals or intentions. Instead, I like to use this as a signal that a little recalibration is needed.
Say you’re unhappy at work and want to find a new job. If you go on one bad interview, it can be so disheartening, but it doesn’t mean that you should have to stay complacent in your current situation. Instead, this may be a great opportunity to redefine your values and ask for support in developing your interview skills, with a huge dose of self-compassion along the way.
Understanding the stages of change
Every person moves through a series of stages when modifying their behavior. So, when I meet with a client who is feeling stuck, I like to spend some time understanding where they are in regards to their readiness for change.
Want to give it a try? Take a look at the different stages below and see which you most closely identify with.
- Pre-contemplation “I wish” stage – The idea of change feels difficult and complicated. You may feel stuck because things have always fallen apart when change was attempted or you don’t see the need for change yet.
- Contemplation “I may” stage – You see the change that might need to happen but are unsure of what this all means, leading to your behaviors remaining the same.
- Preparation “I will” stage – This involves brainstorming and creating a plan, organizing ideas, believing in the possibility for change and taking action within the next six months.
- Action “I am” stage – In this stage, you’re taking steps and following through with your initial plan within the first six months of setting a goal.
- Maintenance “I am and have been for at least six months” – You’re continuing to fulfill the habit you’ve created, adjusting your plan as life changes, and planning for potential setbacks or challenges.
It’s important to understand that you may find yourself in one stage of change surrounding a specific aspect of your life, but in a completely different stage when it comes to another area. For example, maybe you’re taking steps towards relocating to a new town, but you’re still feeling stuck in your romantic relationship.
Wherever you’re at, it’s okay. You can always reach out to a mental health professional to support you, moving at whatever pace feels best for you.
Ways to approach change
- Bring compassion + curiosity. This is the time to treat yourself like you would a best friend. It can help to pull out your journal to ask and answer questions like, “What is causing you stress or anxiety right now? Where do you feel it in your body? What do you need to take care of yourself today?” When we’re able to simply get curious about what’s going on inside of us, with kindness, it can offer a lot of insight into the possible changes we need to make for our well-being.
- Get intentional. Getting comfortable with change is a wonderful invitation to better understand who you are and what matters to you. Getting clear on your authentic values, goals, and dreams can help you to get started on the path to change. This wellness goals tool is a good place to begin.
- Change your routine. If we’re doing the same things, in the same place each and every day, it’s difficult to see things from a different perspective. Is there something small you can do to mix things up? Maybe you work from a coffee shop, take a different route on your morning walk? Or call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. It’s a small step that can sometimes yield big results.
- Drop the comparisons. It can be tempting to compare ourselves to others, especially if we’re endlessly scrolling through humble brags on our social media feeds. But when we’re able to notice and step away from comparisons, we can better focus on and accept who we are — not who we think we should be.
- Seek support. Making lasting changes in life is courageous and often work. That’s why finding support through a mental health coach, therapist, or a loved one can make all the difference. If you find yourself struggling with identifying and/or implementing areas of change, try reaching out to someone you trust to help you.
Feeling stuck can be deeply frustrating. But by taking small steps (like reading this article!), it is possible to begin to make changes that will help you to feel better in your day-to-day life. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed at any point, know that we’ll be here to support you along the way.
By Carrie Gregory, NBC-HWC, Mental Health Coach at Sanvello
Carrie Gregory believes in a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. She is passionate about inspiring others to unlock their own potential and live happier, healthier lives. As a Sanvello Coach, she works with clients to discover and leverage strengths, values, and past successes to help them with today’s challenges.
When she’s not seeing clients, Carrie is a military wife, a mother to one fabulous kiddo, and enjoys living a life filled with creativity and adventure.