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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

I’m Stuck! 7 Steps to Take When You’re Feeling Stuck in Life

I’m Stuck! 7 Steps to Take When You’re Feeling Stuck in Life

Life can throw curve balls your way and challenge you even when the best of conditions have manifested in your life. Whether you are a middle-aged working parent, deep into your retirement, or somewhere in between, there are times when we all find ourselves saying “I’m stuck.”

I have a strong familiarity with this feeling of low energy levels, a lack of motivation to the point where getting out of bed can be a struggle that you are fighting each morning prior to work.

I often deal with my own struggles of feeling stuck when it comes to writer’s block. At times the words can flow out of me like lava gushing from an active volcano, but in other moments, my motivational levels and willingness to engage in thought feel absolutely dormant.

What are some of the tools or techniques that one could lean on in these moments where you just can’t seem to get out of the hole you feel stuck in?

One major emphasis that I’d like to make in discussing ways to beat that feeling of “I’m stuck” is that this feeling is extremely normal. We all will experience it at some point or another as we navigate this journey in pursuit of happiness.

Too many individuals experience this diminishment in encouragement and joy and allow it to alienate them from the people who care about them most. This brings me to the first step in beating that feeling of being stuck in life.

1. Embrace the Feeling of Being Stuck

You’ve got to recognize that this idea of “I’m stuck” is a natural feeling that we all experience whether in our work life, a relationship, or perhaps a scholarly pursuit or business endeavor.

You have to allow yourself to realize that life is hard and there will be days, weeks, or months when you don’t feel like you have enough fuel in the tank to push onwards and upwards.

Whatever obstacles you face that are giving you this inability to get excited about your weekly movements, you must first understand that these aren’t abnormal thoughts to have, and you aren’t alone in experiencing them.

If you can allow yourself that small but vital realization, then you will be well on your way to breaking out of the cycle of feeling stuck and unable to move forward in your life’s pursuit.

2. Identify the Source of Your Obstacles

Struggle is an obstacle that will never be fully gone no matter where you find yourself in life. We all have to face adversity at some point.

How you handle struggle, however, is going to be a key point in managing your emotions, temperament, and the overall outcome for your life as you try to regain your internal confidence and start breaking out of the mental chains that you’ve found yourself in.

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“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 our left,” Susan David, a psychologist at the Harvard Medical School, writes in her book, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life.

Essentially, what Susan is saying, is that we often get stuck in a situation but continue the same approaches that got us stuck in the first place, instead of searching for an alternate path forward.

When you start saying “I’m stuck,” it’s time to start a full evaluation of your situation to try and better understand what the source of that feeling is.

If you are feeling stuck or in a rut, try to trace back in time and determine what got you in this mental headspace in the first place[1].

Maybe your office has a new boss who is more critical than the last, so you are feeling a lack of confidence. Perhaps you’re considering going back to school but are stressed about the cost. It could really be any number of things.

Knowing the why and working to understand the internal foundation for this moment of apathy will empower you to make the changes necessary to get out of that funk and begin your climb towards a more productive self.

3. Re-Organize Your Time

It can become all too easy to fall into a trap of negative routines or unhealthy habits that can contribute to that lull in your life where you just don’t feel like doing much at all.

In working to identify the root cause of being stuck, you should start evaluating how you utilize your time.

I often hear “I don’t have the time to work on [fill in the blank]” 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 start with.

For this reason, it is important to analyze your time usage. Create a budget for your time in the same way that you should have a budget for your finances.

I don’t just want you to make your time budget for what you want to accomplish in a week. I also think it’s important to create a time budget that accurately reflects your current week-to-week behavior.

Seeing how you are utilizing your time in the present moment might be eye opening if you have been over binging on Netflix shows, overly consumed with social media, or working yourself to death.

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By creating a time budget, you are establishing a plan that can help guide you through the moments when you’ve actually had enough and don’t feel as if you can continue onwards anymore. With more established schedule for how you will utilize your time, you can train yourself up to be more naturally productive and block those “I’m stuck” thoughts from getting to you again.

Take a look at this article to learn how to budget your time better: The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

4. Talk to Yourself Frankly

Don’t you find it interesting that we can often readily provide solid advice to a friend, family member, or co-worker without much reservation or issue, but when it comes to our own decisions, we often feel paralyzed and unable to make a decisive move?

I like to employ a strategy that I call talking to the mirror. Essentially, I try to step outside of my own internal monologue or perspective and give myself the sort of advice that I’m usually able to readily produce for a close friend or family member.

Often times, when I step outside of the confines of my own mind and feeling of being stuck, I’m able to better gauge my perspective and whether or not it’s healthy or realistic.

By committing to such an exercise, you have the potential to increase the success of reflecting on your path through life. You also potentially learn more about yourself and why you may be feeling trapped where you are.

According to authors Kross & Ayduk in their study of Focusing on the Future from Afar[2]:

“Prior research indicates that self-distancing enhances adaptive self-reflection about negative past events.”

Very much in line with the idea of “talking to the mirror,” you need to understand that it is important to treat yourself with the love and compassion that you deserve as a human[3]. People will quickly work to ensure others around them feel loved and cared for but neglect themselves in the process.

Dr. Kristin Neff, a psychology professor at the University of Texas drew the conclusion that “self-compassion involves treating yourself just like you would treat your friends or family members.”

When you say I'm stuck, use healthy self-talk.

    Much like the simple idea of treating others the way you’d want to be treated, it is key to have self-compassion and build yourself up with positive self-talk rather than viewing yourself only through a negative lens[4].

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    5. Distract Yourself a Bit When Necessary

    I spend a lot of my time in the creative areas of my mind, working hard to create original music for myself at home or even working on writing for my blog. It is a healthy release for me that allows me to step outside of my normal day-to-day operation and escape.

    If you are feeling stuck in a particular area of your life, try to step away from that area for a moment and refocus your attention on another area that gives life and energy.

    When I’ve been working on one song for many weeks at a time, it helps to try and write a new song or revisit an older track to shake things up and keep them fresh.

    We all have daily routines that can grow stale at times and leave us feeling frustrated. Shaking things up and finding new ways to distract your mind is a perfect way to break out of that mental cycle!

    If you find yourself at an impasse, and you can’t break off that inability to garner up motivation to continue forward, then taking a little side quest might be just the thing to get you back on course.

    It’s similar to an academic trying to solve an equation that just seems impossible to figure out. Sometimes, you have to step away and zoom out.

    Taking time to distract your mind with something new can give you that motivation to then revisit what was once feeling tired and worn out, and renew your passion to pursue it! If you’re thinking, “I’m stuck,” try taking on a new hobby, playing a sport, or trying out a new family activity. Who knows what will change your perspective.

    6. Turn That Productivity Up!

    Next, try to find ways you can productively utilize your time when you feel stuck in another pursuit.

    When I’m feeling trapped at work and unable to continue with the 40+ hour work weeks, I try to come up with some productive ways to use my time outside of work that give me something to look forward to.

    Sometimes that is as simple as playing with my daughter for an hour and letting go of the stresses and anxieties of work, even if for just a brief moment.

    Other times, I find projects to work on at the house, 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 when I work to find more effective ways to spend my time, I feel more fulfilled and better prepared to handle the ups and downs of life.

    Productively using your time in the evenings after work helps to stave off any feelings of apathy or laziness that might lead you down the path of that all too familiar stuck feeling.

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    Keeping busy with productive things in and out of the workplace in moderation can be a great way to occupy your mind. It can also help you to establish better habits in your free time that will be more conducive to feeling like you can achieve your goals and experience new found levels of success and motivation.

    7. Look Back and Look Forward

    The last word of encouragement that I’d like to leave you with is to remember that no change comes fast in life. I wish it were as easy as saying, “1, 2, 3!”, snapping your fingers, and all of a sudden you feel like your best self.

    But like anything worth striving towards, breaking out of a funk in your internal perspective takes time, energy, and a strong support group of friends or family.

    If you attempt to break out of your feeling of “I’m stuck” but seem to be failing after a short amount of time, don’t give up. Keep working at it and keep trying to adopt a more positive attitude about your situation.

    I typically give myself at least 30 to 60 days to try and implement a new strategy within my approach to life. Then, I pause to evaluate my progress or lack thereof.

    The key to success isn’t just in the doing. It is also in the analysis of your actions prior to a change, during the adoption phase of a change, and after the change has started to take root in your life.

    If you fail to reflect on where you were, then you will miss out on important insights into your own path through life.

    Journaling can be especially useful in this area as you’ll be able to look back and see exactly where you were a week, a month, or a year ago. If you want to give it a try, check out this article.

    Final Thoughts

    We all move at different paces through life, and in doing so, we will all face struggles and moments where we just want to throw in the towel. I can’t emphasize enough that these moments are absolutely normal, and you are not alone in feeling this way!

    I hope that these steps help you to consider your own behavior and make the necessary adjustments to live a more fulfilled life. Instead of feeling stuck, you will feel empowered to be the best you that you can be!

    More to Help You Get Unstuck

    Featured photo credit: Yoann Boyer via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Colton Black

    Motivational Coach, Self-Help Blogger, Recording Engineer, Professional Dad

    I’m Stuck! 7 Steps to Take When You’re Feeling Stuck in Life The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Critical (And How to Strike a Balance) 15 Simple Things You Can Do to Boost Your Daily Motivation What the Road to Success Actually Looks Like in Reality How to Identify and Leverage Your Personal Strengths

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    Last Updated on November 27, 2020

    7 Signs You’re Burnt out (And How to Bounce Back)

    7 Signs You’re Burnt out (And How to Bounce Back)

    If you are in a fairly stable career, the likelihood that you’ve experienced feeling burnt out at some point is quite high. We all have moments where we get tired of doing the same thing, day in and day out. Fortunately, there are ways to get out this funk.

    Burnout can happen to any of us. It can happen as a direct result of a toxic work environment, or it can creep up on us as we pour all of our energy into doing the work that we love. Either way, when signs of burnout become apparent, they tend to look the same. Furthermore, adjustments must be made to reverse burnout and to prevent it again in the future.

    Behaviors and habits that can lead to burnout include staying up long nights working on projects, saying yes to every request or opportunity, taking on extra work from co-workers, and decreasing connections with your family members and friends outside of work.

    Outside forces, such as ineffective leadership, unclear expectations, a toxic work culture, a persistently high workload that blocks work-life balance, and no room for growth can all raise stress levels and add to burnout.

    Keep in my mind that burn out may mimic other conditions such as depression or anxiety disorder. Please see your trusted doctor or mental health provider to rule out any of these conditions.

    Keep reading for some key signs and symptoms of burnout:

    1. Poor Performance and Loss of Self-Confidence

    Noticeable declines in work performance and confidence in your ability to complete previously mastered assignments are signs of being burnt out.

    The pace of the work environment can seem faster and more demanding than ever. The goal of you doing world-class work may diminished to hopes of you barely getting by. You may have decided that staring into space or searching for a new job seems like a better alternative to working.

    Poor work performance can become a routine and often leaves the person wondering how this became a problem in the first place. You may even think that your boss will call you out on your performance sooner or later.

    How to Bounce Back:

    Think back to the motivation you had when you were hired or when you were getting your job done with ease. Think about your thoughts and actions that allow you to perform well. The ability to perform at or around this level is still within reach.

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    Make a plan to eliminate distractions at work. Also, prior to coming to work, make sure you are well rested and are eliminating interactions that drain your energy levels.

    2. Pessimism

    Talking about the amazing work you do has given way to negative talk. Constantly complaining over small tasks that didn’t bother you in the past is a sign of pessimism. Your co-workers may even point out that you have been increasingly negative with your communication lately.

    Your outlook on life, especially work, is in the dumps. It’s harder to find positive things to say.

    How to Bounce Back:

    Even in the midst of feeling burnt out, your time should be spent on forward-moving thoughts.

    Change the way you are looking at your current situation. Your body will do everything in its power to make sure that your actions are in alignment with your mindset and thoughts.

    Therefore, thoughts that are negative and self-defeating will need to undergo a productive reframe. A high level of awareness must be initiated. Coaching yourself through negative thinking can be the first step in awareness.

    When you catch yourself having negative thoughts, first ask yourself “How does this make me feel?” Then, decide if those feelings will push you closer towards your goals and priorities or keep you from taking action.

    If your thoughts are not forward-moving, ask yourself what thinking and feeling the opposite of this looks like? It may seem awkward at first, but keep at it until positive thoughts are at the forefront of your thinking once again.

    If this doesn’t work, try implementing a long-term gratitude practice. Studies have shown that increasing a sense of gratitude is a major factor in determining overall well-being and optimism[1].

    3. Feeling Unfulfilled

    Sometimes, the workplace is known for being a fast-paced, high-stress environment. Feeling like you’re part of the team and your contributions matter can really help increase your level of fulfillment.

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    When our talents and strengths are highlighted in an environment, we will thrive as we get things done.

    When we are constantly left out of vital conversations, we will feel irrelevant and as if things are happening to us and not on behalf of us.

    How to Bounce Back:

    Talk to the person in charge and discuss your concerns. Confiding in a trusted and knowledgeable co-worker prior to meeting with your boss will help to make your communication with your boss fair and objective.

    Set goals and deadlines with your boss or team leader to help increase your fulfillment. Follow up with your plan of action on your goals.

    Keep in mind that there will be some level of compromise, but making your boss aware of your viewpoint and feelings is a major step in feeling fulfilled and feeling like a contributing member of your team.

    4. Poor Sleep Quality

    Staying up late at night, tossing and turning, thinking about your day’s work can really affect your sleep quality. Studies have shown that just a few hours of missed sleep is detrimental to our performance and mental capacity[2].

    How to Bounce Back:

    If you’re burnt out, try setting a bedtime routine and stick to it. Make sure that your bedroom environment is supportive of a good night’s sleep[3].

    Bedtime routine when feeling burnt out

      Social media never sleeps, and it’s best to cut back or eliminate your social media time for about 1 hour before you go to bed. Blue light interferes with your ability to feel sleepy and messes with your sleep cycle[4]. Your electronics can be set to switch to a softer light prior to bedtime.

      5. Dread

      The thought of work sends you into a tailspin of negative thoughts and bodily sensations. You wonder if this will ever end, and the amount of tension in your neck is at an all-time high.

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      The feeling of dread can make you retreat from your daily activities to ruminate on the idea of returning to work. Feelings of dread steals valuable time.

      How to Bounce Back:

      Develop a routine to relax and practice deep breathing. Stress management is key when experiencing burnout.

      Consider a short breathing exercise that you can practice at work if dread or overwhelm creeps in. Go into an empty room or the bathroom, close your eyes, and take 10 deep breaths. Control your breathing as you inhale and fully exhale.

      Notice what time of the day you are needing to step away to take a breath and start scheduling your routines.

      Neck massages at bedtime or therapeutic massages may also help to relax your body and prepare you for the work week ahead. Keep in mind that self care is a necessity.

      6. Lashing out

      You notice that you are short-tempered and lash out at your loved ones more than usual. When you are feeling burnt out, you may find yourself less patient about certain things and snapping at your loved ones.

      You know they don’t deserve this treatment, and you want to get this behavior in check so that you can restore the loving, supportive environment you are used to having.

      How to Bounce Back:

      Be aware that your loved ones may not understand how your work environment is affecting you.

      Consider how you would feel if you were the recipient of irritable interactions when you didn’t have the whole picture of what was happening.

      Take time to explain your situation with your support system. Also, seek services through your work or independently in order to preserve the relationships within your support system.

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      7. Exhaustion

      Does the phrase “this job is sucking the life out of me” ring a bell? Mental exhaustion is totally apparent when work has taken its toll on you.

      Being too tired to do simple house chores or attend events that you once loved is a sign of exhaustion.

      How to Bounce Back:

      Rethink your priorities, and set small goals to take action daily on your priorities. If your priorities include keeping a clean living area or hanging out with your friends once a week, stick to your plans.

      You will find that your mood is improved, and you are not as drained once you are doing things in alignment with your goals and priorities.

      The Bottom Line

      Feeling burnt out can creep up on you. It can be caused by personal behaviors, habits, or toxic work environments. Regardless of the factors that lead to burnout, the signs are the same.

      Awareness is the first step of knowing what is happening. The next step is taking action based on the specific signs you are displaying.

      Recovery from burnout may look like identifying the culprit that caused you to feel burnt out so that you can continue making progress in your work.

      Recovery can also require you to make a strategic exit from your current situation to restore your peace of mind and fully recover—and never look back.

      More on How to Stop Feeling Burnt out

      Featured photo credit: Niklas Hamann via unsplash.com

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