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Last Updated on July 27, 2020

How to Move Forward When You’re Stuck in a Rut

How to Move Forward When You’re Stuck in a Rut

I’ve helped thousands of people get out of ruts, however, rarely do they say “Hey Mand, I’m stuck in a rut, can you get me out?” It makes it sound like it’s so small that you could just rock a bit and out you’d pop like the proverbial cork out of the champagne.

If only it was that easy, right?

If you want to know what a rut really is like, check out the films that stick in your mind. At some stage, the stars are stuck in a rut: Ferris Beuller, Luke Skywalker and Jennifer in Dirty Dancing. And since I love Disney, poor old Rapunzel is seriously trapped, and we aren’t talking about the tower and the evil step mum.

Looking through my love of films, these films hook us because we look at how that character goes on a metaphorical of physical adventure, and we think by the time we get out of the cinema:

“It’s my time!”

“Let’s do this”

“I can achieve anything!”

Only to be at home tucked up doing what you usually do, slowly losing that sense of can do that was so alive in you as you left the movies.

So how do you hang on to the motivation to change and how do you make it happen ensuring you never languish there ever again?

1. Talk About What You’re Going Through

Whether it’s films, news stories or products, so it is stands to reason the same is true of change in our own lives. You can tap into the power of coaching here to get out of your own rut. The first thing I do with a new client is let them talk and talk and talk. No interruptions. Words spilling out like they can’t wait to escape.

The client often talks pretty much nonstop for 20 minutes, maybe a question here or there to help them keep going and dig deeper but, they talk until their shoulders sag and they often look shattered, worn out. It’s almost like a fog lifts and they look at me and usually say something like “Wow, where did all that come from?” or “Sorry, I’ve done your head in with my life haven’t i?”

While they may have an idea that something is wrong or life is not flying along as they’d love it to, rarely do they actually verbalize everything that they feel is going on.

Giving yourself permission to talk is very important. We are taught in 21st century life to not moan, to look for the positive, to be happy. Sometimes, it’s important to really process the other side of this. In doing this, you can really understand what is happening.

People often give me the biggest views into their mind when they least want to. In coaching, it’s often the flippant throw away statement that hides the real issues. The perfect example is a recent client who couldn’t see away out of their rut. And for some explanation, I asked “For what reason are you always on someone else’s path? Is it better over there? Is it safer? What’s going on?” The client looked at me in horror and said “How did you know?”

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Coaching has become a very spiritual practice for me and sometimes, I ask questions that feel like they are coming through me rather than out of me. Weird I know, but true. It’s these weird questions that usually really help clients. I’m probably just picking up on key words they’ve used repeatedly and then phrasing it in a way that resonates powerfully with the client.

Another great example was the client that told me about all the possibilities the future held for them, and how it made them feel trapped in a rut and they were fearful to escape. I asked “You know how in fog some people will choose not to go out; and others will take precautions to go out there but go slowly; and others carry on regardless and risk everything, which are you?”

They hadn’t once talked about fog, but it was a powerful visual that helped them to decide what they wanted. They realized they wanted to go forward, with caution and that created our plan.

For the client who was always on other people’s paths, they realized with tears in their eyes that they’d been petrified for years of getting it wrong. They constantly tried to copy everyone else, and we all know that is not the path to success, joy and happiness don’t we?

We created a plan of action and I drew a picture of a sign hammered into the grass saying, “Stick to your path!” It’s a visual reminder that helps ensure the client stays on track.

2. Build Yourself the Right Network

Network is your net worth. This has been a powerful phrase for me this year and resonates with so many. If you find that you get stuck in a rut or struggle to escape one, have a look around you. The people you work with, socialize with, even listen to on the radio or share your life with on your phone are all part of your network. And we worryingly seem to forget the value of this.

The network around you can either inspire and nurture you, or drag you down and keep you stuck.

Have a look at your social media feed, is it full of great ideas, happy faces, great news, beauty and joy? Or is it full of disturbing things happening on the other side of the world that you couldn’t possibly ever have an impact on, and moaning people complaining about governments and celebrities?

I’m not suggesting that you don’t take an interest and action on helping to shape the world we live in, however, I am saying you need to ask yourself what your social media feed does for you. How does it make you feel?

I asked this question recently on Facebook and was inundated with negative comments and sadness from people who found social media depressing and soul destroying. Interestingly, the ones that felt like me and loved social media felt connected to people around the world. I have social media friends on the other side of the world who I’ve never met but feel deeply connected to. We can share in joy; we can comfort when our world sees atrocities and we feel connected.

If your network doesn’t feel good for you, then change it. No one needs to know.

We can choose to control who is in our life physically and metaphorically, and that can drastically impact on our ability to get out of the ruts that come up in life.

Ever heard someone say:

“What do you want to do that for?”

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“That doesn’t sound like much fun, are you sure you want that?”

“You just don’t get it do you.”

“That can’t be done.”

These comments (and people) can damage your network’s net worth. The right people in your network do the very opposite, they are like the critical eureka moment in our favourite films where our stars realize what they can achieve.

There are so many people around the world I have never met and yet, we’ve helped each other on those dark “I can’t do this days.”

I’ve never been to Tucson, AZ. However, I know I’ve at least one friend there in Alicia from Energetic Life Healing. While we’ve never met, we both know we can get in touch if we want advice, support or a proverbial kick up the butt to get where we want to go in life. The right network makes such a difference to your ability to steer clear of the ruts of life.

3. Don’t Be Too Peoply*

*(Yes, I know it’s a made up word!)

People that try to enslave you to their thinking aren’t good for you. A great network respects you whatever you choose to think. Here in the UK, we have faced years of political unrest and divide, and for some, it has caused a big rut in their life;

“We will move house when Brexit is over.”

“I will set up my own business when Brexit is done.”

“It’s not practical to do that until Brexit is finished.

“We can’t make a decision yet because we don’t know what is going to happen.”

Too peoply is a saying a friend (funnily enough who started off as a social media friend is now a real friend) said to me once. If I am around people too much, it gets too peoply and I need a break.” When I asked about getting stuck in a rut online Abbie Thoms from Polyspiral Website Design said:

“I think we get caught up in our situations and forget to take a step back for some perspective.”

Spot on Abbie!

As my friend and Abbie have beautifully sussed, sometimes, the quickest way out of rut is to step back. When I feel stuck on a task or way forward, I know what I must do. A walk on the beach with my dog is important, so much so that I invested in a very expensive coat so that no matter what the weather or temperature I could still go for that walk. The sea air, the solitude and the sound of the waves always help me.

Always, without fail.

Ask yourself when life feels too peoply and you need a new perspective to move forward, what would be on your must do now list? A walk on the beach? Pottering in the garden? Baking a cake? Painting your nails? Daydreaming on YouTube? Reading a book? Even playing a pointless time-wasting game on your phone can be good.

With all of these actions, your brain is given a bit of space to process what you’ve been working on. So when you feel stuck what will your go to action be?

And please note, working on it some more, is not going to work!

4. Plan in a Way That Works for You

If you want to steer clear of a rut and get unstuck, you need to always plan. I like fluid plans, if I have a goal that I can visualize, I’m happy.

I don’t need to plan every action. I’ve learned (the hard way!) that if I plan every finite action, it doesn’t work for me; while some clients like everything listed down to details of what they are doing on what day of the week. I have clients that like Excel spreadsheets. Clients that like colourful mind maps. And clients that like mood boards or lists.

We are all so beautifully unique, so before you decide on your plan of action, decide how you will bring your plan alive!

This works so powerfully that for clients that love color. Without fail, brown is a disliked color, so I will ask the question in brown “What could stop you?” Because it’s a disliked question and a disliked color, they will work powerfully to steer clear of that result. Which links back to emotions which we talked about at the start. What emotions do you want to evoke when you look at your plan?

5. Don’t Plan Alone

Another reason a rut is so tough is because we try and fix it on our own. We think it’s the right thing to do, however the 21st Century is teaching us that personally and professionally, we achieve more, are happier, and less stressed if we open up. Planning with the right person or people ensures you:

  • Challenge yourself.
  • Don’t shy away from the things that frighten you.
  • Ensure you creatively think.
  • Ensure you add ideas that seem ridiculous or crazy.

And this helps you see the big picture in a new way. Which leads us onto…

6. Be Aware of Your Perceptions

There is a very good reason why a 2 hour conversation with me can completely change the way someone feels about their life, and who they are and it is down to perceptions.

Perceptions are what shape the world we live in. However, it has always fascinated me that two people can see the same film, party or place and feel completely different about it. Our perception of the world we live in and who we are is impacted on by our beliefs, values and experiences. Helping people to adjust their beliefs and respect their values and experiences is a fast way to getting a perspective that helps you instead of keeping you trapped.

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7. Realize That You’re Just Trapped in Limbo

If you help someone to explore their rut, it often can drag them down further. They feel trapped by circumstances and say things like:

It can’t be helped.

It’s just the way it is.

It’s just our current circumstances, when this is over we can…

Watch out for victim talk when it comes to ruts in your own life. Speaking from experience, it is not always easy, yet we can escape the most awful of situations however badly we feel trapped by what we choose to think. Lupus has isolated me from society and destroyed my social life. At times, I would cry because it felt like I was the only person in the world.

Just me and my dog.

If you’ve ever faced adversity or tough times out of your control, it can feel like a rut because you can’t find a way forward. The fastest way forward is not always putting one foot in front of another, it is by monitoring the quality of your thoughts.

I loved the book The Forgotten Highlander by Alistair Urquhart. The true story of a Scottish soldier who faced some of the worse most horrific moments of the second world war. I saw an interview with him years ago where the interviewer asked Alistair “How did you keep going?” and Alistair talked about how they could do what they wanted to his body but they were never getting their hands on his mind!

This was the belief that changed my circumstances. Not medicine, or exercise or diet or friends, but just one thought. Which leads me to the next thing that ensures I never fall into a rut again…

8. Practice Gratitude

If you want to get out of a rut, another way to slay the victim mentality is to look for everything you love about your world. Everything you are honoured to have. Everything that makes you feel happy and loved. It is hard to feel trapped when you find yourself experiencing so many positive emotions.

Remember positivity is a great place to start when you want to change something in your life. Blind positivity is not much use, but positivity based on facts is.

Try these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

I’m more than happy to hear from Lifehack readers anytime, so do feel free to get in touch via my social media which you can access on my profile page. Let’s keep the conversation and the lifehacks going!

More to Help You Get Unstuck

Featured photo credit: Tai Jyun Chang via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Mandie Holgate

Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

judging others Why Constantly Judging Others Is No Good For You 6 Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles That Hold You Back from Success How to Move Forward When You’re Stuck in a Rut How to Make a Positive Change for a Fulfilling Life How to Fight Your Irrational Fears And Stay Strong

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Published on September 25, 2020

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

Stress doesn’t discriminate. It affects everyone, invariably in different ways. Regardless of how stress shows up in your life, I think we can all agree that it’s present. When it does show up, it takes over the show. It then becomes difficult to stay in the present moment or show gratitude for what and who we have in our life. In the eye of the stress storm, everything is tossed around into oblivion. This is probably when self-care finally comes to our mind.

How Does Stress Show Up?

On a physical scale, stress tends to be behind many of our typical ailments, such as headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, or body aches and pain.[1] When we’re in stressful situations, our body activates our fight-or-flight response. According to the American Institute of Stress, when the body is in this mode due to stress, “the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.”[2]

Why is this important? While our fight-or-flight response is extremely helpful when we’re in situations that risk our survival, not every situation is that dire. However, the body doesn’t know how to differentiate between such scenarios. Rather, we become accustomed to seeing every stressful situation as dire, and essentially locked into this fight-or-flight response automatically. This causes us to burn out because our body is constantly fighting or fleeing from threats that are not causing us any real harm.

On a mental and emotional scale, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior.” Everything is interconnected. When our physical body takes a toll due to stress, this has a domino effect on how we process our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see correlations between depression and anxiety when it comes to dealing with stress.

How to Combat Stress?

Below are five self-care ideas for combating stress in your life. Consider implementing them into your daily routine for the best results.

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1. Start a Brain Dump Writing Exercise

When you’re overwhelmed with thoughts, it can become very difficult to stay present and focused. This could affect you at work, in school, or in your relationships. It’s as if your mind were filled to the brim with thoughts that are constantly competing for your attention. If left unattended, this can affect your performance or your state of being. Stress is just brewing!

One exercise to get this under control is called a Brain Dump, and it’s exactly how it sounds. Start by getting comfortable with a pen and paper or your favorite journal. Without any special formatting or introduction, just start writing any and all thoughts that come up. Consider your paper a blank canvas onto which you’re going to spill every thought, no matter how small or unimportant. This can look like a laundry list, a jumble of words, or a paragraph. Don’t think too much of how it looks. The idea is to give your thoughts an exit. Once they’re on paper, they’re no longer swimming in your head for attention.

Once you have them written down, leave them as they are. We have a tendency to want to fix our thoughts. Instead, allow them to simply exist as they are — they’re not right or wrong. Consider coming back to this exercise daily or whenever you feel like you have a lot on your mind.

2. Sweat It Out

There is nothing more therapeutic than moving the physical body when it feels the weight of stress. Energetically, we carry our day in our body! If we’ve had a particularly difficult day, that energy is going to feel tense and unsettling. This is why it’s so important to move and really break a sweat!

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America,[3]

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“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.”

Find what exercise regimen works for you, and commit to it for a few days per week. Scientists have also found that even 10-15 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a tremendous effect on your body. Go for a run, take a spin class or a power yoga class, or dance the stress away in Zumba. Whatever gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat is one of the perfect self-care ideas to keep the stress away.

3. Seek the Care of a Therapist

Sometimes writing out our thoughts and feelings doesn’t seem quite enough. This is common and to be expected. After all, we are complex human beings who want to understand and process our emotions on a deeper level. This is why having a regular therapy session is so beneficial!

In the presence of a professional, we can open up about what stressful situations we’re going through. We don’t have to keep our emotions bottled up, and we know that our honesty will be protected and safeguarded.

Additionally, when we’re feeling stressed, we often want to simply vent and get things off of our chest. Having someone on the receiving end who will simply listen and hold space is a truly healing gift. We can often leave the session feeling more empowered, seen, and offloaded of the stress we brought in.

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Lastly, we may be able to receive guidance from our therapist on a particular situation we’re struggling with. Having someone else’s perspective on something we’re too emotionally close to can be just the right solution.

Here are more self-care ideas from a therapist: Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice).

4. Interrupt Your Day

This may seem like a derailing technique, but give it a shot! Interrupting your day means introducing something entirely new or random into a routine that is very monotonous or typical.

If your work or school day is the same sequence of events every single day, bringing in an interruption can be quite conducive to your productivity and creativity. This can look like pausing in the middle of the day for a yoga stretch at your desk or in your office. It could be playing your favorite playlist in-between meetings or taking a walk outside for lunch. Not only does this stir up new energy for your day, but it can also de-stress your day.

As I said in the earlier tip, when we’re too close to a situation or conflict, we have a harder time breaking away. We’re so emotionally and mentally invested that we don’t see how that proximity is affecting our health. So, interrupt yourself when you’re feeling stress coming on, and do something fun, random, and refreshing.

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5. Get Some Energy Work Done

Energy work is anything that is being done to improve the circulation and energetic flow of the body. This could be a massage, Reiki session, chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture. As I said in a previous tip, moving the body helps move the energy that is blocked or stuck. This is why exercise is so important. However, sometimes we need a session where that work is done for us by a licensed professional. In such treatments, we have the luxury to relax and receive the benefits of the treatment. It’s a beautiful way to self-care!

Final Thoughts

Stress is unfortunately a common part of our life. It affects everyone, but to what extent it affects you is personal. One thing is for sure, and that is that stress has a tremendous effect on our physical, mental, and emotional state. This is why regular exercise is so important, as well as mental stimulation and emotional release. These self-care ideas won’t necessarily guard you from ever feeling stressed, but they will help you manage it better.

More Self-Care Ideas

Featured photo credit: Alisa Anton via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
[2] The American Institute of Stress: How the Fight or Flight Response Works
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Physical Activity Reduces Stress

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