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Published on May 11, 2020

Emotionally Stuck? 8 Steps to Get Unstuck

Emotionally Stuck? 8 Steps to Get Unstuck

Our mind is an incredible force that we are still working on understanding to this day. Sometimes we feel great and ready to tackle the world. But over time, as we grow and develop, new behaviors may begin to manifest in our lives.

Some are very helpful and give our lives structure while others will drive us to a point where we feel stuck. Emotionally stuck. It can be sparked from all kinds of things, and it’s challenging to overcome.

However, it is possible to overcome it. To get started, try considering the following.

Why Do I Feel Emotionally Stuck?

Before becoming emotionally unstuck, you need to know why you are in this position in the first place. John Amodeo Ph.D., MFT wrote about why people are feeling stuck in life [1].

It’s all to do with one particular emotion: shame.

Several of us are quietly plagued with thoughts that we’re flawed or that we’re defective. Deep down, you may think that you’re a failure.

This level of shame is not something that can be easily spotted despite it being a painful emotion. Amodeo states that you may be numb to the pain due to just how painful it is.

Fortunately, Amodeo has observed this behavior time and time again and knows what to look for. From his observations, people who are emotionally stuck express at least one of these characteristics:

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Defensiveness

Shame is an emotion you don’t want to experience, so your body mentally responds by protecting you. This comes in many forms, but the most common is blaming others or shifting the argument so you’re taking less responsibility for your actions.

Perfectionism

This is putting up the appearance that you are without flaws, and you spend a lot of time ensuring everything is meticulously done. It gets to the point that you won’t allow human error, which is bound to happen and stresses you out.

Apologizing

Shame prompts us to apologize or to be compliant. In some cases, shame can also prevent us from apologizing to avoid the risk of embarrassment.

Procrastination

While procrastination reasons can be endless, shame is one of those reasons. It comes from the shame of the potential failure if we commit to a task or project.

All of this makes sense as shame clearly leads to some form of paralysis, no matter how you look at it. You’re stuck because you:

  • Don’t want to admit you’re wrong about something and change.
  • Are too strung up about keeping an appearance and never making mistakes.
  • Apologize so much that you allow people to steer you in various directions.
  • Put off various tasks that’ll help you and heal your shame.

How Can I Get Emotionally Unstuck?

Now that you have a deeper understanding of why you’re emotionally stuck, you need to work on getting unstuck. There are several ways to overcome it, but it all requires a great deal of mental work. Fortunately, there are methods you can do at home.

1. Find a Quiet Place

Or at least an area where you won’t be distracted. Once you have that spot, make a point of going there on a regular basis. Schedule some time on your calendar if you have to.

The purpose of this quiet place is to begin developing your inner voice. From there, you’ll be able to listen to it and begin to identify elements and emotions. By the end, you’ll be able to identify your emotions and know the root cause for them.

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2. Dig Emotionally Deep

As you explore your inner voice, you’ll find that one emotion masks many others. For example, you may get angry about something, but it often masks deeper emotions like fear or pain. This step entails digging in and knowing what triggers what.

If you can’t identify your emotion properly or there are too many, observe yourself over the coming week and sit down again for another exploration session.

3. Identify the Root

You start by asking a question: “Have I found the root of this emotion, or am I still on the surface?” For example, if you’re depressed, you’ll likely find frustration and sadness along with it. You want to make sure you are uncovering and identifying as many emotions as you can.

4. Work to Name All Your Emotions

The idea of repeating steps one through three is to ensure that all your emotions are exposed. Again, you want to have a good understanding for why you react in a certain way and what is triggering it.

Emotions all create pathways in our minds, and we often go through the same sequence if we’re not conscious about our emotions.

5. Ponder One Emotion at a Time

Once you know your emotions, you need to dig deeper and know the precise triggers. For example, people experience depression because of a deep sense of loneliness. This could be triggered by past events or even upbringing.

With this step, you want to make sure your emotions are laid out. You don’t want to be covering them up, even though you may want to. The only way you’ll be able to overcome being emotionally stuck is to handle the emotion rather than burying it again.

6. Take Breaks When Needed

You’re not going to be able to handle one emotion in each session. These things take time and, depending on the emotion you’re handling, it could be a painful experience.

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Remind yourself that you can take a break and save other emotions for other sessions. If you’re making a habit of visiting your quiet place often, you’ll overcome this.

You should also avoid people who will drag you down or judge you. Since you’ll have a firmer understanding of your emotions, you’ll know what’ll trigger what.

This is an important time to take breaks for sessions, as well as from certain people or activities.

7. Begin Healing

Being emotionally stuck is about knowing what is triggering certain emotions and actions. Getting unstuck is about realizing this, accepting it, finding the causes, and then making changes.

The time to get to this point varies from person to person. You might need a few sessions while others could take a few months. Either way, you want to make sure you have a grasp of your emotions and begin formulating a plan to start healing.

How to do this is to begin making changes in your life, surroundings, and habits. For example, if you feel that many of your friends’ actions are holding you back and making you act this way, begin finding new friends and branching out in that area.

Some other common examples are using affirmations or even making bigger decisions that throw you way out of your comfort zone. There are many approaches to take with this, but do what you think is best for you.

8. Stay Emotionally Unstuck

That’s easier said than done as people can relapse. The trick is to set boundaries and expectations for yourself. If you don’t want to be around specific people, tell them you are doing something necessary for your health and well being.

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Some other things are to keep yourself in check by looking at your emotions from time to time. Ensure you are going down a path you want to go down and that you’re happy with it. This can include meditation or journaling to identify and work with your emotions on a regular basis.[2]

Being emotionally unstuck comes down to taking action and holding yourself more responsible for what you do. At the same time, you can handle it in a way where you can keep moving forward and be comfortable with your decisions.

Get Unstuck and Live Your Life

When you feel emotionally stuck, it’s fair to chalk it up to the shame of an event that you are refusing to acknowledge. This shame has lead you down this path where you feel paralyzed and, well, stuck.

By uncovering that shame and coming to terms with it, you’ll be able to formulate a plan and begin to change your life. It’s that simple, but as you can tell, this requires mental fortitude and being able to handle painful emotions that you have naturally suppressed.

Take all the time you need to get unstuck. This is all part of your journey for more growth and freedom.

More Tips on Handling Emotions

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rawson-Harris via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on June 2, 2020

10 Ways to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

10 Ways to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

Whenever you hit a rough patch in life, it can seem like the problems you’re confronting are unique to you and that the whole world is closing in. It might be that you are struggling to find a way out and just can’t see the light of hope anywhere when the going gets tough.

Thankfully, although you might not see it, there is always hope. Nothing lasts forever—not even bad times—and doing things like remembering why you started in the first place and practicing using your courage muscle are just a couple of things that can shorten the difficult times.

If you could find a way to not only survive but thrive when the going gets tough, how would your life change for the better?

Here are ten ways you can do to make that happen today.

1. Realize How Far You Have Come

Whenever you get discouraged on the path to wherever you want to go, it is usually because you are only looking forward, not around you or behind you. Your journey through life will last until your final day, so it is no wonder that you still see a long and sometimes daunting path ahead.

To keep going despite this, it’s important to take a moment or two to look around. Look at where you are standing now compared to when you first started. Look at how far you have come since you first began. Look at how many obstacles and challenges are behind you that you managed to overcome successfully.

The benefits of reflective practice are also extensive, and it is little wonder why.[1]

Looking back at how far you have come is usually the fire you need to keep on burning brightly into the future.

2. Remember Why You Started

When the going gets tough, you need something to cling to in order to keep your grit and remind yourself why you started doing something in the first place. Without this all-important “why, you will be quick to wander from your path.

Whenever things are at their worst, your number one reason for doing the thing is going to be what pulls you through.

As ex-Navy Seal and motivation master David Goggins puts it:

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“‘Why am I here?’ If you know that moment is coming and have your answer ready, you will be equipped to make the split-second decision to ignore your weakened mind and keep moving. Know why you’re in the fight to stay in the fight!”

Sometimes, life can be a bit of a fight, especially within yourself. So, having your reasons for continuing will always help pull you out when times are tough. Try writing these down and posting them in places you look at every day to help them have even more impact.

3. Make It a Habit to Move Forward

Habits are some of the strongest behavioral predictors that we have. Most of our habits happen in our subconscious and are triggered by external or internal cues.

The great thing about habits is that they can be formed through conscious, repeated behaviors, and when practiced enough, they can eventually take their place in the subconscious and guide your life.

Of course, you want good habits to be guiding your life in the background, not bad ones. That’s why it’s a good idea to make it a habit to always move forward.

Contrary to what most people say, moving forward doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be better every single day for the rest of your life. There are going to be slip-ups, bad days, and circumstances that blow you off course.

Moving forward is all about getting back on track as fast as possible. If you can make that a habit, you can always get closer to where you want to go.

4. Use ‘If-Then’ Planning

When the going gets tough in your life, one of the most effective frameworks that you can put into place is called the ‘if-then’ planning.

This is the simplified version of something called Implementation Intention, a concept created by psychologist Peter Gollwitzer in the mid-’90s.[2] It helps you to make sense of confusing situations and to be able to take action when you are really struggling.

The simplified process is as follows:

“If x happens, I will do y.”

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For example:

“If I start to have negative thoughts, I will take ten seconds to just breathe.”

“If I feel extremely stressed for three days in a row, I will take the fourth day off to recover and reset.”

If-then planning puts a strategy in place for when times are tough. It takes away the element of thinking, planning, and worrying as you already know exactly what you need to do in each situation.

The beauty of using if-then is that you can change the if and then for different situations based on whatever works best for you at any given moment.

5. Find Some Mentors

With the internet becoming more expansive and accessible as it has ever been, there are so many ways to get a peek into the world’s top minds and see what they do in their own lives when the going gets tough.

Most successful people have had to overcome some serious struggles to get to where they are. Do a simple search online, and you will no doubt find out about all of the challenges that your favorite people have had to overcome.

Because of this, you should try to take inspiration from these people and find your own mentors. It’s worth recognizing that nobody trying to live their best life can ever get through it without their fair share of challenges to overcome. That’s just part of the hero’s journey.

6. Get out of Your Head

Sometimes, all of the reasoning, thinking, planning, and ruminating in the world doesn’t get you anywhere. In fact, for the serial thinkers and problem-solvers out there, it is oftentimes that too much time in your head results in even more struggle rather than a release of it.

Yes, some things can be solved by thinking. But when the going gets really tough, it is usually just pure heart, emotion, and grit that are going to carry you through. Your mind can become a tyrant, and it is worth being aware of this.

When you feel your own thoughts weighing you down and can’t stop the incessant thinking and worrying about the past, present, and/or future, it is time to step out of your mind for a little while and get into your body. Lift some weights, go for a run, or take a pleasant walk.

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The mind and body are much more connected than most people think—especially when it comes to emotions and fears and doing something beneficial for the body often benefits the unsettled mind as well.[3]

7. Ruthlessly Forgive Yourself

One of the worst things you can do when the going gets tough is to come down hard on yourself. Everyone has these external and internal struggles, and the harder you are on yourself for having them, the more difficult and traumatic the episodes will be when you inevitably slip up.

A lot of people are far harder on themselves than they are on other people, and to keep going in tough times, you need to be just as empathetic with yourself as you would be with your best friend.

Made a mistake? Forgive. Are you still giving yourself a hard time? Forgive. Are you still getting angry over small things “even though we talked about this”? Forgive.

The hard times are much easier to get through when you are at peace with yourself. You will be astonished by how much less pressure you feel when this happens.

8. Take Smaller Steps

It is common for people to stumble in life because they are simply taking on too much at once. Whether it be too much ambition, unrealistic expectations of themselves or others, or some extra curveballs, big steps can sometimes be too much to take.

The truth about big steps is that they are rare, disruptive, and difficult to keep up without crumbling. The big steps—the real life-changing goals and dreams that you have—can often be broken into much smaller steps that are more manageable and that will get you to the same place.

If the going is getting particularly tough, it might be the case that you are simply trying to do too much at once. Try taking smaller, more manageable steps, and see if obstacles and difficulties become easier to navigate.

9. Use Twenty Seconds of Insane Courage

Everyone will agree that the courage we have stored within ourselves is often finite and difficult to sustain for long periods. We tend to think that making a big change in our life and getting out of a rut requires courage for long periods that we simply cannot manage.

The good news is that this isn’t true. Most of the pivotal moments of change in your life—including pulling yourself out of a hole when the going gets tough—come from small, courageous decisions in short, precise moments.

Quite often, using twenty seconds of insane courage when it is needed is enough to completely change the trajectory of our lives. Whether it be asking for that promotion, deciding to go to the gym for the first time in months, or having the courage to break through your insecurities and ask someone out, most of these only require a few seconds of insane courage.

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Standing up and walking into your boss’s office, getting the gym kit on, picking up the phone or sending the text—you only have to be courageous in these few moments, and then you can relax and let life unfold.

Twenty seconds? You can do that, easily.

10. Accept That Your Motivation Will Wane

One of the main reasons that people get discouraged and struggle to keep going in hard times is that they never expected their motivation to dip.

When we start a project or enter a relationship or take something new and exciting on in our lives, our motivation is high, and we are in a mindset of excitement. We start thinking about all of the positives that could come from these things.

However, as time wears on, motivation levels inevitably drop, and you start to focus on the negatives of what’s happening or the added responsibility that you forgot to consider.

When this happens, you have two choices:

  1. You can put on your rose-colored glasses of the past and falsely remember how perfect everything was;
  2. Or you can put on your realistic glasses, face the difficulties, and keep moving forward into something better.

The true test of character comes when you hit a dip, motivation wanes, and you just don’t feel like doing stuff anymore. The secret is to realize that all of this is temporary and that you don’t need motivation to act.

It’s nice to have motivation, but the true test of character comes when motivation inevitably wanes. In those moments, will you keep going?

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. Each of these ten ideas for how to keep going when the going gets tough is versatile enough to be applied to almost any difficult situation that you find yourself in.

Life is going to present many difficulties. This isn’t something to fear but something to embrace. With these steps, you can navigate these stormy waters a little easier.

More Inspirations to Help You Stay Strong

Featured photo credit: Gaelle Marcel via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: What Is Self-Reflection and Why It Matters For Wellness
[2] American Psychologist: Implementation Intentions: Strong Effects of Simple Plans
[3] The International Journal of Psychoanalysis: Emotional Processing: The Mind-Body Connection

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