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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

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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Published on April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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