Have you ever felt as if you are going through the motions… and not moving?
Staying in place, no matter what the effort?
And then the feeling evolves into anxiety, fear, and overwhelm?
Whether it’s your job, your relationship, your house, your circle of friends or perhaps a combination of multiple things, if you are not excited about one or any of these aspects anymore, most often is a sign that you are stuck.
Maybe something isn’t working for you anymore or you may actually be backing up to get a running start.
But what if being stuck is not the problem, but how we perceive it?
Professor Michael Anderson, from the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge, studied the topic and he says that “Our ability to control our thoughts is fundamental to our wellbeing. When this capacity breaks down, it causes some of the most debilitating symptoms like intrusive thoughts, ruminations and pathological and persistent worries or dissatisfaction.”
Most often, it is the way we react to circumstances that determines our feelings.
“Feeling” stuck might be only a perception of your mind and does not represent your actual reality because, in reality, you are continuously changing. That is the nature of being human.
So feeling stuck might just be a sign that it’s time to make a change. You might just not know where your next change is going to take you.
Now “remaining” stuck, meaning resisting the change and avoiding acknowledging that something needs to change in your life might be the real problem.
You might have an intuitive impulse to make those changes, but you are resisting doing so for fear of change.
Changes can shake-up our patterns, create new energy and change our outlook on life.
Alternatively, they may be the seed of an opportunity fertilizing itself for something better to happen.
And you don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward.
The thing with feeling stuck is that sometimes you don’t know what you need to do or what you want from life in general. But this “numbness” and “emptiness” that you’re feeling should not stop you from making a change.
Even if you don’t see the end result and don’t know where exactly you are going, it is crucial to just start moving.
The key to overcome remaining stuck is to distance yourself from the problem to gain a wider perspective.
Sometimes you need to take a break from yourself to perceive your problems with a new mindset.
Albert Einstein said: “You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it.”
You need a new paradigm to conquer being stuck. Otherwise, you will approach your difficulties with the same way of thinking that brought you there.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
If you are just sitting around and waiting for something or someone to come into your life and suddenly change it for the better, you’re not going to get very far. You are the only one who can really make a difference. So start acting! Even the tiniest possible step is progress.
Small things become big things. Focus on small steps. Start right now, make a list of tiny ways you can get closer to your goal, then pick one step every morning and make it the number one priority of your day. Before you know it, you will be closer to your goal than where you started. Remember that it’s your life. Discover what it is that you like and care about.
BARRIERS THAT PREVENT CHANGE
Now you might want to watch out for the barriers that prevent your change to happen.
For example, are you overthinking it?
You may be feeling stuck because you are always in your own head, worrying and obsessing. This is called rumination.
Remember the old cartoons where there’s a character thinking really hard about something? The character is walking around in a circle, on and on, until the ground under his feet is eroded. The groove keeps getting deeper and deeper.
When you feel stuck, you keep treading the same circular path, asking yourself the same questions over and over again. In doing so, you create a groove under your feet. And you find it increasingly harder to get out of that groove.
The word “ruminate” derives from the Latin for chewing the cud, a less than gentile process in which animals such as goats, sheep, and cows grind up, swallow, then regurgitate and rechew their feed. Similarly, human ruminators mull an issue at length.
But while the approach might ease cows’ digestion, it doesn’t do the same for people’s mental health. Science shows that ruminating can fuel depression and can impair thinking and problem-solving, and even drive away critical social support.
Rumination involves dwelling repetitively and at length on negative thoughts, often related to fear, shame, failure, rejection, humiliation or loss. Ruminating is self-reflection in a maladaptive way.
Many people, particularly women, have this bad habit.
The problem is that rumination activates your stress response and the default mode network, a network of brain regions that are active when your mind wanders and you find yourself daydreaming or lost in your thoughts.
As a result, your brain and body are flooded with the stress hormone cortisol when you are in rumination mode. Research has linked this tendency toward overthinking with numerous harmful behaviors, particularly overeating and drinking too much alcohol, as well as health consequences such as an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and other toxic effects in your body.
A study in the February 2017 issue of the journal Anxiety, Stress, and Coping found that when we ruminate it creates a pessimistic perspective on our life and drains our mental resources, which can interfere with our ability to solve problems.
Unfortunately, most people who engage in rumination don’t know they are ruminating; they think they are problem-solving – not being able to distinguish between the two is part of the problem. A way of distinguishing the two is to understand if it leads to a timely and effective course of specific actions. If not, it’s rumination!
There is no sense digging deeper into the groove where you’re stuck. You need to take a different approach, to change the way you see things. You need to get outside the groove so that you can get a new perspective.
The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to break the rumination habit.
First, simply bring your attention back to the here and now.
Second, set a specific time of the day when you will be thinking about your problem.
When the problem-solving time arrives, swing into brainstorming mode. You can do this on your own, with a coach or even with a trusted friend. Articulate what you think the problem or issue is, then think about how you would like it to change and what you can do to begin to move in that direction.
Action is the antidote to rumination.
Once you’ve pinpointed your goal, outline the specific steps that will take you there. If you can’t do anything to change the outcome, move on. Letting go of unhealthy or unattainable goals helps you feel empowered and develop self-esteem.
You can also use the rituals of wellbeing in my free audio-training.
I am a strong believer that everything happens at the right time, at the right place and for the right reasons.
Even though you are the one who is responsible for making a change in your life, you need to stay open-minded about how to do it. If you are sticking to a specific way but failing, it may be because it just was not meant for you. Try something else. And accept that things happen in a different order than the one you have planned and that you cannot control how life manifests.
Negative beliefs or relationships
Maybe you are stuck because of negative beliefs or relationships. Negativity often comes hand in hand with feeling stuck. Are those people and beliefs serving you in your growth?
Make your number one priority to remove from your life toxic thoughts and relationships that don’t serve you anymore. Start with surrounding yourself with positive people that make you feel good and get rid of the negative ones.
Beautiful things happen when you clear your life of all the negativity.
Those endings that make you sad and disappointed may be a new beginning.
Oftentimes we get stuck because we get involved too much in other people’s lives.
So you might need to learn how to set healthy boundaries so that people respect your time, your choices and your individuality.
To move forward, be honest with yourself and avoid hiding behind excuses. Excuses create a victim mindset and keep you stuck further.
Mark Twain wrote this beautiful sentence “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Based on my experience this is the hardest phase: to assume ownership of your choices means you are held accountable for your actions.
Embracing your circumstances is the first step to move beyond your current state.
While this is empowering it doesn’t mean you like what’s happening!
The best thing you can do it is to accept that change is taking place through you.
So welcome your circumstances.
A poor solution is better than running away from pain because at the very least, it’s a starting point and it might help you gain a new level of understanding for your personal development.
Consider your current experience as an opportunity for the next stage of your life.
To live a remarkable life, you must take consistent action in spite of your fears and doubts.
RITUALS TO HELP YOUR TRANSITION
Here are some practices that can help you in your transition
1. DISTANCE AND TIME. Henry Ford once said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
Distance and time are two ingredients to transition from the state of being stuck since you can gain clarity without being too invested in the outcome.
Take a step back and think about the bigger picture.
Step outside your head for a minute.
How might your best friend approach the same problem? A scientist? A poet? A six-year-old?
A fresh solution — even a hilarious or wrong one — might lead to a right one.
2. JOURNALING. Get a piece of paper and write. I like to write by hand, the old fashioned way. It seems to clear my head more than writing on my computer. I write down everything that is going on in my head. No censoring. No looking back. I let everything come out. The more I do this, the more I notice repeating patterns. The more aware I become, the faster I access my intuitive brain. When you truly become aware of what goes on inside of your head, you start to let go because you see how you are creating your own suffering.
3. SELF-DISCLOSURE. Talk to a neutral person like a therapist or work with a coach. This helps you form a different opinion. What you consider being stuck might be a holding place to begin a new adventure.
4. SELF-AWARENESS. Invest in your self-awareness. Become who you were born to be. When a disappointment pops up in your life — and it will at some point — slow down and allow yourself time to connect with that creative, intuitive genius within who knows how to get past the brick wall.
5. LETTING GO. Surrender to this quieter period in your life. Tell yourself that everything is going to be okay.
You get stuck when you think you should be something you’re not. When you think life should be different than it is.
I know I’m trying to force myself to do something when words like ”should,” ”have to,” and ”must” enter my mind.
Being stuck then becomes like quicksand. The more you try to get out, the deeper you sink.
Your mind wants to push, control, and micromanage your life.
This stems from insecurity. You want to be secure, you think that if you could just control life, all would be well but it is not until you face the reality that things begin to lift. When we resist reality, we suffer. Instead, take that stress and pain of your resistance as a sign that you need to relax and surrender.
When you’re stuck, surrender to being stuck.
Stay completely in the moment. Breathe deeply.
You might still feel anxious but you can see the play of your thoughts.
Slowly you will get better at enjoying being stuck and when you enjoy being stuck, you are not stuck anymore!
6. SELF-COMPASSION. It’s easy to feel guilty during these periods because you feel like you are not doing enough. Instead, tell yourself that you are doing the best you can. The tide will shift soon. Go easy on yourself and be compassionate.
You can also use the rituals of wellbeing in my free audio-training to support your mind, body, brain, and heart during life transitions.
And next time don’t wait until you feel completely stuck in life to make that big step forward.
Tell yourself that the best is yet to come.
Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.
Keep moving forward. Keep growing!
And remember you have the power to harness stress into growth, health, and happiness!