5 ways to see you're stuck in a rut - and 5 ways to become unstuck

I want to talk a bit about when you can get stuck in your life, really stuck and in a rut and kind of, well, stagnant. I’ve been there and you may have been there before too. It can sneak up on you … you’re just tired and things seem dull.

When you realise that you’ve been doing the same things in the same ways for ages and that it’s been fine, or even it’s been great, but now … it’s a bit flat.

You’ve no energy, no ideas, and are just getting through the days and hoping things will improve.

One day you think, one day … one day you might win the lottery, or a headhunter might call and offer you an incredible new job.

Or you’ll get swept off your feet by the man (or woman) of your dreams and suddenly be taken away from all this. Whatever the dream is of getting out of being stuck, these are all dreams of being ‘rescued’ and really, you’re going to have to care for and rescue yourself.

Sometimes being stuck is worse than just being flat – you feel like you’re actually going backwards and feeling miserable, unappreciated, negative. So many things can trigger it initially, perhaps a relationship that’s run its course, a bullying culture at work, money worries or debt. And they can pile on top of each other, having even more knock-on effects so that being completely stressed at work starts affecting your self-confidence, and then your relationships. The more you get stuck you more you sink into it and the harder it can be to get unstuck.

But right now I want to talk about how you can learn to spot the signs earlier that you might be getting stuck - whether these are new to you or you’ve been in that situation before.

Here are five key behaviours and signs that you’re heading in the direction of stuck, or might even be living it right now.

1. Avoiding problems and difficulties and not dealing with them or taking responsibility

This includes not looking at post and letting unopened letters pile up which happens most when they are bills and you are in debt and can’t face looking at them. I’ve been there myself and at my worst was leaving the unopened pile until it was too big to ignore … and then putting the whole pile into a carrier bag and putting that into the wardrobe. What sort of insane archiving system is that? And THAT behaviour creates very stuck energy – hidden missives of negativity and fear stashed away in your bedroom does not create good energy. Catch this one as early as you can.

2. Living in clutter and mess

It’s a big flashing red sign of negativity, unhappiness and potentially depression when you stop taking care of your surroundings and your home. You’re probably too tired - as being in a rut is utterly exhausting - and you’d rather flop on the sofa when you do get home from another draining day with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and some mindless TV … but if you realise every weekend that the pile of washing up in the sink has been there for DAYS and the washing in the laundry basket is overflowing, if the dustbin is full, if you haven’t changed your bedsheets for two weeks when you used to LOVE having clean linen twice a week …. notice whatever it is that is making YOUR house not feel like your home and a sanctuary and decide to tackle it before it becomes overwhelming as to where to start.

3. Hiding yourself away

This one’s a little bit like avoiding the bills and payment demands except now you’re actually hiding yourself. Feeling unhappy and tired and poor you could be forgiven for thinking that staying in and not spending money is a good thing to do. You can’t go out and meet friends as you finish work too late. You can’t afford it. You’re not in the right mood. You don’t really want to see people. You’re too tired to travel at weekends.       You’re too tired even to talk on the phone. You have nothing to say anyway. STOP! If this is going on for a while then there are so many things that need to be addressed (right job? right friends? right money coming in?) but the biggest one is to see that YOU are stopping the flow of energy right there in yourself … it needs to be caught before you really are running on empty.

4. Not caring as much about your appearance

If you look back – do you remember times when you made sure you got up early enough to look your best? Fishing things out of the ironing pile and hoping they look ok, knowing the hem on a skirt is down but deciding no one will notice, heels worn through on shoes, hair scraped back for the third day in a row, untidy nails … wearing the same two outfits again and again despite a wardrobe of clothes. I am definitely NOT judging anyone’s personal routine so this is all just ideas of some of the things you might notice. Yours might be completely different – but some of these I can be guilty of if I’m getting in a rut. Notice yours and say ENOUGH.

5. You have forgotten what it is you even like doing 

You can get so overwhelmed and stuck and concentrating on the wrong things – a really bad job, unhealthy relationships, difficult family situations or circumstances that mean you really are just getting through each day without time for yourself. And suddenly one day someone will say something that triggers it – reminding you that you haven’t done the things you love for ages or that actually you DON’T even love that thing anymore but haven’t replaced it with anything else and you realise that you really ARE going through the motions without a plan, without goals, without knowing what it is YOU want from your day, your loves, your life. We have to sort this out!

If even one person reads this and thinks, ‘yes, I’m sort of doing that a bit’ and decides to work on getting unstuck then I’m happy.

So here are five quick and very simple ideas to getting more energy and start becoming UNSTUCK. They are not going to get to the bottom of or resolve some of those big deep-seated scenarios listed above but we have to start somewhere and start small – just START taking action, any action, and it will begin to have an effect.

Even if you’re not stuck and don’t relate to these symptoms but could do with a little boost of energy, these ideas are worth a try.

1. Journal

Just get a notebook and pen if you like writing longhand. Or if you hate it (like me – I have absolutely no idea any more how I once wrote solidly for six hour finals exams) just get onto a word document or use an online site like 750words.com and just journal. Every day is good, every few days is good, there’s no right or wrong way to do it except just try it. You can write whatever comes into your head or give yourself a topic. Write lists: things that I love doing; places I’d like to visit; what I’d do today if I had unlimited time and money. It’s good to clear your head, doodle around with thoughts, have a bit of random brain time before the day kicks in yet again. And because of that I like to journal first thing but again you do what works for you. It only has to take ten minutes, and you have to start prioritising yourself so FIND those ten minutes somehow a couple of times a week.

2. Get outside

Don’t sit on the sofa all day even if that’s what you feel like. Well, not every day then. Get outside and go for a walk. Or a run. Just walk round the park, or around the streets - which is great for people watching and being nosy about other people’s lives and houses.

3. Turn the TV off

... unless you’re actively engaged in watching it. Do something else. Learn something.  There are so many courses online for everything you can think of – just stimulate your brain a bit and concentrate it on something other than letting it stress and simmer about work or whatever it is. It doesn’t really matter if it’s not something you keep up forever – that’s the whole point – we need to stop only making long term decisions and start doing what you’re called to do. So for me, so far this year I started learning French online (very short videos maybe two minutes a time). Then I started learning to speak Thai (again just a few minutes a time). Then I got confused between the languages. Then I decided I should read more business books and downloaded a few to my iPad to read just ten minutes of when I had time. It doesn’t really matter what it is but it’s good for your brain to concentrate on something. Even for five minutes. Speaking of which …

4. Try meditating

Oh and breathe properly. When we’re stuck we often don’t breathe. Or exercise. Or look after ourselves properly. The easiest and quickest meditation is to sit up straight but somewhere comfortable, and take one slow breath in for a count of five, hold it for a count of five, and release for a count of five. Focus on the breath and the count and really be in that moment And repeat until you’ve done ten (or as many as you like). Try it right now! Then shake and stretch and have a glass of water. There are also tons of fab meditations online and through apps like Headspace.

5. Start to clear the clutter

Sorting out your physical clutter not only creates calmer surroundings, more peaceful energy and a nicer place to be but also affects your mental and emotional clarity too. Take a day to sort out the wardrobe, or kitchen or bathroom cupboards, clearing away broken things, duplicate things, things you don’t love and things you can give away and just start feeling the energy start to shift.

Set goals. If you’re journaling, and meditating and starting to get rid of clutter you WILL start getting clearer on what YOU really want in your life and look outside the rut to where you want to be when you are unstuck and living a life you love. Write them down, journal them, think about them. Write them again and start to develop an action plan to achieve them.

The most important thing is just to do SOMETHING. You might only like one of these ideas or you might not like any but it might have got you thinking about some small actions you can take.

Any action will start unblocking the stuck-ness because stuck-ness thrives on inaction. And action can also mean thoughts – just thinking about becoming unstuck and what that could look like will start to move that old stuck energy.

There isn’t anything more important than being free and happy in your own life.

Keep things simple …