In this article, we share solutions for how to get yourself out of a rut. These insights and practical ideas will help you if you’re currently:
- feeling stuck
- experience too much frustration that is draining your energy levels
- feel like you’re working hard but don’t seem to be getting anywhere
Recognizing the ‘stuck’ feeling
Many people arrive to coaching saying they feel stuck or want to get out of a rut. Here are some ways that this comes across:
- I just don’t seem to be getting anywhere.
- It feels like I’m treading water or running while standing still.
- I feel stagnant or I’ve plateaued.
- I’m going through the motions but [the work, my relationship, life] no longer excite me.
- It just feels like I have lost my mojo or confidence.
- The goals or dreams I have had seem further and further out of reach.
As heartbreaking as these realities sound, they are actually quite normal.
Feeling stuck and how to navigate it is something I know a lot about. The feeling has been part of my life from the day my family emigrated to the US, finding research success while navigating a male-dominated science career, finding my way moving to the UK, living through Brexit and Covid. The feeling has showed up in my life, career, work and relationships with much to teach me about who I am, how I keep my integrity and wholeness, and ultimately how to keep myself safe. These experiences along with rich training in psychology equip me with empathy and skills to help others work with change and transitions.Dr. Magdalena Bak-Maier, Grid creator, Educator and Human Empowerment Facilitator
Symptoms of feeling stuck in a rut
Here are some typical symptoms of feeling stuck:
- A sense of unhappiness, resentment, frustration, and anger that seems to catch you by surprise.
- A ‘just get through the day’ mode mentality.
- Loss of motivation.
- Apparent inability to get on with things you want to achieve.
- Feeling unfulfilled.
- A sense that you’re not being seen or supported in a way that works for you.
- Feeling not sure where to turn to or what steps to take.
- A sense that you need to change things yet being unclear about the how.
One of the tricky aspects of feeling stuck is early detection. You may not notice you’re stuck in a rut because the feeling builds up gradually. It accumulates as a result of things staying static or unresolved for too long. Maybe you’re in a difficult situation that is not easy to shift overnight. Alternatively, you may know something is wrong and wait for it will just sort itself out.
Sometimes, the feeling surfaces as a result of something happening outside you. It could be seeing other people receive something you want or succeeding where you’re struggling. Either way, when you experience being stuck you will likely get this creepy sense that you’re definitely not okay. While deeply uncomfortable, this awareness is, in fact, the critical ingredient you need to be on your way to personal liberation.
Diagnosing the source of your “stuckness”
Figuring out what is causing you to feel stuck is crucial. Often, it may not be what you think or suspect. One way to do this is to simply look at the major parts of your life using our Grid framework. This is how I encourage my clients to start and how I facilitate our Grid clinics. It involves looking at the four quadrants that make up the Grid framework:
- Personal life: partner, kids, family, hobbies, one’s home
- Self-care: health and psychology
- Work: job, business, clients, collaborators
- Career: influence, progression, achievement, recognition
We invite you to take a moment to note down 1-2 sources of your discontent or concern in this list. You may be able to first locate this to one of the four quadrants and then zero in on it further.
There is a tendency to want to minimize the problem through denial or making the issue seem trivial. However, if you’re feeling stuck, chances are something needs to change. The good news is that you’re the best person to make this happen.
Finally, take a look and give yourself credit for what IS working; where you’re flowing.
5 proven strategies to help you get out of a rut
With many happy clients and Grid workshops and clinics behind us, below you will find very practical insights and strategies to help you improve. Specifically, I discuss what
- proved useful in practice
- why it works
- what to watch out for in order to succeed at it.
1. Increase your self-care
- Self-care is at the heart of healthy human agency and empowerment. It entails all the habits, rituals and self-care routines that support wellbeing. And yet, for many reasons to do with busy lives, self-care can easily get squeezed out. When this imbalance occurs, energy drain and loss of motivation soon follow. This is often a precursor to burnout. It’s also what we find when we’re feeling stuck.
- By making time to attend to yourself with compassion and kindness, you will be showing up to yourself and what you need to address head-on. Generally speaking, self-care is also the one area most people have a high degree of control over. All one needs to do is start.
- Watch out for the inner procrastinator that will tell you that you have too much to do right now; that to fit self-care in you need to first have less to do. This faulty logic is keeping you stuck in a rut! If you need some help to break the cycle, get the help you need. Our 14-Day Habit builder was designed to help here.
2. Social support that helps you feel good and supports you in action.
- One of the most important ways of getting out of a rut is through spending time with people who care about you and are willing to support you. This is your community. But, sometimes when one is feeling stuck, it can feel like you don’t have one.
- This is why finding, joining or creating the right support group is essential. Look for individual coaches that can help you in the short term and/or support groups that fit what you need to get unstuck. Finding good support is key. Feeling in a rut often means you’re too isolated which in turn will reinforce a sense of stuckness. So break the cycle.
- Watch out for partners, colleagues and friends who leave you feeling worse, fail to appreciate how you may be feeling even though you tell them, or trivialize your experience. Also, watch out for people who are happy to be helped but who do little to help you. You won’t thrive in relationships that are out of balance. There is no need to end them per se but you do need to find yourself more nurturing connections.
3. Change your routine
- One of the reasons it can be easy to get stuck is from having too much routine and/or too much disorder (or mess!). While many routines help us get things done and generally introduce stability and structure into our lives, our nervous systems enjoy novelty and fun. Too much chaos or disorder, on the other hand, has a tendency to overwhelm. Both will weaken the body, drain energy, erode immunity and feed chronic stress.
- If you lost a sense of joy, seek out new experiences but start small. Keep an eye on how little changes you make impact how you feel. Introduce little pleasures into each week so you can feel good on a daily basis. You may want to change your surroundings and/or experiment with how you dress. Have lunch outside. Connect with other people or tweak your daily schedule to have more variety. Ensure there is something in your day you are genuinely looking forward to. Ask yourself this question at the start of the day and review it at the end.
- Watch out for initial resistance or inertia. Find someone you can share your plan with and be accountable to help you follow through. I often tap into my friendship circle to help me. I will tell a friend about what I intend to do and why this matters to me and either ask them to check on me later or agree that I will check in with them.
- If your life needs a great deal of a revamp, pick one specific area and focus there. What you want to see is visible results that things are improving. It can feel unsatisfying because you want to tackle it all right away but as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
- Watch out for spreading yourself too thin and continuing to work on too many fronts all at once. This will only dilute your efforts, and while you’ll be working hard, progress will be hard to evidence.
4. Make plans, including putting time aside for play, fun and spontaneity
- The more stuck one feels the harder it is to enjoy life and see the pleasure in it. Everything starts to look like a chore and each person’s behavior becomes suspect. This is due to the nervous system going on a danger alert. If you’re feeling stuck, essentially you are in danger!
- Making plans is the most tangible and effective way to get unstuck. Set some goals. At Make Time Count we run an annual free Goal Getter Bootcamp to help support the achiever in us all. Join our newsletter to be the first to know about new intake intervals. Book a nice experience or a holiday you can look forward to or simply design a meaningful or personally satisfying day. Find a day you can take off to simply rest and recharge. Or, help a friend or volunteer for a cause. Find a way to give to yourself and others so you can feel regularly topped up.
- Our Grid method has been named one of the top 5 productivity tools of 2022 by Get the Gloss. Grid is a proven way to go from being stuck and lackluster in any area of your life to feeling on top of things again. People call it a lifesaving method for a reason. The Grid method can help you go from good to great, support you in keeping well and help you diagnose and tackle areas that need work.
- Watch out for the inner critic telling you that plans are stupid and that goal-setting is for overachievers. Without clear goals, the effort has little direction or reason to pick up momentum. Having exciting things on the horizon matters. This could be a dinner out, date night, a new film at the cinema or a book release. Without something to anticipate life can lack spark.
5. Boost your motivation, romance and general feel-good factor
- It’s hard to feel motivated and good about oneself when one is feeling stuck. And yet, feeling in a rut is a vicious cycle; the more we think about how bad things are, the more we feel less powerless to change them. This is why setting small but achievable goals works. Focusing on developing mastery or working towards small yet tangible improvement goals week on week helps.
- Watch out for the perfectionist. It can keep you working hard while it tells you that all is still not good enough. Whatever you started, a great way to boost motivation and beat perfectionistic tendencies is to simply focus on completing it to a good enough standard. Try doing it badly on the first go so you can then focus on improving it. What’s key is to follow through on your promises. Ensure you’re not letting others and yourself down as this will erode your confidence and self-worth.
Depression is common and on the rise
Depression is a common mental health condition that causes people to experience persistent low mood, low energy, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or remorse, and/or low self-worth. According to mentalhealth.org in 2014, 1 in 4 people over the age of 16 showed symptoms of anxiety or depression. According to the UK Parlament briefing mental health research, the prevalence of moderate or severe depressive symptoms among adults in Great Britain rose after the start of the pandemic from 10% between July 2019 and March 2020 to a whopping 19% by June 2020 and 21% by January to March 2021. The World Health Organization 2021 report on depression shows approximately 280 million people worldwide have depression. That’s a lot of people.
Research shows that chronic stress which could arise from feeling stuck for too long leads to depression. If you would find it useful to pinpoint your stress levels and sources of stress, we recommend you read our article on three free tests to help you manage stress and anxiety.
When may a rut be more than a rut?
We all get stuck in one place or another from time to time. Every now and then, a major life overhaul can be a great way to update. However, what if you’re not up to the task? This could easily happen if your circumstances have caused you to feel tired, weak and depressed. This is far more common than you may think.
If you’re feeling frustrated, angry and sad about your rut but open and willing to make some changes either on your own or with the help of a coach, do that now. Reading this article has given you many practical ideas to get started.
If you can’t muster the energy to do that and you’re feeling a tad hopeless speak to your GP or a mental health professional. Irrespective of where things are now, your circumstances will improve with the right support structure.
Grid Clinics can help you get out of a rut
One of the key benefits of Grid organization is how easy it is to make plans, set goals, and design productive days, weeks and months. This by no means guarantees that we can avoid ruts entirely. But, it does help us pinpoint them quicker and start to take corrective action.
Our Grid 90min drop-in small group coaching sessions are an excellent way to get introduced to the power and magic of the Grid, pick up inspiration and practical ideas to make progress where you may be feeling stuck, and connect with other people so you feel less alone. In fact, one of the most common comments our Grid clinic attendees make is “It’s so good to see I am not alone!” and “I can already see the difference in my mindset and achievements in the last two months of attending the Grid clinics”.
Remember, we get stuck so we can get unstuck and find our personal power again. At Make Time Count, we help you have the confidence and motivation to create the life you want.
Want to take a practical step right now?
Here are two other options to help you take a decisive step towards getting out of your rut.
Take our Grid Life Satisfaction Quiz
Our 15 minute Life Satisfaction Quiz will help you take a step back, look at how your life has been going and make a good plan of action.
Our 25-week Grid starter pack
Put the magic of the Grid to work from day 1 and start a life-changing habit with our Get Productive Grid book and Weekly Grid Pad plus two bonus highlighters.