What it means to be stuck in a rut
First of all, I want to let you know that I am not a psychologist. This article is based on my own experience of how to get out of a rut and is not intended to give any psychological or medical advice.
I think it must have to do with where I live and the fact that it averages just 68 days of sunshine a year. But during the winter months, especially, I sometimes find myself feeling unmotivated and generally a bit apathetic at times. Now I wouldn’t say that this mood rises to the level of being considered Seasonal Affective Disorder. I just call it the winter blahs or being stuck in a rut.
When I feel I am stuck in a rut, I feel like every day is the same. I don’t feel inspired, and I certainly do not feel creative. I have a hard time completing the tasks that I have committed to for the day, as I discuss in the article How to Get Organized and Stay That Way.
You may find there is comfort in routines and familiar habits and situations. But, sometimes, it can feel as though you are stuck doing the same things, and you aren’t getting the same joy. Once you start going through the motions, you can lose interest in the things you once loved, lack the motivation to do anything, and struggle with productivity.
Once I realize that my lack of motivation is affecting my progress, there are some actions I take to try to combat this lack of progress so that I can start feeling myself again and continue to move forward.
I think I get to feeling this way at least once a year during the winter months when I am inside for more extended periods. Although this usually happens to me during the winter months, I’m sure it could happen at any time. If you find yourself stuck in a rut or experiencing these winter blahs or similar, here are some ideas that I have found helpful in getting back to my old self again.
Here are my top tips on how to get out of a rut.
1. Acknowledge the rut for what it is.
The first step you will want to take to get out of a rut is to acknowledge the fact that you are in one. Take some time to appreciate the situation for what it is and be honest about your feelings. It might be hard to do so at first. Sometimes it is easy to pretend that everything is okay because you feel like you should be happy with what you have.
Or, you might not want to admit that you are spinning your wheels because you have that drive to keep pushing forward in the hope that something might change. If you push in the same direction on the same things, you won’t get anywhere but into complete burnout. But, if you stop and say to yourself that yes, this is a rut and it is time for a change, you can finally move in a more positive direction.
2. Enjoy some self-care.
Before you make any massive leaps or plans to transform yourself and your situation, take some time to enjoy a little self-care. It can be a big step, emotionally, to admit that there is a problem or that you need a change. It can bring feelings of sadness and anger that things aren’t going your way. Maybe you feel a little defeated or upset by this realization.
You might even feel guilty. It is okay to acknowledge those feelings and to feel them for a little while. They are valid and will help you deal with what is to come. Take a break with something you know will bring peace and joy as you pamper yourself. Indulge yourself in a bath, buy an affordable treat, or get lost in a creative hobby. Feel, but don’t wallow.
3. Physically remove yourself.
If necessary, it might help to physically remove yourself from the situation and your personal environment for a little while. If you are struggling with your profession with little sign of improvement, then it doesn’t help to stare at the same four walls each day. Work from home or ask for a mental health day to clear your mind and rest. If your problem is more personal and you feel in a rut at home, then you could spend time with family and take a night or two away. If your negative feelings relate to your home town, spend a day in someone else’s or in nature.
4. Ask yourself what you really want.
Once you have taken the time to take a step back and understand how you feel, you are more open to listening to what you want. What changes do you want to make in your life? What is it about your current situation that is holding you back or making you feel so stuck and upset?
If you have something better in mind, even if it feels like a dream life right now, hold onto that thought and consider it rationally. Is it really that impossible, and what steps would you need to take to make it a reality? If you have a strong desire for something better and can visualize the results, you now have a catalyst for change.
5. Create some SMART goals.
But, a catalyst and a dream is just the start. To make the most of your goals and ambitions, you need to start writing everything down and setting SMART goals. SMART goals are goals that are:
Creating smart goals is a great way to turn your ideas into manageable, actionable goals. Think of something you can do to get your closer to where you want to be. Be as specific as possible about what you need to do; make sure it is realistic and attainable, give it a time-based deadline, and find a way to measure your progress. You can download a free worksheet to help you in setting your SMART goals here.
6. Take small steps forward.
Suddenly, you have a plan of how to get from point A, deep in your rut, to point B, in your ideal future. These smaller goals are great because the process now feels realistic and rational. This feeling can only help to motivate and drive you forward out of that rut into something better. Just remember that even the smallest step forward counts, especially when it is measurable, and you can chart the progress. It may be a long-term effort, but it is heading in the right direction.
7. Chart and journal everything to see your progress.
Charting your progress when learning how to get out of a rut is essential. Sometimes there will be days where you feel like you aren’t that much further forward because little in your life has changed. But, when you look back on everything you have ticked off your chart in a month, it quickly adds up. Consider putting up a wall chart each month in your bedroom to solidify your goals and watch that progression. A journal is a great way to write down your thoughts when things get tough or when you achieve something.
8. Seek help when necessary.
Now, there will be people trying to figure out how to get out of a rut that struggle with this process. This is especially true if you also have a history of depression or anxiety. Poor mental health can make it more challenging to listen to those motivational voices and make that push forward. Lean on the right support network to help you when it gets too difficult. Where necessary, you can also turn to professional help if you worry about your mental health.
9. Try any of these 7 things to make you feel better fast.
- Learn something new.
- Get Rid of Stuff – Declutter
- Take a break from social media
- Take a trip or at least plan one
- Practice gratitude
It will get better.
Just because you are in a rut right now, that doesn’t mean that you are stuck there indefinitely. Everything in life is transient, and soon you will find the motivation and tools to get free and back on a better road to a positive life. It doesn’t matter how many attempts it takes or how slow the progress is. Just focus on what you really want, take those realistic steps to get there, and offer yourself plenty of self-love along the way.