If you tell me you’ve never been stuck in a rut, well, I’m just going to say that I don’t believe you. Unless you’re somehow reading this before you’ve entered kindergarten.
That’s right, even my kids, who are naturally pretty positive human beings, have been stuck in a rut. It’s normal, and we’ve all been through it.
I’m talking about those times when you wake up in the morning and just don’t feel any purpose in what you’re doing. Maybe you’re stuck in a rut because of your job, or maybe things aren’t going quite right financially.
Physically we can get stuck too. When we know we’re not living a healthy lifestyle, but just can’t motivate ourselves to hit the treadmill or get out for that 30-minute walk.
No matter what you’re current circumstance is, it’s important to know you can take proactive steps to get out.
Before going any further, let’s make one clarification. Being stuck in a rut is something different from depression. If you have symptoms of depression, you should speak with your doctor right away.
What Does it Mean to be Stuck in a Rut?
It’s a good question because when you’re in a rut, it’s not always obvious. It’s easy to become stuck in a rut when we get into the cycle of doing the same thing every day. Sometimes we’re just going through the motions to get through a busy period in our lives, and we lose sight of the things that bring us excited about life.
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with being stuck for a while as long as you can find strategies to get yourself motivated and feeling better relatively quickly. If you’re struggling, talk with your doctor.
Here are a few signs that might indicate you are in a rut:
- Lack of motivation – It’s a rare human being that doesn’t feel a lack of motivation every once in a while. Some people are naturally more laid back, and a lack of motivation isn’t always indicative of being in a rut. But if you notice you’re less motivated than usual and you’re not happy about it, then it’s time to take action.
- Bored with your routine – As we get older and busier with work and family, it’s easy to let a routine govern our lives. That can be a good thing for a lot of people who enjoy the structure. But it’s not so great for others (myself included) who get energy from new adventures and like regular life changes. Some of the strategies below attempt to eliminate boredom and implement positive change in your life.
- Feeling like you need something else – Maybe you’re busier than can be every day, but there’s still something missing. Getting fulfillment out of what you’re doing is incredibly important, and you wouldn’t be alone to feel unfilled in your day job. Over 50% of people in America don’t feel like they are in good jobs (and that’s pre-pandemic). And that’s not the only reason you might like you need something else in life. Again, many people go through this emotion, and the key is taking action to change.
How to Get Out of a Rut
1. Find the Root Cause
Look, it doesn’t matter what problem you’re trying to solve or where you’re trying to solve it. Maybe it’s a problem at work, at home, or in a relationship. It doesn’t matter. The first step is figuring out what is the actual cause of the problem.
So why are you stuck in a rut? Take some time on this one instead of just jumping to a conclusion. Go through a root cause analysis intended to help you drill down from the initial assumption to ideas of what might be the actual root cause.
Once you’ve identified the actual root cause, you can then put a plan together to address it.
2. Get Healthy
Study after study proves the benefits of physical activity on mental health. So it goes without saying that a great way to pull yourself out of a rut is to get yourself into a regular physical fitness routine.
It holds true for more than just mental health and can help to improve everything from your sex life to more significant mental health problems like depression.
The beauty of exercise versus other options like medication is you avoid the potential side effects. Exercise can also help you increase your level of calmness, reduce anxiety, reduce inflammation, and increase mental energy.
There’s no downside to increasing your physical activity if you have no conditions that prohibit it. If you think your activity should be limited, work with your doctor to find some type of fitness routine you can work into your week.
3. Talk to Someone
Too often, we keep everything bottled up when we’re not feeling our greatest. Unfortunately, that can be one of the worst things when you’re stuck in a rut.
It’s like a vicious circle when you have a problem and can’t think you’re way out of it on your own. Then to cap it off, if you don’t want to tell anyone about your problem, well, you’re completely stuck.
So try to find someone to talk to that can help identify that root cause we’ve talked about earlier. That might be a professional or just a good friend.
Regardless of who that is, they may help come up with ideas on how to overcome the rut. It’s always better to have someone to talk to versus dealing with a problem on your own.
4. Find Your Passion
Sometimes people find themselves stuck in a rut because they do things that don’t bring joy to their lives. Most of us who’ve been in the workforce for a while can relate. Almost everyone has been in a job that didn’t fulfill their goals and emotional needs.
But if you find yourself in this position for an extended period, it can become a more significant issue. Combining with the other complexities of life, that can be a big downer, plain and simple.
So take action to find something your passion. It doesn’t have to be your day job either. It’s nice to think that work can be your passion, but that’s not realistic for many people. In that case, find your passion outside of work, and try to make time for it.
Even if that’s just one day or one hour per week given how busy people’s schedules are these days. Making time to do something you love can help infuse some joy and happiness back into your life.
5. Make a Change
Along the same lines as finding your passion, shaking things up a bit can get you out of a rut and back on the right track. Consider finding a new career that provides a better work-life balance or has a more significant impact on the world.
A career change is an obvious choice for someone unsatisfied with their current path. It’s not always easy since you may need to head back to school to get new skills. But in today’s world, that training is more accessible than ever with online course options from all types of schools.
But even if it’s not your career, there are plenty of ways to make a change that might get you out of a rut. Join a group, find a new hobby, plan a vacation to see something you’ve always wanted to.
Life can get mundane when we get stuck doing the same thing day in and day out. You’d be surprised how much a simple change to your daily routine can help get you going again.
6. Don't Be So Hard On Yourself
These days, standards seem high, and social media and other technology have made it easier to see everyone else’s life, which can sometimes look perfect. But that’s rarely the truth, as everyone has problems. It doesn’t change the perception, however, that others have it better than we do.
That perception can lead to being too hard on ourselves or having unrealistic ideas of how we measure up to those around us.
Have you ever heard the saying, “The enemy of good is great?” It’s a philosophical statement that warns against perfectionism. If you’re always expecting yourself to be perfect, sometimes you lose sight of the good things in your life.
Take some time to think about those positives. I’m willing to bet most of you have many things that are going well. Focus on those while at the same time trying to improve upon other areas.
Also, consider spending less time in the social media sphere. There’s a lot of good out there, but it’s a well-known fact that social media can also harm mental health.
7. Write Something
Every week I benefit from being able to write for this blog. And while that’s often focused on things other than my direct passions, when I do get the chance to write from the heart, I can tell you it feels damn good.
Here’s a great article about the benefits of writing and the greater goal of better self-awareness on mental health.
There are hundreds of studies showing the benefits of writing. Writing is even used in clinical settings to help patients deal with difficult emotions.
Whether you decide to sit down and write a journal entry about the difficulties you’re facing, or you write a free-flowing article about something you are passionate about, give writing a try as a way to get out of a rut.
Our Final Thoughts
Working your way out of a rut starts with the realization you are in one. Once you’ve made that conclusion, it’s time to begin addressing the situation by finding the root cause.
From there, you have options to help improve the situation and move forward. Never ignore this type of thing, as there is potential for it to have a more significant impact on you if there is no resolution.
Most people can find a way out of a rut by taking the appropriate actions. Use some of the strategies above, and consult others who may have more ideas.
Lastly, rest assured you’re not alone, and with some time and effort, you’ll be back on track in no time.