How to get past feeling stuck
Clients often describe feeling ‘stuck’ in some aspect of their lives. Maybe it’s a relationship that’s not working, an interpersonal difficulty, a challenging boss, a job they’re fed up with, a family member with whom they don’t see eye-to-eye, or they can’t seem to get motivated. Being stuck can mean feeling bored, frustrated, fatigued, or generally low.
When we feel stuck, making any kind of change can seem overwhelming. Maybe the task seems too big, or we can’t decide what to do — what if we get it wrong? Maybe we know what we don’t want, but not what we do.
Here are just a few things you can do to help get past feeling stuck.
Focus on what you want
By constantly focusing on what we don’t want, or the way we don’t want to feel, we expend energy on the negatives in our life. To move forward we need to shift our focus to the positive: what it is that we do want and how we want to feel.
Imagine someone has waved a magic wand and taken away the negatives. How does your life look now? How do you feel? What words would you use to describe yourself and your life? Make the image of what you want as vivid and realistic as possible. See, feel and talk to yourself as though change has already occurred. Now you have something concrete to work towards — a goal.
Look at where your energy is going
One barrier to change is feeling over-tired. Clients often say they just don’t have enough energy to make change happen. While we all have responsibilities, it’s essential to strike a balance between what drains and fulfils us.
Before we can make changes, we need to identify where our energy is going. A quick way to do this is to take a large piece of paper and draw a line or a circle on it. On one side, list all the things you currently do that you find draining. On the other, list all the things that energise you. Emphasise the things you spend most time on using larger letters, bolder colours and so on, and smaller letters for the things you only do now and then. Don’t forget to include the things you would like to do more of but don’t get to do now.
You now have a visual representation of where your energy is going. What do you notice? Are there things on the ‘draining’ side you can do less? Are there things on the ‘energise’ side you can do more? What changes can you make that will provide more balance?
Spend time with the people who matter most
When we spend time on friendships that have gone sour, toxic people who bring us down, or people we just don’t connect with, it can leave us feeling drained. Some people we can’t avoid, but we can choose how much of ourselves to give to them.
Again, in order to make changes, we need to identify those most important to us, versus those to whom we give most of our time and energy. Just because a relationship is long-standing, doesn’t mean it’s healthy for us. To move forward, you need to be aware of who you give yourself to and only spend the most quality time with the most important people.
Similar to the energy exercise above, draw an ‘inner circle’ or line that contains a list of the people in your life who are most important. Be ruthless. Only include people you consistently enjoy being around, who also make you feel good. Consider why you spend time with them. Is it from a sense of obligation? Do you make excuses not to see them or feel anxious about how you might feel afterwards? You should spend the most quality time with these people.
Outside that, draw a circle that contains the people who aren’t as important to you, but you can’t avoid (think challenging family members, co-workers, and so on.) When you see these people, limit how much of yourself you give to them.
Lastly, make a list of the people you spend a lot of time with who aren’t in either of those circles. You might reconsider how much of yourself you give to these people. That doesn’t mean you have to cut them off, but it’s good to be aware of which relationships are important and positive, and be selective about the relationships you give your energy.
Clients often describe feeling overwhelmed by everything they have to do. They say, I’d love to do this, or change that, but I just don’t have time… When people are too busy doing to think about what they actually need to do, they tend to achieve less. Spending a small amount of time planning your day can actually save time.
I recommend starting each day by making a list. In 5-10 minutes, you should be able to write down everything you can think of that you need (or want) to do. This might include tasks to complete or decisions to be made.
Examine your list. Can you break bigger items down into smaller, more manageable ones? If an item involves a decision, list the steps you need to take to reach the decision, for example, do you need to find out more information or consider the pros and cons? These become individual items for your list.
Next, you need to prioritise. How long is each item going to take? What do you need to do first? Do any of the items have deadlines? Can someone else do any of the items? Is there anything on the list that really doesn’t need to be there? Are there simple tasks you can do and check off quickly and easily?
As you complete each item, cross it off the list. Keep adding items, breaking items into smaller items, and then checking them off as you go. The idea isn’t to complete the list, but to get your to-dos out of your head and into something you can act on, and then see your progress. Sometimes doing something small will provide you with a sense of accomplishment that can help motivate you to do more.
Ask for help
Asking for help can take a huge weight off. You don’t have to do everything on your own. You might be surprised at the difference an outsider’s perspective brings. Once we’re stuck in a particular way of thinking, doing, seeing or being, it can be difficult to shift on our own. With help, you can let go of old habits and negative thought patterns, set realistic goals, and get moving again. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, family, co-workers, or professionals. Most people are happy to help where they can, even if it’s simply to lend an ear. Remember, helping others makes us feel good, too.