The wheels are spinning, but you’re not getting anywhere. Like the whole world is moving around you, and you’re stuck in place. And the harder you try to get out, the more stuck you feel. It’s exhausting, yes.
Unfortunately, we all get stuck in a rut from time to time. A surprise or challenging circumstance pops up in our road of life, and we end up off the road and stuck in a ditch.
Whether you’re feeling unmotivated, down, or trapped in a pattern, we need to dig ourselves out of the mud and back into momentum.
Here are five simple and effective ways to get out of that rut and start moving forward:
1. Engage Your Body
Whenever we’re spinning our wheels but not moving forward, it means we’re stuck in our head, thinking of actions without being in the vehicle that can take those actions.
Physiologically, exercise increases our brain’s production of dopamine. This neurotransmitter helps us to feel motivated and take action in life.((Neurobiology of Disease: Regulation of Brain Function by Exercise)) It also helps stimulate alpha brainwaves ((Neural Plasticity: Effects of Physical Exercise on Individual Resting State EEG Alpha Peak Frequency)) which are associated with less anxiety and more relaxation. That allows us to think creatively and come up with new solutions.((Cortex: Functional Role of Frontal Alpha Oscillations in Creativity))
So, when you feel stuck, stop overthinking and start engaging the body. You may choose to hit the gym, do a few pushups, walk around the neighborhood, or even dance in your living room, for instance. Moving your body can help you get unstuck and start doing something productive again.
2. Talk (Or Write) It Out
We often cycle around the same thoughts over and over again when we can’t take another step forward. But it’s challenging to break this cycle because we can’t see that we’re even in one.
Once we speak the words out loud to a friend, therapist, or coach, or put them down on a piece of paper, we can separate from those thoughts and start to identify the patterns that keep us stuck.
Often, just hearing ourselves say the words or seeing them in our journal can help us to think about our situation in a new light. The added benefit of speaking to another person (whom we trust) is that we get to hear their feedback or advice as well.
3. Start Easy
Sometimes, taking any action is entirely overwhelming. Most of our daily activities are a composite of a whole bunch of actions that we group together. When we’re exhausted from trying to get out of a rut, we don’t have extra energy to spare.
For example, “getting ready” in the morning may sound simple, but it consists of a long list of actions. After all, you need to get out of bed, take a shower, brush your teeth, and dress up.
Doing all that might feel overwhelming when you’re in a rut, so start with the easiest step possible. Just get out of bed and feel proud of it — that will not pressure you into doing the other things on the list right away.
Similarly, entire books are written with just one word, followed by the next. Exercise happens with a small movement and then the next. Big projects are finished with one tiny action after another.
Then, celebrate each small step that you accomplish. You don’t need to focus on speeding through everything. Instead, you have to do the most straightforward step that will help you start moving once more.
4. Try Something New
The thing about spinning your wheels without moving forward is that we know its outcome.
Doing the same activities on the loop isn’t going to change that.
When you’re stuck in a rut, therefore, try something new. It doesn’t have to make sense or even seem directly related. It can be as simple as saying hi to a stranger each day, getting a new haircut, or changing up our morning routine.
What we choose to try matters a lot less than the fact that we’re willing to shake things up.
The worst that can happen is that we don’t move forward. But if we’re willing to try a new strategy and experiment like scientists, it will be easy to figure out what can motivate us to move forward.
More often than not, a significant life change comes from that.
5. Get Lots of Support
Being stuck in a rut causes us to deceive ourselves into thinking we’re doing nothing because we don’t see outward movement. However, in actuality, spinning our wheels is a physically and emotionally exhausting process.
To get out of it, we need to get the support of every kind from others. It can be from friends who we can text or chat with during an emergency or counselors who can assist you when it comes to nourishing movement, essential oils, baths, massage, herbs, medication, etc.
Very few people can get out of a ditch themselves. So, there’s no shame in accepting whatever support is necessary to get out of that rut. In truth, it’s the only way to set yourself free.
We may find ourselves in a rut at one point or another. Sometimes, it happens for a short period; other times, it takes you for the long haul. Either way, it’s critical to have simple yet useful tools to help us get back on the open road.