stuck in a rut

How to Get Unstuck When You’re in a Life Rut

get unstuck
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So, you need to get unstuck, right?

With everything going on in the world today, it’s easy to imagine that people may feel stuck. Stuck inside. Stuck waiting for the return of normalcy. But becoming unstuck due to lockdown and stay-at-home orders is something that will happen in time.

How Do You Get Unstuck?

But how do you overcome that feeling of being stuck in a life rut that predates, transcends, or has little, if anything, to do with a global pandemic? That feeling of being stuck that involves questions about your life path or identity. The feeling that your life is stagnant.

These feelings may raise questions like: Who am I? Am I living the life I envisioned? What is holding me back from following my dreams and living my best life? What are my dreams anyway? Am I happy where I’m at in my life, in work, relationships, parenting, and life generally? How could I make changes to improve my happiness and feel more in control of my life? What can I do so I don’t feel off-track? How can I find have a job I love? How can I possibly join (or re-join) the workforce if don’t feel I have any skills or experience? Am I too old to start over? Am I having a mid-life or quarter-life crisis? Should I just accept that this is my life? Is this the best it’s ever going to be?

Being in a rut can be particularly tough for moms. Moms do so much. Yes, many Dads do too, but as Vanity Fair recently shared in Dispatches from the Gender Gap, Work-From-Home Moms in the Time of Coronavirus, women continue the exhausting, disproportionate, multitasking that comes with raising a family, even work-from-home moms during COVID-19.

When you’re a mom who is juggling work and family, these questions a life rut can introduce can be compounded by work-life-family responsibilities. And when you’re a mom who didn’t establish a career before starting a family, took a career detour to raise a family, or is the primary caregiver (or homeschooling parent), these questions can be further complicated by family dynamics, financial independence (or lack of), age, and/or perceived gaps in skills or experience because of time out of the workforce that might stir doubts or fears about workforce re-entry. And of course, there’s that mom guilt that nearly every mother knows too well.

How Do You Get Unstuck and Figure Out Your Life?

1. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Sure, you could read Eat, Pray, Love or watch the movie The Way and have an epiphany about the changes you need to make to get you to a more satisfying place in your life. That worked for me after I watched The Way when it first came out; shortly afterwards I had a flight booked to Europe to Walk the Camino de Santiago. Planning for the trip and during the adventure itself, I felt I had rediscovered my purpose and filled an empty void in my adventurous, wanderlust hungry soul.

Getting out of your comfort zone, such as through travel or tackling a new adventure, project, or hobby, can be a good way to get unstuck fast. But you don’t have to necessarily take on a major undertaken to get results. Sometimes changing up your routine or inserting small changes, such as signing up for a yoga class, into your life can be enough to break up that stagnant feeling.

2. Read Self-Help Books

You could read self-help books, like the classic job hunter guide What Color is Your Parachute or Mom Reinvention books. Those stuck in a life rut could also read the super popular memoir Untamed by Glennon Doyle, suggests blogger Chelsea Plummer. Or books by Cheryl Strayed, including Wild.

3. Social Media & New Friends

You could also spend time on social media or online seeking out advice. Or you could read stories of how others made it through a rut. Such as looking to Facebook support groups. Although, beware that before-after photos or overnight success stories might not give you the entire picture and leave you feeling doubtful that you too can get unstuck, but don’t despair.

On the flip side, sometimes hanging out with new people, meeting new people, and changing up your buddy circle might help inspire faster changes in your life.

4. Journaling

Journaling or writing is a tried and true, time tested tool for problem solving and working through issues. This Lifehack article explains unexpected ways journaling can improve your life.

5. Take Time for Yourself

Trinity of Moms Collab suggests that taking time for yourself is important to get out of a life-identity rut. She explains, “Take time for yourself. It doesn’t matter if 24 hours in a day is not enough. Pampering yourself should be one of the last things to get pushed off of the agenda. I like to make bath bombs and enjoy some quiet time in a hot bath to rejuvenate. Adding a simple time like this to your schedule can change your outlook on life and help restart your motivation to get out of the rut you’re in.”

Here is a recipe for Trinity’s bath bombs to help you improve your outlook through self-care.

6. Give Yourself Room to Live Without a Plan

Stephanie from the awesome blog Mommysaurus suggests that finding a way to be content without a plan can help you get unstuck. She explains, “the average person will change jobs about 10 times before they’re age 40. During this time, many women are having children and trying to navigate their new normal with work or deciding to stay at home. My biggest tip for unsticking yourself is to give yourself some leeway to live without a plan. Often, needing to have the next 5 years planned out keeps you feeling pigeonholed and unable to grow. Instead, be content that you don’t have things figured out. Explore hobbies and interests you never made time for before. This can very well lead to you discovering your next path in life.”

7. Show Up As Yourself

Lyne, Founder of the Ottawa Mommy Club, suggests that breaking out of a rut might be helped by showing up as yourself. She suggests reading Show Up As Yourself. Accepting who we are can go a long way toward improving our outlook and happiness with who where we are in life.

8. Lighten Your Load

Nicole from Coffee and Carpool suggests that lightening the mental load and juggle of “trying to be all things to all people” can help us get unstuck, particularly moms. She explains, “the mom mental load can be overwhelming and makes it so hard to be our best selves. This one trick will lighten your load…and I found it by accident.” That trick is sharing your mental load with your spouse, which can be accomplished in part by adding your spouse’s email and contact info to any mailings that involve your children. She also suggests reading For the Mom Who Thinks She Isn’t Doing Enough “on those moments when you feel like you’re not enough.”

For homeschooling moms, who are struggling through a rut, lightening the load can include stepping away from schedules or expectations. This might also include switching things up a bit by trying an unschooling approach, which shifts the focus to education through a child’s self-led curiosity. When Homeschooling Has You in Tears, Mama, please read this advice that can help you reduce the struggle, and regain perspective and grounding.

9. Fun

Don’t underestimate the power of fun, play, and laughter. Adding more play to your life, whether in the form of watching a comedy, going for a long walk, taking up a new hobby or craft that makes you smile, or learning a Tik Tok dance step, can help shift your perspective and find your bearings–or new ones.

10. Therapy or Coaching

Of course, there’s always professional therapy or coaching to help you when you’re feeling at an impasse. A therapist can be a good option to consider when life really feels too hard and too stuck. Or when feeling stuck begins to interfere with your everyday functioning and well-being, especially when you have any signs of depression or you or your family/friends seem concerned. If that’s what you’re experiencing, there is no shame in asking for help and I encourage you to get professional help. If you didn’t already know, there are online, credentialed therapists who can counsel you from the comfort of your home.

There are also career or life coaches that can help dig into your interests, strengths, and goals to help you overcome obstacles and become unstuck.

Parting Thoughts on Being Stuck

Being in a rut may seem like a terrible thing, but it’s not necessarily bad. It can allow for reflection and the opportunity to make changes. Change is inevitable in life. I like to think that change is good–it may not feel like it in the moment, but possibility comes from change. However, sometimes change seems imperceptible or too slow for our comfort. Sometimes we are resistant to making or acknowledging the changes that we really need to make.

Whenever I’m Stuck

Whenever I’ve felt stuck, I’ve realized that ignoring nagging thoughts in my head about something I want is usually to blame. It’s not that I am clueless to what I want or what I think will make me feel happier. It’s that I think the thoughts or desires will go away if I don’t give them attention.

For example, the thought of a lifestyle change that I wanted to make for many years only grew louder the more I ignored it. I knew it was there. But not acting on it made me feel stuck and unhappy. Recently I took action, and I feel so much happier, freer, and on a better path that makes me feel very much alive.

May you also find a way to become unstuck when you’re in a rut. May you find your way toward a happier trajectory.

I’d love to hear your perspective on getting unstuck. Please drop a comment below.

xx Julie

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4 thoughts on “How to Get Unstuck When You’re in a Life Rut”

  1. These are great tips on getting out of a rut. It seems timely that you would post this as many of us are at home trying to teach kids and keep things as normal as possible. It’s a time where many can get lost in it all. But, your advice is spot on to keep that from happening. The other thing that my friends and I talk about is giving ourselves grace when things aren’t going as planned. We preach that to each other pretty much daily.

  2. These are all great tips and you’ve mentioned a few of my FAVORITE books! I think my favorite tip is giving yourself a chance to live life without a plan. Can’t remember the last time I did that! Thanks for this great article.

  3. Great article! I am a coach that helps overwhelmed Moms who suffer from self-doubt and feel stuck. I help them find their inner confidence to thrive so these are some great tips that I also give to my clients 🙂

  4. Ughh I have been in the same rut everyday since this pandemic started. I just work, workout, clean, help my kids with school, go to bed and repeat. I need to get out of this rut, and this was super helpful, thank you! I recently read another article that was quite interesting and offered some other great ways to get out of this horrible rut. Hopefully things will go back to “normal” again sooner than later!

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