• Monique West, LCSW

Stuck in a rut? Here’s what to do about it!


We all feel buried and overwhelmed at times by life's frantic motions, turns and loops. Face it in a day and age where information seems to travel faster than light and being “in the know” signals social acceptance one can start to feel burnt out and internally exhausted from the effects of being in such a fast-paced world. It can be confusing to decipher whether you are in a perpetual rut.

Below is a list of items to help you recognize if you are in fact stuck in a rut. The more items you check off the more likely it is that you are in fact stuck, but no worries at the end of the inventory we will discuss practical steps to begin digging yourself out.

  1. You find yourself chronically fatigued and tired regardless of the number of hours of sleep you get per night.

  2. Your days seem to bleed together without much distinction of memorable events that make each day unique or enjoyable.

  3. You have lost access to your dreams or when you do think about your dreams and goals they seem more burdensome than inspiring.

  4. Getting invited to social engagements or friends calling on the phone is annoying or feels intrusive.

  5. You find that in general you want to hide from the world and be left alone.

  6. You feel like there is so many things to get done and you just don’t have enough lifetimes to do it, you then distract yourself away from thoughts of it.

  7. Even when you check things off your checklist it feels unremarkable and unmoving because there’s so much more left to be done.

  8. When people ask about your day you can only think about how nice it will be to get home and to bed.

  9. You have a TV or Net Streaming rotation/schedule that you would rather not put on hold for anyone or anything no matter how potentially enjoyable.

  10. The thought of having fun again seems exhausting.

  11. You cannot see a brighter better life for yourself.

  12. You know life must get better you just don’t know where to start or what to change.

Steps to digging yourself out of a rut:

Step 1

If you recognize yourself on 3 or more items on this list, you may be stuck in a perpetual rut. The first step is to recognize and verbalize to yourself or a close supportive friend that you are in fact in a rut. Verbalizing feelings of being stuck now moves this awareness in your conscious mind. When we are more aware that we have a problem, we are more likely to be mindful of the triggers and precipitant to our issues. Problem solving efforts then are more effective when we are more self-aware and in tuned to our problems.

Step 2

Focus on Self Care. When we are in a rut it is easy to let everything go in our lives because we are often on auto pilot. To replenish your body and your energy focusing on getting whole meals and moving your body can serve to begin healing the chronic effects of stress on your body. Taking small steps are the key here, big herculean steps are impossible when you are in a place of depletion and exhaustion. Small steps can include getting 1-2 servings of low glycemic index (GI) fruits (fruits that will aid in lowering your risk of heart disease, type II diabetes and reducing blood sugar levels). Low GI fruits include: Cherries, Grapefruit, Pears, Apples, Oranges, Plums, Strawberries, etc. (visit: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/low-carb-diet-meal-plan-and-menu#foods-to-eat for more information on low glycemic fruits).

Other small steps to begin considering is having protein-based foods and reducing simple carbohydrate intake. Simple Carbohydrates can cause your blood sugar to crash at frequent levels throughout the day leaving you feeling sluggish and agitated. If you are already feeling stuck and unhappy blood sugar spikes and crashes throughout the day can amplify negative moods. Consider switching out white flour-based foods (crackers, cookies, pastries) for more complex starches such as steel cut oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, beans, peas and lentils. Studies show that dehydration can affect concentration and memory, remember to hydrate with water. Adding some physical component to your self-care is also important. There is no need to focus on perfection and developing a sophisticated exercise routine. Consider power walking on your lunch hour for 15 minutes a day or park your car further in the parking lot to get to the store to ‘sneak’ in some physical movement. Exercising releases, the “feel good” hormones, endorphins that will help you begin to feel more energized, so you can begin unburying yourself out of this rut.

Step 3

Create a personal "tell it like it is" system for yourself to identify where you are, where you want to be, how you got here and how you get where you want to be. For example:

WHERE I AM.

In a dead-end job that brings me no joy or fulfillment.

WHERE I WANT TO BE.

I want to have a career where I’m actively working with my hands and with people that will bring me feelings of joy and tap into my creative nature

HOW I GOT HERE.

I chose a job that was convenient to my home, paid enough to pay my bills and easy to do. I ignored my passion and my own sense of joy and fulfillment when I made my decision to accept and stay in this field.

HOW I GET THERE.

I will begin to journal and identify which careers and jobs I would enjoy by talking to at least once job recruiter per week to identify job trends and job options given my education, skill level and job experience. I will also go on at least one interview per month to stay current in the job world and actively process my options.

Do as many topics and areas of your life where you feel stuck in order to bring awareness and problem solve.

Depression can also mask as being in a rut, if you have tried these steps and it still feels as if you are drowning in your life. It’s important to consider seeing a trained mental health professional. Some of the criteria for diagnosing Persistent Depressive Disorder includes:

  • Depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not.

  • Poor appetite or overeating

  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)

  • Low energy or fatigue

  • Low self-esteem

  • Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions

  • Feelings of hopelessness

Please note this is an incomplete list and to gain a legitimate diagnosis and effective treatment you must see a licensed mental health professional. If you need help finding a licensed therapist, please call your insurance company for a list of licensed therapists on in network with your insurance and is trained in treating depression. You may also visit: www. Psychologytoday.com and search for a therapist (can diagnose and treat mental health disorders with a variety of therapy interventions) or a psychiatrist (can diagnose and treat mental health disorders through medication support). You can search for a therapist on psychologytoday.com by insurance, carrier, zip code and/or specializations.

#mentalhealth #peaceful #anxiety #depression #selfawareness #selflove

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