16 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Stuck in a Rut

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How would you define feeling stuck in a rut? For me, it’s when I can’t imagine doing, or even think about doing, a single thing. My to-do list, though full of tasks that I often enjoy, seems strenuous. And though I’m doing nothing, it feels like I’m doing everything. The list of things I feel I should be doing runs through my head until I am exhausted, have accomplished nothing, and somehow feel worse.

A rut is officially defined as “a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change,” but I think the concept extends beyond that. Ruts can come in all shapes and sizes: an afternoon of writer’s block, a mid-career change period of “who am I and what do I care about,” or a few days where, no matter how nice the weather, you simply cannot bring yourself to leave your house.

I like to think—and please don’t argue if you know better—that we all feel stuck in a rut sometimes. While the same old, same old is often comforting, sometimes a switch flips and you feel drained by the mundane. It’s hard to find balance, especially when it often feels easier to just suffer through.

But there are ways out!

Last fall, I bought an orchid. Embarrassingly enough, it was not the first orchid I’d ever purchased. The first, which I’d come into possession of years earlier, promptly lost its blossoms and was disposed of—even though I thought I was doing a pretty good job taking care of it. C’est la vie!

After a month or two of delighting in orchid number two’s elegant petals, the blossoms once again began to drop, one after another. Besides the wrinkled flowers, the plant looked healthy enough, and I for one knew I was doing everything I was supposed to when it came to plant care.

While there is no miracle cure for pulling yourself out of a tough spot, there are ways you can take care of yourself and gently ease back above ground.

So I did my research, read the orchid fanatic threads, and came to an interesting conclusion: this was a normal process in my beautiful plant’s life. Periods of dormancy are normal. The blooming would come again. I just had to be patient…and keep watering.

While there is no miracle cure for pulling yourself out of a tough spot, there are ways you can take care of yourself and gently ease back above ground.

Here is a non-extensive list of things to do when you feel stuck in a rut. The most important one, in my opinion? Remember that it won’t last forever.

The blooming will come again.

Make a list.

Sometimes it helps to just get the to-do list out of your head. Other list ideas: things you’re grateful for, dream dinner party guests, or fun salad ingredients.

Revisit a source of inspiration.

What’s something you’ve watched/read/listened to that made you feel inspired at one point? Revisit it!

Try something completely different.

A new food? A new music genre? A new route home? If you’re having trouble thinking of something, here’s a list of possibilities. Just make sure whatever you do is far removed from whatever you feel stuck on!

Take care of yourself.

That could mean asking your partner to pour you a cup of tea or taking a minute to go through some stretches. Nothing big, just a touch of sweetness. (Plus the important things: adequate sleep, personal connection, and proper nutrition and hydration.)

Move your body.

A classic point on any self-help list for good reason! Get your blood pumping in a way that feels good to you. You don’t have to win a race; just take one step at a time.

Have compassion.

We’ve all been here, remember? Give yourself a break.

Create something.

A new Pinterest board? A paper snowflake? The chorus of a song?

Think things through.

Can you remember when the rut started? Maybe there are issues at play you haven’t addressed yet, such as an unfulfilling job or lack of balance when it comes to your personal life.

Have fun.

Allow your best friend to sweep you away for the night. Watch a silly movie. Window shop.

Talk to someone.

It could be a therapist, your closest companion, or even a journal. Find a place or person where you feel comfortable talking through your feelings. No matter how frivolous they may seem, they’re valid.

Get outside.

Wild how connecting with nature can sometimes bring you back to yourself, huh? Sit with the trees and see what thoughts cross your mind.

Reward yourself.

Did you make a tiny bit of progress today? Or make plans to? Good. Indulge in something that you enjoy thoroughly.

Take small steps.

Sometimes it can seem like the only way to do something is to do something big. That’s not the case! If you’re having trouble writing, start with a short journal entry or a quick social media caption.

Daydream

When was the last time you sat by the window and let your thoughts drift? Give yourself permission to think about absolutely nothing.

Let it be.

Sometimes periods of rest are necessary so you can reflect on lessons learned or wait for something amazing to come to fruition. If you need a break, honor that.

Allow yourself the help you need.

Sometimes a rut is just a rut, but sometimes it’s something deeper than a case of feeling stuck. If you suspect you may be depressed, know that help will look different than simply building a vision board and waiting it out. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional, talk to your loved ones, and remember that the same main belief applies: it won’t be forever. (Though that of course doesn’t mean it isn’t hard now.)

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