Feeling stuck can be EXHAUSTING, and with all the demands modern life throws at us it can quickly contribute to feelings of overwhelm, distress and a need to escape. Ignored, this can manifest itself in many ways, none of which are positive. Here are 8 things you can do right now to become unstuck.
Whilst it is necessary to deal with what is behind these feelings to eliminate them and move forward, in that moment of overwhelm and stress, when your fight or flight mode kicks in, it is important you can find a way to escape, if only for the moment, that works for you.
Everybody is different, so what might work for me may not work for you, but I wanted to share with you my tried and tested ways of helping alleviate that feeling of being stuck so you can get on with your day and become unstuck.
1. Get moving
As an ex-athlete this is a failsafe for me, hence why it’s at number one. But notice I didn’t say go to the gym; it’s not important what you do, just that you get your body moving. Go for a walk, do some yoga, do that cleaning you’ve been putting off, put some music on and dance around your living room or, if you’re like me, head to a gym class. The key here is that you should enjoy what you’re doing (or at least know you’re going to enjoy the result, such as a cleaner kitchen!). For extra benefit, get outside – time in nature with the sun on your face definitely won’t do you any harm!
2. Have a bath
Often the feeling of being stuck is augmented when we are tired and unable to maintain a balanced view of our situation; however, sleep may evade us if our minds are in overdrive, and it is well known that a warm bath before bed encourages sleep. Here’s the science: your temperature naturally dips at night, starting 2hrs before sleep and bottoming out at 4-5am. When you soak in a hot tub your temperature rises, and the rapid cool-down period immediately afterward relaxes you and is more likely to put you in a deep sleep. (A shower is less effective but can also work). I also recommend some nice bubble bath, some candles so you can turn the main light off, and Epsom salts if your muscles are tight.
3. Get some sleep
Sounds obvious, but we’re not at our best when we’re tired. Lack of sleep (called agrypnia) leads to decreased concentration and reaction time, diminished mental processes, reduced motivation, and altered perception – not great conditions to deal with personal challenge! So, whilst it’s not always possible to get 8hrs sleep every night, it is important to recognise when you’re running on empty and it’s time to refuel. Try to identify at least 2-3 nights a week when you can fit in 8hrs in bed. If this sounds impossible, then consider alternatives such as a daytime nap or reviewing your evening/ early morning routine on some days. Challenge yourself to get more sleep – sleep is nature’s best medicine!
4. Empty your mind
Ok, let me explain. Feeling stuck often results in a lot of over-thinking, especially when trying to get to sleep (see above!). I found the following useful for clearing my mind just before bed on these occasions.
Fold a piece of paper in half
Write down everything that’s bothering you on one half of the piece of paper (I sometimes needed more than one piece of paper, so don’t worry about it if you do too)
Go back to the top of the list and write down what you can do about each thing RIGHT NOW, i.e. before going to bed – note, these should be simple, short tasks or they are not for now!
Go back to the top of the list and write down what you can do about it in the next THREE DAYS – don’t write anything down that’s impossible; these should be things YOU CAN do, even if that thing is find someone who can do the impossible thing you can’t!
Review the list:
Anything that can be done before going to bed, DO IT NOW
Anything that can be done in the next three days, write in a new list
Anything else, forget about it because there’s nothing you can do about it tonight or any time soon!
You now have some clear actions to do before going to bed that should ease your mind, and a to-do list to tackle your worries in the next few days. Get after them!
5. Practice gratitude
Related to the above point, another practice I have when feeling stuck is to remind myself of how far I have come, and all the reasons I have to be grateful for where I am right now. Again, this involves writing a list (I do love a list!)
Keep a small pad of pretty paper or nice notebook near to your bed – these are for positive thoughts so should be on paper you love/ enjoy using
Write down five wins from that day, big or small – they all count
Some examples: got out of bed without hitting snooze, delivered a great presentation at work, made Thai green curry for the first time, tackled that website issue I’ve been avoiding, had that conversation with my boss about a pay rise, remembered to take my bra when cycling in to work
Then write down three things you are grateful for today, again big or small
Some examples: my boyfriend making me dinner, my ability to stay calm under pressure, my cosy jumper now it’s getting cold, my 3yr old went to nursery with no tears
Finally, write down three things to do tomorrow (yup, big or small!)
Some examples: take the bin out, congratulate Tom on his promotion, call Mum
6. Be still and breathe
Sometimes we all need a time out. I find the following breathing exercise can help to reduce feelings of stress and panic. Basically, it works by retraining breathing habits, as people who are under pressure tend to breathe too fast and too shallowly. This washes a lot of carbon dioxide out of the body and makes them feel unwell. Here’s what you do.
Several times a day make a conscious effort to concentrate on your breathing.
Breathe in slowly, counting to 7 as you do so
Breathe out even more slowly, counting to 11
Do this for 3-5 minutes (about 10-20 breaths)
Repeat a few times a day – noting how calm this type of breathing helps you feel
Neuroscientists at Princeton University have found that excess things in your surroundings can have a negative impact on your ability to focus and process information. Clutter essentially makes your brain multitask, thus making you less effective at what you are trying to focus on. It has also been proven to have a profound effect on your mood and self-esteem; clutter can make you feel down not only because it’s like visual noise, but it also sends a signal that you don’t have your life together. It’s easy to see how decluttering could help with feeling stuck.
Here’s some guidelines for clearing out excess junk:
Identifying an item as clutter has more to do with how it feels than how it looks – get rid of anything that drags you down, especially if it’s emotionally
Start with the room you spend the most time in, which may be your desk in the office
Tackle it in stages – you don’t have to sort out the whole living room in one go
If you’re struggling to part with something, ask yourself when you last used it – more than a year ago, get rid of it
Donate or sell your unwanted/ excess items – knowing they are going to benefit others, and potentially your bank account, can soften the blow, especially if donating to a charity that has meaning for you
8. Adapt and overcome
Put simply, create a plan B. When we want to become unstuck, it is sometimes because we have not yet considered there may be another way forward open to us. Through my coaching work I have seen a lot of binary thinking – putting things in terms of two options that are usually mutually exclusive, i.e. all the possibilities are either option A or option B and not both. It is the equivalent of thinking in a closed question mindset – the answer is yes or no but can’t be both. The reason why this is so prevalent is because binary thinking feels safe; it creates a world where things are black or white, right or wrong, good or bad, happening or not happening. Sometimes this is valid, but often it is an over-simplification, which creates a ‘false dilemma’ by thinking there are only two options when there are more. This is especially the case when neither of the two options are desirable!
The alternative is directional thinking – knowing where you want to get to but being open to how you get there. When you’re feeling stuck, the key thing is to focus on where you want to be, not where you are now. It is then about working back from that place to understand the things that may need to happen to get you to where you want to be – I say may, as these things may change as you move forward and start to take action.
So, what can you do today to drive directional thinking and become unstuck. Here’s some ideas:
Create a clear vision of what you want – make it as specific as possible and do it in whatever way is appealing to you. I’m not one for vision boards but I’m a big lover of words so I wrote a list (you saw that coming, right) which I revisit every couple of months
Get clear on what will happen if you do nothing – you’ll have heard the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over expecting different results), so where will you be in a year or three years if nothing changes
Practice thinking of at least three options, e.g. rather than a sandwich or salad for lunch, what else could you have
Talk to someone – they may well think of an alternative way forward you have not considered
Hopefully there is something here that works for you – maybe try a few (or challenge yourself to try them all!). Let me know what you’ve found beneficial, or indeed challenging – this group is here to help you and I will endeavour to respond to any questions or comments below.
If you’ve enjoyed reading the above and would like to understand more or feel you need further support so that you can become unstuck, why not get in touch and book a breakthrough session with me. I can help you make a plan and move forward today.