Are you feeling stuck in life or at work? You're not alone. Whether in career, relationship, or even in identifying the next goal — most people will feel stuck at some point.
Stuckness can look like:
Why do you feel stuck?
Have you ever asked yourself, "Why do I feel stuck in life?" It's not always an easy question to answer. "Stuckness" can wear different guises. Below are a few scenarios when you might want to move, but not know how.
You've outgrown your current situation
You fear external judgment
You feel disconnected from your values
You think a change might mean losing something
You've lost hope for the future
You're overwhelmed or burnt out
Your positives vs. negatives lists are in competition
You're comparing yourself to others
You're outside of your comfort zone
How to get unstuck
There are plenty of ways that you can help yourself get unstuck. Below are some approaches you can use to shift the energy.
Identify what you truly want
Stuckness can be a vague, ambiguous feeling of something in life not being "right." When you notice these feelings, allow yourself some time to clarify what you want to be different. Frame these desires and hopes as what you do want to happen: "I want to maintain or increase my salary" rather than "I don't want to take a pay cut."
Ways to identify what you want:
Change your perspective
Remember that feeling "stuck" can be simply a mindset—albeit an oppressive one. But negative thoughts don't hold all the cards. With some self-awareness and conscious effort, you can change your inner voice. And your perspective to be more flexible.
Questions to change your perspective:
Move your body
If you've ever finished the workday with a stiff neck and shoulders, you'll know that tension and stuckness can sit in the body. Exercise can get more positive chemicals running through you. And being outside and in nature does wonders for your well-being.
Ways to get moving:
Set a date and park decisions until then
Give yourself space to clear your head, and set a date to re-evaluate your situation. Mark the date in your calendar, and allow yourself to focus on present issues until then. This practice gives you the chance to fully commit to what you're doing without the extra weight of questioning yourself and your future.
Take action to avoid "analysis paralysis"
Once you're clear on what you want, ask yourself, "What's the next smallest step I could take?" It's so easy to get entangled with the stuckness that you forget there are small steps that you could take to make progress.
Tap into your agency
Stuckness can often make you want to wallow in helplessness. Identify an aspect of your life where you do feel in control and then do something about it. You cannot be stuck and in motion at the same time. So doing anything with choice reminds you of your ability to get unstuck.
Small activities that build agency:
Rest, recharge, and focus on self-care
During a challenging time, keep in mind that you're responsible for your own well-being. Do what you need to look after yourself through a good diet, sleep, healthy movement, and connection.
Suggestions for self-care:
When to seek help getting unstuck
Feeling stuck can happen at many different stages of life: early in careers, when transition phases end, at mid-life, after a period of relative stability, or during a pandemic.
If you have persistent feelings of low mood, worry, or anxiety, or your sense of stuckness is getting in the way of your ability to cope, it's a good idea to speak to a doctor or healthcare professional.
What not to do when you feel stuck
To reduce any extra stress and worry that can arise when feeling stuck in a rut, keep these in mind:
Try not to over-identify with the situation
Say, "I'm feeling stuck," rather than "I am stuck." It's subtle but essential because it allows you to remember that feelings pass. One moment you might feel stuck, but the next moment you might feel tired, delighted, or any number of emotions.
Don't beat yourself up
Most people like to have clarity and control over their lives. So the feeling of being stuck can be frustrating. Rather than beat yourself up over feeling stuck, treat yourself with self-compassion
Don't focus on the stuck area as the only thing in your life
Remember that each situation that makes you feel stuck is just one part of your life.
Try not to blame others
Others' decisions and actions can impact our lives. But dwelling on them isn't productive. Give other people the benefit of the doubt, and consider that they may be doing the best they can with the tools they have. And remember that you're ultimately in charge of many aspects of your personal and professional life.
Don't doubt your ability to handle your decisions
If you're really stuck with a choice between two options, they may be equal—or one would be more obvious. When you consider the cost of staying in the limbo of indecision, you may find it's better to commit to a decision. You can then move forward with the self-belief that you're able to handle what comes next. Trust yourself.
Final thoughts on feeling stuck
Unlike a ship that's run aground, a car stuck in the mud, or a fallen tree blocking a river's path—the particular stuckness of humans can be one of choice, state of mind, and perspective. Remember: it's never too late to start over in life.
Choose to see your situation through a different lens and see what opens up for you.
Hopefully, by using the tips above, you will move past feeling stuck, find your agency and ultimately start thriving.
Licensed counselor, outdoor enthusiast, yoga lover and passionate about wellness.