When you feel stuck: 6 tips to get unstuck

When COVID first hit, I think a lot of us either felt doomed or some level of motivation that we could get through this. For those of us who felt like we could ride out the storm, I am not sure many of us (although I think there were certainly some) who thought this might last a few months or possibly through the end of the year.

I was one of those people who thought we might see this through the end of the year but now it seems like we may be in for multiple years of a new way of working and living. It seemed unfathomable to me how this could have happened but since it was not in my control, I decided to set myself up for success as best as I could to endure new times.

As I talk to some of my friends, some of them are feeling a bit stuck. We have gone back to texting and talking; we have abandoned Zoom at this point. I mean how many of us who sit on video calls all day for work want to do this for personal reasons? We are stuck in our routines, stuck in our houses, stuck in our relationships, stuck in our jobs, stuck in endless loops of job applications and still not finding work. Whatever your “stuck” is, someone else is feeling that too.

I have to admit there have been times, and will be times in the future, where I have felt like I am in a holding pattern waiting for something external to change. I miss theater, I miss travel, I miss going to restaurants on a regular basis, I miss shopping, although I am doing this a little bit more behind my mask. At least this way, no one knows who is buying the latest motivational quote to hang on my office wall. I have surrounded myself with inspirational words on my walls but there are some days, I don’t feel it.

While all of these missed happenings have helped my pocketbook, it hasn’t helped my mental health. Feeling stuck is one of the worst feelings. You feel your situation, mood or even your life is not in your control – that things are happening to you and not because of your decisions and actions. You feel you have no options sometimes.

But, during a pandemic, what can you really do? I have thought about this quite a bit and here is what I have come up with that I am trying out myself.

  1. Feel stuck. I know…huh? My partner is a very optimistic and positive person but even he has days where he doesn’t smile. Sometimes you feel stuck or bad. Feel it. It is okay to feel stuck one day. Feel it and then let it go. I learned this same lesson in dieting. Denying yourself chocolate or ice cream full stop only leads to binging. Emotions are the same way. If you deny yourself a bad day then every day can become a bad day, which may lead to too much chocolate or ice cream, incidentally.
  2. Make to-do lists. Not everyone derives a great pleasure from making a list and then crossing things off of that list. I do. I get an insane amount satisfaction from drawing a line through text with a stroke of my pen. Even if you are not a list maker, become one. We always have so much to do if we think about the possibilities. Make daily, weekly or even monthly lists and take action. Actions can be simple. Go for a walk 3 times a week. Try meditation once this next week. Outline a new work proposal. Attend that virtual networking event. These do not have to be grandiose actions but even little ones can help us feel accomplished.
  3. Do something for someone else. A friend of mine who felt stuck in her rut told me once that she was sick of herself. Let’s face it, we see ourselves everyday. You try and get away but there you are. When you find yourself feeling this way, then go do something for someone else. There is nothing more satisfying than helping your fellow people. A neighbor of ours is building desks for schoolchildren in need for free. He is making a huge difference in our neighborhood. I am mentoring someone who has just entered the workforce find her path. Like our actions, acts of kindness can be simple as well. People are feeling pretty disconnected lately, what could you do to help people feel better about themselves? That will only lead to good things for you too.
  4. Discover something new. The best way to get unstuck is to throw ourselves into something new. Don’t have a clue what that could be? Read an article on Ikigai. I have written about this in context of finding your career but the same principles apply here. Find out what you love to do and what you’re good at doing. The intersection of these two items will help you discover what you can try. This can be for money or not for money. I know time may be slim for some of us juggling kids attending school from home, our jobs and homes but there is always time for those things that are important.
  5. Get started. I can’t think of a better time to write that book, paint that oil painting you have been thinking about, restore that piece of furniture, start that side hustle or kick off a new project at work. Our world will bounce back. It may look a little different but stop waiting for the world to come around because that may take a while. This is the perfect time to create something new and be ready when the world is ready.
  6. Stop and reflect. I am a learning and development professional and what I see missing from our lives is taking time to reflect on what we have learned and accomplished. We are so rushed to cross off the things on our to-do lists that we don’t take the time to think about the impact of what we did or think about other things we could do as a result. Taking some time to reflect on our actions and new projects will only lead to other ideas of what more we can do, what we can change or even what we can stop doing, which is also a healthy outcome.

Feeling stuck is natural especially in these times. It is up to ourselves to figure out how to break the stickiness of our situations. I never liked it when I received the advice that you need to just do it. Adopt the Nike slogan. Yeah, okay. “Just do it.” I would roll my eyes and felt I needed more than that.

If you have trouble with the “Just Do”, try helping someone else first to get your mojo going. Or, make a short list of to-dos just to get started on anything. If you have trouble with the “It”, read something on Ikigai. Listen to Cathy Heller’s podcast: “Don’t Keep Your Day Job”. Cathy and her guests have phenomenal advice for getting jumpstarted in a new direction. Listening to others’ stories can sometimes help you find your inspiration better than a pithy quote. Although some days, a “Let’s do this…” quote on a wall can make a difference too.

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