Sometimes life just punches us in the face. I truly believe that it means well. Every hit we take is a lesson learned, the resistance we push against always makes us stronger. And sometimes it’s far less action-packed – there’s no punch, no attack, no drama, you just wake up one day and find yourself at the bottom of a rut. And that’s where I find myself right now – I’ve taken my punch and now it’s time to get back up. Let’s do it together. Here’s how to get out of a rut.
“People find themselves in ruts all the time. You’re in a complacent lifestyle where you work 9 to 5 and then you add a mortgage and kids. You feel trapped, but guess what, brother? You constructed that life. If you’re OK with it, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’ve got unease, then you’ve got to make a change.” – Jeremy Renner
How to tell if you’re in a rut
First off, how do you know that you’re in a rut? If you think you might be, likelihood is you are. There’s no definite list of symptoms, ruts will affect everyone differently and manifest differently, depending on where it comes from. That being said, there are a few symptoms that tend to come up.
What are the signs you’re in a rut?
- Feeling unmotivated
- You feel the world is moving without you
- You feel little pleasure for the things you usually love
- Days feel repetitive, blur together and you feel you’re just waiting for them to end
- You feel too tired to do anything
- You don’t feel you’re achieving anything
- Feeling frustrated and irritable
- You can’t access your creativity
- You feel empty and/or numb
- Feeling weighed down (even if nothing’s really wrong)
- You want to escape ‘somewhere’
- And lastly, you think you could make some changes to improve your life, but you don’t want to/don’t have the energy or motivation
Like I said, you may relate to some or none of those feelings. If you feel you’re in a rut, or even just a little fed up right now, the following steps will help you change that!
Feel + give yourself space and time
I’ve put this point first because honestly I think it’s the most important point of all. If you take no other advice, take the advice to simply feel. If you feel like you’re in a rut, it likely means one area of your life is unsatisfied. By finding and accepting that feeling, you’ll be better able to free yourself.
I find, personally, that writing about how I’m feeling can help me figure out what’s bothering me. For other people, the equivalent might be talking to a friend, creating something or meditating on it. So take the following steps how you will and bend them to suit you best.
Figure out what’s wrong
So, the first question we need to ask is: what’s wrong? I’d advise grabbing a piece of paper and scribbling out everything that enters your mind in response to this question. You could reach your answer immediately or it could be hidden behind stacks of secondary ‘wrongs’. Sometimes, it’ll be more than one issue. Whatever the case, ramble until things start making a little more sense. Problems are far easier to tackle once we know what they look like.
What’s stopping you?
Next we ask, what’s keeping you down? You have your problem laid out before you so what’s keeping you from tackling it? Maybe you’re tired, your expectations are too high, you’re fearful or have some destructive habits leading you astray. Write a list of anything and everything that could be keeping you down and come up with small, simple ways you could go about fixing them.
Feeling unfit and unmotivated to exercise? Find a workout buddy. Start a new exercise. Try a team sport. Set yourself a small goal to reach each week, rather than a big overwhelming target.
Not enjoying your job? Consider a career change. Speak to your manager. Start a side project.
And be gentle with yourself here. It’s okay to not want to tackle it. But figuring out what’s holding you back will help you move towards doing so.
Our thoughts dictate our reality – I’m a firm believer in that. When you’re feeling frustrated, doesn’t it feel as if the entire world moves against you and tries to bring you down? And yet, when you’re in a good mood, colours feel brighter, food tastes better, everything feels easier. Your perspective changes everything.
So, checking how your mind is speaking during these more stressful times is key to getting back on track.
Try to catch yourself when you’re being negative and ask the people around you to do the same. The more you recognise and take a step back from your thoughts, the easier it becomes to change your perspective. Make gentle suggestions to the voice inside your mind. Often, thoughts can be likened to a scared, stubborn child, so treat them as such. Listen and then encourage them to reconsider. Nicely.
Seek out help
Talk it out
This advice will be present in every self-help blog I ever write, for good reason! Sharing is one of the best ways to fuel your journey out of a rut (or any other mood, for that matter). Not only does sharing open you up to a wealth of insight, but also a range of support. Sometimes that’s all we need.
Hopelessness is one of the heaviest weights to carry in a rut and that weight can keep you from being able to move. Sharing that weight and asking for support will help. If there’s nobody in your life you feel you can reach out to, there are many, many services you can reach out to and seeing a therapist is also an excellent option.
Ask for help
More than just talking to someone, asking for their help in getting you out of your rut can be a massive help. Not only are we more likely to act when we know we’re accountable to someone else, but having someone alongside you can be a huge motivator. On the days when you can’t push yourself, ask someone else to.
It’s not a weakness to reach out, it’s a huge strength.
Celebrate small victories
Ruts can make even rolling out of bed a battle. So, make sure you’re celebrating every victory. Don’t hold yourself to standards. The best goal to have here is to just try and do a little bit better than yesterday.
Reward + positive reinforcement
When you’re trying to implement new, good habits and mindsets, you need to make sure you’re training your mind and your body to see them as good, positive things. By positively reinforcing your actions, you’ll end up looking forward to doing them and slowly, any negative alternatives will become less appealing. This might be having your favourite snack after a workout or doing something fun after a hard task.
Never give up
Simple as that. No matter how many times you stumble, if you keep moving forward, you’ll get there!
Out with the old, in with the new
Change your environment
I love rearranging my room. Waking up in a fresh, new space gives me such a boost and shakes me out of feeling like the person in a rut again.
Looking back at some of the feelings I spoke of earlier, many were centered around feeling like you’re out of control or out of touch with the world. Not to mention, it’s easy to slip onto auto-pilot when we’re doing the same things in the same space day after day. A change as small as having to get your clothes from a different place is enough to shake you out of that.
Change your routine
And, of course, the logical next step would be to change your routine. This doesn’t have to be drastic, just add a little bit of flare! Make a new playlist to listen to, find some new recipes, workout at a different time of day, take a different route to work. There are so many possibilities here.
I’d advise starting small and working your way up. Being in a rut can be really exhausting so start by just making just a few changes and slowly add more in. Be gentle with yourself, rushing can do more harm than good!
Take a break
Break the cycle! If you can, removing yourself from your normal environment and routine can be really refreshing! Taking a trip, even just a short weekend getaway, can do wonders to shake you out of your rut. Removing yourself from your everyday will give you new perspectives, an appreciation for the things you have and some ideas of what you’d like to change.
Be extra caring
I’ve kind of touched on this, but I’ll say it again and again. Ruts take a big toll on us, physically and mentally, so make sure you’re treating yourself as such. You wouldn’t expect yourself to keep running on a broken leg – this is the same thing!
This is the perfect time to just get back to the basics: food, fresh air, company and moving your body are the most important things when you’re trying to get out of a rut, so make these your top priority.
There you have it! My ultimate guide for how to get out of a rut. Life will always ebb and flow, so learning to deal with ruts well will help you time and time again. What’s your biggest tip for getting out of a rut? Leave a comment below!
Onwards and upwards, you’ve got this! Love, Ella-Rose xx