It starts out innocently: after a particularly challenging day at work or school, you climb into bed earlier than normal and a thought flickers in the back of your mind. As the days pass, you suddenly become more aware of this feeling of uncertainty–maybe even confusion–that is growing inside you. You notice that you are experiencing more bad days than good, and you catch yourself comparing yourself to others who seemingly have it all together.
I’ve been there. In many ways, I’m still there. This experience, which at once feels like inertia and a steady progression towards no clear goal, can be pretty crushing. Feeling stuck, whether in the context of work, school, or a relationship (with yourself or others), can alter our perspective and even promote feelings of self-doubt. Here’s the thing: it’s okay to feel stuck sometimes. It’s normal to go through periods of struggle, to feel paralyzed by life circumstances. But while you’re feeling all the feelings, it’s also important to understand how and why you’re immobilized; if we can check in with ourselves for even a few minutes each day, we can begin to move forward with intention. We begin to get unstuck. With that in mind, here are some key questions to ask yourself.
“What would being ‘unstuck’ look like?”
Quitting your job? Ending a toxic relationship? Cutting junk food from your diet? Don’t think too hard when you answer this question; the first thought that comes to mind is usually the most revealing. Even if you can’t make a change right now, you can at least begin to visualize what it might look like. When I imagine being unstuck, the first two words that come to mind are “education” and “challenge”–two things I’m missing from my life right now. Your version doesn’t have to be abstract, though: perhaps it’s as simple as voicing your opinions more often at work.
“When was the last time I felt free?”
As much as this feeling of immobility seems like it’s been going on forever, chances are there was some point in your life in which you were self-assured and content. What were the circumstances? How old were you? What has changed? For me, this feeling of freedom was most prominent when I was in college. It was a time when I said “yes” a lot more often than I do today; I was open to opportunities and confident that I would be successful in pursuing them. Once you have identified this time in your past, think about what it would take to bring some of those same qualities into the present.
“What is one thing I can do today that is different?”
There’s a feeling of hopelessness that accompanies being stuck, one that can prevent us from trying new things or looking outside of ourselves for answers. Like depression, this emotional state can keep us in bed and away from friends and family. But in order to bring about change, we have to do things differently. This means starting out small: take a different route to work, visit a new coffee shop, or try going to sleep earlier. All of these minor adjustments in your daily life have the potential to be the impetus for change. At the very least, they will shift your perspective in some way.
“What can I learn from feeling stuck?”
This is perhaps one of the hardest questions for me to ask and answer because it implies that we should find the positive in a negative situation. That said, if you’re able to ask, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about yourself–to uncover what makes you feel alive and what doesn’t. Even in the thick of it, you can begin to understand the ways in which you’ve become susceptible to feeling stuck, and in this way you can begin to build a life outside of these negative circumstances.
Have you ever felt stuck? How did you move forward?
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