How to stop feeling stuck

Feeling stuck is one of the worst feelings ever because of how not in control it makes you feel over the situation you are in. Being stuck does not mean you have a life sentence to feel that way, especially when you have some ways to get unstuck.

I have felt stuck many times in my life. Stuck in places I did not want to live, stuck in classes I did not want to take, stuck in friendships that were all one-sided, stuck in jobs where I was unbelievably stressed and unhappy, stuck in efforts to try and make big changes in my health, stuck in relationships that were toxic, stuck in obsessive thoughts in my head about worries, doubts, or fears.  Feeling stuck is the worst. For me, it brings on major anxiety, feelings of panic, loneliness, and almost a paralysis of inaction. Feeling stuck creates such a huge sense of overwhelm that it seems terribly tricky to overcome. Believe me, when I say I have felt stuck before, I really and truly have.

But I have done a lot of work on myself over the past several years, and it continues even today. I have been working hard to figure out how to make things doable and changeable, so I can feel more and more in control and get out of the swirl that I feel when stuck. I now have the most helpful techniques that I turn to time and time again. They come naturally to me since I have had so much practice using them on myself. And I have used them as tools and techniques with my coaching clients with great success. 

Looking for the good, everyday

The first thing I learned to do to help me feel unstuck was developing an attitude of gratitude. This does not mean that I think everything in life is absolutely fantastic and has no dissatisfaction, stress, worry, or fear. Absolutely not. I experience all of these things; I’m a normal person. But what I have learned is that if I live in the state of only thinking and talking about how awful everything is all the time, all I end up doing is feeling even more awful. Even more, stuck so, I do practice looking for the good every single day. And I make time to do this and practice this as a consistent habit. Sometimes I write it down in the morning, sometimes I write it down at the end of the day, sometimes I think about it. Guess how much time it takes me to do this? About one or two minutes tops. That is all. Sometimes my gratitude is the same damn thing every day for a whole week. Regardless, it gives me something to feel thankful for, and that makes me feel, well, better. It is a small shift in my outlook on life that not everything royally sucks. And that helps me feel not so stuck.

Doing a brain dump

Another straightforward strategy I use to get unstuck is to do a brain dump exercise. It sounds more complex than it really is. It is super easy. When I feel stuck, I grab a blank sheet of paper, and I jot down every thought and to-do in my brain. This can be a good solid ten minutes to get it all out. Usually, when I do this, I immediately feel a little less heavy in my chest. Then once I see everything on paper, I can put things together, prioritize, and get a full picture of everything my brain is telling me I need to do. I can even notice the things that are causing me to worry that I do not need to do or delegate to someone else. Just the simple task of getting all of those numerous thoughts out of my head is a major relief. When I do not do this, I ‘swirl’ a lot, as I call it. I spin and spin with the overwhelming number of thoughts and things in my head, and it’s paralyzing and perpetuates feelings of being stuck even further. Making this a weekly or even daily practice even when I am not feeling stuck is extremely helpful.

Data vs. drama

Data vs. drama (or facts vs. fiction or the truth vs. the story I tell myself) is one of my absolute favorite helpful tricks to get unstuck. This one really helps me see when I am ridiculous. And once I learned about and applied this concept, I was dumbfounded and amazed at how much I tended to do this to myself. And it made me feel oh so very…you guessed it! Stuck! Here is an example. You give a huge presentation at work that you have worked for weeks to prepare. Your boss is there when you present and when the meeting is over, your boss leaves, and you do not hear from him or her the rest of the week. The data: you gave a huge well-prepared presentation, and your boss has not said anything to you about it. The drama: you tell yourself that your presentation must have been awful, your boss must be really upset with you and think you are incapable of this work level, you likely are not going to get promoted. If you stay in the drama, this could ruin your whole week, literally make you sick with worry and keep you feeling stuck in the sense of confusion. But if you stay on the side of data and ask your boss what he or she thought, you might just find out their lack of communication to you on your presentation had nothing at all to do with you. Perhaps it was amazing, and they just had not gotten around to telling you yet.  So, the data is all just really about what the facts or truth is. It is the things I know for sure to be true. The drama is all the stuff made up to fill in the gaps of what I do not know to be true. Living in a lot of drama and stories about what might be going on a sure-fire way to remain feeling very stuck in a situation. It is the antithesis of being in a state where taking action is doable.

Working in minimums 

You know the phrases, “you cannot boil the ocean” or “you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time”? Well, that is what working in minimums (not maximums) is all about. This has been another super helpful way to approach situations when I have felt stuck. Oftentimes, when I desired change so badly, those changes were massive ones to make. And making big changes is really very hard to do if not broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces.  This is why all-or-nothing diet and exercise regimens often fail. Take, for example, feeling stuck in a job that I hate. What is the chance that just saying I need to get another job will help me move forward to make a change? Slim to none. But if I focus first on one small thing like editing my resume, will that work? Yep, that feels doable and starts to get me in control of doing something about my situation. If I live with big, lofty, almost insurmountable mountains to move, it will feel way too daunting, and I will feel like I cannot do it and therefore feel more and more stuck. But if I do the first minimal step, I usually can do it, which leads to the next and then the next. Before you know it, I have actually made significant strides towards changing my situation and getting myself unstuck. 

Trying it on

The last tool to stop feeling stuck is another straightforward one that has to do with mindset. Sometimes even when I identify a small step to take on something, I do not have a lot of confidence that it will work or be the right thing for me. So, I turn to imagine I am just trying it on. I like to think about this like trying on clothes. Say you go to the store to find a new dress for an important event. Do you walk right into the store and grab the first thing off the rack, and that is it? No. You grab a handful of different dresses and head to the dressing room. Trying each one on and determining what you like and do not like about it before settling on the one that works for you. This is the same thing when it comes to taking action to get yourself unstuck. If you think about it in terms of the end-all-be-all, you will not have much success. The assumed permanence of any potential action might be too much to bear to do anything at all. But if you can just try things on to see how they ‘fit’ you, then it becomes no big deal, and if you do not like something you have tried, it becomes easy just to toss it to the side and try something else that might work for you. At the end of the day, stuck is a feeling I never want to feel. There will always be situations that are hard that I will feel stuck in. But these five super easy tactics are right there with me to help point me in the right direction and feeling more in control and happy.

To help you get unstuck and moving toward your goals, book a free, 30-minute Wake-Up Call with Julie.

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Julie Brendich
Julie is the owner of Harmony & Success Personal Coaching, LLC. She’s a long-time leadership development expert having spent over 20 years working in multiple industries, helping leaders become more effective and successful. She works with clients on the wisdom of the “Midlife Awakening” and how it can be the catalyst for massive, positive life transformation in not just their careers but also in their most precious relationships, self-care, and spirituality. She holds advanced degrees in psychology and is credentialed as a Master Spirit Life Coach and Certified Professional Coach through the International Coaching Federation. A midwestern native from the suburbs of Chicago, Julie approaches the coaching process with her clients in a down-to-earth way where each client can be their true selves. It is her life’s purpose and biggest joy to help midlife women achieve their goals.
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  • Cyril Timbery
    Posted at 12:11h, 07 October Reply

    Your writing was extremely helpful. Thanks this beneficial information.

    • Felicity Nicole
      Posted at 14:19h, 07 October Reply

      Thank you for the comment!

  • Julie Brendich
    Posted at 18:45h, 07 October Reply

    Thanks Cyril! Glad you enjoyed it.

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