Ever been stuck in a rut? I know I have. They’re not fun. But they also don’t last forever. I want you to learn what a rut actually is, how long they last (realistically) and how to get yourself out of one.
What is a rut?
Before I give you my own spin, let me share with you the actual definitions of a rut.
A long deep track made by the repeated passage of the wheels of a vehicle
A habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change
With the first definition, you can visualize that. I see a vehicle taking the same path over and over again. The funny part abut that visual is that it’s kind of like insanity because you’re doing the same thing over and over again.
The second definition is what I want you to hone in on. When you perform the same activities over and over again, life does become boring. Think about it for a second. Working the same job for years on end when the paycheck is good but you’re miserable. Spending time with the same people even though they bring you down and make you feel like a not-so-great person. Or even being afraid to try new things because you don’t feel like you’ll be good enough. Trust me, I know. Change is scary but what’s scarier is being stuck in a rut.
How long do ruts last?
The honest answer is – it’s up to you. Ruts can last days, weeks or even years. It all depends on how you perceive the rut. A rut can be shorter when you analyze your behavior and decide to make change. If you choose to accept the fact that you’re in a rut and decide not to do anything about it, it can last a lot longer.
I’ve been in ruts that last just a few days and then I’ve also been in ruts that last weeks. Each one of them has been different because of the chapter of life I was in. The ones that last a few days are usually there because something happened that threw me for a loop and caught me off guard. A bad interaction at work with a colleague, a minor fender bender or realizing I can’t go to an event because of time constraints. The ruts that last longer are typically my anxiety and depression taking over and telling me I need to take a break. These come on gradually while the shorter ones blindside me. When you know a rut is coming, you can prep for it even though it’s not always easy.
How do you actually get out of one?
This is where you’re going to need to put in some effort. No, it might not be fun, but I promise, it will be worth it. There are TONS of ways to get out of a rut but I’m going to give you the 5 that have helped me ever since I started noticing them.
1 Self-exploration is everything! If you have no idea what I’m talking about think of it as a deep dive into the ocean that is YOU. During this time, you’re going to ask yourself questions and listen to every single thought that comes to mind without judgement. What have you done recently? What activities and events have you been to? Who have you spent time with? When you listen, you might hear thoughts that you couldn’t hear when you weren’t at rest. This act of listening allows you to figure out why you’re in the rut in the first place.
You’re also going to take a look at the goals you have. Maybe you have a ton of goals and maybe you have zero. If you have too many goals, you might be struggling because you don’t have the time to work on all of them. If you don’t have any goals, feelings of inadequacy might be coming to the surface because you don’t feel good enough to have any. The goals you have need to be S.M.A.R.T and they need to align with what you actually want to do in life.
2 Making small changes works! Why? Because it allows you to take time with the changes you’re making and doesn’t put a lot of pressure on you. If you’re anything like me, unnecessary pressure isn’t the best because it makes me feel like I’m being forced to do something. That doesn’t feel good and it’s counter productive. Don’t try to make big changes or change everything at once because you may be setting yourself up for failure.
Instead, pick one or two ares that you want to focus on. Maybe you want to improve your health – physical or mental. Or you want to earn more money and feel a little more comfortable. Regardless of the area you want to focus on, choose it and stick with it until you have gotten as close to perfect (yes, I know perfect doesn’t exist) as possible. Once you’ve accomplished the change you seek, choose another area to focus in. And make sure to keep track of your progress. The only way you’re ever going to know if you got out of the rut, is if you pay attention and monitor your movements.
3 Self-care is not selfish, it is a priority. I cannot stress this enough, you MUST remember to take care of yourself. If you don’t, no one else will. Self-care is a much needed tool that you need to have in your toolbox to use whenever you have the urge. I have been a pusher of self-care for a very long time because becoming a little selfish has helped me become the person I am today. It has helped me learn what’s important for me and my family and say no to everything else. If you’re not practicing now, start adding this into your weekly plans. Even just once a week can help to improve your outlook on life.
The key I want you to take away is that self-care looks different for everyone. For some, it’s about pampering and for others, it’s regular exercise. It can even be scheduling time for breaks throughout the day, getting good quality sleep, eating nutritious meals and doing mindless activities. Another option is to have a Do Nothing Day where you shut off your brain, take a break from social media and do whatever the heck you want without any pressure from outside parties. This idea of a Do Nothing Day is an activity that can keep you out of the run once you’ve left it.
4 How’s it feel in your comfort zone? Great, right? You feel like you, there’s no fear or anxiety and it’s not scary. How’s it feel when you leave it? I can hear the groans now. When you leave your comfort zone, it can be super scary but it can also be very exciting. Almost like an adrenaline rush. When you’re more impulsive and try new things on a whim, you might feel weird and have butterflies. You also might feel like you’re experiencing something new. That feeling of new is the first step to getting out of the rut.
The thing about the comfort zone is that it keeps us comfortable. That place of being comfortable IS THE RUT!!!! Saying yes to an invite you wouldn’t normally accept or going to a training class that interests you may be things you wouldn’t normally do, can actually be fun. Remember, different and new can be good.
5 Keep in mind, when you’re going through this process, you need to be realistic. Without seeing things as they are, all you see is gray. Seeing things in black and white gives you facts. While understanding that sometimes there’s a gray area you might need to investigate further. In order to get out of your rut, you need to solve problems and find answers. You can do that when you think realistically, clearly and logically.
Keep in mind, though, there are things you can and cannot control. You can control your attitude and your action. Attitude is all about how you think about things, how you feel and how you let those feelings affect you. Action is what you do with the information you’re receiving. Don’t try to mess with the other stuff and don’t try to be perfect (remember, it doesn’t exist). And if life gets too tough to handle on your own, don’t forget to reach out to your circle for support.
If you’re in a rut now, I want you to make a commitment to yourself that you will try these tips. You owe it to yourself to do right by you and promise yourself that you will try every day to be better. But don’t forget to give yourself grace. Eventually, you will get out of that rut you’re in and live another day.