How to rise above your rut

We sometimes don’t know how stuck we are, until we are finally out of an often self-imposed trough.

Passing phase

A rut may simply be a lower level of satisfaction than your potential ‘happiness’ but not enough to derail you. It might just be a comfy place that doesn’t give you great joy, but feels safe and better than taking any risks or creating stress.

You may be unhappy about certain circumstances in your life, but deep down, you know that it’s a phase and it will pass.

What are the signs you’re in a rut?

Ruts are fairly easy to spot. They could be mistaken for depression – they share similar traits – but ruts are more temporary by nature. You know you’re in a rut when:

  • Events, routines and objects that previously imparted pleasure now seem humdrum;
  • Your work, or lack of it, is grinding you down;
  • You can’t seem to get to a sense of satisfaction from things you do;
  • You lose interest in goals or they seem too hard to achieve;
  • The banality of some people’s preoccupations make you shrug;
  • What previously seemed witty and fun now causes inertia and mumblings about the pathetic human condition;
  • You feel disinterested in making any extra effort for yourself or others;
  • You stop caring about how you look and stop making any effort to look smart;
  • You feel tired and exhausted more than you used to;
  • You are not inspired by the enthusiasm of those around you;
  • You find yourself saying the same things over and over;
  • You’re sick of a few too many things or people, or yourself; or
  • You’re beginning to resemble Peter Cook as Drimble Wedge in Bedazzled.

What else tells you you’re in a rut? When your conversation is becoming stale (even to you), your interests are no longer compelling, when bright suggestions are met by blank stares, or you feel your nearest and dearest are taking you for granted. You could be right; you’ve (temporarily) lost your spark.

Give yourself a reboot – make lifestyle adjustments

Jolt your mindset and recharge your molecules. Break your routine – do something you’ve always wanted to do, no matter how inconsequential. Then do it again, as often as possible.

Start seeing different things!

  • Get up and go outside and walk – every day, even if it is a short one;
  • Maybe you need a good run in a park or on the beach;
  • Go and do a gym workout or dance until you’re exhausted;
  • Sing your heart out in the shower;
  • Allow yourself some deep silence and meditation, rather than constant chatter and questions—a much better way to develop fresh ideas than gnawing over your resentments and regrets;
  • Volunteer for a cause you agree with—pitch in and take pleasure in the results you’re achieving. When you give you will feel happy. When you get your teeth into something worthwhile, you will feel good;
  • Connect with family and friends. Being considerate with a small gift, a heartfelt note, card or unscheduled rendezvous can yield amazing (maybe long overdue) results. See what joys you can bring to others, even those you’ve avoided. Whatever may have existed between you previously, bring on the thaw. Be honest, be humble, be helpful; and
  • See what’s piling up at work, and offer a scheme for how the tasks can be shared. Find out what new skills you can acquire during the process.

Remember that life has its own rhythms and quieter patches; it can’t all be brass instruments, dancing chorus kids and flashy light shows.

An “audience” tires of the same approach. Even “stars” need to regroup in the wings. See ruts as an opportunity to take a breather, an interval.

Look forward to a new year ahead – a wonderful opportunity to plan and make changes and rise about any ruts.

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace. See the rest of Eve’s blogs here.

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