If you feel like you’re in a funk at the moment, you’re not alone. But simply recognising that you’re feeling stuck is a great step on the path to feeling more motivated for anything life throws at you. We can all better our mental state by being a little more mindful each day, and by taking a moment to reflect and assess what we want from our future, we can help live each day with a sense of purpose.
What's Behind Our Collective Feeling Of 'Stuckness'
There’s no doubt about it, the past few years have been challenging. As a clinical psychologist and Headspace app’s mental health expert, I’ve noted similarities in the issues people have been presenting for treatment, with a lot of people saying they feel stuck and lack direction.
Post-pandemic, there has been an increase in people who feel anxious about returning to busy offices, catching public transport and socialising again. As people begin to live ‘normally’ again post-pandemic, our lives are becoming busier each day. Along with this though, people are still reporting a sense of boredom, noting a stagnation-like feeling when looking at their lives.
People are feeling ‘stuck’ and dissatisfied and have lost enjoyment in life's little things. So many of the activities we enjoyed doing before the pandemic to relieve stress were put on hold and now we're struggling to pick these activities back up again. Put simply, there's a collective struggle to prioritise enjoyable hobbies amid the busyness of life.
How To Get Out Of A Rut
Reconnect with the things you love doing
When we’re feeling stagnant or stuck, we often neglect the activities that are relaxing and bring us joy. During the pandemic, so many of the activities we enjoyed stopped. As life returns to normal, with schools and offices now open and people being generally busy again, many of us have not recommenced the activities we enjoy. It’s important to revisit those activities you once loved, or even explore some new ones. Doing things we enjoy can increase pleasant emotions, helping to both relieve stress and motivate us during the work/school week.
Be mindful of pleasant experiences
When we’re feeling down about ourselves, it can be difficult to notice the positive things that happen throughout a day or week. Being mindful of pleasant experiences is really important. Don’t let the good moments slip by. Sometimes it is easier to start doing this in a daily reflection. Take a brief moment at the end of each day to reflect on one pleasant experience you had, even if only very small. Maybe it was a nice meal you had or maybe you received a good text. Perhaps it was just noticing the weather or maybe you watched something great on TV.
Being mindful of the good is very important and shouldn’t be taken for granted. There is a great guided meditation on the Headspace app called ‘What’s Going Well?’. It encourages us to reflect on the efforts we’ve put out and the positives of life. This is a great idea for people who need some guidance.
When we’re feeling stuck and struggling to get motivated, this can negatively impact our confidence and sense of competency. This can leave us feeling like we’re not able to achieve things or overcome challenges. It can also lead to fatigue and stress, and we start to avoid certain tasks or situations. Building ‘mastery’ refers to the idea of slowly completing tasks or facing challenges in a way that helps you to feel resilient, in control and competent. This might be something like paying some bills, starting a gentle exercise programme or doing one social thing per week. Setting these small goals can really help us get out of a funk.
Humans have a natural tendency to compare themselves to others as a means to assess their own position and furthermore where they stand in society. We look to others to figure out if we are on the right track. The pandemic affected people in a variety of ways; some people were significantly impacted by job loss and homeschooling, others were more impacted by social isolation and some people found enjoyment in a less busy and complex life. We all come from different environments and have different life experiences that shape the way we cope with challenges. People will be facing different challenges as we navigate returning to normality and comparing yourself to how others are coping or managing is not helpful. Try to focus on yourself and what is effective for you.
Feeling stuck and unable to propel forward are difficult things to experience. When we feel overwhelmed and notice frequent overthinking, it’s always good to take a moment to practise some mindfulness. Training your brain to realise what is happening in the present moment can help us focus and relax. Taking a moment to be mindful helps us to notice our thoughts and feelings without becoming caught up or judging them. In turn, this helps to lower stress levels, decrease frustration and increase the likelihood of experiencing more positive emotions. Using mindful practices like meditation, going for a walk, listening to some music or just sitting in silence for a moment can help to create a good mental space. You’ll notice that practising mindfulness allows you to access the tools you need to move through ‘stuckness’ and regain focus.
Speak to a professional
While feeling stagnant and overwhelmed are common with people at the moment, these feelings still impact everyone differently. It can be difficult to understand why you’re feeling stuck or what tools you need to move forward. Speaking to a psychologist can help you to understand your patterns of behaviour, detect any underlying causes and provide a supportive space for you to navigate change and day-to-day challenges.
Mary Spillane is a Melbourne-based clinical psychologist.