Every so often, I get super sick of myself—or at least of the habits I’ve unintentionally fallen into.
Life starts to feel like the movie “Groundhog Day”—an endless loop of making lunches for the kids and working and trying to figure out what the heck’s for dinner.
As a working mom of school-aged kids, I am, hopefully, at the busiest junction of my life. Which means changing things up can feel daunting—and yet, the staleness that rears up isn’t tolerable, either.
Sometimes it takes a crisis to launch us out of our lives, or a great vacation, or we just wake up one morning after dreaming that we were still in our 20s to the startling realization that we’re 43 and the clock is ticking a bit louder on our hopes and dreams. (Or is that just me?) Life doesn’t just roll on endlessly as it felt like when we were younger.
Here are seven ways we can bust out of a rut and keep things fresh:
1. Start small. When we awaken to the fact that we’re stuck, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Hannah Curtis, therapist and authentic communication educator, advises starting with small steps: “We need to be open to doing small things and seeing small results, which will build momentum toward getting unstuck. Ask yourself to identify one thing you can do to make your life one percent better this week to get the ball rolling.”
2. Change your environment. There’s nothing quite like taking a vacation to get a little perspective on our routines and habits. By existing outside of our normal life, it’s easier to see what’s working—and what’s not working—in our daily lives. But travel isn’t the only way to change things up.
I work from home, which is the introvert’s dream. But I recently realized an unfortunate side effect of this lifestyle—I’m losing my already-less-than-stellar ability to communicate with other adults in an un-awkward fashion. To remedy this, I’m starting to regularly go in to the office of one of my freelance jobs. Other low-risk ways to change our environment are driving or walking a different route than we normally take, shopping at a different grocery store, or trying a new coffee shop.
3. Reintroduce the things you love to do. When we’re feeling stuck, another technique Curtis recommends is asking yourself: what did I used to like to do? “Often, we can get out of a rut easily by re-remembering what has given us joy, purpose, or excitement in the past and adding these old habits, activities, and rituals into our current lives,” she says.
4. Start a daily check-in ritual with yourself. Curtis says people looking to break out of a rut should check in with themselves daily about how they feel and what they’re doing with their time: “Ask yourself how much time and energy am I using on the people, tasks, and causes that I truly value the most? What can I do today to be more intentional about living my values and having the experiences that matter?”
5. Expect and accept discomfort. To step outside of our comfort zone, a little discomfort is part of the process. Instead of resisting it, acknowledge that it’s part of the process. “Nothing great happens while staying comfortable. The bottom line is this: make peace with discomfort or you will live a small, boring life,” says Curtis.
6. Get support. When emerging from a rut, it can be helpful to let supportive, positive friends and family people know what you’re up to. “Surround yourself with people who inspire you, and keep some distance from people who are enabling you to stay stuck,” recommends Curtis.
7. Harness inspiration. Staying inspired can both lift us up out of stagnancy—and help us avoid it in the first place. When I think about the people I most admire, they’re the ones who keep challenging themselves, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. When we keep those people in mind as we’re making change, it can help keep us focused and motivated. Curtis also suggests listening to uplifting, creative podcasts and following people who inspire you on social media.
Not in a rut and want to keep it that way? “Stay intentional about variety on a daily and weekly basis,” says Curtis. “Talk to new people, try a new activity, or read a different kind of book.”
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Image: Unsplash/David Hofmann
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen