When You’re Feeling Stuck: First, Don’t Panic…

Do you feel stuck?  Nothing’s moving?  Can’t get going?

Like when you’ve gotten your car or truck stuck in soft sand. And the harder you try to get out, the deeper you dig yourself in.

No matter where you are on your journey through life, there are going to be times when you feel like your luck has run out. Maybe the plans you made fell through. Maybe suddenly your health deserted you.  Maybe you’re just looking at your life and you’re not where you thought you’d be by now. You feel like you’re trapped in a drive-through lane that never moves forward. What’s going on?   Why isn’t anything moving?   Whose fault is this anyway?!!?

You might even know what it is that you want to do, or need to do, but you can’t get motivated to do anything about it.   You just can’t take that first step to get going, no matter what. And if, heaven forbid, you don’t even know what you want to do…then you’re really stuck. You sit, watching anything you can find on TV, while your mind just stays a blank screen.  Yep, you’re stuck all right.

Yeah, But What If…..

Confusion, procrastination, loss of motivation, frustration…not the most enjoyable of experiences, but what if they are all necessary parts of the process of figuring out what’s next in your life journey?  I’m just asking “What If?”

What if you have to let yourself be confused for a while?

What if you have to avoid doing some tasks for a while?

What if you have to be unmotivated for a while?

What if you’re supposed to feel frustrated for a while?

I’m just asking “What if…” because maybe the state you find yourself in is an important one to experience. I’m not saying you’re supposed to spend the entire rest of your life confused, procrastinating, frustrated, and unmotivated.  But, what if you have paused for a moment to reassess something? Are you stuck or are you resting, gathering your strength for the next challenge? Are you confused or are you just stopping to make sure your compass is still working? Are you frustrated, or just registering your disappointment with the way things have been turning out, trying to figure out a solution?


Being Stuck Feels Scary

Getting to a place of “stuckness” in your life not only makes you feel uncomfortable, it can be really scary. When nothing is working the way it always has, then there can come the fearful thought that nothing is ever going to work right again. If you’ve always been able to set a goal, make a plan, and move forward and now you can’t do these things, then you start to feel hopeless about things getting better…because how are they going to get better if you can’t do anything?

And people who are really good at coping in the middle of a crisis (like the person who can jump right in and direct people to call 911, boil water, and get clean towels) tend to really suck at just sitting and trying to get their bearings when they are stuck. They don’t “get” being stuck.  They know how to move!   They know how to take action!

But if they hit upon a situation where there isn’t an obvious action to take, or there isn’t any energy or motivation to be able to take it……uh, oh.

Now what?   Panic!    Create a crisis…and then maybe they’ll know what to do!!!    “Cuz they’re really good in a crisis!!!

I have a better idea…

First, Don‘t Panic!

In the process of transition, of which feeling stuck is just a part, it can be incredibly helpful to remember that just letting yourself become okay with the newness and unfamiliarity is the most important thing you can do. You can “become okay” with the situation partly by telling yourself there’s nothing wrong with what’s happening. It takes courage to find yourself in the midst of something you’ve not had to deal with before, or in the middle of somewhere you can’t seem to find your way out of, and to “first, don’t panic!”

Just remaining calm so you can look at your confusing situation is the first step. You don’t have to DO anything about it yet. Just sit with it for a while. Pretend you’re holding a really tangled Rubik’s Cube and you’re just going to study on it for a while before you decide your first move. That at least gives you a chance to get your bearings, let you feel your feelings about being in the situation, and figure out if you want to make a move, what it should be… and when.

And while you’re practicing being all calm about this confusion, why not throw in having a little faith in yourself that since you’ve gotten this far, maybe you’ll actually be able to figure out in time what to do next?

I’m just asking, “Why not?”  🙂

DrAnita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist


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