Toxic positivity isn’t helpful, but what are we supposed to do instead when we feel stuck in life?
I am not feeling too well lately. How about you?
Do you know this feeling of not moving forward in life? That’s kind of my reality right now.
So, I did what every millennial would do: I started looking for an inspirational clip on YouTube. My go-to channel, “Psych2Go,” didn’t disappoint. I found a clip with the title “To Anyone Feeling Stuck Right Now”—well, that’s me.
Let’s have a look.
The clip got me hooked right after the first 30 seconds. It named three situations that could make us feel stuck: being tired of our daily life, facing life-changing decisions, and burnout.
To be honest, I almost teared up because that’s exactly where I am at right now.
Noticing that we are unhappy is the first step, but what shall we do next? I have no idea—and that’s probably why I feel stuck.
But thanks to this clip, I found some inspiration to take the necessary steps ahead of me. And who knows, maybe you find yourself in a similar situation these days?
Here are five things we can do when we feel stuck in life:
1. Take action.
This one might sound a bit counterintuitive when we also feel burnt out. So, let’s be clear this is not about trying harder or working more hours; this is about taking the right action.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when following protocols, orders, and deadlines, and the main reason for that is that all these actions are not proactive.
Taking action also includes taking responsibility. It also means to act instead of reacting.
If we only react to life, it’s not surprising that we feel anxious and worry about someone or something chasing us. That’s just how our nervous system works. But if we consciously make our own decisions and act upon them, things might start to change.
2. Let go of fear.
This might be the most overused advice, but it’s still true.
Earlier this year, I wrote an article about Eileen Gu’s definition of fear in an essay for the New York Times. She described how fear is closely related to excitement. The feeling in our stomach when taking a risk could be labelled as fear, but it’s also something we could learn to enjoy.
In my case, it’s more about relearning this. I used to take a lot of risks, but it somehow stopped when the pandemic started. My nervous system wasn’t ready to take risks anymore. I tried to play it safe in all areas of my life.
Unfortunately, playing it safe only made it worse. Maybe because playing it safe usually means reacting instead of acting, which brings us back to the first point of this list.
3. Stay true to yourself.
“Depression is your body saying f*ck you, I don’t want to be this character anymore, I don’t want to hold up this avatar that you’ve created in the world. It’s too much for me.” ~ Jim Carrey
Read this again and again, and just to be sure, one more time.
One of the most-read articles on Elephant Journal is an article on Carrey’s definition of depression—I think it’s because most of us somehow relate to this.
Who doesn’t know the feeling of trying to fit in? Who doesn’t know the feeling of not listening to our inner wisdom? Who else feels like losing themselves in our daily lives?
It’s not surprising that we feel stuck when we don’t allow ourselves to be ourselves. Maybe because playing a role instead of being authentic usually means reacting instead of acting, which brings us back to the beginning of this list.
4. Change your routine
Routines can be incredibly helpful in making necessary changes, but it also works the other way around.
When we follow the same routines based on a role we play, it’s not surprising that we feel stuck in exactly that role. If our routines are only affirming the things we don’t enjoy in our life, they work just as well as positive affirmations—just the other way around.
Not to forget that many parts of our routines are not choices; they are just mechanisms to cope with our daily life.
Maybe we are following the same routines that are actually just our role anxiously dealing with challenges in life? And you probably already guessed that this takes us back to the first point of this list: acting instead of reacting.
5. Make a plan.
Noticing that we feel stuck is the first step to taking action, but the most important part of taking action is taking action.
Many of us (including myself) tend to set ourselves goals that make us feel small: save the planet, stop wars, end inequality, and many more things that we can’t really control. These things are important, and we should do our best to contribute in the best way possible.
If there is nothing we look forward to, nothing we enjoy, and nothing we want to do, it’s not surprising that we feel stuck and depressed.
The first step in making a plan is to become aware of what we really want in life. It’s about choosing what really matters to us. And just as the previous points, this takes us back to the first part of this list.
Our plans need to reflect the action we want to take, not the needs of others getting reflected in our choices. This is, once again, about acting instead of reacting.
As you probably noticed, all of these five things talk about the dynamic between acting and reacting.
And you know what’s really funny and sad at the time?
I taught yoga for 10 years. I wrote this article about Restorative Yoga a few years ago. I should have known better, but I didn’t.
But I am not ashamed of that at all. Being wrong and making bad choices are parts of the human experience. That’s how we learn—and relearn.
The tricky part is that this doesn’t happen automatically. Our nervous system is pretty good at tricking us into reacting.
Every time someone tells me that I need to take some time off work, I tell them that I don’t have time for that and explain why I feel that way. Every time I am about to meditate or do some yoga, I decide to read another article or make another tweet because I feel the need to do better.
Every time I should have taken a mindful break, my nervous system told me to try harder.
I used to be the dude teaching people not to make these mistakes—and now, friends and loved ones suggest that I should hire someone to tell me exactly that.
When I started teaching yoga, my experiences in dealing with physical injuries really helped me to connect with my students. At the same time, I had to admit that I had no idea what these people are going through when they talk about burnout.
After two years of witnessing my life falling apart, I know what stress feels like. But I wouldn’t label this as a failure—maybe it’s just an upgrade of what I have to offer.
I stopped living my life and started reacting to life—let’s find out how to reverse that.
If you feel stuck in life, please make sure to watch this clip. May it be of benefit.