STUCK IN A RUT?
Dee Chadwick
04 Jul 2021
Are you stuck in a rut? Maybe you had hoped that coming out of lockdown would see you spreading your wings, trying new things, expanding your horizons but this hasn’t actually happened for you.

IS IT A RUT OR A GROOVE THAT YOU ARE STUCK IN?

Are these the same or is it a matter of degree?

What of that groove, which I understand is or was most commonly used in England, with said groove probably equating with those in old vinyl records. Somehow it gives the impression of being easier to get out of, though tending towards repetition, maybe repeating patterns of negative behaviour, complaints of boredom, feelings of being trapped, as when the record used to get stuck leading to words and music being annoyingly repeated until the needle was ‘encouraged’ to move on. 

Maybe you can be nudged from being stuck in said groove to being ‘in the groove’ – a saying from my teens describing someone  who was perceived as being ‘with it’ – with regards to music, fashion, attitude or whatever else ‘it’ was. Also, someone who felt that they were on the right path, with a task, or the path they were following with work. I guess the feeling that I get if a piece I am writing is flowing well, with the ideas readily popping into my head. 

For me, a rut implies greater depth and maybe a consistency that doesn’t make freeing yourself an easy task. It brings back memories of a trip with my son to Chengdu in China many years ago. We were going to visit the Panda sanctuary and it was a trip that I had never dreamt that I would be making. The taxi out from the town stopped short of the sanctuary. Due to communication difficulties, we didn’t understand why. When we got out of the taxi, the reason quickly became evident. The road stopped. Correction, the tarmac surfacing of the road stopped, with the way ahead being a mud road along which  a seemingly never ending stream of lorries were wending their way leaving deep, squelchy muddy ruts. Ruts which we had to carefully navigate to get to the sanctuary! We achieved this without ending up knee deep in the yuck, on our backsides in it, or being mown down by one of the ubiquitous lorries!  Hence the concept of being stuck in a rut immediately transports me back to this scene, whilst for others, a rut may be far less a daunting imagining. What one person feels is a deep, difficult rut, another may feel able to cope with – if you are the former, don’t beat yourself up as we are all different.  Like the picture at the beginning. If you are in a four by four, you feel that you can tackle that rut; if in a mini, totally different thoughts would be going through your head and you could be in need of help. Remember, it isn’t a sign of weakness to ask for help, rather a realistic acceptance of the situation in which you find yourself.

RECOGNISING THAT YOU ARE STUCK

We all go through times when we feel stuck – be this geographically, mentally or emotionally.  It can be a feeling that gradually creeps up on us. I guess many of us felt this way during lockdown if our circumstances were restricted, or if working long hours in support of others. Frustrating, but an experience shared by so many others. For some, this sharing gave comfort – the old wartime get on with it and make the best of it. For others it was a rut that trapped them...doing the same things, with the same people; boredom set in, and on occasion the feelings moved to a deeper level. Maybe those who had experienced similar situations and feelings before were able to recognise them and act to prevent a further slide down into negative doldrums? Then again, maybe not as we are all individuals with our individual ways of coping. What is it that we may have to cope with?

 We may experience -

Lack of a mental diary – you have no idea what day it is apart from if/ when controlled by an actual diary – in any format – for work or appointments, maybe those zoom calls! All days feel the same.

 You feel bored and lacking in motivation (more of this in blogs/podcasts following shortly). You may have hobbies, crafting, reading, gardening available to you but you just can’t find the inspiration, the energy or even see the need to get cracking with them – even though you could be well aware that if you did make that start, you would feel a lot better.

You simply feel that all you have as an aim is to get through yet another (same-same) day.... then week. You are merely going through the motions of living seemingly without any of the rewards, achievements, feelings of fulfilment that you experienced before becoming stuck. Life is like a pair of old, worn slippers that you slip on without thinking.

GETTING YOURSELF UNSTUCK

You may want to unstick yourself, but feel unable to do this. You’re that mini whose wheels are unable to get a grip in order to free you from the gloop, so you remain there. You are stuck and if you aren’t careful, you are going to add a failure to get out to that pile of negative attributes you already have on your shoulders.

You may not know how you got into the rut in the first place. Finding the cause can be a good place to begin becoming unstuck, maybe with the help of a therapist if this is proving to be a blind spot for you. Then begin to work your way out of your rut – one step at a time, remembering that those steps may begin as baby ones (see previous blog/podcast - BABY STEPS).

During the whole process – one of self improvement – that ‘self’ needs to be cared for; to be surrounded by self-compassion for body and mind. Keep tabs on sleeping, eating, exercising patterns as well as contacting or being with those you love and care for – and who return this in bucketsful.

Then remember that phrase that I have used more than once – if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Decide what stays by way of habits, ways of being that serve you well. What is adjusted in support of getting you out of the rut and keeping you out of it! Finally, what gets very firmly kicked into touch – the things maintaining your current rut location that you may be comfortable with, but which do NOT serve you well. Don’t attempt to do this all at once as you are likely to end up as a mini doing a huge wheel spin and digging yourself in even more deeply.  Gentle on that throttle.  

Don’t forget to add in some rewards along the way to keep that motivation ticking over (More on lacking motivation in upcoming post) – you really don’t want that to stall. Rewards that are scattered throughout the process of change, with a particular favourite lined up for when you feel that you are out of your rut – something to give you the incentive to push on through with the changes, something to look forward to. 

Those things that you have always done may be what you consider to be routines, a regular part of your day. Giving them a bit of a shake up can give your mind a bit of a stir, and move you away from being that creature of habit. A change, even a relatively minor one, being considered as good as a rest in the old saying. I switch my morning routine from time to time, with shower, breakfast and regular morning tasks changing their sequence. It’s surprising that when I change, I can find myself going in to auto pilot mode and reverting to the previous routine, so have to give myself a quick reminder. Have a think about any routines, maybe routes that you could tweak. At one point I found so many different ways to get from A to B on my daily walk so losing the boredom of the same-same routine (aka rut). On this walk, rather than simply saying ‘hello’ to people I passed, I paused and if they responded (as most did) we would have a quick conversation – how good was that during lockdown!

Add in new things too. Experiment with those things that you just haven’t got round to before, spurring your body and your mind into action. A new or long abandoned hobby, a physical activity, but choose ones that will fit in with your life style or you may find that it quickly becomes abandoned. Try setting up a few new things, so that you can dip in and out of them depending on time available, weather, and of course cost.

As for the things to be kicked into touch. This can call for a period of honest self-reflection. Have you slipped into eating too much junk food, leading to physical lethargy. Do you grab the nearest clothes rather than ringing the changes by digging into the back of your wardrobe – something I have been guilty of over recent months.  Switch on to reflecting throughout  the day – ask yourself if what you are doing, your way of thinking is serving you well or not.  If the answer is no – then the question to follow is – to tweak or to bin though remember to make these adjustments one at a time, step by step. If you find the process overwhelming – get out the paper and pencil and write down changes and then decided the order in which they are to be made. You can then cross off when you have done this, so you are recording, tracking your progress which is proved to be a help. Regular journaling also helps identify patterns of behaviour.  

Grab life by the scruff of the neck and allow spontaneity to click in. You may be pleasantly surprised if you take a risk. Later in life, we tend to regret the things we didn’t try rather those that we tried and decided not to do again. I often think back on those one-offs with great fondness – abseiling, scuba diving and lots more and I still have things on my bucket list that I will have a go at!

DON’T FORGET

Nobody is perfect, but each and every one of us is – one of my all time favourite words – flawsome, as written about in a post back in 2016. If you endeavour to attain perfection either in making a smooth exit from your rut, or in the changes you have chosen to make, you are more likely to end up continuing to be stuck with those little wheels of yours simply digging ever deeper.  Just as it is OK to be OK, it is also OK to do something to an OK level and not beat yourself up if you don’t rate your efforts as gold star standard. You may not end up as that four by four with inbuilt rut escape mechanisms; but you will learn how to get the best from what you have and call in others, for support. This brought back memories of helping an elderly gentleman extricate his car from a deep patch of mud. My friend and I asked if he happened to have any sacking, mats in the boot of his little car. He, luckily, had - as simply two women pushing and encouraging him to not floor the accelerator hadn’t worked. We put the mats in front of the wheels to give him more grip – and another lady joined us. He agreed to let her take the wheel, stood aside, and with us pushing, we released the car. He got back in, abandoning the mats. His foot went down hard, his wheels spun, as, without a word of thanks he disappeared, showering us with mud!... Bless!

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