Three Easy Ways to Get Out of an Emotional Rut


I am lucky enough to work with clients all over the world who are willing to put in the time, effort and emotional work to make dramatic shifts in their lives. One of the number one characteristics of the people I work with who make the most epic changes is a willingness to do the small stuff in order to get the big stuff.

We all want massive life shifts, but many of us are not willing to take baby steps to get there. And, after 16 years of doing this work and more than 2 decades of working on myself, I can safely say that I have yet to see one person change (including myself) that wasn’t willing to do the small stuff first.

A rut is something you experience as part of working on yourself and your recovery where you feel frozen, stuck, in a plateau or just sort of blasé about it all.

Before I talk about steps to get out of an emotional rut, I want to distinguish between a rut and something like depression or grief or trauma. Depression, acute grief and coping with the effects of childhood trauma are deep and painful and require far more professional and personal help than a few small steps. A rut is something you experience as part of working on yourself and your recovery where you feel frozen, stuck, in a plateau or just sort of blasé about it all.

For this blog’s purposes, the suggestions I am giving are only for those of you (or the people you love) dealing with a rut, not something more severe.

Now that we have that distinction out of the way, let’s dive in.

Three Easy Ways to Get out of an Emotional Rut

1. Literally change your view.

So many people think changing their view means picking up their entire life and moving away. While there are certainly situations where this makes sense, that is not the kind of change of view I’m referring to here. In my previous life as a literature teacher, I used to teach the students perspective by having them stand in all different parts of the classroom, including atop their desks and my own desk. I would then have them explain how things in the room or the school looked different, depending on where they were standing at the time. The kids always loved it, and it really opened their minds to the fact that life has many lenses, and just as characters in a great work of fiction have different perspectives, so do we in life.

When we live our lives in a rote fashion, we forget that our view may be becoming slightly distorted; and that always means it is a good time to mix things up a little.

Some easy suggestions for doing a quick “view change” are:

  • Take a different route to work.
  • Sit on the opposite side of the sofa.
  • Sleep on the other side of the bed.
  • Go for a drive or bus/train ride or walk in a neighborhood you usually skip over.
  • Try a different take out place than the same old one you go to every weekend.
  • Mix up your recovery meeting schedule.
  • Go to a different gym or yoga studio.
  • Try a different coffee shop.
  • Try a different grocery store.

This is a short list of a potentially long list of things you can do to mix-up not only your schedule, but your literal view of the place that you live and the things that you do.

Sometimes making tiny changes can switch your brain from a rut to flow again; just by becoming willing to try something new.

Take some time and add to this list, then start this week giving some of these a try.

2. Give back.

If you are in a rut, that implies that you have had progress before to even get you to being in a rut in your life. In other words, you have the awareness of what it feels like to be in flow and now you aren’t feeling that. If that is the case, that means you have something to offer the world. You have made progress in whatever areas of your life you have been focusing on and there are definitely people out there who would love a little bit of help given the skill set that you already have.

When we are in a rut, one thing we can be in danger of is falling into a cycle of self-pity. There is nothing like giving back to others to help jolt us out of self-focus into gratitude yet again.

Here are some examples of great ways to give back:

  • Do a community garden project.
  • Volunteer for an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters or something similar.
  • Walk dogs at the local animal shelter.
  • Give someone a call who you know is isolated or spends a lot of time alone.
  • Take a class and learn about something that matters to you and share about it on social media.
  • If you are in a recovery group: make coffee, chair a meeting, give someone without a car a ride home , talk to a newcomer after the meeting…the list goes on.
  • Call someone who changed your life or who had a positive influence and thank them for what they did for you.
  • Write someone a letter.
  • Bring someone who is sad a bouquet of flowers.
  • Cook a meal for someone who doesn’t cook for themselves.

Just like number one, this is a short list of a potentially endless list of things you can do to give back in your life. Challenge yourself to try a few of these, or to even add your own in the mix and give those a try too.

3. Get an “Out-of-Rut” Buddy.

One of the reasons recovery from things like trauma, grief and addiction(s) works is because we aren’t doing it alone. Whether it is professional help, community help, 12-Step help, spiritual help and so on, the work involves at least one other human being rooting in your corner for your to succeed.

Chances are that if you are on the path of healing, you know at least one other human being who is in a rut at the same time you are. Reach out to them. Ask for help. Let them know that you notice they are struggling too and ask if they would be open to helping you on your “out-of-rut” journey.

Just like going to the gym with a partner makes us more accountable, so does having a mate for emotional growth as well.

Take some time today to think about the people in your life. Near and far. And take note of who you not only think might benefit from partnering with you to get to the next level; but also whom you might benefit from working with as well.

If you are an extrovert or a more community-oriented person, you can invite as many people to the buddy group as you like. You can do text check-ins, weekly calls, rewards, and all kinds of things to make it fun and also engaging.

The good news here is that even on the hard or bad days, you have someone who knows what is up with you to check in with and to have cheering you on.

The bottom line is that ruts are part of the healing process. They are part of the growth process as well. Without moments of pause, we lose site of the exponential progress we have made. Ruts not only give us a chance to reconnect with the tools of our recovery that work best, but they also give us a chance to find even more gratitude during the times of rapid-cycle growth and emotional wins.

If you are in a rut at the moment, know that this is not only temporary, but that it means you are absolutely on an epic healing path where you have become willing to sit in the discomfort you feel just long enough to help you continue to grow.

If you are in an emotional rut, I can help. Contact me here, and refer to this blog for a complimentary introductory video consult.

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