The Reflex Guide to Getting out of a Rut

So, you're in a rut.

One of those funks that seem to chase you from day to day (or month to month, or year to year) where you can't seem to get any traction on the life you want for yourself.

Whether those feelings have just seemed to creep up on you, or something happened that derailed everything, getting out of a rut can feel big, mean, and totally unapproachable.

And, it kind of is. They don't really teach this sort of thing in schools, and while there's some alright information out there about keeping your mental health in check and building up resilience, there's not a whole lot out there about starting from scratch.
Reflex Social Services is a charity that brings emergency trauma counselling to people who need it throughout Newcastle, the Central Coast, and the Hunter, so we know a bit about this process. Lots of our clients come to us because something huge has happened, whether its illness, assault, a death in the family, or losing everything to a house fire. 

It's literally our job to help people build themselves up again and help them find ways to go forward and create a happy and healthy life from situations where they might have lost everything, or might not have had anything to begin with.

So, what can you do about that rut? 

Here's a few things you can put in place to gain a bit of traction and find your way out of this funk you're in, without the platitudes that social media has to offer.

Know where you're going.

It's hard to make meaningful changes when the goal is "I'm not sure, just not this".

Take some time

Take some time to sit down and have a think about what you want your day to day life to look like. I'm not talking about "dreaming big" and making goals of having a million dollars and riding jetskis with instagram models here. I'm talking about setting yourself a new normal.

Your routine

What does your morning routine look like in this scenario? What are you doing with your days? What time are you going to bed? What sort of foods are you eating? Will you be participating in any hobbies?

Get curious

Sit down and really get curious about the possibilities. When you come across one, take a moment to imagine what life would be like if you took that on, and see if it resonates with you, and what the outcomes of doing that would be.
Write down what this routine looks like, and keep it as your north star. That's where you're headed, regardless of the other things that get in your way.

Stop waiting for inspiration and motivation.

We all naturally gravitate toward being in a state of balance.
In science, they call it homeostasis, a set of internal measurements that your body regards as "normal". Warm, but not too warm. Full, but not too full. A predictable level of comfort that can be sustained.

This can also apply to your levels of stress and motivation. That base line of yours keeps things going, and if you've been in situations where that balance has been upset, or you haven't had that balance, you're going to want to cling to that even harder.

That base line is not always positive, healthy, or helpful.
Waiting for motivation and inspiration isn't the best way to go about making big changes. 

If you wait for inspiration to hit, you'll make a lot of big changes, get all of those reward chemicals flowing in your brain. Those aren't adjustments to your day to day life that will allow you to keep those changes alive once the hype has worn off, leaving you tired, disappointed, and less motivated to try again next time.

The things that you can still do on the days where you're not motivated or inspired at all are the things that really make the difference. Motivation is a skill to build, not something you stumble on by accident.

Recognise your skills and strengths

Check in with yourself

Take the time to recognise the things that you're good at, the things that come naturally to you, and traits that can be turned into strengths. 

Revisit it often as you gain mastery over different areas of your life.

If you've got nothing, but you've been in a rut for a while - you're resilient.

If you're in a rut and you're reading this right now - you're curious.
If you started thinking about what you'd like to see in your life - you're capable of being creative, strategic, and forward thinking.

Action before achievement.

Being in a rut for a while often leaves people feeling like they can't really do anything, let alone achieve the huge goals our society encourages us to have of ourselves.

Take the goals you made for yourself before  ( the ones involving your regular routine ) pick one of those goals, break it down to a single action, and get it down pat. 

Start there to see that you're capable of improving something that you choose to improve, and that you're in control of some parts of your life. 

Starting with your routine can be helpful - it's cheap, it relies on a small number of things, and it often contains its own reward.
Find things that help you see what you've done and where you've been, whether that's an app, a journal, or a calendar. Not only does this help seeing what you've achieved, but it also gives your brain one less thing it needs to keep a track of.

When you feel like you've got one thing down, add another. For areas that feel larger and more intimidating, break them down into little steps. Rehauling your entire diet is huge - keeping things in the house for an easy breakfast isn't.

I know it feels frustrating to move so slowly, but allowing yourself enough time to be able to do these things on auto-pilot is the key to not getting overwhelmed.

Remember, it's the tiny actions that make the big achievements.

Stop punishing yourself.

Sleep, food, happiness, rest and leisure are not bargaining chips.

One of the biggest problems with modern self-help culture is that it can encourage the belief that basic things you need to be happy and healthy are rewards for the "hustle".
This can also be a big problem if you grew up in a difficult home environment.

Time looking after yourself, winding down, eating well, and spending time with your loved ones are not things that you should put off until you've worked "hard enough" to warrant enjoying them.
Depriving yourself of these things is a one way ticket to losing momentum and self esteem. 

You're worth being treated with love and respect right now, even if you haven't met your own standards. 

You can be firm with yourself without beating yourself up or depriving yourself of things that make you happy and healthy.

You wouldn't punish your car for having a flat tyre by not putting fuel in its tank, so don't treat yourself like that either.

Find a helper.

There's an old adage that says that you are the average of the people you spend the most time around. I think that to a certain extent, it's true.

We take on the values, attitudes, and moods of the people we surround ourselves with, and every community has different behaviours and traits that it rewards.

Make sure the communities that you're in, and the people you're around encourage and nurture your growth as an independent, healthy, and happy person.

Look for equal relationships with peers, not just teachers, people to give you a leg up, or parent substitutes. 

Look for mentors who have been on similar paths to yours.

Look to professionals who specialise in the issues that you're having and excel in guiding people as they achieve for themselves. 

Be wary of professionals who make their living off of people being reliant on them.

A good professional for personal growth is one that wants you to stop seeing them, because you've outgrown the need for their help.

If you're in Newcastle, the Central Coast, or the Hunter Region, we have a range of counselling and support services that specialise in helping people get unstuck and heading in the direction they want to be heading. 

We don't have any secrets you can only unlock with your credit card, we don't have all the answers, and we want to support you as you get the skills you need to stop seeing us.

Would you like to have a chat with someone?

If you're in the Newcastle, Hunter, or Central Coast Areas, we have a number of counsellors that can help.
Book A Counsellor Today
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