Feeling Stuck? Do Things Differently!

Brian M. Murray, MS, IMH

Feeling stuck in life can bring about unsettling emotions and negative thinking. It can create questions in the mind about life, career, family and a whole host of other thinking patterns that can lead to major changes. Often the source of frustration for feeling stuck isn't so much about the position someone finds themselves as it is about how they think about how they see themselves in their current situation. This negative thinking pattern over time can lead into other issues such as low self-esteem, self-worth, depression and anxiety. To head this off at the pass before it gets to that level and therapy is needed to reverse course there are a few things a person can do to help get directed back into a positive mindset.

Watch out for and filter internal self dialogue that has a critical voice saying something that leads to thinking "I'm not good enough and I'm incompetent." This can lead to feelings of guilt and shame which has an underlying tone  that translates into "I am doing something wrong, or I am a bad person." This is language of negative thinking and when it goes on for too long it becomes a habit. Just like any other habit, the longer it is done the more reinforced it becomes.

Now the good news. Getting into a negative thinking pattern is something that is learned and when something is learned it can be relearned. It  is like learning bad math and going through life with the understanding that 3 plus 2 equals 6 can be frustrating. The idea is to learn new ways of doing things by replacing the old ways with new ways with something more realistic.  Many years ago Alcoholics Anonymous figured this out and they use a common phrase saying "watch out for your stinking thinking." They know that thinking despairing thoughts leads to distress and unhealthy coping mechanisms. So how does someone get into a more healthy and realistic frame of mind? Here are a few things that can help lead to change.

  • Be a self role model. If there is something that you do not like about yourself then acting more like the person you want to be can be a good starting point. This can be real or imagined, envision what this might look like and work toward that vision.
  • Take inventory of your posture. The way a person walks, talks, sits and stands can make a difference in how they feel about themselves. Using a confident posture can help a person feel more confident about who they are and their purpose in life.
  • No matter how small or big an achievement do some self rewarding. Feeling good and celebrating achievements helps reinforce something that was done that is good and puts things in a more positive light.
  • Recognize and accept your strengths. Be thankful for compliments and at times give some out to others. Sometimes a helpful way can be to write compliments down or thank you cards and put them into a file. If feeling negative a good technique for lifting mood in the future is to pull out that file and read a few of the notes tucked away. 
  • Changing language to reflect motivation. Changing internal motivational language goes from "I will try" to "I will." Trying can influence self doubt about the ability to achieve something and leaves an easy out. Motivational language reflects determination and a positive attitude about how "I can do it and I will do it."

When feeling stuck take a look at the bigger picture and think about how there may be other ways of doing things. This list is not exhaustive and being creative on how to get unstuck goes a long way. Step outside of yourself and see how you would see yourself if you were another person. What would that person say to you? What would you say to another person if they were having the same experience?


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