What to Do When You’re Feeling Stuck in Your Own Life
“So, how are you doing?” You open your mouth to answer the question and unexpectedly you start feeling anxious. I’m doing… Ok? Great? Fine? There’s nothing terrible happening in your life, but something just feels wrong. Maybe you feel stuck in a job or in a relationship, maybe you feel that there’s just nothing too exciting waiting around the corner. Is this how it’s gonna be from now on? Or should you take some action? What to do when you don’t know what to do?
This might not be a great relief, but many people have had this at one or another point of their lives, and there are different solutions to the crisis of feeling stuck in your own life.
Stop beating yourself up!
When you’re overcome with this feeling, often you can’t just pinpoint where the problem lies. At times you must think you’re being over-dramatic. Or if you confess your feelings to friends, you might hear the phrase “There are people who have it worse than you”. Try not to let guilt get to you! It will not diminish your feeling of dissatisfaction, except that you will also have guilt on top of it.
Remember that your emotions are valid, even if they don’t seem very grounded. If someone tries to pressure you into feeling better (see the paradox in that?), explain that you weren’t asking to be compared to other people, or maybe not asking for advice at all – you were just sharing your state of mind and you’d appreciate to be taken seriously at this.
This indescribable emotion might be a call for help of your body or your mind, and you need to be paying attention to it.
Define yourself in respect to your surroundings
When you’re feeling lost and you don’t know what to do, it seems hard to focus on yourself. Should you do what’s right for you or should you continue with your responsibilities? Is it just a passing emotion or should you take action? This might be a perfect time to take a few days off and just spend some time with yourself. I don’t mean a spiritual journey – just some rest and a journal.
In fact, that’s a great idea for ‘sorting yourself out’ – write down your thoughts. Maybe it will be a stream of consciousness of how you’re feeling at the moment. Maybe you’ll make a list of things you enjoy and don’t enjoy. I personally found great help in trying to remember and write down the instances when I had experienced happiness. Don’t like writing? Try drawing – for example, therapeutic comics is a new growing technique for people who are trying to get more in touch with themselves.
After a couple of days, try rereading your thoughts. Do you see an area that sparks dissatisfaction? Can you recognize your values and what seems to be important to you? Maybe even show your writings to someone very close to you, who would not judge – they could provide important insights.
“Why do I feel dissatisfied? After all, I have everything I need!” Many people fall into this thinking trap. Psychologists claim that it’s not having that brings the feeling of satisfaction, but doing things. Resuming an active role will make you feel in charge of your life again.
But that’s the terrible truth about feeling stuck: you can’t seem to take a decision, because you’re afraid that you’ll make the wrong choice. So don’t start by burning bridges! There are smaller things to do when you don’t know what to do that might open the door for bigger changes.
- Go to a job interview. You don’t have to quit your old job right away, but shopping for opportunities will increase your confidence – and maybe open some new doors for you.
- Spring cleaning time! This doesn’t sound too exciting, but believe me – throwing out your old stuff and rearranging furniture can stop that feeling of powerlessness and give you some fresh new ideas about what to do with your life.
- Make a short trip somewhere. New surroundings will give you distance to reevaluate your life. Besides, you have to make a lot of decisions while traveling, which will increase your self-confidence.
- Take up a new hobby. Think about something that’s interesting to you, even if it might seem ridiculous, whether it’s ballet classes for grown-ups, online courses on Chinese philosophy or volunteering at the dog shelter.
- Take care of your body. You’ll be surprised how much your health influences your overall perception. And exercising is a great way to take your mind off things.
Reflect before making big changes
It might seem like I’m proposing to go back to the initial indecisiveness. But this time it’s completely different – go to this stage only after performing all the previous steps.
Remember, first we have decided to stop feeling guilty about being dissatisfied. Without guilt you’ll be able to see your situation anew. Then we took some time to focus on introspection. Now you have some insights about your values that you can build on. And then we tried some smaller changes. Maybe all you needed was rest? Maybe tidying up made you feel in charge of your life again?
What to do if the feeling of dissatisfaction is still there? While planning on bigger changes, focus on the end result. Changing the job that doesn’t match your values for a similar job will not do you any good in the long run. Take your time to make an important decision, maybe consult someone you trust (or see a therapist). And when you’re ready, go for it! New challenges await!