Getting Unstuck: Work Through Fear and Change Your Life

Im Free

“When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.” ~Eckhart Tolle

We’ve all been there. Feeling stuck is very distressing, and it can often make a situation feel even more difficult than it already appears to be.

Many of us may have felt trapped in a job, a relationship, a place; any unfavourable situation, really, that we see little way out of can leave us feeling deeply discouraged.

The uncertainty of it all becomes overwhelming and, over time, paralyzing.

I have felt the frustration, the sadness, and the hopelessness that accompany this predicament many times.

In fact, I’ve lived most of my life feeling stuck in one thing or another—a volatile family situation, unhealthy relationships, various jobs. For a long time, I rarely made proactive decisions about anything.

I had a number of distractions I used to try to avoid thinking about it. I drank heavily, took drugs, took trips, took on other people’s problems, overworked, over-exercised, over-sexed, under-slept, worried constantly, and generally avoided thinking about the specifics of what I needed out of life, a job, or a relationship.

Opportunities and endings did flow through my life, as they inevitably will, but they were seldom based on what I wanted.

After a while, negativity and worry used up much of my energy. I was diagnosed with cancer at twenty-six, and started to have other major physical ailments, not to mention regular nightmares. I knew I had to make changes.

I started with my diet, something that I felt was within my control. I gained a lot of knowledge about food, health, and lifestyle very quickly and just soaked it all up.

I also learned a lot more about our inner emotional lives and about taking responsibility for my feelings, my actions, and my words.

I started practicing meditation and continued to deepen my yoga practice with a new awareness of my mental and emotional environment. I’m now able to observe my thoughts and am quick to see how my thought patterns change when I feel stuck.

Those negative, self-defeating, fearful thoughts come creeping back into my mind, whispering to me that I don’t have any other choice.

The depressed feelings and anxiousness come quickly too, and I often start to wonder, if I’d done something differently in the past, would I be here now? I tell myself that only if a certain event happens in the future will I be able to make a change.

Dwelling on the past and obsessing about the future is a surefire way to stay stuck.

I now know that I need to be careful not to qualify decisions based on imagined future events happening or not happening, and not to make decisions out of fear. Sometimes doing what is best for you means facing those fears head on.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I told myself I’d only take time off work if I started to feel really physically ill. I was afraid I’d face financial difficulties if I took a leave. I didn’t give myself nearly enough space to process the emotional effects, and I didn't give my physical body the time to rest that it was clearly telling me it needed.

I got very ill with a string of severe infections in the two years following my recovery because I never proactively made a decision to take care of myself.

When I start bargaining with myself, I know I’ve given away my power. I’m no longer listening to my intuition or connecting with what’s really best for my well-being.

I’ve realized that the only way to get unstuck is to detach from the outcome of our decisions and the fears about things not working out, and instead focus solely on what exactly we want and need. In this way, the uncertainty can lead to opportunity.

There are a few things I did make proactive decisions about over the last ten years—like pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies, moving to Australia, and committing to building a more healthy lifestyle—that have turned out better than I could’ve imagined.

It has become more and more clear that the decisions I make from now on need to be based on my true desires, not my fears.

I now recognize that I’ve kept myself in unhealthy situations mainly because I didn’t have the tools to help myself.

When I’m having trouble getting unstuck, I use some of these small actions that can be helpful in creating space to move through and out of the undesirable situation:

Take time.

One of the most difficult things about feeling stuck is that you want to fix it right away. This urge to control the situation really doesn’t help solve the problem.

If you’re having trouble moving out of a bad situation naturally, you’ll need time to process all the feelings that will come up as you move toward a new phase of your life. Let it happen and enjoy it as much as you can. The best approach you can take in this situation is to trust that things will improve over time.

Don’t wait for this-or-that to happen.

This is a big one. If you’re always waiting for something else to happen before you act, you won’t make proactive decisions in a way that’s in line with what you want. 

Stop thinking about it.

I like to practice meditation and yoga, read a good book, or take a nap. The trick is to not think about the issue actively, but just take some time to enjoy where you are now.

Obsessive thinking can do far more harm than good and never actually causes any change. Once you start feeling more present, you’ll take less joy in feeding the mental drama around the situation and naturally be less willing to put up with negativity it brings.

Get some perspective.

Taking a short (or longer) time away can break emotional ties in a big way and allow you to see things in a different way. You may also be motivated to make change as you recognize how much better you feel when you’re out of the environment where you feel stuck.

Get healthy.

Focus on yourself. Make your physical, mental, and emotional health your biggest priority. Once I started letting go of all the stress I’d been holding onto for so long, I was truly shocked by how great I could feel. I knew I wanted to pursue that amazing feeling.

The key here is really to figure out what works for you to help you get unstuck. That may be chatting with one of your friends, taking a weekend out of town, or walking by the water. Then do it as much as you need to until you feel better.

Don’t lose sight of what’s important to you. And if you’re not sure what’s important to you, make finding out a priority.

I am still stuck, as I write this, in an unsatisfactory situation. I’m far from being able to completely avoid feeling trapped by certain situations I’ve gotten myself into, but I am committed to the personal values I’ve uncovered within myself, and I’m working hard to build the life I want. I also don’t let depressive and self-defeating thoughts take over at these times.

Over time, you will learn to move past jobs, people, and places that don’t work for you more quickly and with ease.

In the meantime, it always helps to remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can, as fast as you can. When you’re finally able to let go of your fears and be proactive about your decisions, you will find that life is yours again, to be shaped and lived in any way you like.

Photo by Rob Lee

About Chantal Houde

Chantal Houde has an ingrained curiosity that drives her to explore life to its fullest. A certified yoga instructor, she is passionate about travel, wellness, and the natural world. Chantal is also a writer, a reiki practitioner, and a raw food creator. Learn more about Chantal and follow her adventures on her wellness travel blog, Travel With Celery.

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  • Elizabeth

    Absolutely needed to read this today. Thank you for sharing!

  • Talya Price

    Great article. It speaks to me now with all the creative upheavals that I have been going through in the past week.

  • lv2terp

    Great post! Wonderful tips to ponder, thank you for sharing this msg! I love when you said..”the only way to get unstuck is to detach from the outcome of our
    decisions and the fears about things not working out…..”

  • Brian Friedman

    Excellent post. It continues to amaze me just how much other people struggle with anxiety and getting stuck in places. Amazing how “common” it is. I guess we are all just human 🙂 Thank you for this great article.

  • Sheri Nevill-Carbin

    What if you’re stuck in inactivity? What if not thinking about it has become avoidance behaviour?

  • Darcy Meek

    A very good article and one which I needed to read right now. Thank you.

  • Chantal Ashley

    You’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it Darcy.

  • Chantal Ashley

    Hi Sheri. Getting some perspective by taking time away from the situation, as I’ve suggested above, will help you work through the challenge by giving you that extra space you need to start to take action. I think that inactivity is still related to fear and by moving away from the situation you’ll be able to show yourself that everything is still o.k when you distance yourself form an unhealthy job, relationship or situation.

  • Chantal Ashley

    Thanks Brian. I think more people than we (or they) realize are stuck in certain negative situations. We are indeed all human, and need to keep reminding ourselves of that! It’s important for us to help ourselves and those we love move through these challenges in the most supportive and loving way possible.

  • Chantal Ashley

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Chantal Ashley

    I feel you on that one…being stuck creatively is a new one for me, as I’m launching a new blog. As long as we treat ourselves with love and don’t get caught up in our heads, we’ll be more able to move through these transition periods with ease. Good luck with your creative ventures!

  • Chantal Ashley

    You’re very welcome Elizabeth. Glad the message reached you at the right time.

  • I absolutely love this. Your story brought me to tears. Im positive all of us can relate to being “stuck” and fearful of the uncertainty. I know i have been and i still am sometimes. Its taken me a long time for me to get to a point where negativity doesnt rule my life. If we can get to where we are today after going through hardships we thought we couldn’t overcome, we can do anything. Thank you for your story. Much love.

  • ItsMeD

    Over-Sexed? O.o ? HA HA A

  • Benet McManus

    Hey Chantal, thanks for sharing your post, I too agree that it is all too easy to find yourself stuck and have been in the position watching years slide by without getting to where I wanted to be.

  • Krista

    I love this article! This is exactly what I have been thru. I just quit my dead end job to do a job working from home!

  • Zarak khan

    excellant post very inspirational ,, fell me i am not laone thank u so much dear

  • darren white

    Thank you for such a great post and your tips which i found very helpful
    take care Darren

    ps and once again thankyou tiny Buddha for this great site

  • Lola

    I feel stuck too, but You have inspired me Chantal and I won’t give up. Thank you for sharing your an amazing human being!:)

  • Annie

    I love this post. It gives me light bulb moments. Thank you. So. Much.

  • Dev Arbikshe

    Nice Chantal. But it all boils down to actions, right ?

  • Andy

    Thanks for a awesome post, Chantal. I’ve spent a huge amount of time trying to understand my current thinking and situation. Basically, I’m someone who has enjoyed a healthy and energetic life. A recent serious illness has knocked me down a peg or two and I’m struggling.., alot. Your post was exactly what I needed right now.

  • Patrick Morris

    This post really spoke to me. I’ve never heard of “tiny buddha” or what not, and even though this story is 4 years old, it was the first thing that came up through an “how to get unstuck in life” google search.

    There were a lot of a-ha moments that I could connect and draw similarities with from this person’s experiences and thoughts to my own. While our situations certainly appear to be complete 180s, the reasons people are stuck seem to be similar all over.

    In particular I loved this part: “I had a number of distractions”…paragraph. You turned to drinking, drugs, over-doing certain things. I have not even had drinking/drugs to turn to, I imagine if I’d had them and a friends group I would have. Instead, I’ve turned to obsessively playing games over and over, porn, ignoring family, and “trying to stay stuck”.

    I’m in the beginning of trying to change, but posts like this do help.

  • Patrick Morris

    YESSS. That’s me in a nutshell. My being stuck has caused me to, at 21, be stuck at home, in a messy situation, not in college, not even applied yet, no friends, no job, just wasting away. All due to past situations, PTSD on some levels, and extreme lack of self-confidence or drive.