“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:
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.
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