Caught in a Rut? 4 Tips for Climbing Out (guest post)
There’s a bleak, helpless space between being generally satisfied with your life and being clinically depressed. About one year ago, I entered this space and thought I’d never get out. It’s a terrible position to be in because you can’t really complain about all that much – you have a job that pays the bills and leaves you with enough to enjoy yourself, a partner who meets your emotional needs, and a decent group of friends to fulfill your need for human interaction beyond a romantic relationship. So what was really wrong with the picture? Nothing. Except that my engagement with life had dissipated, and all those things that had previously inspired in me passion and motivation lost their luster. It lasted for months, and I’m convinced this period of ennui would have lasted infinitely longer had I not done something about it. If you’re suffering from a chronic case of the not-quite-depression-but-close-enough, here’s how I climbed out of my rut.
1. If you’re in the hole, but can’t pinpoint anything really wrong in your life, you’re simply in denial about something big that’s bothering you but that you’re afraid of addressing.
Sometimes I’m amazed by how far we’ll go to repress, ignore, and otherwise obscure problems with which we don’t want to deal. But then again, it makes sense. If we admit there’s a problem, we’re also admitting to ourselves that we can take action but out of self-doubt, we simply haven’t. Whether it’s a partner, a job, or something else, spend some time thinking if you’re really satisfied with it. Don’t be afraid to admit that you need to make a big change. Mine was leaving a long-term but unrewarding relationship.
2. Don’t force yourself out of the rut; it doesn’t work.
When I began noticing that my outlook on life had slowly slipped, I was scared. I then did everything I could to get myself out – I tried overhauling my diet, exercising more, attending therapy, meditation, the whole nine yards. While these little things were beneficial in different ways, after trying everything, I was still feeling sunk. Then I stopped obsessing about finding a zillion different “mood-lifting” techniques. Instead, I cut myself a break and told myself that I won’t feel this way forever; it may just take some time.
3. Change your living arrangements.
As mentioned before on Brip Blap, making changes to a structured routine is a terrific way to bring some excitement back. I’m going to take things a step further and suggest changing your environment as drastically as you are reasonably able. When my one bedroom apartment lease came to an end, I seized the chance and moved in with a friend who was looking for a roommate. I think the reason this one move was so effective was not simply that it was a big change. It was merely a matter of association – I had begun to associate my lack of desire with my environment. Once I left that environment, I had a completely new backdrop with which to engage a new mental orientation. If you can’t completely move to another place, consider the advantages of rearranging furniture or switching up rooms.
4. Chip away at a meaningful project without putting too much pressure on yourself.
I’m not talking about the grand New Year’s resolutions type of goals. I’m talking about something that requires little effort but lots of time. For me it was finishing Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, the French author’s 4000 page magnum opus. It was a goal that wasn’t life-or-death. If I failed to meet the goal, I wouldn’t have been extremely disappointed in myself. It was just something to fill those spaces of time when we tend to nurse negative thoughts. As luck would have it, In Search of Lost Time also happens to be filled with inspirational wisdom that sticks with you. But taking up any kind of low-impact time-filler with something meaningful, whether it’s putting together one of those 1000 piece puzzles or beating a video game of which you are particularly fond, is a wonderful way to bide your time while the storm passes.
Of course, there isn’t much I’ve covered here that hasn’t, in some way or another, been addressed in self-help books or productivity blogs. But the main take away that I’d like to share with others is this: restoring your once active, positive, and curious mindset isn’t impossible. It’s all about confronting big problems that you’re sitting on, making smaller changes to shake things up a bit, and being as patient as possible. The rut always comes, but if you do something about it, it does eventually pass.
This guest post is contributed by Raine Parker, who writes on the topics of accounting degree. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org.