When I was younger (but probably old enough to know better) I got stuck on the roof of our house trying to retrieve an errant frisbee I was tossing around with some friends. As I remember it, we had precariously placed a step stool on some cinder blocks in order to just barely gain enough height for someone (me) to do a pull up past the gutter. Having successfully scaled the roof and retrieved the frisbee I realized that getting down was going to be much trickier. I was stuck.

It was not the only time I have been stuck in life, but it was one of the more memorable ones. Luckily, with some ingenuity, patience, and help from my friends I safely returned to the ground.

You’ve likely been stuck too. Often it is a lot easier to get into difficult situations than it is to find your way out of them. Are you in a relationship that started out great but soon devolved into an unhealthy repetition of fighting and disappointment? Did you choose a career path that you are now regretting? Have you been taking (and failing) the same college class for the last 4 semesters? Are you having the same argument with a family member you were having two decades ago? These are just a few examples of how you might be stuck in life too.

Here are a few tips if you find yourself in this situation.

Stop, Look, and Listen

One of the first safety tips you learn in preschool is what to do if you are on fire: Stop, Drop, and Roll. When you are stuck in life you can employ a similar technique: Stop, Look, and Listen. When we first realize we are stuck we sometimes start flailing around wildly. This usually makes things worse. Instead, try this. Stop: identify that you are stuck and try not to panic. Look: look around and try to see what is going on that you might not have been aware of at first. Listen: what messages is your brain telling you and how rational are they?

Ask: What is Really Going On?

Are you “really” stuck in this relationship or are you just afraid of the soul searching it will take to figure it out? Sometimes identifying as “stuck” relieves us of the anxiety we experience at having to figure it out. We are choosing one uncomfortable feeling (stuckness) over another (e.g, fear, worry, sadness). Once you have a better sense of what is really going on you have a better chance at improving your situation.

Think Outside the Box

The practicalities of having a dead-end job you hate versus no job at all are real. I wouldn’t recommend forgoing some level of financial security just because you are unhappy with your work. But, you might not be as stuck as you feel. Thinking outside of the box can help you move forward professionally. Will you get your dream job tomorrow? Probably not. But, taking a class or exploring some part time work might get the ball rolling. It will take some planning, but it might be more doable than you think.

Start Small

Rome wasn’t built in a day. You shouldn’t expect to get unstuck from difficult situations overnight either. Start small. I often tell my patients, “You need a win!” We all need a win here and there to keep our motivation up. Identify a small but achievable task to build off of. Is your room or office filled with junk you no longer need but can’t throw away? Commit to filling one bag or box with things you can either pitch or donate. It may only make a small dent in your space, but it can have a large impact on your feeling encouraged and motivated.

Ask for Help

While some view asking for help as a sign of failure I see it as a sign of strength. Being able to recognize when you could use someone elses talents and skill sets is a skill set in its own right. Help can come in different ways. Perhaps coffee with a friend or a colleague can help jostle you out of your stuckness. If your situation is more serious it might be important to consult with a psychologist, counselor, or some other outside professional resource.

Keep at It

You know that feeling you get when you finally untangle the slinky that got knotted up a day after Christmas? Or untangling the wiry nest of cords behind your TV and entertainment center? Pretty nice feeling, huh? That is what we are shooting for, but it may take some time. Keep that feeling in mind when you are feeling discouraged and like there isn’t a way forward.

Finally – GOOD LUCK!

If you are struggling with feeling stuck and would like to talk please feel free to contact me. My office is located in Southfield, MI with convenient access to the neighboring areas of Farmington, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Detroit, Royal Oak, West Bloomfield and more.