5 Ways to Get Yourself Out of a Rut and End 2016 on a High Note


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As told by Jessica Stillman:

Maybe it’s the election, maybe it’s the accumulation of so much bad news this year, maybe it’s just the cooler weather and shorter days, but for whatever reason, I’ve felt in a bit of funk lately. Based on what I’ve been reading and conversations with friends, I know I’m not the only one.

These sort of fallow periods are perhaps necessary, or at least unavoidable. Every once in a while after a tough period we have to step back, reflect, and gather ourselves again. But you eventually have to break out of your rut and get back to attacking your dreams and improving the world . How?

Just as I’ve been reading lots of stories of emotional whiplash and jumpy brains lately, I’ve also been reading thoughtful, useful posts offering advice on how to re-center and re-energize myself to get out of recovery mode and begin to make a difference again. Here’s the combined wisdom of two of them — one by tech veteran Ellen Petry Leanse and one by entrepreneur Justin Jackson .

1. Recommit to healthy habits.

“When we feel down, we want to drink beer, stay up late, and eat junk food; this just makes you feel worse. You can’t control what’s going on in the world, but you can go to bed on time, eat your veggies, and go for a run,” writes Jackson.

Petry Leanse agrees. “Extra sleep, extra quiet, extra checking in with yourself: these are small things that can help a lot. Healthier food , if you can,” she recommends.

2. Get uncomfortable.

Right now you might feel like the only place in the world you want to be is curled under your snuggly comforter, but according to Jackson, when you’re ready to get out of your rut, you also need to get out of this cocoon of comfort. He writes:

The quickest way to get out of a creative rut is to make yourself uncomfortable. This means:

  • Put yourself in new, unfamiliar, situations.
  • Spend time with people you don’t normally hang out with.
  • Take risks. Try new things. Do something unconventional.

Discomfort is like jumper cables for a dead creative battery.

3. Help others.

Often the world has seemed bruising and bleak this year. The best response according to these two is to move in the opposite direction. Be the kindness you wish to see in the world. “Lacking motivation, we turn inward. We try to nurture our creative soul. But self-focus isn’t the answer; outward focus is,” claims Jackson. “Helping others renews your spirit.”

Petry Leanse likewise suggests “even simple acts of kindness — things as easy as being friendly with your barista in the morning coffee line .”

4. Get outside.

“Too often, when I’m in a rut, I’ll force myself to stay at my desk. ‘I’m not going anywhere until I accomplish something,’ I’ll say. It’s like trying to squeeze water from a rock. Leave your desk. Go outside. Take a walk. Lay on the grass. Sit by a river. Breathe,” instructs Jackson. Science agrees with him.

5. Refocus on your goals.

For Jackson, whose personal funk seems mostly creative and professional, this meant a hard look at his career ambitions. “Once I felt my creative energy returning, I took out a piece of paper… On one side I wrote: ‘Here’s where I am now.’ On the other side, I put: ‘This is where I want to be.’ For me, this destination represents a specific revenue goal for my business.

In the middle, I asked: ‘What are three things I need to do to get there?’ ” he reports.

“Re-centering on the gap between where I am, and where I want to be, was motivating. It also helped me to come up with specific actions I could take,” he adds.

For Petry Leanse, who seems more shaken up on a spiritual level in the wake of the presidential election, this type of refocusing is more centered on her personal goals, and her advice is broader: “Take a step closer to the person you aspire to be.”

Has 2016 left you feeling in a bit of a funk? How do you plan to break out of it?

Jessica Stillman, “5 Ways to Get Yourself Out of a Rut” Inc.com, November 29, 2016. Accessed via: http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/5-ways-to-get-yourself-out-of-a-rut.html