As with anything understanding a rut can help us, deal with it more effectively.
What causes ruts?
Ruts are normal. Human beings experience them. No one is always perfectly on point, even though, we all wish we were. There are numerous causes to being in a bad headspace. Sometimes it has to do with the basics like sleep and hydration not being taken care of. And sometimes, it is a game that we lost, that tips us off, or a fight with a loved one. This may sound funny, but the weather can play a huge roll, as well hormones. We are incredibly complex beings, and everything that we are exposed to has an effect on us, therefore also everything we are exposed to might cause a rut. Sometimes a rut is caused by overwhelm. We have a lot to do and start avoiding it, which ends up getting us into a rut.
Our mindset in and of itself, will (most likely) not cause a rut, but if we tend to think negatively we are more prone to ruts and if we tend to overdo the positive thinking, we might overwhelm ourselves causing a rut as well.
How do ruts make us feel and act?
To be clear: A rut is NOT depression. While we can feel a little “depressed” when we are in a rut, this is still very different from actually being depressed. If you feel as if your rut is more than just a rut and seems to be more like an actual depression, seek professional help!
How a rut makes us feel depends on the person. Feelings of sadness, a lack of motivation, constantly being annoyed or very irritable are quite usual. It is also common to engage in some form of avoidance. I personally tend to sleep in and play Age of Empires all day long. We do tend to reach for our addiction of choice when we are avoiding. It helps to explicitly know that in order to be able to counteract it. We might also feel worthless, lazy and ugly.
How to get out of a rut?
I am sorry, I do not have a magic pill to cure a rut. Getting out of a rut can feel like very hard work. And there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I would even argue, that getting out of a rut, heavily depends on the cause of the rut.
Do a refresh/reset
Sometimes all it takes is a little change. This can be achieved a number of different ways. I would advice to try, what feels right for you in any given moment:
- Change your environment -move furniture, change decorations-
- Wear different clothes
- Have a new experience
- Try getting into a different mindset
- change up your routine
Remember the Goal/Make a plan
This is very closely related to a mindset refresh and it is highly effective. Remember who we want to be. Reevaluate our lives. Set a plan for the next 3 months. Maybe make a new habit tracker. But remember where we want to be going.
Sometimes, we just need to take a little action. I am not talking about moving mountains. I am talking about taking a shower, taking out the trash or writing the first paragraph of that essay that we have been putting off. Make a plan. But do not stop there, take action on the first item!
This is a skill that is actually taught in DBT. It suggests that we do the exact opposite of what we feel like doing. That way, we conquer our inner demons and actually make meaningful progress. And therefore we end up with a positive memory.
This is probably the most important of them all. Because ruts tend to make us feel worthless, it is very easy to be down on ourselves. And that will only get us down even more. Always remember that regret is only fruitful, if we manage to improve in the future. It is merely detrimental, if we use regret to self-loath. Try to assess your emotions rationally. They probably have some sort of reason. And they are valid. The trick is to not give power to sadness and self-loathing. Which is a lot easier said then done, but nevertheless, maybe there is something, that would make us feel better, and no matter if the emotion “makes perfect sense ” or not, we should definitely do the thing that makes us feel better. Sometimes taking a break is the only right course of action.
This is especially effective, if part of why we are in a rut is that we feel overwhelmed. Learn to take your to do list one step at a time. Learn to prioritize. Understand that it is never big deeds that make us as a person. It is the small daily things that we do. They compound over time and turn us into the person we are. One run, does not make me an athlete. Nor does one glass of wine make me an alcoholic.
Ruts are part of being human. They suck. But they are not the end of our lives. Taking a break, taking care of the basics, refreshing and tackling our to-do lists one piece at a time are incredibly powerful tools in handling a rut. And always remember: Our value as a person, does not depend on our emotion, nor on our current level of energy or on how good we think we are. Our value as a person is intrinsic. That means no matter what we do, or how we feel, we are still incredibly valuable