Feeling Stuck? Find Out Why by Asking This Question

I’ve been stuck too many times to count. My favorite time being stuck was that time I got locked inside a pizza parlor with dozens of uneaten, freshly baked pies.

Ok, sorry. That was just a dream. If only every time I felt stuck was as fun as having a readily accessible pizza buffet…

Let’s be real, though. I feel stuck all the time. We all feel stuck at one point or another. No matter if you only feel stuck occasionally, or if it’s a regular occurrence, we all reach that point. That point where we’re unsure what to do, or (in the case of creatives) we’re unsure what to create.

Feeling Stuck? Find Out Why by Asking This Question.jpg

If you’re feeling this way, ask yourself this:

Am I bored, or am I overwhelmed?

I was recently reading a blog post by Avery Walts that listed 5 Ways to Get Out of a Writing Rut. As I sat there scrolling through the post, it occurred to me that every single time I’ve felt like I’m in a rut, it’s for one of these two reasons: I’m bored, or I’m overwhelmed.

Whenever I’ve needed to pull myself out of a rut, I need to determine which of these two things is the cause. Otherwise, I don’t know which tools in my kit to use and I end up avoiding my boredom or fear by daydreaming about pizza instead.

Ahem. Moving on. I’ll try not to get carried away with the pizza talk.

You’ll know when you’re bored if…

  • Everything feels like routine. Not in a comfortable way - more like in a way where each day passes in a blur. Every day is an indistinguishable blob.

  • You’re restless. When you sit down to do a task, you’re fidgety. You lack focus. You can’t stop thinking about pizza. You fall victim to Shiny Object Syndrome.

  • You’re frustrated and/or anxious. This one actually rings true for me whether I’m bored or overwhelmed. When I’m bored, the frustration stems from a perpetual rebellious urge to do anything but what I’m supposed to be doing.

  • You have feelings of your life needing to be better, or different. Without some sort of forward movement or progress, the anxiety goblins come out and convince me I’m wasting my time. It’s fun. You should invite the anxiety goblins to your parties, too… they’re a little neurotic, but they make up for it by always bringing pizza.

You’ll know when you’re overwhelmed if…

  • You have no idea where to start. You have a great idea, but it’s not fully formed. You don’t know what the next course of action would be.

  • You have a negative inner monologue that sounds a little like this: “There are too many things to do… I’ll never achieve them all… why even try?”

  • You’re frustrated and/or anxious. When my frustration or anxiety is stemming from being overwhelmed, I tend to beat myself up. It’s not pretty.

  • You’ve been loitering on the Domino’s website for an hour and you still can’t decide which toppings to get on your pizza. Okay, what I really mean by this is… there’s too many choices and you can’t pick. It applies to non-pizza related decisions, too. I swear.

So, what can I do if I’m bored?

Here are some things that have worked for me in the past. I’ve slayed more anxiety goblins than I can count.

  • Start learning a new skill, and apply it to your work. Learning new things and being able to put the new skills to test right away will inject a little more excitement into the usual routine.

  • Join a community or a group. Talk with like-minded people about your topic or career, and soak up the inspiring energy.

  • Take a challenge. There are countless challenges on the internet, designed to get yourself outside of that comfort zone. Here’s a great 31-day challenge for Building a Better Blog, for example.

What if I’m overwhelmed?

Start by ordering a pizza (try my favorite combo of sausage, pepperoni, spinach and tomato, if you’re indecisive). Then try the things below that have helped me in managing my stress:

  • Find a system that works for you. For me, this means defining my goals, and then breaking it down into small, manageable daily tasks.

  • Don’t stress about the big picture. Focus only on the next step. If this means getting out one sentence on the page, do it.

  • Take a step back. Breathe. Relax. Sometimes stepping away from the work is all it takes to come back with a clear head. If you’re overwhelmed, you’re probably a little burnt out, too. Time away never hurt anyone.

So, what do you think?

Do you agree, or do you have a different way of handling the feeling of being stuck? Do you also really want a slice of pizza now?

Let me know in the comments below.