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How to Pull Yourself Out of a Work Rut

If you’ve been feeling unhappy in your job for awhile, chances are you might feel stuck in a rut. This is absolutely normal and completely understandable. It’s hard to commit so many of your waking hours to a job that no longer fuels your fire. Longer term, your answer is likely that you need to make a change in your circumstances.  But short term, let’s get you to a better place so you have the energy to make that change.

As you think about how you spend the limited downtown you have, what comes to mind? Social media? The news? Netflix? Reality TV? Sports?  These are normal in our day in age.  But how do extended exposure to these stimuli leave you feeling?  If the answer is anxious, jealous, frustrated, numb, annoyed or any of their cousins, it may be time to introduce a new activity to your downtime.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you should cut these out of your life altogether.  It’s really healthy to engage in an activity that allows you to stop thinking about work (aka- adding variety to your thought process). I do it too. Almost every day, I watch my favorite 30-minute soap opera.  It’s the same soap opera my mom and grandma watched and it’s a guilty pleasure that allows me to just tune out (Brooke and Ridge are getting married again, my emails can wait!). And there are times that I really need it.

But as much as I love my weekday ritual, I also know I need more. When I was stuck in a rut, most of my thoughts were focused on how unhappy I felt, what I was doing wrong, why others were in a better place that I was. As a result of these thoughts, I felt tired, drained, unhappy, some days, miserable. It left me with a short temper. I would shout at the person who proceeded at the four way stop when it wasn’t their turn.  I would find myself getting annoyed with the person at the airport who was taking too long to lay their belongings on the security belt.  I was constantly rushing and feeling behind.  And on the inside, I was full of self-doubt and ennui.  Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Here’s an important cycle to understand. The way we feel and act all originates with the thoughts that we have.

Thought-> Feeling-> Action

If you want to get yourself out of your rut, start by reframing those conscious and unconscious thoughts you are having. For example, instead of thinking about what’s wrong with you, think about the positive contributions you made today. Give yourself credit for sticking with that job that’s paying the bills and supporting you and, perhaps your family as well. Think about all the things you’re grateful for instead of the things that are dragging you down. (Are you healthy? Do you have an education? Do you like the area you live in? The people in your social circle?) When was the last time you sat down to think about all the things you like about yourself and your situation? If you are facing self-doubt too then start learning about it and figuring out the ways of combating self-doubt.

To see an immediate impact, try two small things:

  1. Every morning, for the next seven days, wake up and think about three things you’re grateful for. Do this before you do anything else (hold off on reaching for your cell phone). After seven days, evaluate the impact this has had in your days.
  2. Every time you think a negative thought about yourself, try to reframe and cut yourself some slack. What else might be going on besides the fact that you’re doing something wrong? What would you tell a friend who was thinking these thoughts about themselves? Take some of that good advice and apply it to yourself.

It’s super tempting to just tune out. Do this, but also add some variety by introducing activities that will result in positive thoughts. You’re already in a tough situation so be kind to yourself, my friend. Once you start to feel better, then you’ll have more energy to think about the changes you should make. And then, the world will benefit from all the gifts you have to offer. You got this!

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