The feeling of being stuck is common. I define the term stuck as being at odds with your desired life circumstances. You don’t live up to your expectations for yourself—whether that means in your job, love life, health, and more.
There are some kinds of stuck that, well, don’t stick with you. A short-term kind of stuck. A dip in the road that can be easily overcome. Sometimes you might be having a bad day, week, or month where nothing is going right. An important meeting at work dropped off of your calendar, and you missed it. You were supposed to bring snacks to your kid’s classroom and forgot. The cute dress you planned to wear to your high school reunion is too tight, and you didn’t pack any other options. It can be completely out of your hands, like running into a major car pileup on the highway that causes you to miss a job interview.
None of these scenarios are ideal, but they will not derail you on a permanent basis. The funk quickly passes. You wake up one morning with the answer to a problem that has been bothering you or take a step to get out of a situation that no longer works. After a relatively short amount of time, you resume your intended course once more.
What we’re going to focus on in this book is when stuckness becomes a chronic state of being. You’ve been living with it for a while, and even when you try to shake it off, that feeling of being trapped inevitably comes back. You’ve been in a stuck place for some time and are aware that there’s a problem. But you might not be able to identify the cause specifically, and certainly don’t know where to start when it comes to addressing it.
Not sure if you’re chronically stuck or only stuck in the short term? In my experience, the sensation of being chronically stuck can take many forms:
You’re wading through quicksand.
You want to take a step forward or make a change but feel mired in place. You aren’t really moving anywhere except downward into a spiral of more sand that is determined to wring the life out of you—and there isn’t a spunky protagonist waiting to pull you out or a conveniently placed tree branch for you to grab. You’re sinking down, down, down, and resisting just makes it worse.
It feels like you can’t fully breathe.
That’s because you’ve gotten used to being in a state of fight, flight, or fear so long that you’ve been figuratively or literally holding your breath. You try to let air in, opening your mouth wide in an attempt to breathe deeply. It’s not coming easily, though.
No matter what you do, it feels useless.
Whatever actions you take feel ineffective. It seems as if you’re doomed to repeat mistakes and missteps, never making a dent in the problematic situation. You can relate to the tragic figure of Sisyphus from Greek mythology, cursed for eternity to roll a huge boulder up a hill only to have it come rebounding backward when he approaches the top. It’s a never-ending Groundhog Day of yuck, without the comedic movie patter.
You feel that you’re out of options.
You simply don’t know what to do next, and it’s terrifying. Making a single decision feels like it could have disastrous results. You feel helpless.
This article was written by Shira Miller and originally appeared on Thrive Global.