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Breaking Free from a Rut

Have you ever been in a situation where you've felt mentally stuck? Like you were in a rut and there was no way out?

I've been in ruts. An unfulfilling job, a difficult relationship, poor personal habits. You name it, in just about every aspect of life there's been a time when I've felt stuck. A friend once told me, "A rut is a grave with no end." This sounds pretty morbid – a place where there's no hope. Thankfully, unlike a grave, it is possible to break free from a rut.

Getting out of a rut may not be as easy as calling a tow truck after getting a car stuck in the mud, but it's not impossible either. These important reminders will help you break free if you're feeling held back or mentally stuck.

How do I break out of a mental rut?

First, what we tell ourselves matters. We all talk to ourselves – not necessarily out loud – but we all tell ourselves messages about ourselves. If we tell ourselves we're stuck and there's no way out, well, that's likely to be the outcome. Why? Because our own voice is a voice of command to our subconscious, and we have a tendency to live out our self-image.

Instead of giving in to these feelings and berating ourselves, what are some honest statements we can tell ourselves as encouragement? First, making a realistic assessment of our situation will help. Say we're in a job we no longer find satisfying but don't possess the training, skills, or experience to pursue a career field we're passionate about. Using our self-talk, we could say, "I don't have to settle or give up on my dream. I can get training in a field I'm passionate about."

Note, we don't exaggerate or tell ourselves false positivity, because if we don't believe what we're saying, it probably won't help. And if giving ourselves props seems odd or uncomfortable, think about what we would say to a friend in this situation and treat ourselves with the same respect. This is a good time to remember what the apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:29 (MSG), "Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift."   

What we do is important

When we feel mentally stuck, it's easy to stay there. Why? Because we keep doing the same things. To break free from a rut we need to do something that changes our perspective and our situation. So we need to do something new – something different that addresses our stuck place. For example, if there's a new skill we want to learn, like photography, we can start small by taking at least one picture each day. If we're having the same problems over and over in a particular relationship, we could read an article or a book that teaches positive relationship practices. Or maybe there's a bad habit we're having problems kicking; we could take a class or join a support group that's designed to help us overcome the issue.

To emerge from a rut, we can't wallow in our pain. We must do something. Often this means reaching out for help. Which brings us to another important principle to remember.  

Who we turn to for help makes a difference

Though we often feel alone in our stuck place, we're not alone. We have been created by a God who loves us, is with us, and made us for a purpose. This includes placing passions in our hearts that will delight us and God when we pursue our passions and fulfill our purpose. When we're in a rut we can share our desires and feelings of fear, frustration, and disappointment with God. And we can trust God to provide help when we bring our feelings of being stuck to God.

Maybe a friend overcame a similar situation and can offer encouragement. Confiding in a trusted individual often helps us feel not so alone and offers support and accountability. In some situations, it is good to turn to someone who has training and knowledge to help objectively, such as a mental health professional or a pastor at a local church. There is no shame in asking for help.

Is there ever a time to stop trying?

When we feel like we're stuck, is there ever a time to quit trying to break free? We can take a break, rest, and not beat ourselves up about it. But we should never give up!

Remember, what you say and do matters. Taking even a small step toward our purpose is a good start, and God is always doing something new. What will you do today to get you on your way out of a rut?

Valerie has spent much of her life running. First, running from God, and then from a call to write. She's finally hung up her running shoes to walk with God every day and as she pursues a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. She worships and serves with Everglades Community Church (UMC) in Pembroke Pines, FL.

[Posted March 19, 2019]

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