We all know the feeling of being stuck.  Sometimes, you can’t put your finger on it, but you feel like you can’t go forward and you can’t go backward.  You don’t know what to do.  You feel unfocused, frustrated, uninspired. 

It’s like being in a box and you can’t move.  You can’t even see the world just outside the box.  How do you get out?

The good news is that you aren’t really stuck.  It feels like it – after all, you don’t know what is wrong and you can’t see your way out – but the feeling of being stuck is actually something else.  Something that you can easily change once you recognize what is happening.

Feeling stuck is the nebulous feeling that you have when your life, your circumstances, and your goals are not in alignment with your true self.  You are stopping yourself right where you are so that you can course correct.  You may not understand what is happening, but as long as you recognize the feeling of being stuck and understand that it means you need to re-assess your direction, feeling stuck is not a bad thing.  It is actually a really useful sign to help you live in alignment.

The problem with the stuck feeling is that it is a little like quicksand – the longer you stay in it, the harder it is to see that you can pull yourself out.  But you can.  How?

Start by breathing.  Sit up straight.  Stretch. Do a power pose if you feel so inclined.  Get up and move your body – go out in nature, walk, feel the ocean spray on your cheek. Moving is a powerful way to take up space in the Universe and feel empowered. Breathing deeply and intentionally changes your physiology and brain chemistry. This simplistic answer might seem absurd if you’ve never tried it, but I’m telling you, it works.

This works because feeling stuck – or any negative emotion – can be described as a physical sensation in your body.  Maybe you feel a tightness in your chest, a lump in your throat, or a dull throbbing in your head.  It might be a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, or a heaviness in your limbs.  However you experience it, your brain tries to make sense of this sensation – attributing the feeling to circumstances in your life:

Of course I feel this way, I’m in a dead end job that I hate! Or

This must be caused by the ongoing argument I’m having with my mother – it never ends!

You can’t change the circumstance right now – so you feel like you are stuck with the unpleasant sensation in your body, without relief.  And the longer you stay in this state, the more your brain reinforces this feedback loop as true.

The fastest way to break out of a negative emotion is to pay attention to the sensation of that emotion in your body.  Describe it in detail – location, quality, strength, even hardness, color, or shape.  Focus on it with curiosity and without judgement.  Let it evolve, change, move.  Just keep following it, asking what it is trying to tell you.

Then let it dissolve. Many times, it will go after you’ve paid attention to it.  It is a sign in your body and once you’ve paid attention to that sign, it resolves.  Then get up and move. Often at this point, you’ll be able to hear your own voice and your own wisdom, without the brain chatter overlying it.  The person who knows best what is out of alignment in your life is you – you just need to be able to hear yourself.

Feeling stuck is unpleasant, but now I feel grateful for the feeling because it is guiding me towards my true North.  Once you really feel the feeling, and let it go, you will be able to move towards your true North too.

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Anusha Streubel

about the author

My name is Anusha Streubel, MD, MPH, and I am a certified life coach. I help clients with the more mundane aspects of organizing your life: Time management tools, how to clear the clutter from your mind and your environment, and self-care to create more physical energy.

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Nothing will change in your life until you take the first step.

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