Do you ever feel trapped in a pattern of thinking that just causes you to spiral into a state of panic? Maybe you can’t move on from a mistake you made or wish you could take back something you said. Perhaps you’re caught up in comparisons or guilt-ridden and ashamed of who you are.
Regardless of how messy your situation might feel, how deep and dark that black hole you’re in might be, you have the power to get out and find the light again. Here are six ways to get “unstuck.”
1. Recognize how often (and with who) you’re talking about a specific problem
“Just don’t think about it” is not helpful advice. Sometimes, our brains are wired and conditioned to dwell on certain issues as a learned behavior or coping mechanism, which takes time and continuous effort to break. However, once you’ve done your healthy amount of venting and advice-seeking, try your best to stop talking about it, actively choosing to move forward.
Another important habit to recognize is the tendency to talk to multiple people — especially those who don’t necessarily understand you and your unique struggles. For instance, because I struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I have the tendency to ask for reassurance from a million different people, which only ever causes strong cognitive dissonance and a sense of shame that leaves me even more confused and depleted.
Now, when I’m in the midst of an irrational spiral, I know to confide only in people who approach the situation with patience and empathy. Talk to those who make you feel good, not like like you’re “crazy,” weak, or a burden — I promise you, you’re not any of those things.
2. Practice grounding techniques
Grounding techniques are great for people with a history of trauma or other mental health issues, helping them manage their emotions and triggers. However, the techniques we often read about can seem impossible to practice when you’re in the depths of an intense spiral. If moving your body is too much for you right now, and breathing exercises make you feel like jumping out of your skin, find some middle ground instead.
First, assess your energy levels. Is your anxiety too high for you to sit still? Blast your favorite music and dance around your living room. Are you too exhausted from battling your brain all day? Take a warm shower and treat it as a form of meditating, really paying attention to the water on your skin and the smell of your shampoo.
Too “emotionally numb” to do either of those things — or anything, really? Listen to your body. I mean really listen to it. Let yourself sleep it off or cry it out or indulge in your favorite latte. Giving your body what it’s asking for is an often-overlooked form of self-care.
3. Journal about your feelings without judgement
Journaling can be incredibly healing, and it doesn’t have to be a perfect process. Open a notebook to a blank page or create a new document on your computer or phone and let your heart speak through your fingers. Let it all out without worrying about grammar or punctuation, without second-guessing your words or judging your thoughts. Let it out as if it’s a sigh of relief.
The point of journaling is not to organize your thoughts into a published blog post like this one. No one has to read the finished product — not even you. Use it as an outlet to release your emotions without having to worry about someone else’s response to them. And remember: just because you write something doesn’t make it true. It doesn’t mean you really believe the things you wrote down, or that they represent you in any way. They’re simply fleeting thoughts that are weighing on your conscience. Letting them go will give you more clarity and help you identify patterns and the root of your obsessive thinking.
To wrap up your journaling session, I suggest ending with affirmations that will empower you. Some examples include:
- I accept myself just as I am.
- I am worthy of unconditional love.
- I forgive myself for my mistakes.
- It is safe for me to move on from my past.
- I am exactly where I need to be.
4. Clean your space
When my mind is a mess, the least I can do is make sure my space is not. This might look like decluttering my desk, vacuuming my apartment, mopping my kitchen floor, scrubbing my shower, organizing my closet, etc.
Start small. Shuffle your favorite playlist (this is my go-to when I need to chill tf out, hence the title), choose one task that won’t require much effort, like wiping down your counter, and go from there. You might be surprised at how much you’re able to get done.
5. Get back into a routine
Routines are important because they help you stay present and take one moment or task at a time. The consistency and structure also improves your focus and gives you a sense of purpose.
I don’t know about you, but I live for my routines. Every morning, I wake up to a freshly brewed pot of coffee (if possible, prepare your coffee the night before and set it to brew right before your alarm goes off), read or journal, do some yoga and stretching, then hit the path behind my apartment for a 5k. This not only excites me, giving me a reason to hop out of bed and start the day, it also makes me feel as though I’ve already achieved something before I’ve even started work, which helps me be more productive and less concerned about what I need to do later in the day.
Find routines that work for you, preferably a morning and night routine, so you’re starting and ending your day with intention. For the mornings, I recommend choosing one thing you’re passionate about (like painting, writing or even listening to your favorite podcast) and one thing that gets your body moving (stretching, walking, jogging, dancing, etc.) Before bed, prep for the next morning (get that coffee scheduled to brew!) and declutter your space; and again, choose something you enjoy (but make sure it’s relaxing, like reading or drawing) and something that helps your brain unwind (meditating, listening to soundscapes, etc.)
6. Sit in the discomfort of being human
You’re not perfect. The sooner you accept that and love yourself as you are in this very moment, regardless of your shortcomings or wrongdoings or whatever else your mind is ridiculing you for, the sooner you will be able to move forward.
A lot of the time, we assume everyone around us is perfect. We’re the only one with this issue, the only person who made this mistake or struggles with that phobia. But you never truly know what someone else is enduring, the words they wish they could take back, the actions they’re not proud of, the patterns they’re trying to unlearn.
Imperfections aren’t always pretty. Sometimes they look like lashing out at loved ones, picking arguments when you’re in a bad mood, projecting your insecurities onto innocent friends, getting defensive at the slightest bit of criticism, feeling jealous and bitter. The important part of growing, however, is shedding these leaves without letting them hold you back from reaching your full potential.
You might not be perfect — but you are human. And that’s a beautiful thing to be.