A massive container ship stuck in the Suez Canal has finally been freed, but perhaps you can relate to the feeling of being stuck. Read on to discover five common causes of stuckness and five solid strategies to get you unstuck, none of which require dredging or tugboats.
1. Cause: sleep deprivation. When you’re sleepy, your desire to sleep competes with your desire to do everything else. Therefore your feeling of stuckness may in fact be sleepiness. Treatment: Find a comfy sofa (or a sandbank) and settle in for a wee nap. When you wake up, watch this brief TED Talk featuring sleep expert Matthew Walker for tips to help you set the stage for a better night's rest. 2. Cause: inertia. If you spend hours and hours sitting motionless in front of assorted screens, your body will interpret your inactivity as a danger signal, and will begin to power down. Powering down feels a lot like stuckness. Treatment: The only cure for inertia is motion. Get up and go for a walk, preferably outdoors. And if you want to power back up with a surge of energy, get your heart pumping. Sweat sends a powerful signal to get unstuck to both mind and body. I’ve found that a 5km run in little circles around my kitchen with the musical encouragement of Lizzo often nudges me out of stuckness, but it also tends to nudge me into dizziness. 3. Cause: your social biome has become unhealthy. Your social biome is the ecosystem of relationships and interactions that shapes your emotional, psychological, and physical health. Just as antibiotics damage the gut microbiome, the pandemic has disturbed everyone’s social biome. Researcher Jeffrey Hall from the University of Kansas has studied social behavior and discovered that people with the healthiest social biome:
have 2/3 of their interactions with people closest to them
have 2.5 times as many meaningful conversations as people with unhealthy social biomes
express affection or concern for others in over 90 percent of their interactions
Treatment: Nourish your social biome and remedy your stuckness by reaching out to someone close to you and expressing your affection for them in words or actions. Cause: You’ve drifted away from your purpose into a sandbank of meaninglessness. Emily Esfahani Smith has written the book on meaning (The Power of Meaning) that she describes as resting on the following four pillars: 1. Belonging - having relationships where you feel valued for who you are 2. Purpose - a goal that is important to you 3. Transcendence - a connection to something bigger than yourself 4. Storytelling - the story you tell yourself about yourself Treatment: Take Emily’s quiz to find out which pillar you lean on most to find meaning in life, and work to repair it (see #5 below to help repair your pillar). 5. Cause: idiosyncratic. Something unique to you is making you stuck that only you can cure. Treatment: Get some emotional distance by thinking of someone wise whom you admire. Get a blank sheet of paper, imagine yourself as this wise person, and begin writing with this phrase: “To get unstuck you should...” This technique is known as self-distancing and has been shown to work in a variety of sticky situations. For example, if you find yourself stuck in a negative thought loop, take a step back and think of yourself from the point of view of a wise and objective observer, then talk to yourself (silently!) from this perspective to get unstuck. If you've tried everything and still can't unstick yourself, consider therapy so that stuckness doesn't become depression. After Ever Given was dislodged, "Put it Back" trended on Twitter, proving that sometimes we can become attached to our stuckness...
Links to help you get unstuck:
Are you dreaming too big? The Atlantic
The U.S. Is Opening Up. For the Anxious, That Comes With a Cost. The New York Times
The Truth about Brains Feel Better Live More podcast
Searching for Lasting Happiness BBC Radio 4 interview
Eric and the Bees Vimeo
Wishing you smooth sailing, Lynne