BY ERIN EWART
Yesterday I got stuck.
Not physically stuck, but mentally and emotionally stuck. I felt like I had so many things competing for my attention that I couldn’t decide what to focus on. I am wrestling with a few big decisions right now, and I was feeling completely stressed about what to do next and where I should be spending my time and energy.
And so it hit me. As I sat at my desk, toggling between my to do list and my email inbox and the many, many open tabs in my browser (yes, I am one of those people), I felt the tightness of panic rise in my chest. I was paralyzed. Overwhelmed. Completely stuck. And I knew I had to do something.
So I left. I went for a walk, and then I came back and wrote this post, which I hope will help you when that feeling of stuckness sets in.
Because it will. Sooner or later, it happens to all of us.
Recently someone commented to me that they were impressed by how I was managing all of the transitions that have happened in my life recently, and how I seem to have it all together. And while I’m glad that it appears that way (and for the most part I do feel like I’ve been managing pretty well!), the stress of change has a funny way of dropping in and hitting you when you least expect it. Like yesterday.
So here’s my three step survival guide to stuckness, no matter when or why it pays you a visit:
1. Take a break: go for a walk. Do some yoga. Meditate. Watch a funny video. Listen to a podcast. Look at pictures of your kids or your pets on your phone. Whatever works for you. They key is to completely disassociate from the problem(s) you’re getting stuck on. For me, literally walking away from it is the thing that works best. This step feels so counter intuitive, especially when you are watching the clock and seeing the precious minutes of your day tick by – but believe me, it is critical. You have to break out of the paralysis, even for a few minutes, to make progress.
2. Ask for help: while it can be hard to admit being stuck, getting other peoples’ perspectives can be just what you need to break free. They aren’t caught up in the swirl of indecision that you’re stuck in, and they can see your problem much more objectively. And while you may or may not choose to take their advice, simply talking it out with someone else can often calm you down and get you moving again. Whether it’s scheduling an emergency session with my own coach, tapping into the wisdom of peers in my coaching community, or talking it out with my husband or a friend, I find that I usually feel so much better once I have verbalized the issue that’s got me stuck. And if you’re not able to talk with someone right away, writing it out can be just as cathartic (thanks for listening!).
3. Get some perspective: when I get super locked up on a particular decision or problem, I remind myself of the 10/10/10 rule. How will you feel about this issue in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years? Right now it seems so important – but in 10 years will it still be a big deal? Will you even remember the decisions that seem so high stakes right now? Perhaps, but chances are that you won’t. This reframing can help you regain some much needed clarity on what’s most important. The other thing to remember is that no matter how things go, you’ll learn something. So if you make the “wrong” decision, it could lead to an insight or learning that you’ll use to do something even better in the future.
Feeling stuck is the absolute worst. That feeling of knowing you have so much to do, yet not being able to move forward on any of it is enough to make anyone panic. It’s so easy to get caught up in a spiral of indecision and negative thoughts.
We see this a lot with our clients who are job searching and come to us feeling completely overwhelmed. When you’re stressed about finding a new job, everything feels important and urgent, and it can be so hard to know where to begin. Should I focus on networking? Update my resume? Get more active on LinkedIn?
That’s why we are so focused on breaking the job search process down into steps and providing a clear structure, to help our clients overcome the overwhelmingness and regain their momentum.
If you’re feeling stuck, I hope the steps above help break you free and start to take action. Even if you’re still not sure if it’s the “right” thing to do. Even if it feels like a very small step. The key is to key moving again.
As for me, do I have it all figured out? Not yet. But I do feel less stuck, and ready to move forward and regain that positive momentum. I hope you do too!
If you’re feeling stuck in your job search, we’re here for you! Hop on in and join us for our next Job Search Bootcamp. Let’s make progress together!