What to do when you’re stuck in a rut

Caroline Harper
Clinical Lead for Mental Health, Bupa UK
30 January 2020
Next review due January 2023

Have you ever seen the film, Groundhog Day? The main character, played by Bill Murray, keeps waking up and reliving the same day over and over again. Do you ever feel like this – like you’re stuck in a time loop, going through the motions and doing the same thing day in, day out?

If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, it can seem like your days just blur together. In the moment, time may feel like it’s dragging yet before you know it another week, month and year has passed. It happens to all of us at different times in our lives. But here’s the good news – small changes can shake things up and help you reset yourself and get out of this time trap.

Here are seven tips you can try to help put a spring back in your step.

Tip 1: Assess your current routine

The first step is to think about what’s having an impact on your wellbeing. One reason you may be feeling stuck is because you’re running on auto pilot and it’s time to switch up your routine. Have a think about what your typical day or week looks like and if there are ways to give your time more definition. While we’re naturally creatures of habit, you could be feeling stuck because you’re bored.

It’s important to say though, feeling stuck in a rut isn’t the same as being depressed. If you’re worried about your mental health, speak to your GP for help, support and treatment.

Tip 2: Do something new!

When you’re young, all experiences are fresh and exciting. To regain this sense of wonder when you’re older, it’s important to give yourself new experiences.

Making positive new memories is a great way to enrich your life and wellbeing. Plan things to look forward to. When you look back, you’ll remember all the fun and interesting ways you’ve spent your time, full of rich experiences that will motivate you to do more.

Here’s one idea to try:

“I have a pinboard up in my kitchen at home. Every now and then I print off photos from all the trips, days out and holidays I’ve been on. Every time I look at it, it brings a smile to my face and I feel motivated to create more new memories.”

Tip 3: Make time for fun

Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what you do for fun in your life. If you’re feeling stuck, take some time to think about what you enjoy doing – have you stopped doing the things that you used to like? Or are you no longer finding those things fun?

As we go through life our tastes and preferences change – which is exciting. So perhaps it’s time to add some new ideas to your list and try them out. See what’s on in your local community, be a tourist in your home town or city, or plan an escape to the coast or countryside.

It’s also important to do things that you’re good at too – not only will you enjoy them, but they will give your self-esteem and motivation a boost too.

Tip 4: Shake up your routine

This is another small and easy change to make – have something different for lunch or take a new route to work. If you can, see if you can mix up your work environment to give yourself some variety. Work in the office, a café, a collaboration space or from home. Or if you’re firmly office-based, could you hot desk to switch up where and who you sit next to? This can give you opportunities to make some new connections and strike up a conversation with someone new.

Perhaps find out if your company offers flexible working. This is something that certainly helps me. Altering my working hours means I can do something before or after work, which gives variety to my week. Plus, it has the bonus of less commute time which can be spent doing fun things!

At home you could change your pictures round or move the furniture every now and then. You could enjoy wearing some different clothes from your wardrobe. Disrupting the ‘stuck in a rut’ feeling can be done in small and simple ways like this. Sometimes all you might need is to do something relatively small to get the ball rolling.

Tip 5: Expand your horizons

Expand your horizons by learning a new skill or taking up a hobby. Or try out a new restaurant or switch up your running route. Make some changes that will open new doors for you.

It doesn’t have to be a huge change either – here’s an example:

“I get a veg box delivered which contains a medley of fruit and veg that’s a surprise every time. I like this because it encourages me to think differently and learn to cook up new meals. Otherwise I’d probably buy the same ingredients each week and eat the same dinners over and over again!”

Tip 6: Redefine your values

Feeling like you’ve lost a spring in your step could indicate it’s time to re-evaluate what’s important to you – are you living your values? These are what make life meaningful and gives us our sense of purpose. Take some time to think about what’s important to you and how the way you live and work reflects them. This can help you figure out your priorities and make some changes to get you back on course.

Tip 7: Be spontaneous

There’s a saying that goes: “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” So surprise yourself and be spontaneous from time to time. This is a great way to live in the moment, so treat yourself to some new adventures and see where they take you.

And remember, small steps create big change over time.

Mindfulness is a great way to nurture your mental health. Our health insurance allows you to skip GP referral in some cases, and speak straight to a consultant.

Caroline Harper
Caroline Harper
Clinical Lead for Mental Health, Bupa UK

    • How to improve your mental wellbeing. Mind. last reviewed July 2016
    • How to look after your mental health. Mental Health Foundation., accessed 9 January 2020

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