Feeling stuck is frustrating.
In my late thirties, I began having panic attacks. Through serious introspection and the expertise of a wise friend, I discovered I was grieving the loss of my father. The strange part was he that had been dead for over two decades.
“Weird,” I thought.
My dad was my world and my only functioning parent. He dropped dead in front of me. Here one moment, gone the next. What 15-year-old can process that?
My grief went underground. I became an academic workaholic, and then carried that over into my career. I drove myself mercilessly. The performance treadmill never stopped. I could never do enough or be enough.
I was dying inside. I was stuck.
Finally, my heart and body said, "Enough!" The fear, frustration, and confusion of my teen-self came spewing out.
We like moving forward. When we feel stuck, trapped, or hindered, all kinds of emotional distress sets in.
Grief is sneaky. It affects us more than we realize.
When you're feeling stuck (in grief or in life), here are seven tips that can help.
Acknowledge where you're at.
Be honest with yourself. Be real about what’s happening inside you.
"I'm stuck. I’m discouraged, tired, and frustrated." Say it. Talk out loud - in the car, bathroom, or wherever you can. Let yourself hear it in your own voice. Write it out in a journal. Draw or paint it. Begin to get it out.
Get around people who encourage and inspire you.
Avoid (or at least limit your exposure to) critical, negative, and unhelpful people. Place yourself in the path of hope-giving, hope-inspiring individuals and groups.
Research indicates that we become a composite of the five people we're around the most. If you surround yourself with healthy, safe people, the ripple effects over time will be huge.
Expose yourself to hopeful messages.
Read encouraging books. Watch uplifting media. Listen to hope-saturated podcasts. Now is not the time to be surrounded by negative messages, discouraging news, and traumatic images.
What you feed your mind matters. Deeply.
Exercise, if you're not already.
Exercise is massively important. If you’re currently exercising, change it up. Working out boosts the immune system and aids in handling anxiety. It greatly affects your emotional outlook.
Get moving. Stay moving. Invest in your physical health and it will trickle down to your mind, heart, and soul.
To heal, you must process your pain and grief, but you can't live there all the time.
At some point, your heart must shift from what you've lost to what you still have. What are you thankful for? List things that are good. Make this a daily pattern. Over time, this can have a massive impact.
Shake up your routine.
When loss hits, life changes. To maintain some sense of control, we turn obsessive about keeping things the same. When stuck, however, more of the same is not what's called for.
Plan to do your days differently and see what happens. Eat breakfast for dinner. Go out when you wouldn’t normally do so. Try something new. Be creative.
Consult a safe person who knows grief.
To get unstuck, you need some safe people who know grief well. Therapists, grief counselors, ministers, or trusted friends and family might fill this role.
Safe people don't try to fix you. They listen. They enter your grief and pain with you. It's not so much what they say, but their stable, compassionate presence that will help you heal.
“Stuck” is a bump in the road.
If you're stuck, be encouraged. We've all been there and most likely will be again. Instead of evaluating and judging, imagine if we treated one another with the compassion and care that all of us want and need?
"Stuck" is a bump in the road. It might seem like Mount Everest right now, but with a few changes and good people in the mix, you will scale this mountain.
Own up to where you are. Get around people who encourage you. Expose your heart to positive messages. Exercise. Cultivate gratitude. Shake up your routine. Consult someone safe who is familiar with grief and pain.
Invest in yourself. You're worth it. The world needs you.
Award-winning author, speaker, and grief specialist Gary Roe is a compassionate and trusted voice in grief-recovery who has been bringing comfort, hope, encouragement, and healing to hurting, wounded hearts for more than 30 years. Grab his free eBook, I Miss You: A Holiday Survival Kit, or download a free excerpt of Surviving the Holidays Without You. For more information, visit www.garyroe.com