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7 Simple, Free Ways To Escape A Rut & Rediscover Your Motivation

2018 hasn’t been a good year for new beginnings. It hasn’t been a ~new year, new me!~ situation at all. I haven’t hit the ground running. In fact, I’ve been in a bit of a rut.

Life happens sometimes (lol, all the time), and it often gets in the way of your big plans to “Make [insert year] Your Year!” I had a lot of grand plans coming into the new year, but only a few weeks in, it is kind of hard to imagine 2018 being any sort of year other than the one where I spent the first month dealing with family things, working through a bit of financial chaos, falling ill and only very slowly recovering, and overall just wondering what I will do over the next 11 months to enjoy them when right now I feel a bit stuck.

But the thing is, sometimes we get stuck. Life is sticky. Really sticky. And it is hard to get unstuck once you’re there, but there are ways to do it, even if they’re a little strange or unconventional, like smearing peanut butter on the bottom of your shoe to remove the gum you stepped in. I promise it works. And I promise, if you’re stuck in a rut, one of these seven tips will help you get out of it.

1. Give yourself hard social media stop at some point during the day.

It is totally unrealistic (and frankly not fun) to give it up entirely, and no one wants to be that smug person who chuckles and says “I deleted my Facebook months ago!” when you’re telling them about a funny meme you saw. (News flash: no one cares that you deleted Facebook except you.) 

It is totally okay to enjoy and even indulge in social media. I personally spend the better part of my day logged on, partly because I like to see what’s up with everyone on Twitter, but also because it is a part of what I do for work, and the nature of my job has me on the computer a lot. I don’t have any real desire to stop going online, and I don’t think I could even if I wanted to, but I’ve taken to giving myself a hard stop at the end of every workday, and treating social media more like a 9-to-5 than an all-day thing. I know I’ll be back on tomorrow morning at 9 AM sharp so I’ll hardly miss a beat, but giving myself evenings to take a small break from screen time and focus on other things feels like freeing up an extra couple of hours in my day to enjoy the things I don’t get to enjoy during work hours, like cooking or going for walks or seeing my friends and family. This gives you a chance to get out of the internet bubble and put your energy into the things that bring you pleasure that you feel like you never have time to dedicate yourself to. 

2. Spend time outdoors.

If only because you probably need some good old Vitamin D. (It has been a long, cold winter already, and it is truly just getting started.) But also because being outside forces you to do a little more thinking than you have to do when you’re sitting on the couch scrolling through Instagram, and getting your wheels turning might be just the thing you need to get out of the rut and start enjoying and experiencing some of the hidden parts of your life again.

3. Challenge yourself.

A small, fun challenge or goal that exists for the sole purpose of reminding you that you can and will accomplish things in your life is important in moments where you feel like you’re lacking motivation. Although I’ve been going through the motions of my work life and accomplishing what I need to, I needed something new and challenging to remind me that motivation can be found in so many places and in so many different ways. I have taken on a bit of a money challenge, naturally, but an extremely low-pressure one where I’m just trying to see how many no-spend days in a row I can get. I won’t beat myself up when I have days where I need to spend — obviously, I’ll sometimes need to spend, and sometimes want to spend. I’ll just start a new tally the next day, because it is fun to see the progress of getting consecutive no-spend days and appreciate the fact that I was able to enjoy them without throwing any cash away.

4. Do something creative and purposeless.

Something that has made a huge difference for me has been drawing or writing in my sketchbook every day, even if it is just something small, or even if I just doodle a few words or write my to-do list there with a prettier pen than I usually use. Switching up my stale routine by simply tossing my sketchbook into my work bag every day has given me something small to look forward to, and to look back on at the end of each day to see something tangible right in front of my face that I created, even if it just says “buy eggs and milk” in calligraphy.

5. Assign yourself tasks and rewards.

Not even big tasks, or big rewards — just small things you want (or need) to do, and what you can do after you’ve accomplished them. Mine can be as simple as “once you finish folding the laundry and cleaning the bathroom, you can bake banana bread.” Giving myself something to look forward to after the bleak, mundane tasks that contribute to my already-sour mood make them a little easier to get through, and allows me to do something I love after without feeling guilty and like I have something more important I could be doing.

6. Write yourself some lists.

And not just “to-do” lists or “don’t-do” lists, but lists of how you are feeling. It is difficult to quantify and categorize how you may be feeling and why you may be feeling that way, and anything that makes your emotions feel a little bit more digestible and easier to break down will help you to figure out exactly how to formulate a plan of attack that will help you escape the rut. I like to give myself plenty of space on a fresh sheet of notebook paper and list everything that is bothering me, upsetting me, or making me feel uneasy. This can range from “I had a death in my family” to “my countertops are dirty” — no problem is too big or small for this list, because it is all about just trying to wrap your mind around what may be the source of your anxiety.

To follow up, grab another sheet and make the opposite list — a list of your gratitude, and what you’re feeling entirely content with at the moment. The purpose of this isn’t to make you sigh and say “Wow, all the stuff on the sad list isn’t so bad! I’m cured!” but rather to show you the bigger picture of what is going on inside of you emotionally. Being able to see side by side the things that are bugging you and the things that you’re feeling great about helps you to figure out the pieces of your life you may need to give a little extra care to, and the ones that you can let be for a while.

7. Spend time with people who are most important to you.

For you, it could be anyone. For me, it is my family. I have a big family that extends in many different directions, and there are so many of us that it somehow feels like we have the strength in numbers alone to carry us through whatever is making us feel stuck or stressed or broken. Chatting with my mom and dad or laughing with my brother and my cousins or standing on my tiptoes to give my tall-as-hell Pop a giant hug makes life feel temporarily unsticky, which is all I can ask for during times like this.

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

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