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3 Common Reasons for Feeling 'Stuck' (and what to try instead)

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Are you feeling ‘stuck’ in your life? Or perhaps someone you care about has been struggling? Human brains are complex & we live in a complex world. So it’s not surprising we may find ourselves ‘stuck’ in emotional distress or unhelpful behaviour patterns at some point.

Here are 3 common reasons for people feeling ‘stuck’, & some ideas for change;

1. Avoidance Behaviours: We all like to avoid pain & discomfort. It’s a natural instinct that our ‘primitive’ brain engages in. However, with emotional pain & discomfort, the way out is through. Emotions, including the unpleasant ones, serve an important purpose. Not only can we not avoid unpleasant emotions, we actually need them.

Common ways people avoid distress include:

  • D&A abuse

  • Self harm

  • Isolating

  • Disordered eating patterns

These behaviours may reduce distress in the short-term, but they end up making things worse in the long-term. Most importantly, if we engage in avoidance behaviours repeatedly, our tolerance to distress actually goes down.

This means that life feels more & more difficult. Often avoidance behaviours will escalate in frequency & severity, making things worse & worse.

Try This Instead: Changing frequent avoidance behaviours can be HARD! Getting professional help can make a huge difference & also provide some accountability for change.

Try to have a regular routine of checking in with your emotions & encouraging yourself to feel them. For example:

  • Journalling

  • Meditation/ mindfulness

  • Talking to a trusted person

  • Mindful walk/ movement

  • Any regular way to ask yourself, ‘How am I feeling?’ & then to allow & accept those feelings to be present for awhile.

Feelings want to be felt… that’s why we have them! Feelings pass when we feel then:)

2. Cognitive Distortions: When we are feeling ‘stuck’ we may be stuck in a range of cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are thoughts & beliefs that are not entirely factual & can add to emotional distress.

Common cognitive distortions include:

  • Black & white thinking (extremes)

  • Jumping to conclusions (mind reading)

  • Personalisation (eg. it’s all my fault)

  • Should-ing (things have to be a certain way)

  • Mental filter (focusing on negative & ignoring positive)

  • Generalisation (eg. things will never get better)

  • Comparison (feeling less worthy than others)

  • Catastrophising (overestimating the likelihood of bad things happening)

  • Labelling (self & others)

Cognitive distortions are often due to early life experiences & messages we’ve picked up along the way. Conditions such as anxiety often entail cognitive distortions that contribute to high levels of distress & hopelessness.

Try This Instead: Check the facts. Notice what beliefs you might be holding, & check them against objective facts. Can you actually prove the belief? If it’s more of a ‘feeling’ than provable fact, it’s probably a cognitive distortion.

Challenge yourself with questions like:

  • Is there clear evidence that proves this belief?

  • Is there another possible viewpoint or explanation?

  • What would I say to a friend if they were believing this?

3. Going It Alone: Trying to unravel & understand all our thoughts, feelings & behaviours is a big ask when we are stuck in them!!! This is why even therapists have therapists!

If we only talk to ourselves about our problems, we might find we become even more confused. It’s not a weakness or a failing if we can’t solve all our problems alone- it’s simply that many problems are complex & benefit from different perspectives.

Having an objective, caring person to help us unravel things can be very helpful at getting unstuck.

The other benefit of having a trusted confidant are that they can help us feel accepted & reduce judgement about our experiences. Feeling difficult feelings in a safe space is a key part of healing.

Try This Instead:

Many people find friends & family can be great supports, however investing in a therapist can be beneficial in the following ways:

  • Objective advice

  • Professional standards

  • Expert knowledge in helping people get ‘unstuck’

  • You don’t have to worry about ‘burdening’ them with problems

  • It’s all about you! You don’t need to worry about talking too much about yourself!

  • They can provide skills & strategies for positive change

If you identify with any of these issues, don’t suffer alone!!! Humans are social creatures- people need people, especially when times are tough. Reach out for help:)

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1 Comment

What a brilliant account of being “stuck” ! I havent heard of cognitive distortions before this ! I will share this with anyone of my clients or family members ( hahaha ) who are willing to grow which this encapsulates. Great resource Alex thank you for helping the world become a safer place

10/10 from Mrs Connolly !

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