Get Out of Your Workplace Rut

A workplace rut occurs when you hit an impasse at work, or a moment when the “I hate Mondays” syndrome takes over the entire week. Reoccurring feelings man in a rutare always involved, whether it’s boredom, frustration, anxiety, or something else that causes you to feel stuck, indecisive, or ambivalent about your work. And underneath those feelings are unexpressed sadness, anger, and fear.

It’s hard to be operating on all cylinders when you feel dragged down by your emotions and how you are feeling. It’s nearly impossible to be sharp, focused, creative, productive, and effective when your enthusiasm is running on empty and you are preoccupied with persistent negative thoughts that accompany a workplace rut.

To free yourself from this situation, it’s helpful to know that emotions–sadness, anger, and fear–are just pure energy in your body. Look at the word “emotion.” It’s energy (e) in motion. Take some time in private to express those emotions physically, naturally and constructively. By crying to express sadness, punching or yelling into a pillow or stomping around to release the anger, or doing exaggerated shivering for the fear, you express the emotion. The energy dissipates and you won’t feel stuck.

It can seem silly but if you give yourself just a few minutes to move the emotional energy, you can’t help but shift your mood. For example, if you feel anxious about having too much to do, do what a dog does at the vet, and shake like a leaf on a tree. Find a safe place and allow yourself to shiver, quiver, tremble, and shudder for just a couple of minutes. With vigor, wiggle up the back, out the arms, hands, legs, neck, and jaw. Even better is to accompany the physical movements with sounds like “eeekk” or “whooo.” You’ll be amazed at the shift to present time awareness and the increased calmness you will experience.

If you practice emotional hygiene like you do physical hygiene, and as a matter of routine, express any lingering sadness, anger, and fear physically for a few minutes on Sunday night, you will be able to meet your Monday work obligations with more dedication, freshness, and collaboration.

Here are three related strategies to shift the way you view your work and get out of your rut:

1. Do you notice what’s wrong around you more than what’s right? The fix for this type of rut is to recognize that you may have limited control over your situation or environment, but you have total control over how you perceive it. Mentally find something positive about everyone you encounter. Voice an appreciation for your job and co-workers at least three a day. Looking for the good will lift up your attitude.

2. If you feel defeated at work take charge of your life. Start by sleeping, eating, and exercising regularly. This will bring your body back into balance. Reach out and help someone else at work who is struggling. This will give you a sense of mastery and accomplishment. And take at least one small action step each day to nourish yourself, whether it’s asking for help or completing a dreaded task you’ve been avoiding.

3. Feeling judgmental, entitled, and intolerant is another common experience that reinforces the idea that you are in a workplace rut. The fix: accept the way things are. Make a list of everyone and everything at your job you don’t like. Next to each item on your list, write and then repeat 11 times, “The [fill in the blank] is the way it is, not the way I think it should be,” or “My work mate is the way she is, not the way I want her to be.” You will be amazed at how quickly this little exercise will move you from frustration to true acceptance.

Implement some of these strategies and you will change how you relate to your work!

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