Being Stuck in a Rut

Being Stuck in a Rut

A lot of us can unfortunately relate to being in a rut. However, it is not healthy! We talk to two highly qualified and respected coaches in NYC - Dr Carolyn AlRoy, Psy.D, Psychologist & Performance Coach and Nikki Goldman, Certified Executive Coach and leadership advisor.

These two highly knowledgeable and experienced professionals are passionate about you and your loved one’s mental state, and want you to be motivated in a way so you can move forward. By bringing light to the negative effects of being in a rut, including addiction, lack of motivation, and negative emotions,

Dr. AlRoy, and Nikki break down how to detect and what to think of, or do, when stuck.


Common symptoms of being stuck in a rut / how do you know you are in a rut?

Dr. AlRoy starts by explaining that “while being in a rut is not an official clinical term, it is a very real dilemma that most people eventually find themselves in. Sometimes…called an early or mid life crisis, sometimes… ‘living a small life’ or ‘stuck in a routine’” and Nikki highlights that being in a rut can be explained by the “lack of motivation to raise the bar or achieve”

Dr. AlRoy also highlights that usually it -

  • Occurs to us when it has been going on for a very long time

  • Triggered by fear of failure, or fear of success - or just fear in general

    • Sometimes this is labeled anxiety, [which is] a symptom, but anxiety is not necessarily present

“Some people self isolate, watch a too much of Netflix, or go on Facebook to the exclusion of having a social life”, says Dr. AlRoy

You know you are in a rut when you…

  • Dream of a life that you don't have

  • Excessively jealous of other people

  • Find yourself gossiping

  • Bitter

  • Just plain bored

  • Not being challenged sufficiently

Nikki points out, you may be in a rut when you…

  • Wake up with the feeling of dread

    • That feeling of dread is a really hard one to kick and it usually compounds over time. It manifests itself in behaviors of complacency

  • You know what you should be doing but you have no motivation or will to get yourself there

It is when your life doesn’t fit you anymore, like a piece of clothing that you outgrew.
— Dr. AlRoy, Psy.D

Certain personalities are not more likely to be stuck in a rut than others

Some personalities may seem like they are used to being in a rut and ‘okay’ with it, or perhaps their personalities are not as adventurous. Nonetheless, it is not normal in any case, and one should always take this feeling as a sign to wake up and reorganize their life.

However, easily hidden, can be the personalities that “may seem to be okay with being in a rut” says Dr. AlRoy. “Very fearful and risk averse people may see doing nothing as their safest alternative…It is not, it can lead to lots of other problems, and even symptoms such as anxiety and depression”.

“People who are prone to conflict as an ongoing lifestyle may have a kind of ‘exciting’ rut where their life doesn’t move forward, but it gives them the excitement they need” Dr. AlRoy highlights. (aka they are used to the conflict..not okay)

People in addiction often use [it] not to be present.

There can be -

  • Alcohol addictions

  • Drug addictions (and yes, marijuana can be very addictive too)

  • Tobacco addictions

  • Extreme levels of caffeine

  • Food addictions

  • Sex addiction

  • Gaming addiction

  • Gambling addiction 

“Addiction is growing in the U.S.”

Nikki offers a complimentary perspective highlighting “certainly, there are personalities where the pace of work makes a big difference” However, Nikki does not “think there is a predisposition to being in a rut. Maybe someone who operates at a faster pace and is used to barreling through things, might notice they are in a rut sooner and might take action more quickly than someone else” 

Anyone can get into a rut, no matter what their personality is. What matters is how we act once we’ve noticed it.
— Nikki Goldman, Executive Coach

Tools of getting out of a rut

Nikki suggests:

  • Coaching - the most transformational. Working with an Executive Coach or a Life Coach can help you feel unstuck

    • Doing it intentionally like that will also help you to identify blind spots so that while redesigning your life you are able to do so with heightened self-awareness

  • Accountability Partner - if coaching is out of your budget, I recommend finding an accountability partner. Someone who you trust and you feel you can create a safe space with and work with them to set monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

Dr AlRoy also has the following to say about coaches and also suggest:

  • Social workers and psychologists, or anyone who is a trained therapist

    • On a whole, psychiatrists are trained to medicate these days, not to learn the life skills to live a good life without medication

    • If you are in a rut and miserable, [with] no idea of how to go forward, I recommend:

      • A good experienced and well trained therapist - who is continually honing their craft - not easy to find

      • The relationship [with your therapist] is much more integral to success

      • There are also clinics and other low cost options

    • If you are in a rut and miserable and are pretty sure that you have an addiction, I recommend going to a conveniently located twelve step meeting.

  • Journaling first thing in the morning can help

    • This is usually better to do in longhand than typing on a computer.

    • Studies show that you process the information differently in longhand.

  • Self help books - a staring point to learn about anxiety, depression, addiction (a lot of people without training are claiming to be experts, I would be discerning)

All of these suggestions assume that a rut does not mean severe depression or life threatening psychiatric issues.  Get help immediately if that is the case. 

Credit: Gina Lombardo Media | ‘baby’ ring : Aaryah Jewelry

Credit: Gina Lombardo Media | ‘baby’ ring : Aaryah Jewelry

Thoughts and tools to have to prevent the likeness falling back into a rut:

Nikki says:

  • Being intentional - When we’re in a rut we feel that we’re just ‘going through the motions’ and not really having an impact at all. Being intentional about our purpose and what we’re trying to achieve will give us a roadmap to avoid that feeling of being stuck.

If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you expect to get there?
— Nikki Goldman, Executive Coach

Dr. AlRoy promotes the holistic, long term, and widely adapted practice of meditation for both dealing when in a ‘rut’ and preventing filing back into one.

If you can meditate twice a day for 20 minutes a day (easier said than done)
— Dr. AlRoy, Psy.D

“You can at least calm yourself down.

Meditation has 3 basic steps -

  1. Sowing your body down with slow deep breaths

  2. Identifying areas of comfort and discomfort in your body

  3. Slowing your mind down with a mantra, and additional quiet time”

The biggest concern about anxiety and fear is that it can prevent you from trying new things that may or may not work.  Or it can push you into doing too many things that go nowhere.  Anxious people can benefit from ongoing meditation.

FOMO (fear of missing out), FOBO (fear of the best option) or FODA (fear of doing anything) can contribute or elevate the feeling of being in a rut?

Both Dr. AlRoy and Nikki believe that FOMO, FOBO, and FODA are fear based / more anxiety creeping in, and not a lack or motivation or direction.

Dr. AlRoy highlights “clinically, fear of success accounts for being in a rut where you don't move forward in work, or in your personal life”.

Stronger versions of being in a rut and how to address to avoid mental health problems

Yes, they can be intense enough to be that risky. Dr. AlRoy highlights a nice poem by Dante:

"Midway upon the journey of our life

I found myself within a forest dark, 

For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”

With almost two decades of professional experience, Dr. AlRoy recommends psychotherapy for the symptom of depression. 

“A good therapist with years of experience, whom you like, who is interested in helping you to start to understand where you came from, where you are, and where you want to go, then you are in a good place.  In my experience, it is usually a big crisis that brings people in - they are usually very unhappy.” Dr. AlRoy highlights.

Nikki also recommends “talking to a therapist or coach to help work through this”, since “everyone is different” and it “is really tough to answer” this in a once size fits all manner, and “without context”.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

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