How to get out of a rut fast11 min read
The couch is escapable. I promise. In this post, I will show you not only how to extricate yourself from the couch but to do more of the things that make you happy and less of the things that make you unhappy.
The rut is beatable. Let’s beat it.
Step #1 is to identify the rut.
1. Identify the rut
a. Realize you are in a rut
If you are reading this, you are most likely in a rut. If you are not in a rut right now, you know what a rut feels like and want to avoid it in the future. If you have never been in a rut and expect to never be in a rut, number one, why are you reading this? And, number two, please text me, because who are you?
Often, for me, the rut is sneaky. Three or four days of not exercising in a row, followed by two take-outs, a quick three-hour video game session, packaged into 48 hours of not leaving my apartment, and, before I know it, I feel anxious and disappointed in myself, and I don’t know why. It feels like I am tired but have too much energy at the same time. What is that feeling?
The rut. It’s the rut.
How can we fight what we can’t identify? We can’t. One of the most helpful things I’ve been doing this past year, this quarantine year, as the rut more easily rears its head during isolation (for me), is identify the rut.
Oh, I feel like crap. When did that happen? I’ve been sitting here for a while, haven’t I? Am I a bad person? Am I lazy? Is this feeling who I am as a person? No. I am just a person having these feelings. That’s a key differentiator. Remember, you are probably not lazy, you are probably not a bad person, you may be a human feeling lazy, a human feeling like a bad person. Again, you are not a bad person.
So, we are in a rut, but we realized it! Look! You chopped off one of the arms of the evil rut monster! That’s step one complete.
But the rut monster still kicks, and it’s got 19 arms, look it has a soda in one hand, and it’s starting an episode of New Girl with another hand, quick! Kill it!
b. Don’t be hard on yourself
Remember, the rut isn’t you. You are just in a rut, in the feeling of a rut. And, because everything in life is constantly changing, this too shall pass. You will escape this rut at some point, even without my amazing interventions (coming up).
You may be stuck in this rut for the next second, minute, day, week, month, or even year. It might stay around that long. Or, maybe, it will go away in the next second. I’m not sure when it will go away for you. I promise you one thing. However, it will get better. It gets better. Now, this rut feeling, probably sucks. I’ve been there, wanting to do nothing, feeling like nothing. It sucks. Please know, it will get better. But, right now, it sucks. You are in a rut. You feel like shit. And guess what, that’s ok!
Sometimes we get down, but, guess what, we get back up. We get better. It just feels like it’s never going to happen.
Often, even with my amazing techniques, I get right back in that rut. But that’s ok, I know I’m in the rut, I know I can get out, I know what to do. Now I am going to show you what I do.
The first step? Identifying that evil bugger.
c. Find out where the rut hides
Is it on your couch? Is it on Instagram? Is it at the bottom of that bag of potato chips?
Now that I have identified that I am in a rut, I want to find out where it came from.
I pay attention to what makes me feel especially junky. Specifically, my rut monster is on my couch, on my phone, scrolling through Instagram, in my PJ’s, after not having not left the house or exercised once today with the Xbox loaded on the television. THAT is my rut monster. However, my major malfunction, the one thing that I have identified that makes me feel the worst is:
Staying stationary, alone, and inside.
That is my rut monster. I like my alone time, but at a certain point, I need some human interaction. Maybe that’s a chat with my parents or seeing my brother’s dog, but I need some social interaction. I feel like this is generalizable. Maybe there is a small % of the human population that doesn’t need any human interaction whatsoever, but I think, every human needs some social interaction. We just do. We are social beings. Evolutionarily who got ahead, the person that stayed alone in the corner of the cave? Or the person who joined a tribe of 30+ people that could team up and hunt a mammoth or have some people forage while others hunted. The tribe person, she survived.
No, now social interaction compounded with staying still and being inside? Well, that’s the rut monster’s happy day.
I’ve unearthed it though, I’ve revealed the rut for all of its ugliness. Now it’s time to fight it.
2. Get out of the rut
a. Physically GET OUT OF THE RUT
Is your desk where the rut lives?
Get up and get out. It’s amazing how many feelings and comfort zones are attached to the physical space we are in. Get up!
For the rest of the day, avoid that spot. Seriously, STAY AWAY. That is the rut monster’s home base advantage. We want to take that away from it. Sometimes, for me, that space is my bed. I have to go to my bed at some point, right? Yes. Then the rule is the only acceptable time for me to go back to bed today is when I am absolutely ready for bed. That means lights out. No phone, no computer, no reading, just sleep. And that is the only exception. If my rut zone is the couch? Stay away. The desk? Stay away. The spot on my kitchen counter that is most likely dented by my butt because I lean against it and look at the open fridge with no real purpose? Stay away.
So, I am up. I am away from my rut zone. What’s next?
b. Do a non-rut thing
You know what a non-rut thing is.
Exercising, going outside, talking to a loved one, playing with a pet, cleaning up your place, did I say exercising or going outside yet?
And, I am beating a dead horse here, but hard exercise will get you out of a rut. No, if/and/buts about it, really. If I do some hard exercise and breathe heavily, I will feel better afterward. It should be uncomfortable for me to go home and sit on the couch in the clothes I just worked out in because they are stickily sweaty.
I’ve been in this rut space so many times, especially over quarantine, that I actually created a recipe to make me feel better. Here is that recipe.
How to rapidly smash out of a rut:
- Get up from wherever you are
- Change into outside clothes, preferably exercise clothes
- Drink a tall glass of cold water
- Go outside and stay outside for atleast 20 minutes, preferably in the sun
That’s it. That usually fixes it for me. When I go outside, at a minimum, I am walking with no phone, no headphones, and just being outside for 20 minutes. At a maximum, I am doing an hour run, followed by an hour hot yoga class, followed by a cold shower, followed by a liter of cold water and tasty food, followed by a 30-minute meditation session (try and not feel better after that combo, I dare you). Things that fall in between for me: going on a walk with a friend, going on a short run, lifting at the gym, or sitting in the park reading.
c. Congratulate yourself for getting out of the rut
You got up from the couch. You went outside, you did something good for yourself. Feel good. Actually notice how much better you feel. Stop and think about how you feel. Is your mind less fuzzy? Do you feel happier? Do things smell better? Could you jump up and down and smile a little just for the heck of it?
Remember that you were in a rut, and you got out of it. Remember that. Because that will make the activation energy so much less the next time, you are in a rut. You’ve solved this problem before. You can solve it again. It’s like in math class. If you just learned fractions, the first test is a doozy. One divided by three equals… There is a repeating? What is a repeating? Repeating what? Repeating numbers? Repeating dots? Repeating repeating?
But, if they gave you that same test again, the next week, you would be confused because it would be excessively easy! Why would they give you the same subject test again? You will get a 100% on that test because you’ve seen the problems before and know how to answer them.
You’ve seen the rut monster before, and now you know how to kill it.
3. Stay out of the rut
You did it! Don’t you feel better? I know I do when I get out of the rut, now what did I learn? The couch, candy, excessive caffeine, TV, video games, being a hermit, getting no sunshine all make me feel junky. I am a rut-fighting master now. 3-hours of TV in a row, hmm, that feels pretty rutty to me. I’m going to stay away from that. It’s raining, so I must stay inside and talk to no one. Uh-oh, look! The rut monster! It’s creeping out from under the couch. Oh wait, I forgot I’m a champion rut hunter, SMACK. Umbrellas are amazing things.
So, really, it’s simple. Identify the rut and then get out of it.
We are going to take this one day at a time. We aren’t planning our week, our month, our year, our life. That’s way way way too hard.
Take it one day at a time. You did amazingly today. What are the rut monsters you can fight off tomorrow? If you know me, you know I plan my days in the calendar by blocking out time the week before. To fight off the ruts, I will look at that plan and avoid the rut traps.
Here are some things I will plan/tell myself:
“Hmm, I will probably be at home for a long amount of time here. How about, when I get bored studying, instead of laying on the ground looking at my iPad, I just walk around my block once, that’s it, once.”
“I have comfy clothing and cushy shoes all laid out for my walk. And my iPad? Oh, I left it on all night, so it has no power. I can’t even access it if I charged it because I had my friends set a screen time password for the bad apps.”
“At 6 pm, I signed up, I paid, for an exercise class. One of my friends is going too. I can’t miss out on that. I would be bailing on my friend and throwing money away.”
Take it one day at a time. Soon enough, your rut monster will be a cute little rut bunny. Occasionally this rut bunny will get brave. It will think it can take you on, but, really, it’s just a bunny. You know that. Can cute little bunnies hurt anyone? Probably not. You can just put that rut bunny back in the cage and be awesome.
8 No-nos for avoiding the rut-zone, when you feel like you are in a rut, do not:
- Start an episode of TV
- Take a nap
- Pull out your phone
- Lay down, ANYWHERE
- Play video games
- Put on headphones
- Stay inside
- Stay inside your head* (instead: talk to someone else, call someone, interact with another human)
*Staying inside your head can be a good thing, meditation, body scans, identifying and labeling the feelings you are having but not personalizing those thoughts, the thoughts are not you, you are just a person having those thoughts (does that make sense?); all good things. What is not good: worrying about tasks you have to do, obsessing over mistakes you made earlier, wondering why you feel so bad. Those are not good things to stay inside your head for
11 do-dos (hehe) for busting out of the rut-zone
- Go for a run
- Lift weights at the gym
- Do an exercise class (I like yoga)
- Walk alone outside for 20 minutes
- Call a family member just to talk about their day
- Call a friend just to talk about their day
- Walk outside with a friend
- Walk outside and make friends with a dog, or human
- Read a book (outside)
- Play a sport (outside)
- Go for a swim (outside and safely)
- identify the rut
- PHYSICALLY get out of the rut
- Plan the next day so you stay out of the rut; avoid your rut triggers
So kill that rut monster, and be awesome, because really, you are awesome.