Warning: potty humor up ahead!
You've been warned.
I had a running joke with a friend in college. "Life is like poo..." she'd begin.
"...because sometimes, it just really stinks," I'd finish. "Life is like poo..."
"...because sometimes, no matter how hard you push, things just feel stuck," she'd say triumphantly.
We could go on like this for days. Seriously.
But despite our boys-locker-room-humor, there was some truth to our analogies. Sometimes, we really do feel stuck, completely unable to move on or move forward. Maybe we're grappling with a potentially life-changing decision, an annoyingly persistent problem, or a dark cloud that refuses to stop following us around.
And oftentimes, all the pushing and prodding and bootcamp-style yelling we do at ourselves makes us feel even more stuck, because it creates more tension and perpetuates the illusion of even higher stakes.
Those stern words you tell yourself? Are they actually motivating and encouraging you to take the next step, or are they making you feel so crappy that you're starting to doubt your every move? Maybe a bit of both. Maybe only the latter.
Either way, super counterproductive.
So how do we loosen things up enough to move forward? The answer is to focus on moving things around, not forward. Ease up on trying to move in a specific direction for a moment--stop pushing toward an answer, a solution, a different kind of feeling.
Just focus on moving energy around for now, without agenda. Like you're one of those snow globes, or those glitter jars that everyone on Pinterest is making. Just shake things up; the snow or glitter does not need to land in any kind of organized pattern, okay?
Through much trial and error, these are the 3 things I've found most effective for treating Analysis Paralysis, Decision Constipation, and other unpleasant afflictions of stuckness:
1. Do whole body movement.
Move your entire body--all your limbs, all your joints--so you can move things around in your body. You're a human snow globe, remember? Pump your blood quickly through your system, bathe your brain in the influx of fresh oxygen, get that sludge flowin'. Personally, I like to run. There were also the very private moments when I danced like those inflatable waving tube guys in front of car dealerships. For other people, it might be power walking up a hill, speedwalking down the street, doing jumping jacks, or doing a few sun salutations. It doesn't need to be fancy or take a lot of time. Got ten minutes? Good.
2. Get a massage.
This is another tactic that literally gets things (chi, energy, fluids, etc.) moving around, whether in your lymph nodes or through your chakras. Stress is a very physical thing, my friend. It stores tension in your soft tissues and can alter your DNA in a very literal way. It depresses the functioning of your prefrontal cortex--probably one of the reasons why you're having trouble making a decision. Get stress's grimy little fingerprints outta your system by getting a bodyworker's/masseuse's fingerprints on ya. (Not in a dirty way!) All joking aside, when stress triggers my insomnia, getting a massage is oftentimes the only thing that can "reboot" my system so I can sleep again.
3. Take yourself to unfamiliar places.
Going into novel environments--a different country, an unfamiliar part of town, a store you've never been to--challenges your brain and body to get creative. You're forced to adjust to new sensory experiences, a new vibe or mood, and unfamiliar situations. You also have to be fully present and listen to your gut because you haven't formed those habits yet that put you in autopilot. When we're going to the same old places all the time, we go on autopilot: we know which way to go, which dog is going to bark at us through the fence, whether it's safe or not, and we stop paying attention to the reality of our surroundings and to our intuition. Reality check + Intuition/self-awareness = Clarity!
Everybody and every body is different. Let me know: what strategies help you get unstuck?
If you haven't found your magic combination yet, don't fret. Don't be afraid of trial and error. And no matter what, have trust. Trust that the answer will come, the decision will come, the shift will come, so long as you make space for it, and keep your mind and body limber. It may come in the form of an epiphany, or it may come quietly, in the form of a small action that you only notice you're taking in retrospect.