Are there parts of your life that you know aren’t working? Does the thought of making changes leave you feeling overwhelmed, scared, confused, uncertain or depressed? When these uncomfortable feelings prevent us from taking action and moving forward we become stuck.
What is stuck-ness
Stuck-ness comes from a nagging, uncomfortable feeling that something “is wrong”, followed by fear and worry. This causes indecisiveness that prevents us from taking action. So it’s a bit like having the accelerator and the brake on at the same time. We have a strong desire to move forward and make progress whilst also feeling held back by some very real concerns. Feeling hesitant, indecisive or anxious keeps us in this gridlock. We avoid making decisions to temporarily relieve anxiety. We might try and talk ourselves into believing there isn’t a problem, or that things aren’t really that bad. This undermines our reality and creates self-doubt, which ultimately keeps the cycle going.
How we get stuck
Midlife offers its own unique challenges and responsibilities. We find ourselves managing a home, parenting children, looking after ageing parents, meeting career goals, paying a mortgage, etc. It can feel debilitating having to consider so many factors when making decisions. This makes it difficult to feel clear and confident in changing things up at this life stage.
Creating change can feel like giving up what is comfortable and familiar, in exchange for uncertainty, which can be extremely anxiety-provoking and distressing. So even when we recognise that things aren’t working – sleeping in separate rooms from our partner, burnt out at work, crippling debt, ailing health – it’s tempting to leave things as they are. We relegate them to the “too hard basket”. Inevitably though, the same issues resurface. The cycle repeats and we get stuck in a loop of avoidance and immobility.
Tips for moving forward
1. Acknowledge how you’re feeling
Recognising what we’re feeling, without judgement or criticism, helps us recognise what we need to move forward. It’s a big important first step. Start by check in with yourself. What am I experiencing? How is that making me feel?
Paying attention to the things that aren’t working in our life can be uncomfortable and confusing – why aren’t I happy in my marriage? why am I drinking every night? And your mind might rather look away then stare these things in the eye. So it can be helpful to turn to the body for feedback. Mindfulness practices can help us become better at recognising our feelings through observing our body’s reactions and sensations. These internal signals and messages give us reliable feedback about our feelings, even when our mind would rather not go there.
Journalling, or unfiltered writing, can also give us access to our deeply held feelings. It provides an opportunity to have an honest chat with ourselves. We might identify sources of stress and discover our truth. We can reflect on the things we’re thinking and feeling, and come away with greater perspective and clarity.
2. Use self-care as a self-management strategy
Effective self-care helps us regulate our emotions, stabilise our mood, reduce health risks and manage stress. When we are in a constant state of fight, flight or freeze we have poor resilience, we are more reactive and we’re less able to take risks. We are more likely to stick with the safe, familiar options that don’t add to our anxiety.
Reduce stress by making time to nourish your mind, body and soul. Make time for physical activity, adequate sleep, healthy eating, creativity, listening to music, yoga etc. When we achieve more balance and stability, we are better equipped to cope with challenges.
3. Review your personal values
Values are the principles and beliefs we live by. They define who we are, what we want, and why we choose particular courses of action. When we let our values guide our decisions and choices, our life becomes more aligned with what we truly find important, even when stress and anxiety try to get in the way.
When we’re feeling stuck it could be because we’re living a life that doesn’t reflect what matters most to us. Living our values means being the most authentic version of ourself, with less internal conflict. For midlife women, it may feel like a while since you checked in with what really matters to you. And identifying our values helps us realign our life with who we are.
If we don’t know what our own values are, there’s a good chance we’re living by someone else’s. We can feel trapped in a life that doesn’t feel meaningful, satisfying or reflective of our truth.
Not sure what your values are?
Over the course of a week, take a few moments each day to reflect on and write down:
What made me feel good?
What made me feel bad?
What made me feel useful?
What someone else did that I admired?
What someone else did that I disliked?
You may notice some themes and clues here. Identify what specific qualities, beliefs, and standards form the basis of these themes. For example you may notice that you value integrity, courage, generosity, creativity, compassion, love, etc.
Now consider the different domains of your life — including friendship, family, romantic relationships, health, career, education, spirituality, leisure and personal development. And think about the areas that aren’t working well. Are you living your values in these domains? Look to them when faced with both big and small life decisions.
When we know our values, we can consider what a good life looks like, for us. With these solid foundations in place we are able to make decisions with more confidence and clarity. We can create a beautiful future that is built around what matters most, and create a meaningful, satisfying life.
4. Start with small changes
Lots of small steps add up to one big step eventually. Start by asking yourself what you can do to make today a good day. And make sure it aligns with your values. By changing things up and making small changes we introduce novelty back into our lives. Our senses wake up, and we feel more alive when we break with routine. You might start by rearranging your home office, walk a new route, have a formal family dinner, or have dinner without kids
It’s the accumulation of small actions steps that helps us move forward and get un-stuck. One day becomes a week, becomes a month, becomes a year…
5. Stop comparing yourself to others
Comparison is looking outward for something to measure ourselves against. This is how we become disconnected from ourselves.
This is our time to discover what lights us up, what feels important to us, what feels good to us. We can’t find those answers outside ourself. Midlife women find themselves attending to the needs of those around them – kids, parents, partner, boss. We may not be very practiced at turning inward to check in with ourself to see what’s missing and serve our own needs.
During midlife there is a strong desire for life to feel more authentic and more aligned with who we are. When the life we are living conflicts with our fundamental truth, we experience a disconnect from what makes our lives meaningful and fulfilling. If we ignore or hide away from the challenge of change, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow.
A final word
This may feel like your chance to adjust your course in order to live the meaningful, satisfying, healthy life you dream of. It’s important to be thoughtful about the changes you’d like to make and to implement them slowly. You need to feel you have the internal and external resources available to support you through times of major change.
Do you need support
Michelle Seelig is a Midlife Transition Counsellor and Coach. If you need help addressing the issues that are preventing you from getting unstuck and creating positive change book a complimentary Discovery Call over here to discuss your unique needs, or call Michelle on 0414 441 824.
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