Real Stories

How to Get Out of a Mental and Emotional Rut

I recently graduated from college, and I have never experienced a time in my life in which I’ve felt so utterly lost and confused. For the last four years, I’ve been so focused on getting through school that I didn’t spend too much time thinking about my future. Now that I’ve graduated, I’m struggling to map out a path for my life. I don’t know exactly where I want to live or exactly what I want to do. As you can imagine, this awkward transitional phase in my life has sent me into somewhat of a funk.

When you feel frozen and stuck in your life, whether because of a period of transition or merely a time of personal struggle, it can be difficult to get your life together. It’s far too easy to lose any sense of purpose and direction and spiral out of control mentally and emotionally. Depression and anxiety unfortunately often accompany this unhappy state. That is why it is essential to look after oneself when in a funk.

When I find myself in these kinds of mental and emotional ruts, I find that there are certain things that help me to get back on track. Although these things can often seem difficult when you feel down and exhausted, it’s essential to do your part to extricate yourself from your seemingly all-consuming misery. So here are some tips for how to cheer yourself up and get back on track when you feel stuck in a rut.

Make your bed and do the dishes.

This is absolutely imperative. When you’re in a rut, it’s very likely that you’ll lose all motivation to keep things in order and will let your house turn into a pigsty. This isn’t good for your mental health. You absolutely will feel better if your house is tidy and looks aesthetically pleasing. Like minimalists say, a cluttered home equals a cluttered mind. If your home is neat and orderly, you’ll feel significantly more motivated.

Put some makeup on and wear jewelry.

It’s so important to look after yourself even when you feel like vegging out and staying in your sweatpants all day. Every now and then it’s great to put your hair up in a messy bun and stay in loungewear all day, but if you do this too often, you can begin to feel like an unmotivated hobo. Even if it’s Saturday and you don’t have plans and aren’t leaving the house, still get ready and make yourself presentable. It will build your confidence.

Listen to some upbeat music.

When you’re in this state, you might be tempted to put on some sad music. By all means, don’t listen to Daughter. It may seem like a good idea to revert to your angsty teenage self, but it never really is. Put on some happy and energizing music that feeds your soul. I created a playlist of songs that make me feel more like myself, and I find that it’s really helpful when I’m down. My go-to artists are indie band Tow’rs and electronic artist FAVELA. Not only does their music make me happy, but their lyrics speak to my soul.

Look after your body.

When you’re down, it’s easy to neglect your health, but this is the time when you should be making an extra effort to look after yourself. Exercise, even if it’s just going on the treadmill for fifteen minutes. Eat fruits and vegetables. Make healthy smoothies. Don’t skip meals. Don’t neglect your skincare routine. All of these things will make you feel at least a little bit better. Don’t punish yourself by neglecting your body.

Calm down.

If you’re in a rut, you likely feel pretty stressed. Make sure to do things that are calming and get those cortisol levels down. Take a relaxing bath. Listen to some nature sounds. Drink some herbal tea. Read a book. Watch funny YouTube videos (I one hundred percent recommend Lewis Capaldi interviews). Remind yourself that the world isn’t ending and that you don’t have to have everything figured out right now.

Go to bed early and get up early.

This is important. It’s essential to establish a regular routine when you’re in a funk. When you’re already feeling down, it’s pretty darn depressing to wake up really late. You get less done and you feel like half the day is wasted. Create a nighttime and morning routine that you actually enjoy so that your sleep patterns don’t go haywire. Having a routine is so helpful.

Make a to-do list.

I find bullet journaling to be extremely helpful, as it’s essential to have some sort of goals for the day ahead. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself with a bunch of tasks you know you won’t have the energy to do. Just make sure you have something to do. There is always something that needs to be done, even if it’s just the laundry or the dishes. Track your productivity and reward yourself for completing even small tasks.

Write about your feelings.

Keep a journal. Write about everything you’re feeling and experiencing. It’s not only cathartic, but it may help you make better sense of your feelings. There are some things that are difficult to tell people or are harder to put into words verbally, so journaling is a great way to get your feelings out and to look after your mental health. Writing is especially useful if you’re tired of bottling up your feelings but don’t currently feel like you have someone you can confide in about certain things.

Talk to someone.

When you’re in this state, your natural tendency is most likely to isolate yourself. Don’t do this. Talk to someone you can trust. If you don’t currently feel like you have anyone you can really confide in, then talk to a counselor. Don’t try to go it alone. Yes, you may be strong, but true strength is being able to lean on other people. No one is meant to live life alone. Just let someone know how you’re feeling and what you’re going through. Find people who not only listen but also encourage. We all need a kind push every now and then.

Speak positively to yourself.

If you’re a normal human being, chances are you’ve developed some unhealthy thought patterns and ways of speaking to yourself. It’s important to regularly reevaluate your thought patterns and your ways of relating to yourself. For such a long time I thought it was normal to be excessively pessimistic about my life and relentlessly hard on myself, but I’ve recently realized that positive thoughts and words really do have power. Try to change your inner dialogue. Silence the harsh inner critic.

Get out of the house.

You may feel tempted to go into hermit mode, but this is by no means beneficial. Force yourself to get out of the house, even if it’s just to buy chocolate from the supermarket or to go to a cafe for half an hour. Try to meet up with friends if you can. Spending time in nature is also extremely beneficial (fresh air really is therapeutic). If you stay in your house all the time, it will begin to feel like a prison.

All of these tips combined can and will make a difference in your life. Even if you’re feeling anxious and depressed and completely unmotivated, you can still take baby steps to improve your mental and emotional state. Know that you don’t have to get your crap together in one week. Just remind yourself that the little things do make a difference and that developing the most simple habits can drastically change your outlook. And always be gentle with yourself. We all fall into mental and emotional ruts every now and then, and this won’t last forever.


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by Bethany Garrison

Bethany is a culturally confused British and American dual citizen living in the US. She recently graduated from Denison University with a B.A. in literature. It has been Bethany's lifelong dream to become a writer, and writing is how she processes her experiences. She runs a minimalist lifestyle blog and loves sustainable fashion, plants, music, healthy eating, psychology, and home decor.


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