Are you feeling stuck in one place? Does it feel like no matter what you do you end up coming full circle and ending exactly in the place where you began? Does it ever feel that despite your best efforts you feel as if you are running in place? A friend of mine describes feeling stuck like running in circles on a hamster wheel. You spend a lot of energy, and you really feel like you are going far, but in the end you are still stuck in a cage.

When we feel stuck, a couple of things happen in our thinking, one is that we start to believe that this is how it has always been and always will be, making us feel hopeless and helpless to change it, and the other is that we lose our creativity to find a way out. Both of which make it very difficult to make real changes that could make us feel unstuck and, often, add to our feelings of isolation and inability to help ourselves. Add to that the feeling that we are repeating ourselves to our friends and they must be tired of having the same conversation with us that doesn’t move us to anywhere, and it’s a recipe for more of the same.

When we feel that we have been stuck for a very long time, it’s easy to become discouraged and start to believe there is nothing we can do to make a change. We look to the past and the future, and this stuck-ness is all we can see because it is what we are attuned to. We look at all the things we have tried and how badly they have failed. Even if we think we have a good idea to change things, we may find ourselves secretly sabotaging our best efforts because we’re convinced that nothing will change. We might even feel afraid about change because there is no guarantee anything will change, and at least we know how to manage the way things are now, even if we don’t like our situation.

Hopelessness is a powerful feeling, and can keep us from thinking clearly and from putting our best efforts into making real change. If you feel beaten down by life and that nothing you do makes a difference, it can be hard to come up with options to change that will be enough to get you where you want to go. It’s common to have trouble with creative thinking when we feel stressed, and it will take creativity to get into something new and interesting if you want to get unstuck.

Getting unstuck is about doing things differently, but mostly about thinking differently. One of the best antidotes to hopelessness is gratitude. When we see the things in our lives that are going well, it’s hard to continue to think that nothing changes and everything is terrible. We can use gratitude to change our narrative and get perspective, which may also allow us to find creative ways to get more good things in our lives.

Mindfulness practice is also a great way to help us through feeling like nothing is going to change, because it allows us to see subtle changes from moment to moment. It may even allow us to see that although we feel stuck, many small changes are happening all the time, and may grow into big changes. That could be just the encouragement we need to keep on going.

And, finally, step out of your comfort zone. We often don’t make changes, even the ones that are good for us, because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable. If we really want things to be different, we have to do very different things. Taking a risk allows us to change our thinking about our situation, ourselves, and our plans for the future.