Break Yourself Out of a Rut

You've eaten the same things for breakfast every day for three years then taken the same car pool to the same job. Your life is more of the same after work. Maybe it's time to break out of your rut.

"If you feel like you're stuck in a routine, you probably are," says Kenneth A. Wallston, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

A routine isn't necessarily bad.  It can be comforting because it adds structure to your life and it isn't stressful. But Dr. Wallston says dissatisfaction may start to gnaw at you and erode your self-esteem if you believe you want something more in your life.

Recognizing you're in a rut is the first step toward making a change. Taking action is the next step. Making small, easy changes that show quick, positive results is the best way to start. "Add one new thing every day and choose things you like to do or expect to enjoy," Dr. Wallston says.  Taking any of the following small steps can lead to big changes in your life.

Personal Development

  • Reduce the amount of time you spend watching television by an hour a day. Use the extra time for something special such as reading a book, taking a class, visiting a friend, or pursuing a hobby.
  • Initiate a family project such as planning your next vacation or planting a backyard garden.
  • Fulfill a fantasy. For example, take tap-dancing lessons; perform at an "open-mike" club; or join a neighborhood chess club or softball team.

Strive for Better Health

  • Vary your workout. Add new challenges by making your workout more interesting not longer or harder. Alternate activities that complement each other such as swimming and cycling or aerobic dance and strength training.
  • Explore a new cuisine or take a cooking class. Sample local ethnic restaurants. Learn to make low-fat versions of your favorite dishes
  • Take a healthful vacation. Attend a sports camp or sign up for a bike tour of a national park.

At Work

Put yourself in charge.  "On the job, an individual with a positive attitude is more likely to achieve good results. The next time there is an important assignment or a promotion, be that person to get it," Dr. Wallston says.  Here are a few of his strategies for breaking out of a rut at work:

  • Plan your day and your future. Work to achieve real goals not just finish tasks.
  • Greet people with a smile. Studies have found that smiling makes you feel better.
  • Avoid excuses. They just make the other person angrier.   Instead, "I'm sorry" and "I'll take care of it" work wonders.
  • Give sincere appreciation. Your co-workers deserve to know when they've done something well, and they will return the compliment.
  • Listen more and talk less. Listening to another person is one of the best compliments you can give.
  • Don't complain. Grumbling focuses attention on what's wrong, not what's right, and creates a negative atmosphere.
  • Learn from your mistakes. Instead of getting upset, ask, "How can I correct the situation?"
  • Make room for humor. Make it cheerful not offensive.

Remember the HealthQuest EAP

Call the HealthQuest EAP toll-free at 1-888-275-1205 (option 7) - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for confidential help handling life's stresses.