Stuck in a rut?

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Updated: 7/24/2012 2:10 pm Published: 7/23/2012 5:10 pm

Alycia Williams, MS, LPC, of Midtown Family Therapy stopped by GDGC to share some tips for making changes when we find ourselves stuck in a rut.

What causes people to get stuck?

We are creatures of habit. Living things tend to crave stability, a process called homeostasis, which means “standing still.” We do the same things over and over because routine takes less thought and energy than doing something new.

What’s the first step to getting out of a rut?

Identifying what you’d like to change. Not all of our habits are problematic, but if we can take some time to identify the patterns we’d most like to change, then we can create a plan and get started. I suggest trying to make one significant change at a time, rather than trying to tackle multiple issues at once.

Once you have identified the change you want to make, what comes next?

Habits are perpetuated through a process of cue, routine and reward. First, identify what cues you to engage in the habitual behavior and then make a plan for altering your routine when that cue occurs. Altering the routine also must take into consideration the reward associated with the behavior. For example, if you are wanting to exercise more, but you have a hard time following through, you may make arrangements with a friend or co-worker to exercise together. The cue of making a date with someone else can help break out of the rut, and the reward of being able to share a social experience reinforces the behavior.

What if I have repeatedly tried to change and have not been successful?

A persistant behavior that is problematic and resistant to change may indicate a more serious issue. Meeting with a mental health professional can assist you in identifying underlying concerns. Unresolved issues and past hurts can definitely prevent us from achieving our full potential.

Changing your routine is the key to getting out of a rut. Follow a few steps to achieve the change you are looking for:
  1. Identify what behavior you’d like to change.
  2. Identify what cues you to engage in the habitual behavior.
  3. Develop a plan to respond to the cue in a new way. For example, when I want to smoke I will chew gum or brush my teeth.
  4. Associate a reward with the new routine to help reinforce the changed behavior.
  5. Involve your support system in making a change. Tell your friends and family, ask them to encourage your success.
  6. If you persistently struggle with change, seek help with a mental health professional to deal with unresolved issues which may impair change.
Alycia Williams, MS, LPC
Midtown Family Therapy

1768 S. Utica
Tulsa, OK 74104

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