Stuck in Life? Your Very Own Depression Groundhog Day: How to get out of a rut

Personally, I prefer Ghostbusters, but Bill Murray considers Groundhog Day his “best work”. I can understand his perspective. Advertised as a comedy, the movie genuinely contains profound complexities. As Bill’s character, Phil Connors, moves through the duplication of each day, subtle elements begin to change within Phil. On the surface, Phil believes he lives in unending repetition. However, each day is anything but a repeat, which allowed Bill Murray to expand his range of talent while still being “Bill”. Ultimately, this movie is a perfect example of the brain’s grand capacity to fool us into the illusion of every day being a never-ending rut.

Watch it carefully and you will see:
• Phil correctly answers all the questions on Jeopardy. He grew in knowledge.
• At the beginning of the movie, Phil cannot play the piano. Yet later he perfectly plays “Boogie Woogie” and becomes a master pianist.
• He also becomes an exquisite ice sculptor.
• Previously Phil ignored a homeless man, letting him die. However, without conscious thought, Phil learns compassion and attempts to save the fellow.

While in his rut, Phil begins to train his brain. He creates change within himself that eventually allows him to end the movie by saying, “Do you know what today is? Today is tomorrow.” Meaning he recognized he was no longer the same person, nor would he relive the same day ever again.

Many times in my practice, I hear, “I feel like I’m in a rut. I want to change, but I can’t seem to make it happen.” I get it. It’s as though some force takes over, allowing the universe to drop an invisible banana peel in the way so you slip every time you take a step in any direction. On top of it all, depression starts to hit…creating a double whammy. You are not alone. We all experience this at some point.

Get out of a rut

I wish there were a simple answer to becoming “unstuck in life”…there’s not. Try searching Google for the phrase, “how to get out of a rut”, its one of the first four auto fill keywords. All around are endless articles on Google sharing the importance of eating healthy, working out, being with supportive people, and getting great sleep. Perhaps you’ve even read my earlier blog post “Sleepless in Denver” (

These suggestions are equally important and frustrating. As with Phil Connors, it will take work that may occasionally be easy, but more than likely will require time and commitment. The gift though, is that in the end, we each have the opportunity of meeting a self we may not have realized was inside all along.

Many areas of research apply as to why we fall into the “rut”. Simply put, it boils down to a hierarchy of needs, states of being, time (habituation is the term), and our brain. When good things don’t happen, life seems boring and has a bleak look. The brain then traps itself in a negative issues’ loop…a.k.a. survival mode. It, and we as people, shy away from change. The brain can and will alter, but it doesn’t like it. With the neural circuitry in the brain, the more we use it, the quicker it is and the more it wants to respond in that way.

Think of the brain as sticky tape to negative thoughts. Negative thoughts breed more of the nasty little gremlins and the brain will gorge on them. Rather like eating an entire Costco-size bag of Doritos while binge watching three seasons of Gilmore Girls and Dexter on Netflix.

Sometimes we focus on what is in front of us instead of looking at the bigger picture. Think of the saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” We put too much attention on painful memories, unresolved emotions, and mental fog or blocks. Read this carefully…You have to meet yourself where you are today. When we have doubt, it gets in the way of opportunity. Things, people, ideas, beliefs, actions, behaviors all hold us back in many ways. Becoming unstuck in life is about living for your today, not your tomorrow.

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How to get out of a rut…

1. Look at the big picture — This is about meeting yourself where you are. What are the current issues? Where do you want to be? And what is the in between? Remember, “The way out, is through.”

2. Set small daily attainable goals — Don’t push things off or away. Build on micro-successes. If you have a long to-do list, go ahead and cross off some tasks off. Long unattainable daily lists are a set up for feeling like a failure.

3. Get out and away from stagnant feelings — This is dual purpose for self-care and getting out to see new things (Self-Care Pins). Read a book, learn to meditate, take naps, journal, write a story, knit, color, or go outside for a walk. A friend, who is an editor, told me that when she’s stymied on a problem within a book she takes her dog for a walk, goes for a run (on the treadmill since she’s a klutz), or takes a shower. All of these change how her brain is processing in that moment. Typically, when returning to the edit the answer reveals itself. “When we focus on the problems, we start to concentrate too much on that solution instead of the purpose.”

3. Define — What do you need, want, and value? Log your own wants and needs. Begin communicating and building a relationship with yourself. Yeah, this is a hard one.

4. Express Gratitude — Talk about the good, even when it’s not good enough. Express gratitude to others and yourself. You can find one positive thing about today, even if it’s as simple as managing to get the right kid on the right school bus. Again, meet yourself where you are.

5. Live in Beauty — The French believe each day should be lived in beauty. No, that doesn’t give free rein to having a closet of Jimmy Choo shoes and Kate Spade bags…though it would be nice. I do love a nice pair of shoes. It expresses that life is beautiful…hardships and all. Notice the single flower reaching for the sunshine through the snow, or the dog out for a walk, wagging his tail and carrying a favorite ball. That is beauty. It’s also a moment of perfect clarity.

6. Checking in with your Emotions — This does not mean start talking to everyone about your feelings. It equates to acknowledging the emotions within yourself. I have a friend who says he’d rather be filled with tacos than filled with emotions. And yet, he is a very self-aware person.

6. Change your self-talk — Self-talk is vital. Remember how the brain works. If you talk to yourself in a way that increases the feelings of being in a rut or depressing thoughts, well…then you continue to be stuck in your own negative whirlpool.

7. Make room for errors — There are only two constants in life…fashion and humans being perfectly imperfect. Perfection has no place in life when the brain isn’t actively seeking new input. When a car becomes trapped in mud, we do all we can to set it free. Your brain is the car and it’s your job to give it freedom.

How many days will you continue to let drag by? The estimation is Phil Connors passed 12,395 days before “today” became “tomorrow”. This is your opportunity to do something caring and self-loving to move toward the life you want or get through difficult times. Be mindful of recognizing what you need.

Are you stuck in life, living your own personal Groundhog Day in Denver? Would you like to address some areas of life that have you trapped? Do you think anxiety or depression have you feeling stuck in a rut? If so, please call for a phone consultation appointment at (720) 295-9522.

No one person has all the answers, but through being a community, we generate ideas and support. If you’d like to see more of my posts and Pinterest projects, I invite you to sign up to receive my monthly blog here.

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