A few years ago I ran a series of healthy living workshops, including stress management. My students ran the gamut from young parents to middle-aged professionals, and their problems ranged from career burnout to unhappy relationships. But, there was one common denominator: they all felt “stuck” in their present situation.

This feeling of inertia is a form of mental exhaustion that occurs when we live in a state of extended stress. It means we’ve depleted our mental energy. Most of us have experienced this feeling of being “stuck” at some point. It seems as if we are in the passenger seat of our own lives, powerless to exert control over the destination.

Here’s the kicker: most of the time we do have the power – we are simply looking in the wrong direction. We are focused on changing the negative actions of others: a demanding boss, an uncooperative spouse, an inconsiderate family member or non-supportive friend. The first step in getting “unstuck” is simply accepting the reality that we can’t change the behavior of those people. We simply can’t. Whether it’s a spouse, a co-worker, a family member, a boss or a friend – we may influence, but we do not have the ability to force, cajole or convince them to change. Our control over a stressful situation lies solely within our ability to change our own actions.

When we focus entirely on what we – and we alone – can do differently, we start to clearly see the possibilities for meaningful change. Perhaps we need to pursue a new job or even a change of career. Maybe we need to return to school to complete a degree or take a course. Maybe the change needed is to expand our social circle, get in better shape or spend more time engaged in fun activities. The change may even be to walk away from a toxic relationship.

The first question we have to ask when we feel “stuck” is always the same: “What can I do differently to change my life?” The answer may surprise you.

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Yolonda Mays
Yolonda Mays is a Navy veteran, University of Tennessee alumnus, former lifestyle coach and self-proclaimed foodie. She currently works in food service management and spends most of her days obsessing over the price of avocados. You can check out Yolonda's blog at kitchenyolonda.com where she writes about everything from budgeting to the relationship between nutrition and emotional health.