Here's what to do when you just "hit a wall"


Sometimes we might feel like we just “hit a wall.” Whether this is mentally or physically - or often both - there are times in our days and maybe longer periods in our lives where we just don’t know (or care) which way is up. It’s not a great feeling to be stuck without the motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The good news is that one, it’s temporary and won’t last forever; and two, it’s a brilliantly timed wake-up call that something needs to change. Sometimes the walls we hit are there for us to rest on. Here’s what to do the next time that happens:

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, rest

This may sound simple - but when you’ve completely run out of gas and just cannot will yourself to send one more email, respond to one more text, or do one more chore - your body and mind are telling you your downtime is long overdue. There is no other choice than to stop, breathe, and give yourself what you need. High-quality rest. For most people, this means maybe cancelling the rest of your plans for the upcoming week, maybe using a couple of sick days at work (mental health is health!), ordering takeout or hiring a cleaning service for the week, or maybe just turning your phone off for a couple of hours and going for a walk or reading a book. 

If the idea of being unavailable to everyone makes you anxious, start with smaller amounts of time where you leave your phone at home or turn it off. You can also let the people you’re most concerned about know ahead of time if it might take some weight off your mind. Our world has a false sense of urgency culture - where because we are “available” digitally 24/7, when communications come in it can feel like they have to be actioned or responded to immediately. The truth is, most things can wait at least a couple of hours. You deserve (and require) time to yourself too. Rest is a non-negotiable part of the productivity cycle, not something you need to “earn.” 

Practice mindfulness and/or meditation

It feels like everyone is constantly telling us to meditate - so we hear you (*cue eye roll*). But, the truth is that really mindfulness is just a fancy word for being present. It’s the idea of wholly accepting yourself as you are, right now. And that you are perfectly imperfect, as everyone is. You’re human and being human is hard! We are designed to feel the full spectrum of emotion - but somewhere along the line of our sociocultural development we were taught that some emotions were “bad” and some were “good,” and those “bad” ones were meant to be “fixed.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Emotions are what they are and some aren’t more allowed than others. The key to mindfulness and feeling content and at peace with yourself is allowing yourself to feel what you feel without judgment. Thoughts and feelings are temporary and will always pass. Remember that you cannot control your emotions - but you can control how you process them cognitively and then react to them. When you hit that wall, take some time without distraction (put that phone and laptop away - turn that TV off) to simply be present and notice what’s swirling around on the inside of you. Are you stressed? What’s causing that? Anxious or nervous? Do you know what may have triggered that? Mindfulness is just checking in with yourself and how you’re doing - noticing what’s within and around you without placing blame anywhere. Knowing where you’re at is a key first step to being able to shift some of that weight off that wall you’re leaning on. 

Accept that you may not be able to “fix” your mood right away (and that’s ok) 

Sometimes we can do things to make ourselves feel better, and sometimes we just need time. Both of these are ok and completely normal. It is ok not to be ok. Just as we wouldn’t expect someone with a broken arm to play in a baseball game, we can’t expect our minds to carry on just fine when they’re just not. Often, emotions are just there to be felt, to dissipate, and to move on from. Sometimes we can do things to make ourselves feel better - but just as often when we hit these walls in our lives, we just need to ride the emotional waves as they come up and let them complete their cycle. 

Be honest with yourself and those around you - but don’t feel the need to overexplain

We’ve been there - you've just gotten through the door, tossed your keys on the hook, thrown off your shoes, and let out a big sigh of relief at your chance now to relax. Then, your phone rings. Or your email pings. Whatever it is, if you do decide to answer the call, be careful not to fall into the trap of overexplaining why you can’t go on that walk, do that project, and so on. Our boundaries are ours for a reason - and no one else needs to be privy to your needs unless you want them to be. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for what you want and need to do - you don’t need to justify your choices. Instead of saying, “gosh, I really just can’t ___ right now because I just finished a huge deadline/my sink broke/I’m watching our neighbour’s kids/I’m sick/I haven’t slept in 2 days” etc., often it’s just fine to say “I’m taking some downtime this evening. I’ll be happy to connect with you tomorrow/next week/later.” 

Sometimes the closest people in your life will struggle with hearing this from you the first or second time, but eventually, they will understand and respect your choices as they want the best for you. And we have to trust that we each know what’s best for ourselves and refrain from judging others for simply honouring their needs. We are all the bosses of our own lives (and anyone who makes you feel guilty for simply taking care of yourself may need a reality check of their own).