Have you ever been stuck? I don’t mean stuck in the mud with your car or stuck with something, like being poked with a needle. I mean, stuck in your head about a particular situation, an interaction with someone, or on your own limiting self-talk and beliefs. You have a story going on in your mind that you believe is absolutely true. You believe you are right, and everything and everyone else is wrong, yet you continue to struggle with your thoughts and feel emotional and often physical pain. Being stuck just plain hurts.
Feeling stuck as a travel nurse
As travel nurses or healthcare workers, it is easy to get stuck or feel stuck. Certain situations happen in your day to day life at work that can make you feel stuck. These could be; “did I do all I could for that patient, was my co-worker upset that I wasn’t able to help more, did I upset that patient’s family member, to name just a few.
We don’t even realize it
The truth is we all get stuck over and over again, often without realizing it. Getting stuck is easy and comes naturally to us. It’s the getting unstuck part that is difficult and takes deliberate effort. The sooner we recognize we are stuck, the better. The longer we stay stuck, the more pain, embarrassment, hurt, anger, or fear we will experience, creating unnecessary stress and suffering in our life.
In my search to better support myself and my clients, I came across a book called Getting unSTUCK: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being, written by Shira Taylor Gura.[i] Shira is a personal growth coach and the creator of the unSTUCK Method®. Her book won the 2017 International Book Award in self-help. After reading her book and listening to several of her podcasts, I connected with Shira. I began my quest to learn everything I could about the science and psychology of the unSTUCK Method®.
5 step method
The unSTUCK Method® is a 5 step technique that works like an investigation process. The progression through these steps helps with understanding where to begin the investigation, how to gather information and evidence, and ultimately discover the truth that will allow for alternate perspectives and new possibilities. It’s about managing our mind instead of our mind managing us. It’s about separating circumstances from the story. The Cambridge Dictionary defines a circumstance as a fact or event that makes a situation the way it is.[ii] Since a circumstance is a fact, it could be proven to be true in a court of law. A story is not a fact. Our stories happen when we attach all of our own emotions and thoughts to the circumstance. The story then becomes charged negatively or positively by the thinking we put on top of the circumstance. The story is ultimately the source of our stuck spot.
The unSTUCK Method® uses the acronym STUCK to stand for Stop, Tell, Uncover, Consider, and Kindness. Let me explain, step by step.
S – Stop.
Realize that you are in control. Give yourself time and space to step out of your story and look at the situation as if you were a witness to it. Take a few conscious breaths. Mindful breathing allows your mind to settle. Thoughts will inevitably come to your mind. Just notice your thoughts without attaching emotions and feelings to them. After taking time to pause, bring yourself back to the moment in time where you first felt stuck, and your story began.
T – Tell.
Tell yourself which emotions you are stuck on. It is not always easy to identify how we are feeling. At this point, it is important to allow yourself to feel your emotions mentally and physically. However, though it is necessary to feel your emotions, it is unnecessary to react to them. Give your emotions a voice by saying, “I am stuck on _______.”
U – Uncover.
Identify your thoughts and investigate them. Thoughts create your emotions. In her book, The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. states, “Studies show that the more you try to suppress negative thoughts, the more likely you are to become depressed.”[iii] What are your beliefs about your stuck situation? Most of our beliefs come from past patterns and experiences, often introduced to us in childhood. Beliefs are not facts and so must be challenged. Give your beliefs a voice by saying, “I believe…” Investigate what is truth and what is the story? If your beliefs are not 100% true, then they are the story and not fact.
C – Consider.
As soon as you determine that one or more of your beliefs are not true, you are opening up a whole new process of possibility thinking. Consider another perspective. Begin by saying, “I can consider…” At this point, you become more rational and less emotional. You are more willing to accept a different viewpoint and are able to end your story and begin to focus on the truth. You become unstuck.
K – Kindness.
Forgiveness and self-compassion should be exercised after you find yourself unstuck. Treat yourself with kindness and know that getting stuck happens to everyone—end of story.
For the sake of a simple example of how I got unstuck this summer, let me share my personal story.
I got stuck with my neighbor or, more accurately, my former neighbor. Here is a little background. Bob and his family lived next door to us for almost 20 years but moved away to a nearby town a couple of years ago. Bob had a little shop in his backyard where he repaired cars. He was our neighbor and our mechanic. Bob’s family and our family weren’t necessarily close, but we were definitely neighborly. We would chat when we would see each other, but we didn’t necessarily visit each other’s homes. Bob would often fundraise for a particular cause he was passionate about, and we were happy to donate any time he would ask.
One Saturday, my husband and I were working in our front yard, and we saw Bob pull up, on his motorcycle, into our neighbor’s driveway across the street. They were also working outside. I noticed them talking and laughing for a good hour and expected Bob to stop by and say “hello” to us next. We carried on with our yard work and awaited his visit. But he didn’t come over. Instead, he just hopped back onto his motorcycle and drove off. Why didn’t he say hi? He must have seen us; we were in plain sight the whole time he was chatting up the neighbors.
I found myself pulling up weeds with a little more aggression. The bugs became more annoying, and though the outdoor temperature had not changed, I felt a little hot-headed. I was STUCK, S.T.U.C.K., Stuck!
So, the first thing I needed to do was Stop. I took a few deep breaths and brought myself to the present moment. I took the time to simply notice my thoughts. I felt more calm and ready to start investigating my story.
It was time to Tell.
I needed to figure out what emotions I was stuck on and began making my “I am stuck on” statements:
- I am stuck on the hurt.
- I am stuck on confusion.
- I am stuck on insecurity.
- I am stuck on anger.
- I am stuck on judgment.
- I am stuck on jealousy.
I allowed myself to really feel those emotions and noticed the tightness arising in my chest.
I needed to Uncover.
And investigate why I was feeling those emotions. What were my thoughts and beliefs:
- I believe he should have stopped to say hi.
- I believe he doesn’t value our friendship.
- I believe he just used us for the benefit of getting work and donations from us.
- I believe I am being hypocritical.
I looked at each of my belief statements and asked myself the question, “Is this true?” I realized that if I had to prove any one of these beliefs in a court of law, not a single one would hold up as 100% true. After listing my last belief, I realized that I needed to go back to the T and tell myself that I was also stuck on hypocrisy. To be very truthful, I was enjoying working in the yard and the progress I was making. I didn’t truly want Bob to stop by because I didn’t want the interruption.
I moved to Consider.
What is another perspective I could consider:
- I can consider that Bob had a purpose in seeing our neighbors and a limited amount of time.
- I can consider that he saw us working busily in the yard. However, in the past, when he had stopped by, he may have felt that he was intruding.
- I can consider that we had not kept in touch with him over the last couple of years, and perhaps the neighbors across the street had.
- I can consider that his relationship with our neighbors was closer than the relationship we had shared.
- I can consider that I could have gone over to the neighbors to say, “hi.”
It was at this last consideration that I had gotten myself unstuck. Why hadn’t I just gone over to the neighbors and said hello? There was no reason for me to have waited for him to come over to see me. I was no longer stuck.
The kindness part is important
After getting unstuck, it felt so good to end my story with the last step of Kindness. I needed to treat myself with kindness and compassion and realize that getting stuck happens, and it’s OK. The kindness part is important because otherwise, the cycle can start all over again by getting stuck on a new set of emotions like embarrassment, shame, or guilt?
As a business coach, I’ve come to realize that the daily emotional issues my clients deal with are often the root cause of their professional struggles and stress. Insecurity, fear, anger, aversion, pride, gloom, and desire are just a few emotions that are most commonly expressed. I had been struggling with how to best work through these emotions with my clients. I feared crossing a line by asking the wrong questions or probing too deeply. The truth is I actually need to cross the line so that I can meet them on the other side of their pain. With this amazing 5 step process, I now have a powerfully empowering new tool in my coaching box.
In 2019, I had the honor of being accepted into Shira’s coaching program and became a certified unSTUCK Coach.
You can listen to my personal unSTUCK story as featured in podcast #110
[i] Gura Taylor, Shira. Getting STUCK: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being (Silver Spring, MD: Three Gems Publishing 2016)
[ii] Cambridge Dictionary ‘Circumstance’
[iii] McGonigal ph.D., Kelly (2011-12-29). The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It (p.215). Penguin Publishing Group, Kindle Edition.