A few months ago, after begrudgingly rolling out of the warm embrace of my covers, twisting my hair into a sloppy ponytail, and brewing a cup of Joe, I realized I’d gone through those exact motions more times than I could count. Day after day, I would subconsciously check off a whole list of things without ever realizing what was really going on: I was in the middle of a rut.

Being a creature of habit, I hadn’t even noticed the warning signs of the dreaded r-word. At the time, I’d been feeling stagnant about my writing career; my beloved Gram was very ill in another state; and I’d just run my latest marathon, which meant I had to take some time off so I wouldn’t get another stress fracture (because I REFUSE to wear that stupid boot ever again). The rest of my life defaulted to routine.

. . . So what’s the dealio?

A rut doesn’t just happen. (I mean, it does — but it doesn’t.) It’s a gradual buildup until BAM! You wake up and realize you’ve lived Groundhog Day for the last year and don’t even remember most of it. And while having a routine is a good thing, falling into a pattern of mindless Netflix binging isn’t (unless it’s #caturday, in which it’s totes acceptable). So how can you un-stick your rut without getting a massive headache? It’s actually easier than you think. You just need a serious plan of attack.

Pinpoint your issue(s)

I’m not referring to the fact that you’ve dated a slew of guys named Adam or have a strange fear of farm machinery and plastic cups. Is it work that’s got you on auto-pilot? Maybe it’s those darn bills that keep coming (why won’t they stop?). Is it a teacher at school who keeps dishing out too much homework or family probs that make you wanna, make you wanna, zig-a-zig-ah? Regardless of your area of ruttage, it’s important to take a step back and figure out what is causing you to check out. They say knowing is half the battle. I don’t know who they are, but they are definitely right.

Do things for yourself

Now is the time to make some personal and professional upgrades. Take a class that might improve where you want to be at work or in life, devour as many books as you can get your hands on (I recommend YA, so you can rekindle all those teenager-y feelings), learn something new, or try a different hobby like needlepoint or motorcycle racing. Step out of your comfort zone and you may find treating yo self isn’t selfish, it’s necessary upkeep.

Start itty bitty

If you try to change everything at once, you’re going to feel all kinds of overwhelmed. Make a list and start with the easiest stuff. Whatevs you can do to get this ball rolling, do it.

Partake in the GOG (gift of gab)

Find a trusted buddy and talk it out. Maybe this friend noticed you’ve been in a rut but didn’t know how to help. Whether you’re looking for advice or just someone to vent to, communicate with someone other than your cat (please).

Create a visual

Ever heard of a vision board? By seeing all the things you want in physical form, you’re more likely to make the changes. Think of it as a bribe. If you stock up on pictures of Jamaica — the sand, the crystal waters, the good weather —it might give you that extra boost you need to make a trip happen. If you’ve never gotten a passport or saved enough money to go on that dream vacay. Look at your vision board. Every. Day. It’ll motivate you to do the work to take the steps to get you there in no time (. . . please take me with you).

Take a break

Maybe all this rut biz has you kind of pooped. It’s okay to take a break. By giving your mind time to decompress, you’ll have a new outlook when you’re ready to tackle the issues again. Do something that doesn’t require thought — like sleeping, cleaning, or watching the story of the actual BLUE & BLACK dress so you can finally let it go.

Pump it up in the sun

Whenever I’m stuck on a story line, I go for a run. For some reason, I (sometimes) have the best ideas when I’m focused on something physical. There was that time I decided to quit everything in life and put all my energy into rap battling, but it was short-lived. The end result? I distracted myself long enough to come back to my books with fresh thoughts. So get outside and do something! Your brain (and bod) will thank you; but I can’t make any promises on how your dreams of rap battling will turn out.

The good news is, you know you’re in a weird spot in life and you want to do something about it. The bad news is, you might try and fail at first. It’s okay. It’s like falling off a bike (for the record, I hate bike antidotes). You might get a little scratched, but you’ll get right back on that thing and show it who’s boss. And if you fall again, ditch the bike and walk. One foot in front of the other, and you’ll get where you want to be. Truth.

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