What to do when you wake up in the middle of the night


February 17, 2017

Little kids aren’t the only ones suffering from nightmares. I wonder sometimes if it’s scarier as an adult, because the things keeping me awake at 3 a.m. are more possible than any of the stuff I used to imagine.

The real-life monsters that haunt me: losing my income, losing a loved one, making someone mad, making the wrong decision, and being alone — forever.

Sound familiar? When real-life monsters haunt you, here’s what to remember:

1. “Everything feels worse in the middle of the night.”

That’s what my mom would say when I would whimper beneath the covers in the middle of the night, too scared to move. Hoping she could save me. The moment I heard her rustling across the hall, I would start to feel better.

It’s surprisingly helpful to speak to myself in that same tender voice when my mind is spiraling into worst-case scenarios.

The phrase that works for me
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How any of us can find extraordinary motivation


February 9, 2017
Extraordinary motivation comes down to grit

Why do some of us give up on our goals while others have the grit to see them through? How do some people manage to persist in the face of repeated rejection and other setbacks?

To crack the nut of extraordinary motivation, I decided to study the example of Rebecca Skloot. Skloot is the author of the 2010 book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which spent seventy-five weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list, won a slew of awards, and has been turned into a film starring Oprah Winfrey, due for release in April on HBO.  

In hindsight, this success seems inevitable. (Success often does, and rarely is.) In reality, the first-time author spent ten years reporting and writing her book, during which time she encountered barrier after barrier:

Divorce! Job loss! How yoga helped me release the grief


February 3, 2017
yoga

In our Reader Stories series, Unstuck readers share personal stories about getting stuck — and unstuck. Here, author and writing coach Jen Violi explains how yoga helped her move through the shock of loss. 

On the hallway floor of my new apartment, I sat and leaned against the closet doors. It felt safer down there, in part because moving around meant I would see painful reminders of my husband, now in a different state, now not living with me. Last month: us. This month: me.

In this moment, moving around also meant I might step on broken glass. Because, of course, the front of the frame of a picture collage of us had shattered when I tried to put it in the closet, out of view. Of course. Metaphors can be so distressingly obvious.

A grain of hope

Eventually I got up, led by a need to pee, as well as the part of
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Jealousy is a gift — embrace it


January 30, 2017
jealousy_sq

We’re raised to think of jealousy as something to avoid. If we’re jealous of someone else’s life, it must mean we aren’t grateful for our own — right?

Jealousy can in fact be a positive emotion, and an opportunity to shift our perspective. When we’re jealous of someone, it’s usually not so much about what they have, but about what we perceive ourselves as not having. As Julia Cameron wrote in her creativity guidebook, “The Artist’s Way”:

Jealousy is always a mask for fear: fear that we aren’t able to get what we want; frustration that somebody else seems to be getting what’s rightfully ours even if we are too frightened to reach for it.

3 questions to ask about your jealousy

The next time you feel yourself becoming jealous, consider it an opportunity to ask yourself:

  1. What am I afraid of?
  2. What do I really want?
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When old friends feel like a threat to the new you


January 23, 2017
Alma Bahman on when old friends threaten the new you

In our Reader Stories series, Unstuck readers share personal stories about getting stuck — and unstuck. Here, multimedia journalist Alma Bahman shares a story about confronting old friends who knew the old her she’d tried to leave behind.

I’ve started over many, many times. Moving somewhere new has given me a clean slate on which to reinvent myself. The potential for a better iteration of myself is tantalizing, hopeful. With each move, I shed the old, hide the scars, buff and shine the pretty parts, and try to build a me that’s more me than ever.

Amidst all this change, I’ve managed to keep in touch with three of my best friends from elementary school. Every couple of months, someone will send out a group email asking for updates. We emoji, we catch up, we “ha-ha, I miss you guys!”

Then, last year, they decided to visit me.

These people, who knew the me
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5 ways to banish the work blahs


January 16, 2017
woman-laptop

We’ve all been there: in a job to which we’ve resigned ourselves. “It’s good enough,” we tell ourselves, and we try to focus on the positive. But we just can’t shake that weighed-down feeling.

Whatever the cause of your work ennui, we’ve put together five ways to help you feel better:

  1. Make something right now (artistic ability not required).
    When you’re feeling powerless at work, or in any aspect of your life, making something is a great way to boost your energy and confidence. Things you can make include: a cake, a journal entry, a garden, a website, an article that you publish on LinkedIn, a drawing, a Spotify playlist, or a collage. Have fun, and don’t judge the results — they aren’t the point. The point is to have fun (yes, fun! Remember that?) and to enjoy the sense of agency you get from making something. Now imagine
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Overthinking: Surprisingly helpful advice from an internet meme


January 6, 2017
Lauree Ostrofsky on real-life monsters

This post is part of our Stuck Together series, where guest writers explore the ways we all get stuck each and every day. 

I’m a chronic overthinker. So much so that the thrill of the new year and new beginnings can quickly turn into searching for the right choice and worrying about getting it all wrong (classic Waffler).

Leave it to Facebook for a funny-but-true sign I’m not alone. When I saw this the other day, I thought, “Yep. Pretty
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How to stop planning and start doing


January 2, 2017
stop planning, start doing

There is nothing I love more than a fresh planner. I love goal setting and making to-do lists and organizing my thoughts to no end. As someone who often gets stuck in Idle Achiever mode, planning is my preferred method of procrastination. It feels really productive. But there certainly comes a point when planning gets in the way of doing.

If you like to hunker down in planning mode when you should be getting down to business, here are some tips to help you get the ball rolling:

1. Set small goals

You don’t need an elaborate master plan for every single task. Don’t drag out the planning process until it becomes bogged down in detail. Set small, simple goals and work toward them immediately. When your emphasis is on the work, you’ll get to your desired result.

James Clear, who writes about habit transformation, says that your focus should
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How to use positivity to transform difficult holiday celebrations


December 20, 2016
unstuck_family

The holidays can be tough. Sure, there’s pie and presents and fa la la la la, la la la la. But there are also difficult family dynamics, often left over from years gone by. Those dynamics can lead to upsetting conversations (and on the heels of an vitriolic election season, politics might put extra strain on your relationships). Sometimes, it might even feel like your whole family tripped head-over-heels into a time-traveling vortex as everyone slips into familiar roles: the overbearing parent, the constant screw-up, or the goody-two-shoes, to name a few.

But wait — don’t reach for that third glass of spiked eggnog just yet. There’s hope for this year.
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How guilt paralyzes us


December 12, 2016
unstuck_guilt

Change is hard. Earlier this year, reporter Libby Copeland investigated the science behind why we resist change, and then we asked you to write in with your stories of being stuck. We got fascinating responses, and we are diving deep into one of those stories here. You can go back and read the first four parts, covering how our discomfort with uncertainty, our fear of loss, our habits, and our relationships can get in the way of us making a change.

Lynne emailed us a few months ago because she felt enormously conflicted. At 55, she wanted to start a new life across the country with her second husband, a move that necessitated leaving her small community, her job, and most of her five grown kids. She wanted to go, but she didn’t want to go. “Just when I think I can do this, everything in me wants to scream
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