Having a mental block is just as frustrating as it sounds.
Maybe you have a mental block about doing something that you’ve always wanted to do (like skydiving or learning to surf), maybe you have a mental block about a business you’re trying to build or a book you’re trying to write, or maybe your mental block is more ambiguous than that and you just don’t feel energetic.
Whatever the case, you feel stuck.
And since you’re stuck, distractions become particularly appealing. Scrolling on your phone, watching television, or talking with chatty coworkers is a whole lot more appealing than working through your mental block.
I get it.
I write 2,000 to 5,000 words five days a week, but it’s not always easy — some days are much more difficult than others, especially when I can’t seem to get out of my own head.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered 11 different strategies (that I actually use) for overcoming mental blocks. But before I can show those to you, we first have to understand what mental blocks are and what causes them.
What is a Mental Block?
A mental block is a thought pattern that keeps you from taking action. Popular examples of mental blocks are anxiety, depression, and disempowering beliefs.
These mental blocks cause internal strife, which turns into a lack of motivation, fatigue, frustration, and additional anxiety.
In other words, mental blocks don’t just hinder your immediate progress, but they can easily snowball to become disempowering thought-habits or unhelpful long term patterns of behavior.
What Causes Mental Blocks?
The initial trigger for a mental block is usually difficult to identify. It could be caused by behaviors you engaged in the day before, an interaction you had with someone moments ago, or a disempowering thought.
Common thoughts associated with mental blocks include things like…
- “I’m just not good enough.”
- “What if something bad happens?”
- “I can put this off until tomorrow.”
It’s important to realize, though, that although mental blocks do have triggers and are sometimes even caused by an external event, most of us (save for those with genuine mental disabilities) can get over these mental blocks with just a little bit of effort.
Like lifting a large boulder, we just need leverage.
And below are 11 different ways that you can overcome mental blocks — try them, test them, see what works for you, and create a habit of not letting mental blocks ruin your day.
P.S. As I was writing this article, I stumbled upon this video by Tony Robbins and it’s absolutely amazing. It’s 8 minutes but it’s definitely worth the watch.
1. Add Something Fun To The Mix
What do you need to get done?
Write that down. Maybe you need to write a certain number of words (like me), maybe you need to exercise, or maybe you need to change your daughter’s diaper (again).
Now, ask yourself this question: How can I make it fun?
If you’re open to answering that question, you’ll be surprised by how many ideas pop into your head.
Let me give you an example.
I recently gave up caffeine, but the problem was that I had trouble enjoying writing as much as I used to because I would always drink coffee when I was working.
So instead, I bought loose-leaf, caffeine-free teas and now I drink those when I’m writing. And I enjoy it again!
Maybe this means listening to a book or a podcast while you’re running, maybe it means lounging in your hammock while you’re writing, maybe it means learning to cook exciting recipes for your new diet, maybe it means drinking coffee while you file taxes, or maybe it means making your daughter laugh while you change her diaper.
With enough creativity, tackling lackluster to-dos can become bearable… maybe even fun!
2. Get Physical
Physical activity — movement — is probably the best way to quickly and easily overcome a mental block.
In the words of Tony Robbins, “Emotion is created by motion.”
That is, moving our bodies effects how we feel and whether or not mental blocks will keep us from being productive.
In the long-term, we should all try to build habits around daily exercise. But in the short-term, we can use physical motion to hack our biology and make us feel invigorated in as little as 30 seconds.
Well, by moving!
Even doing some jumping jacks, a few karate kicks, or dancing to a song can help get rid of your mental blocks. In fact, there’s a field of research dedicated to how movement impacts our biology (and thus our attitude): it’s called bioenergetics.
Check out the video below for some bioenergetic exercises that will make you look ridiculous at the same time that they’re making you feel like a million bucks.
3. Change Your Environment
Changing your environment can have a big impact on how motivated you feel.
For example, I work much better at coffee shops then I do at home. There’s really no reason for this other than the fact that I’ve built up a belief in my mind that coffee shops are where I do my best work.
And that belief makes it true.
So the question is, “What environment would help you make progress?”
Could you go to the park? A coffee shop? A restaurant? A friend’s house? An art studio? Somewhere else?
Don’t be afraid to change your environment in order to get over your mental block.
You might be surprised by how much difference it makes.
4. Bring Your Focus Back
I’ve noticed a pattern.
Something happens whenever I sit down to write for the day.
Thoughts like these immediately float to the surface…
Why not just take a little nap first?
Ugh, I don’t want to write…
Maybe I should just play some video games instead…
I’m not good enough.
We’ve all experienced these types of thoughts — and unfortunately, this is often where mental blocks are born.
But I’ve taught myself a little trick for overcoming these thoughts and the feelings that come with them.
I bring my focus back to what I’m actually working on.
In the middle of an article, for example, maybe I have a stray thought like, “Ugh… this isn’t even good.”
Instead of engaging with that thought, I just tell myself, “No – I’m busy right now. I don’t have time for those thoughts.” And then I bring my attention back to the task at hand.
Give it a try!
This is a great way to reframe your mindset, overcome mental blocks, and bring your focus back where it belongs.
5. Start Easy
Want to climb Mount Everest tomorrow?
Really, that’s a ridiculous question. You haven’t prepared to climb Mount Everest — you haven’t spent years training, studying, and getting in top-notch shape.
Of course you’re not ready to climb Mount Everest tomorrow!
And to think about doing so would be absolutely paralyzing. You probably wouldn’t even know where to start.
Unfortunately, we often think of our own goals in this fast-fire way. We see our desired result — make a million dollars, run a marathon, write a book, become a world-class speaker — and then we see ourselves as we are right now.
And there’s a terrifying gap.
But we must be careful — staring for too long into the gap between where you are now and where you want to be is paralyzing. Spend too long staring and you’ll forget to build the bridge that would have easily taken you to the other side.
Stop staring and start building.
What’s the easiest first step? Sitting down and opening your computer? Contacting a therapist? Creating a Word Doc? Applying for a new job?
If you break your goal down into baby steps and start with just the first few, even climbing Mount Everest becomes possible.
6. Talk To Someone Who’s Doing Better Than You
Whenever I talk to someone who is doing amazing things — maybe they’re writing a book (or maybe they’ve already been published!), maybe they’re building a business, or maybe they’re helping thousands or millions of people around the world — I get inspired.
And I get particularly inspired when I talk to someone who’s done what I’m trying to do.
It proves that I’m not crazy… that whatever I’m trying to do is possible.
The best part is that by talking with people who’ve done what you’re trying to do, you can learn specifics about how to get it done. Maybe you’re going about it all wrong or maybe your focus is on the wrong things. Maybe you’re spending the bulk of your time on the wrong tasks.
People who’ve been-there, done-that will inspire you, urge you to action, and inform you on how to make real progress.
If you’re facing a hefty mental block, it might be time to make some new friends.
7. Learn About Stoicism
Stoicism — an ancient philosophy — has seen a massive resurgence over the last couple of decades.
Modern people, myself included, have started studying and practicing stoicism to overcome anxiety and depression, become more productive, and live a life that’s consistent with their core values.
Here are a few of my favorite books that describe the practical side of stoicism and how to use this ancient philosophy to overcome challenges and build a life that you’re proud of.
- The Obstacle Is The Way — This book is all about how we should lean into obstacles, challenges, and frustrations… not try to escape them. The obstacle is the way.
- Ego is the Enemy — This book is about how entertaining your ego’s desires puts you at a disadvantage. By listening to your ego, you’ll experience less joy, be less productive, and struggle to have a clear vision. This book teaches you how to overcome your ego.
- How To Think Like a Roman Emporer — This book is an easy-to-read analysis of Marcus Aurelius’ life, the ancient stoic whom historians know most about. It describes his own practices for remaining in control of his emotions and how we can apply similar habits to our own daily lives.
8. Remember Why You’re Doing What You’re Doing
Whatever it is that you’re trying to do, why are you doing it?
Why are you trying to write that book? Build that business? Make that much money? Pursuing that career?
It might seem like a stupid question, one that’s not even worth answering.
But don’t be deceived — our minds are great at dismissing important, hard-to-answer questions.
If you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’re going to be far more determined, motivated, and likely to succeed.
If you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, then you’re going to question everything, every day.
Maybe you just need to get clear on the why behind your actions.
Let me give you an example from my own life…
I’m building Get Your Gusto Back because I want to help people, because I want to make money on my own terms, and because I love to write. I know that building this site is going to bring me joy over the long-term, especially if I can make a real impact in people’s lives.
9. Eliminate Distractions
This advice is basic but effective.
Get rid of any distractions that will threaten to derail your progress.
The fewer opportunities you have to get distracted, the more time you’ll spend working.
Here’s a list of 4 of the best apps for blocking distractions on your smart devices. Changing your work environment can also help eliminate distractions — even going to a different room or working at a coffee shop makes a difference.
It’s also probably a good idea to tell family members and close friends when you’ll be working so that they know not to bother you.
10. Try The 30-30 Rule
Ever heard of the 30-30 rule?
It’s really simple.
For 30 minutes, you’ll work on whatever it is that you need to work on. Then, for 30 minutes, you’ll do something that you want to do — this could be reading, watching a show, playing video games, or something else.
Go back and forth like that until you’ve finished what you need to finish.
It’s not a long-term solution.
But the 30-30 rule can certainly help you get through days where you’re facing massive mental blocks.
11. Take a Cold Shower
Taking a cold shower is one of my favorite go-to strategies for reinvigorating my mind.
There’s a lot of science behind why cold showers make you feel like a god among men, but suffice it to say that it really does work… and it works immediately.
Don’t believe me?
Why not try it for yourself?
If you’re in a mental slump, go take a cold shower. Make it as cold as you can and stay in for at least 30 seconds.
I guarantee you’re going to feel better afterward.
How Do You Get Over Mental Blocks?
Mental blocks are frustrating.
But with just a little bit of intentional effort, we can overcome them.
And I’ve given you 11 different things to try.
Hopefully, at least one of these strategies will help you get over your mental blocks.
Whether they do or don’t, let me know in the comments — also, tell me about what you do to overcome mental blocks.
I’d be curious to find out! 🙂
Mike is the founder of Get Your Gusto Back. He has a passion for traveling, he LOVES to write, and he’s been mentioned in Forbes and Entrepreneur for his expertise as a marketer and personal-development expert. He currently lives in Hawaii with his wife and two-year-old daughter.