5 Ways to Pull Yourself Out of an Emotional Rut

I’m sitting in class, passively trying to make sense of the slides, when I yawn. It’s a great yawn that brings tears to my eyes. Real tears. The kind that start silent but grow into increasingly audible sobs, and I can’t stop until I get up and leave the classroom.

If you’ve been feeling monotonous or stuck in a less than positive emotional state lately, I’ve got some tips to help you rejuvenate.

I don’t know exactly why I was crying that day, but clearly I needed something to change. I, like many others, didn’t acknowledge something was wrong until I experienced this breakdown in class. Let’s talk about how to both avoid the aforementioned situation and deal with the aftermath in the event something like this occurs to you.

Here are some cardinal rules I’ve tested over the past several semesters to help me out of a funk:

Pay Attention

Start listening to your own thoughts. Truly paying attention and tuning into the little self talk that is in your head can inform you of what emotional path you are currently on. Self talk is like the code for the computer that is our brain. If you start to notice more and more negativity in your thoughts, you may be unintentionally making yourself sad. It is way too easy to go on autopilot, not just at Penn but also in our day-to-day lives. Waking up and walking through the same routine without checking in with yourself on occasion is exactly what can lead to burnout or, in my case, unexpected crying in class.

Do Something New

A rut is defined as a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive. The quick fix is to break your pattern. It is incredible what a huge difference a small change to routine can do. Simply going to a new coffee shop can boost your productivity and lift your mood. Start a list of places you want to go to in Philadelphia or things you want to do and then when life starts feeling stale, try them out one by one.


If you don’t consistently exercise, follow along to a 15 minute workout video. If you do workout all the time, try a new type of exercise! There are so many studies about how exercise boosts one’s mood. Physical activity can actually increase creativity for a period of time, potentially leading to a new perspective on your situation. Additionally, sometimes you just have to release your aggression and physical exertion is one of the most effective ways to do so. Taking a kickboxing class or even running intensely will literally drain the cortisol from your body and replace it with endorphins.

Recognize Whether or Not Your Mood is Circumstantial

Alcohol is a known depressant. I’m not telling you to stop drinking, but it’s important that you are able to acknowledge the difference between deep emotional distress and a temporary depletion of serotonin. Also, note whether you are in a low mood because of a recent romantic rejection, academic failure, or professional setback. These types of events can definitely have longer lasting effects, but it’s always helpful to contextualize your pain. Knowing the source can help expedite the healing process by making you aware of what you’re facing.

Take the Damn Day Off

Otherwise known as a Life Administration Day. Read. Watch Netflix. Eat at a cool restaurant. Commit to a full 24 hours of doing only what you WANT to do without stressing over the things you “should” be doing. It will give you time to tend to yourself and your feelings without guilt, which is always refreshing and does wonders for your wellbeing. Bonus tip: it also helps with productivity.

These are some easy to implement fixes to a routine turned sour. Next time you’re feeling low or itching for a change of pace, try these tips and hopefully you will see immediate benefits.