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Wellness and balance tips for 2020
Smiling faces of several people showing through a foggy window
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After 15 years in dentistry, I started to feel the proverbial grind. My days all seemed the same, despite different patients and plenty of different problems to resolve each day. I was in a rut and digging deeper.

As a Michigander, I have experienced plenty of ruts. I was used to the muddy kinds from the springtime thaws, and I was used to the snow ruts from unpredictable winter weather. But, these were from cars and trucks. I wasn’t used to the human-being kinds. 

I didn’t realize I was in a rut.

Now that 2020 has arrived, it’s a perfect time for rut assessment and rut removal. Here are some tips I used and still use to get myself out of the ruts.

First, take a look at your current situation. Are you spinning and spinning, but gaining no traction in your career? Are you stagnant? Are you bored? Are you unmotivated to go to work each day? Are you feeling hopeless or trapped in a less than desirable situation?

You may be in a rut. And, that’s OK. You may need to spin your wheels for a while longer while you figure out your game plan to get yourself out of the rut. But, don’t wait too long or your bald tires will go flat, and it will be even harder to get forward movement.

Once you have identified you are in a rut, contemplate options for rut removal.

The way you get yourself unstuck is similar to the way Northerners get out of a ditch filled with snow. Here are several options to get unstuck:

1 Use an object to springboard yourself out.

You need a tool or two. Maybe it’s a continuing education class to get you excited about a new technique or new materials. Maybe it’s a new workout class or payment to a yoga instructor to help you change your body or your thoughts. You need something to give you a new grip to get going again.

2 Rock back and forth and then accelerate forward.

When the snow is really deep in Michigan and you slide off into the ditch a little bit, this method works. This means you have to ease backward and then rocket forward. Ease backward and then accelerate forward. In life, it means you may have to digress a bit before you can go forward. It’s easy to beat ourselves up mentally for not changing immediately and for not being as successful as desired as quickly as anticipated. Not all progress is made by going forward. Sometimes, there are digressing moments or pauses. Those pauses allow for contemplation of next steps. It may seem like things then happen suddenly, but progress often comes from a lot of forethought and planning.

3 Dig your way out.

This is a hard job, but sometimes there is no one around to help. If you decide to make rapid, bold changes it will be hard, but if you are persistent, you can fight your way out of the things you settled for, the issues you avoided and the problems you previously neglected. Gaining more control of those seemingly lost battles will inspire you to keep digging until you balance out the need for more or less control. It’s the balance between control and letting go that I often prioritize incorrectly. To dig your way out of something often requires you to let go of the issue or let go of the relationship with a family member or colleague. We like to think we can control the issue, and that adds to our stress levels. The tighter we hang on, the deeper we get in the rut. Seek the balance our bodies and mind crave.

4 Ask for help.

I have stopped many times to give a car a push out of a ditch or stopped to pull a car out of a snow bank with our truck and a tow strap. I have received the favor in return as well. There are times when there is nothing you can do except to ask for help. All of the rocking and digging is useless; the rut just gets deeper, and you need a push or a pull. Our lives are the same way. Fortunately, there are specialists to help us with behavior modifications techniques, grief counseling, physical pain, addiction rehabilitation, stress management and coping skills, and so many other areas of expertise. We think we can figure our problems out on our own, but would you want your patients to figure out how to take out their third molars or learn how to do root canal therapy on themselves? It’s absurd, right? Suffering in silence is also absurd and not reaching out to specialists during the really hard parts in our lives is illogical. Make the call and ask for help when you are really stuck and nothing else is working.

5 Wait it out and let the mud harden or wait for the snow to melt.

This is by far the longest and most time-consuming method. This is an option, and I see many people take the wait and see approach with their lives. Every once in a while, the rut in someone’s life does disappear just by doing nothing. But, more often, the rut continues and gets deeper. Action is needed to get out of most ruts.

Now is the time to contemplate your health, your overall feelings of contentment and your level of happiness. If  you feel like you are stuck, and want to move in a different direction in 2020, take action to get out of the rut you are in. You have choices, and you have a lot of help around you when you really get stuck.

Dr. Knowles is a national speaker, health educator and practicing dentist in East Lansing, Michigan. For more information or to schedule her for your next speaking event, visit or email