Stuck in a rut

My parents have separated recently and consequently, my father moved out. I am not saddened, but I feel an increased loss of structure. Also, while my mum has a new sense of independence which she likes, she seems unmotivated to do things with her life. It sounds unfair, but I feel that her reluctance has rubbed off on me and that I am feeling unmotivated with schoolwork and socialising. I most often find myself on the internet or watching films, while leaving assignments to the last possible minute. And then I get scared of not doing well at uni.

The separation of parents often has indirect emotional effects on the children, even when it happens in peaceful way and both parents consider the step as a positive way to move on with their lives. It is a lot to adjust to for all persons involved, a transition period which takes its emotional toll. What you describe about losing structure, staying in your comfort zone at home, neglecting social activities and procrastinating academic work, are quite common indicators of this emotional toll.

From your perspective, the transition may involve things like how your role with your mother (who you live with) has changed, and how your relationship with your father will be shaped, now that he has left. I’d suggest spending some time to reflect on your wishes, values and priorities, independently from the way your parents are dealing with the transition. This does not imply exclusion of your parents’ perspective, and a next step could be to discuss your visions with them and to find out about differences and common ground.

In your statement it appears that you’ve taken on your mother’s response of passiveness in reaction to the change. You could ask yourself whether this could be related to motives like keeping her company, so that she does not feel lonely, to comfort her etc. If you find some of this applied to your inner motives, you could ask yourself to which degree these motives should be a guideline for your visions of life, because otherwise it easily could turn into a full-time job.

If you are stuck in a rut, you need to put a big amount of energy into getting unstuck, you might even need some help at the first stage to free the wheels. It could be helpful to talk to friends, other members of the (extended) family, or to a counsellor.

Still, even with support, a big chunk of work has to be done by you in order to change your habits and to get out of your comfort zone. You’d need a structure of working time as well as leisure time and start with humble, achievable goals. Reward yourself if you’d manage to stick to them. Expect some discomfort at the beginning when you actually sit down and work. In order to deal with that discomfort, don’t escape to the next available distraction and reward yourself in your leisure time with pleasurable activities.

A crucial part of a good work-life balance is social connectedness: put some effort into seeing friends, reaching out and sharing your interests with other like-minded people, rather than spending most of the time sitting in front of your computer.

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