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Health & Balance

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Are You Secretly in a Rut

WebMD Commentary from "Redbook" Magazine

By Ellen Welty

Redbook Magazine Logo

You've got a big, big life. You've got work plus family and friends. You've got an impressive to-do list and a nifty cell phone to help you keep everyone and everything on track. But here's the big question: Do you feel fulfilled? In other words, do you balance out obligatory chores and errands with enough good stuff so you come out energized at the end of the day? Or do you sometimes suspect that your life is leading you instead of you leading it?

That's the essential difference between being in a groove and being in a rut — and it's all too easy to fall into the latter these days, given our highly structured lives. For one thing, we're overextended: "Now more than ever, women have additional expectations of themselves. They're having children and taking care of homes and working, and the traditional concept of the weekend as a time to relax has disappeared — it's now often a time to get yet more done," says sociologist Geoffrey Godbey, professor emeritus of Leisure Studies at Pennsylvania State University and co-author of Time for life -- The Surprising Way Americans Use Their Time, "And then there's the influence of technology — cell phones, BlackBerrys, e-mail. It's not that 'busy' is the enemy," he notes. "What matters is whether your busy schedule includes things you enjoy." If you're obsessed with always using your time "productively" — returning every call the same day, going to every benefit dinner at your kid's school — you might not feel gratified. What might be missing, Godbey notes, are some of those satisfying, freer moments when you can let your brain wander down interesting byways, discover new passions...or just chill.

The tricky thing about this rut business is that you may be stuck in one without realizing it. Perhaps you keep everything chugging along, and all seems fine on paper. Yet inexplicably, you have a low-level case of the blahs. Figure out just how much of a rut — or groove — you're in, then check out the strategies on how to bust that rut, or make the groove you're in even groovier.

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