By Darren D. Moore, Ph.D., MAED, LMFT, AAMFT
We have all faced mental roadblocks at some point in our lives. Whether it’s in our relationships, our work, or our creative endeavors, sometimes we will be faced with psychological barriers that just make us feel stuck.
We might be able to spot these roadblocks when they crop up in our paths, but other times we won’t even realize that there is something blocking our way. In order to get past these roadblocks, we must be able to understand what they are, how exactly they impact our overall well being, and outline the steps we can take to either minimize their impact or clear them altogether.
What is a psychological roadblock?
A mental block is a belief or thought process that prevents us from being able to do something — whether that is completing a simple task, or allowing ourselves to strive for greater success in the long-term. These roadblocks might present themselves in the shape of irritability, poor sleep habits, lack of motivation, or burnout.
What makes them so tricky is that they tend to be invisible — we will simply convince ourselves that whatever preconceived notions we hold are just the way things are, totally unaware that it is a mental block. Others might refer to it as a cognitive bias or a cognitive distortion.
How psychological roadblocks can prevent growth
Psychological roadblocks limit personal growth and overall forward movement. They can:
- Prevent people from living up to their full potential, whereby you convince yourself of the truth behind that negative thoughts that are stunting your growth.
- Prevent individuals from engaging in meaningful relationships due to negative thought patterns, overthinking, and irrational beliefs that can create conflict.
- Contribute to anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.
It’s important to note that psychological roadblocks do not take one shape for everyone. For this reason, they can sometimes be hard to overcome alone without an outsider’s perspective.
What causes these roadblocks present?
Psychological roadblocks can stem from so many different things, including:
- Previous traumas — post-traumatic stress that has altered your thinking and the way you see the world.
- Adverse childhood experiences — events or troubling emotional relationships in your formative years, whereby you don’t know any different.
- Negative cognitions — this can consist of extremely self-critical thoughts, low self-esteem, and feeling out of control.
- Unresolved conflict — personal or professional rifts that have affected your ability to carry out other tasks.
- Couple/ family history — generational trauma or conflicts, which can go unidentified for decades.
- Workplace experiences — perceived failures or negative experiences that have damaged self-esteem and self-worth.
These negative experiences can become compounded — essentially becoming a part of your psyche — which can determine how you make decisions, the way you live your life, and can ultimately lead to serious mental health issues.
Why working with an expert can help
“Mental blocks” is something of a general term to refer to what can mean very deep-seated issues. That’s why working with an expert who is trained in trauma and other mental health issues is often warranted. When you have become used to a certain way of thinking, it’s very difficult to break out of this destructive cycle. Working with a licensed mental health professional can help people break through intrusive thoughts that essentially hijack the brain and prevent optimum health.
Other ways to overcome mental blocks
Getting professional help might not always feel like an option for people, whether it be financial barriers or personal. Others might feel more comfortable trying to address the problem themselves before they turn to a professional. There are small steps you can take to overcome the mental blocks you face on a daily basis:
- Meditate — this not only helps to train your brain to focus and recognize intrusive thoughts when they present, but can ease symptoms of mental blocks like stress and irritation.
- Practice mindfulness — mindfulness can be extremely effective in helping people to take a pause in their busy lives, gain some perspective, and approach mental blocks with a clearer, more rational mindset.
- Start or end your day with physical activity — exercise is one of the best ways you can naturally reduce the symptoms of mental blocks, helping to relieve stress and giving you more mental energy.
- Keep a healthy diet — it’s well documented that a good diet is associated with reduced risks of depression, while omega-3 fats can improve mental health.
- Change your method — getting stuck in a rut is one way to make us feel like we’re not progressing. In times like these, it’s important to reset your thinking and explore new ways of doing the things in the area where you are experiencing the block.
- Take a break — perspective is an incredible gift, and it’s hard to gain this if we are going full speed ahead all the time. Don’t be afraid to take some time away from the aspect of your life where you feel stuck until to you can see things a bit more clearly
How the removal of mental blocks helps you get healthy
We know by now that the word “health” is related to so many more things than just the physical. Health means how we feel in every aspect of our lives, from the mental and emotional, to your satisfaction at work and happiness in your personal life.
But a mental block is always going to provide a reason to continue with old habits. Once you recognize the mental block, then you can proactively take steps to overcome it, and finally make the change that is holding you back from being your healthiest, most fulfilled self.
— Darren D. Moore, Ph.D., is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in GA, AL, NY, NC, IL, and FL [telehealth credential]), owner of I AM MOORE, LLC, a counseling and consulting practice in Georgia providing individual, couple, and family therapy services.