What is Groundhog Day Syndrome And What Are The Hidden Causes Of It?
This feeling is known to many. It's the feeling of perpetual repetition, where the rich color palette of your life fades and you feel stuck in your everyday routine. Days seem to fuse into one and you get this feeling as if you're living the same thing or day over and over again and it seems like life is passing you by. And it’s called Groundhog Day syndrome.
What is Groundhog Day syndrome?
Groundhog Day syndrome is a psychological phenomenon, in some cases it can also be referred to as a condition or just a feeling, that makes you feel like you're reliving the same day over and over again. It is as much about sameness as it is about lack of diversity in your feeling and experience of the current period of life.
How it starts?
We all, from time to time, stick to the same routine like eating the same type of food for dinner, driving the same route, doing the same work, waking up at the same time every day, or even thinking the same thing over and over again. There's nothing wrong with that. Sticking with the same routine helps to manage life and focus on more interesting and important things. Routine is also well-known to be beneficial for our mental health.
However, once routine becomes a way to avoid unpredictability of life, it's when it becomes a problem. When on a psychological level you start choosing the same things over and over again, because you can't handle the pressure of making a decision, or your own emotions and feelings involved into decision making process, you don't notice how you start building your life around things that may feel safe and familiar, but are, in their core, empty and meaningless. At first, it feels like you're choosing these things to happen, but eventually they take over and you're no longer in control of your own life. Your days fuse into one and you seem to be stuck in a routine you have no idea how to break.
That's Groundhog Day syndrome. It's a complex psychological phenomenon and this is why calling it just a feeling is to notice only what's on the surface. Feeling of being stuck, in this case, is just the tip of the iceberg.
The hidden causes of Groundhog Day syndrome
Chronic stress / Burn-out
Living under a consistent sense of feeling pressured and overwhelmed over a long period of time exhausts your nervous system and has a strong negative effect on your brain. This sends the signal to your brain to boot in "safe mode", also known as survival mode, which decreases activity of the frontal lobes of your brain. This causes problems with focusing, decision making, planning, thinking and even processing the information from the outside. In a way, it numbs certain parts of your brain by increasing activity of your reptilian brain, also known as cerebellum, so your mind and body could focus on the body's vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. In other words, on surviving.
This makes you feel constant energy depletion or exhaustion, which naturally leads you to avoiding new things and sticking to familiar and already established routes in your mental and physical life, because you simply don't have resources to process more than your body needs to survive.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder is a common anxiety disorder that involves constant and chronic worrying, nervousness, and tension. People who suffer from it might unconsciously start avoiding certain aspects of life since their ability to stand the unpredictabilities of life is really low. But the paradox is the more you avoid the more anxious you get. It can become a vicious circle where due to anxiety you can't live a normal life and not living a normal life increases the severity of your anxiety.
Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home.
One of the most ignored but pretty common symptoms of depression are loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, feeling sad and having a depressed mood, loss of energy and increased fatigue, difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions, etc.
People with depression tend to detach from the real world and even from life itself. Their life turns into one dark day that repeats over and over again, quite like Groundhog Day syndrome, only it's worse and more complicated than that.
Statistically, 80% of people living with depression aren't diagnosed or treated. Sometimes feeling stuck, as if you're living the same day over and over again can be a symptom of depression, in which case I would highly advise to seek professional help.
Loneliness is the state of distress or discomfort that results when you perceive a gap between your desires for social connection and actual experiences of it.
Human connection enriches your life experiences, and so feeling unable to connect can bring you to isolation when new things are rare to happen and days tend to look very alike. The general dissatisfaction with life can make you feel stuck, as if you're living the same day over and over again. Your life shortly becomes boring and deprived of colors.
No dream / no inspiration
Groundhog day syndrome quite often is linked to lack of inspiration. Sometimes you might lose the interest in things you enjoyed and loved before due to the causes I have listed above and hence lose the sight of your dream and any inspiration.
And life without dreams is like a bird without wings.
Not living up to your values
If you value helping people but are too introverted or depressed or simply unhappy to do that, you might also over time feel the soul feels lethargic and flat, hollow, which might result in feeling like you're doing the same meaningless things over and over again. These things are meaningless because you use them as a "routine" to avoid facing reality, and without it you will not be able to conquer your fears and go after the things that truly matter to you.
How to help yourself with Groundhog Day syndrome?
If you start noticing that you are choosing to avoid unpredictabilities of life or life itself, I would highly advise you to look into the hidden causes and identify which one might be your case. Advice like "do something new" isn't an option for so many people I know who have had groundhog day syndrome. Remember that groundhog day syndrome can be a sign of a bigger issue and that sometimes self-help might be just not enough.
The most important thing to understand about Groundhog Day syndrome is that it never exists on its own. It's always a result of avoidance, emotional shut down, energy depletion, and defining what can be the cause of that is the key to not only breaking the routinized cycle of life but finding a healthier way of living your life