Staying motivated while the world stands still

Recently, I’ve been really struggling to find the drive to workout, walk, write… the list could go on, actually, because I’ve been pretty unmotivated in many aspects of my life.

I know I’m not the only one feeling this way, but sometimes when I hear of someone else’s achievements during lockdown, my admiration and applause for them is tinged with an unpleasant sting of jealousy. Whether something small like a new exercise class, or something bigger like getting the job they’ve always wanted, it can lead me to question why it is that I’m lacking the appetite I need to push myself.

The hardest thing about missing motivation is that I once had it in bucketloads. I’d get up at 6am most days so that I could make it to the gym before work. Sometimes, I’d even get the train back to the gym to get another session in before dinner.

Then I’d come home, meal prep, maybe walk the dog, work on my blog, pack a bag for the next day and go to bed exhausted from all of the exertion. So while I can’t help being occasionally furloughed and the gym being shut, I miss feeling like my life was purposeful and… well, full.

So many of us are struggling, and so many are in far worse predicaments than me. I know how fortunate I am to be in the position I’m in. But it is definitely the case that I feel my identity has in some ways been stripped back.

Because who are we if we can’t be at our workplaces, out with our friends, part of our clubs, and able to enjoy our hobbies? What does this mean for our ‘plan’? Where will we be in five years time now? Do lockdown birthdays really count? Are we really supporting local businesses or do we just have an addiction to takeaway food?

We hear the words ‘be kind’ a lot – mainly in the context of showing kindness to other people. But if there’s one thing I have learned from all of this, it is that actively making an effort to be kind to yourself is so important. For months, I’ve beat myself up for not managing to do an online exercise class, or read a book before bed, or meditate daily, or use my time to pick up a new skill. I’ve told myself to just “get on with it”. And this has only made me feel more unmotivated than ever.

Now, I allow myself to feel what I need to feel, and do what is right for me in the moment. The minute I find a burst of energy, I take a walk or do a class or start to write. Normally the more I do, the more energetic I feel, but when I slump I let myself relax by watching TV or reading or calling a friend.

Occasionally, I will write a list at the beginning of the day of all the things I want to achieve by the end of it, and find this helps to inspire me because I feel a sense of satisfaction from ticking things off. But this isn’t always the case, and I’m beginning to accept that.

I’ve also found it helpful to try and look forward to things I would like to do when restrictions ease, for instance my plan to finally fulfil my longtime dream of starting a rounders team in the summer. I think it helps to have things in our minds that we’re excited about, without getting too fixated on the future.

The irony is, many of us have wanted to escape the daily routine of life for so long, but miss it so badly now that it’s gone. Without it, we have to learn to adapt and find new ways to feed our minds and bodies.

We have to take life day-by-day, hour-by-hour, letting our instincts and what we feel is right for us guide us. We have to reach out to others, try and be open about how we’re doing and share our experiences. We have to remember that we will find a new way of thriving in the aftermath of such chaos and uncertainty.

Above all, we have to remember that however isolated we may feel, we’re never alone.

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