As the weeks and months of coping with life amid a pandemic drag on, many of us are struggling with feeling increasingly unmotivated. Simultaneously, we feel pressure, both internal and external, to “be productive” and to “make good use of this time” whether through embarking on new workout routines or other means of self-improvement or cleaning out the neglected crevices of our homes that we haven’t had time to get to. Yet, many of us are beginning to realize that it is profoundly difficult to feel motivated right now. Would you believe I’ve been intending to write this article for months?
There are many reasons you feel this way. You may be grieving the loss of your pre-pandemic routine; especially the things you looked forward to. You may be weary of the extra effort it takes to do things in ways we are not used to. What used to be automatic and routine is now effortful as we have to learn to do things a different way. You might be exhausted from the anxiety created by living in a world suddenly filled with uncertainty and fears for our health and the health of those we love. These are certainly adverse conditions that merit consideration when we evaluate our own productivity and goals.
If you are currently working, you may be feeling extra pressure to “prove yourself” as essential. All this economic uncertainty creates pressure to make sure our supervisors see just how hard we are working and how valuable we are. Working outside the home can be really stressful and tiring as it requires extra precautions and procedures for keeping ourselves and others safe from potential virus transmission. Learning to do our work from home is also draining and challenging as we have to shift to new ways of working. Doing more things online means constant trouble shooting, problem-solving, and often more focused or intense ways of working than we are used to. If you have school-aged children, this adds further challenges to managing life online and for all the members of your household as you try to juggle and balance multiple demands, needs, and schedules. Or perhaps you are sending your children back to school in-person. This, of course, comes with its own set of stressors and challenges.
It can also be really hard to see all those “look what I’m doing with my free time” posts on social media from our friends who may be working less than we are. There is social pressure to “finally get to all those projects now that you have time.” Some of us don’t actually have more time and for those of us who do, we feel too spent to use it productively. All this while we are denied the social interactions, plans, parties, and events that regenerate our energy, joy, and motivation.
I urge you to recognize all of these factors and do your best to be kind and gentle with yourself as you navigate your days. When we realize and acknowledge that feeling unmotivated is actually normal right now, we can begin to be kinder and gentler to ourselves as we set more reasonable expectations that focus on our needs for support rather than putting even more pressure on ourselves as we go through this challenging time. We can remind ourselves that we are not going to be super-productive right now and that’s OK. Demanding too much of ourselves right now only makes us feel worse about ourselves and this further decreases our motivation.
You may find it helpful to create a more flexible schedule for yourself and your family and to set boundaries such as “stop times” for work and school. Focus on doing the best you can rather than evaluating yourself based on pre-pandemic expectations. Try to take breaks throughout the day to give yourself a moment to disengage from work. Perhaps step outside and take a few breaths of fresh air, even if you only have a minute or so. Check in with your friends and coworkers to see how they are coping. It feels good to be a support to others and while doing so, we learn just how valid our own struggles are. Remind yourself this too shall pass. Though we may not know how and when, we will adjust to our new reality and create ways to learn to safely live with this virus. Do your best to be grateful when you can while also acknowledging and validating your feelings of stress and strain. They are a very real response to a very difficult situation. Please take very good care of yourself and give yourself a lot of credit for getting through this challenging time. Seek support for yourself and when you do, remember: It feels good to be there for others, especially now.