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Dear motivation, where have you gone? It’s a question you’ve probably asked yourself at some point in the past fortnight since the front pages of the papers promised us ‘freedom’ and the prime minister delivered... well, the opposite.
It’s something therapists have noticed. Psychotherapist and broadcaster Lucy Beresford says there was a “definite shift” two weeks ago among her clients, friends and family. This collective dip in motivation became more apparent after Boris Johnson’s announcement on the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, she says.
Beresford noticed a trend where, at the beginning of lockdown, there were quite a lot of people making an effort to adapt to working from home and utilising their free time to rediscover hobbies, bake copious amounts of banana bread and tune in for catch-ups and quizzes on Zoom.
We seemed to find our groove, we entered a “new normal”, and there was a sense that lockdown could soon be lifted, fuelled by the front pages of newspapers ahead of VE Day. But the British public very suddenly realised lockdown wasn’t going to lift in the dramatic fashion some had hoped for.
“I felt a real shrinking of the shoulders, nationally,” says Beresford. “That was the moment at which a lot of people had that sense of feeling a bit more defeated and deflated.”
Therapist Pam Custers, who runs the Relationship Practice, has also witnessed a shift in the past couple of weeks. She believes the lack of motivation stems from the grief we’re feeling for the loss of our lifestyles and the many unknowns we face in terms of finances, social lives and relationships (among other things).
She’s noticed clients are also reporting a loss in libido and low desire. “People are not making hay while the sun shines, because there’s too much taking up our headspace. We’re in limbo,” she says.
Custers says lack of stimulation in lockdown, and not knowing when this is all going to end, means that “everybody’s days are just sliding into the next”. So it’s no surprise that motivation levels are low – whether that’s to get your work done, start a DIY project, learn something new – or even clean the bathroom.
The things that we’d usually plan for and look forward to are now on hold or cancelled. The holidays, the weekend brunches, the birthday parties. All gone. And a huge part of our motivation is fuelled by such plans and goals.
“We haven’t got anything we can hang our focus on,” says Custers, “or something on our horizon that we can all look forward to. People are finding it terribly hard to engage their motivation. We’re all experiencing a grogginess.”
What can you do about it?
There are two key changes you can make. Firstly, think about making some lifestyle changes to fuel your motivation to do other things once more.
Plenty of people are finding themselves unable to sleep properly at the moment. Custers points out that it’s likely because they’re not getting out and exercising enough, so they’re then not sleeping very deeply at night.
And if you have a bad night’s sleep, you’re going to feel bad the next day too. “You get into this horrible cycle of having a lack of stimulation to excite you to do anything and a lack of healthy sleep to motivate you,” says Custers. Her solution? Spend more time outside (“it resets the circadian clock,” she says, “sunlight triggers hormones in us that keep us awake”) and get moving.
Now it’s time to address the second, psychological part – the fact we’re living in limbo with no future plans. “It’s a hard one,” says Custers. “What I would do is start making plans.” They need to be easily attainable, she says. A round-the-world trip is out of the question, but a walking or camping holiday in the UK sometime this year is more realistic. Now think about where you would go and what walking trails you’d try out while you’re there.
There are smaller, more immediate things you can think about too. “Plan to go for a very long walk and take a picnic at the weekend, go for a socially distanced walk with friends, think about how soon enough there’ll probably be a bubble of people who you can see,” says Custers. “They have to be plans that can be flexible – and as soon as you’re able to, as soon as you’re safe, you can put them into action.”
Life coach Carole Ann Rice cautions against doing it all at once. Baby steps are key. “Take one step at a time, don’t try to think too far ahead and keep in the now,” she says. “Life tends to be pretty unpredictable anyway, so instead try to reconnect with what it is you’re trying to achieve work-wise or in your personal life – whether that’s health, relationships, wellbeing.”
Get a to-do list on the go with really basic tasks that you need to tick off each day. Don’t overdo it, three points per day are fine, but it will help you work through it. “Having too much on your to-do list is overwhelming, especially if you’re not feeling as motivated as usual,” says Rice.
Building structure and routine into your day can also help you regain some control throughout all the uncertainty – and make sure you factor in some fun things to do as part of this so it’s not just the mundane day-to-day stuff.
Ultimately though, if one day you find it hard and the best you can do is get out of bed and brush your teeth, that’s ok. Duvet days are perfectly acceptable in lockdown. Be kind to yourself. Focus on self-care, whether that’s going for a walk in the sun or having a shower and taking time to moisturise afterwards.
And if you do manage to tick something off your list amid this global pandemic, reward yourself. “All of us are coping with this new reality and we need to pat ourselves on the back for coming this far,” adds Beresford.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.