Can someone give me some advice on how to get motivated again?
November 2, 2020 5:55 PM   Subscribe

So, before the past two months I was doing a lot. I was programming, learning math, learning French and working out. However, after August things really started slowing down. I've been stuck applying to grad school and it really hasn't gone as well as I would like.

In addition to the above the pandemic really gets me down. I haven't gone to the gym since March, but I decided to start running all around my neighborhood. Usually, I'd spend 1-2 hours doing it. I'd also spend time on youtube learning about mathematics, mainly calculus and linear algebra. I'd also put a lot of effort into learning French. I think I was doing French exercises for an 1 hour or 2 per day.

However, everything has gone downhill. I rarely spend time doing those things anymore. I want to do them but sometimes it is so hard to do them. For instance, it rains a lot these days and running around my neighborhood means getting wet. I didn't care before, and was getting wet anyway, I got a common cold and sort of stopped doing it because of that.

In the same way I'm not sure I like my eating habits. To be clear I've lost more weight than I expected these last months, but I don't feel well about the way I am eating. I don't want to keep doing it.

However, it's also really hard to do all of this while the pandemic is going on. It just seems like every day is exhausting the longer this goes on.
posted by Tarsonis10 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Identity precedes action. Action preceds motivation.

Think of yourself as the sort of person who does the things you want to be doing.
posted by aniola at 5:57 PM on November 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

If you're comfortable being around other people during the pandemic, finding a running partner (or virtual French partner, etc) would be helpful, so you have to meet up with that person at a certain time and you're accountable to each other.
posted by pinochiette at 5:59 PM on November 2, 2020

Best answer: However, it's also really hard to do all of this while the pandemic is going on. It just seems like every day is exhausting the longer this goes on.

I definitely agree that it's hard to do all this during a pandemic. I don't think that means that you should try harder or try to go back to doing things how you did before. Could you be burning out from doing all the things? You're applying to grad school, which is hard and very much not fun, so it would make sense that you don't have the energy to do all these things anymore. Give yourself a break. Give yourself what you need. What do you need? I don't think you should beat yourself up for not being motivated. And sometimes, you just need to start doing the thing and then you want to do it more, not the other way around.

Some other ideas about thinking through this: What motivated you to do these things before? What is it that you liked about those activities? Maybe you can look at them in a slightly different way and start working with the material again. Try sitting down with your math or French material. Find anything interesting, that you want to work on? If not, that's ok. Leave it for now. Don't beat yourself up for not doing this stuff or not being interested. If there's anything this pandemic has taught us, is to be gentle with ourselves. It is a really rough time for everyone.
posted by foxjacket at 7:32 PM on November 2, 2020 [11 favorites]

I took up running and studying spanish as my pandemic hobbies, and I think some flux is pretty normal. I went through a period in July and again in September where the weather sucked and everything was too overwhelming and I fell off the wagon-- but that's okay! I chose some gentler things to focus on until I was feeling better. I was applying to jobs, which I imagine is similar to what you're doing, and sometimes that took a lot of my time and energy. And lots of things are hard right now. So I agree you should cut yourself a break.

Aside from that, the thing that helps me is to track the days I did something, but to allow myself to do just a little. I use the habits app. As an example, I try to study spanish 5x a week-- but if sometimes I only study ten minutes that's okay! I still check it off. The momentum and routine helps. And if I don't get to it a few days, that's okay too-- I give myself permission to shrug and try again the next week. For me, success at these types of things are more about creating a sustainable routine that I can sustain for months or years. It's about the long game.

It sounds like the weather isn't cooperating for running and you don't enjoy it. Can you find another physical activity to do instead until the season changes?
posted by geegollygosh at 7:57 PM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Burnout is real. Don't think of life as something that should only be used to optimize your learning time or add to your skill set. Sometimes, it's OK to just sit on the couch and play a game, or watch something on TV, or whatever. Give yourself permission to not be motivated to do all the things all the time.

It sounds dumb, but think of yourself as a rechargeable battery; you've been going pretty hard for a while, and now it sounds like you just need some down time to charge back up to 100%. Take it. Nobody's keeping score. All the things will still be there when you want to do them again.

Be good to yourself. Whatever form that takes.
posted by pdb at 9:05 PM on November 2, 2020 [8 favorites]

Seconding what pdb said above. Be good to yourself.

In training healthy habits, there's often a tendency for us to go hard on ourselves when we can no longer maintain an optimistic pace, for whatever reason. And then we beat ourselves up, which makes it even harder to maintain said pace.

When I feel down about this sort of thing, I do what I can while reminding myself that the worm will turn. That it'll all come back around again.
posted by transitional procedures at 2:11 AM on November 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Here is a Twitter thread (threadreader version) by Dr Aisha Ahmed describing the 6 month wall we tend to hit during any sustained period of crisis and how being in this pandemic for 6 months affects all of us. Reading it made me feel much better about my own lack of motivation during this time.

It sounds like you're pushing yourself to achieve and accomplish a lot. Only you know what your limitations are, no one else can tell you, but it's important to respect your body's need for rest and remember that rest is how the body and mind repairs itself.
posted by unicorn chaser at 3:09 AM on November 3, 2020 [3 favorites]

However, it's also really hard to do all of this while the pandemic is going on. It just seems like every day is exhausting the longer this goes on.

Well, of course it is! This is a hard and scary and confusing time and it is taking a lot of EVERYONE'S attention. We all have a greater need for rest and recuperation right now, this is taking a LOT out of us.

We all have a finite amount of energy. And sometimes outside forces take so much of that energy that endurance is all we can manage. I know that full well - I was once asking myself why I didn't seem to have the motivation to do things I wanted to do, but then I did a quiz which measured how much stress you were suffering from, and I saw that I had had such a chaotic few years that I had been suffering from "you're at dangerous levels of chronic stress" for the past several years, and realized that it was no wonder I hadn't been as motivated as usual - all my energy was going to coping with crises and trying not to go bonkers.

Give yourself permission to focus just on "maintaining" and small goals right now. Instead of running for a couple hours, maybe just try to focus on "I'm going to go for at least one short run at least once a week so I don't lose that habit". Or figure out what small step you can make to improve how you eat - maybe "I'm going to try to eat vegetable heavy at least once a week" or something. Small goals, with a mind towards establishing a habit that you can maintain while we're in the middle of Defcon-1-level chaos. That will reinforce the foundation so that when the world isn't quite so chaotic and you have more energy you can devote to yourself again, you'll have a foundation to build on.

Good luck. The world is a Lot for all of us right now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:30 AM on November 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yes: like you, I started off my time at home with a bang and now am totally, beyond burned out. We all are, is what I tell myself when I am feeling guilt for not working more.

But for exercise, what is working for me right now is so simple: the don't break the chain method. I draw a months worth of bubbles on a whiteboard and bubble in the days I do at least 5 minutes of HIIT training. Because the time cutoff is laughably small, I actually do it (and go hard for the time I do exercise).

I have also found that the virtuous cycle feedback loop happened FAST: after about a week I was like, I eat burpees for breakfast, can't wait to sweat out my anxietyyy. So you might not even need the external motivation for more than a jumpstart.
posted by athirstforsalt at 6:04 AM on November 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

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