Life is a series of challenges to be managed. In between challenges, life can seem easy, but the next challenge is always on the way. When faced with too many challenges at once, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and to believe that you have more going on in your life than you can handle.
Regardless of the size or the number of challenges you may face, the solution is the same: Ignore those things you can’t influence and spend your time and energy implementing solutions for those things you can influence.
A level head, a solid plan, persistence, and assistance can overcome any challenge life may bring.
Try these strategies to lighten your load:
1. Acknowledge that you’re feeling overwhelmed. There’s nothing to be gained by ignoring your situation. You’ll be in a better position to deal effectively with your life when you acknowledge the reality of the situation. When you recognize that something is wrong, you can begin to do something about it.
2. Take a time out. If you’re at work, slip away for a quick walk. If you have the freedom to do so, try taking a weekend trip. A change of scenery can make the challenges in your life seem more manageable.
3. Make a plan. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s easy to spend too much time focusing on the challenges in your life. While this is a natural response, it leads to feeling even worse! Rather than focusing on your issues, try focusing on solutions.
Imagine your friend was facing the same challenges, what advice would you give to them?
Make a plan to move beyond your current situation. What solutions can you find? How will you implement them?
A simple change of focus can alter your perspective and your mood. Do you think you’ll feel better focusing on your problems or the solutions?
4. Distract yourself for a few hours. Read a good book or take a friend to the movies or a cute cafe. Now is the perfect time to do all the things you usually do to avoid working!
5. Talk to someone. You could speak to a coworker, a friend, family member, or a mental health professional. Who would you call on in your life to talk you down off a ledge? Pick up the phone and include someone else in your current situation.
6. List the good things in your life. Things might be rough at the moment, but there are plenty of things in your life that you can be grateful for. Make a list of them and reflect on the many blessings in your life.
7. Laugh. Few things feel better than laughing. What makes you laugh? Watch a funny video or spend time with someone who always has a way to make you laugh. Who is the funniest person in your life?
8. Get some help. More heads and pairs of hands can get a lot more accomplished than you can all by your lonesome self. Most people are pretty bored and would jump at the chance to help you deal with your drama. Get some help.
You have plenty of options when you think you have more to deal with than you can handle.
Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. When life becomes especially challenging, feeling overwhelmed can dampen your spirit and hide the best solutions from you.
Admit to yourself that you’re struggling (that’s the first step) and begin looking for solutions. Allow yourself a few distractions when you need them. Reach out to others and avoid trying to solve everything on your own. Soon, you’ll be back on a more enjoyable path.
If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2 yet, reading those first may help give some more context before reading Part 3. Or you can read this first, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can always refer back to the first two parts of this mini “motivation series.”
Part 1 stressed that motivation is not necessarily a feeling. To accomplish something, you can’t solely rely on how motivated you feel. Otherwise, chances are, your “momentum” will not last forever and you’ll easily want to quit.
Part 2 stressed that on the other hand, sometimes it’s necessary to be a little more forgiving when someone doesn’t feel motivated to do anything, because the lack of motivation might be due to poor mental health, which can often be easily treated or helped with medication and/or professional therapy.
Both of these views are rather “extreme” and “absolute,” and suggest more of an underlying “all-or-nothing” mindset. But in most cases, the average person usually experiences a combination of both self discipline and a motivating feeling. So Part 3 will be called “normal.”
Normal: Somewhere in Between
We’ve all experienced some kind of “I have no choice but to do this anyway” approach (e.g. writing papers in college, picking up your dog’s poop, showering, dragging yourself out of your cloud-like bed to go to work), as well as the “I’m feeling so pumped right now LET’S DO THIS” approach (e.g. signing up for a half marathon without thinking, starting a business after getting majorly inspired, happily doing your first homework assignment after the first day of school, getting up at 5AM to hit the gym on January 1st, 2nd, and 3rd).
I do not believe that you or I have experienced ONLY doing things by means of self discipline, or ONLY doing things based on how pumped we feel. There’s a time and place for black and white situations, but this is not what we’re talking about here.
I myself have fallen prey to such black and whiteness, to all or nothingness. Actually, the situations themselves may not have been so black and white, but rather my way of thinking just did not have much of a middle ground. I believe that this all-or-nothing way of thinking and approach to life is why my life at times have felt so difficult or un-enjoyable.
I am also, right at this very second as I am typing this sentence, experiencing major writer’s block and cannot figure out what it was that I was supposed to talk about at this point of this blog post. My brain feels fried and empty, but I am still typing this.
I cannot say that right now at this moment I am practicing outstanding self discipline, because if I was, I would probably just willfully and unforgivingly tell myself, “Amy, snap out of it right now and use your brain to its full capacity for goodness sake. Just force yourself NOW to give it your absolute all and nothing less, or else you are a failure and your life is meaningless and you will never succeed in life because successful people don’t give in to their lazy feelings so easily so what in the world is wrong with you.”
But a part of me also thinks that this military-like mentality would likely result in unnecessary over-exhaustion by the end of the day. So, on the one hand I somehow am still typing away at this post, yet not beating myself up over not writing the most intellectually stimulating content, and also not fully succumbing to my blank-mindedness or blah-ness.
I guess maybe my current state of being and how I am responding to this circumstance is illustrative of this “happy medium” or “normality” that I am trying to explain here. I’m basically experiencing and practicing an approach that is somewhere in between the two “extremes.”
I would also say that what I am talking about is very much related to the matter of perfectionism, which is one of the top characteristics of people who waver between one extreme to the other, between black and white, between all or nothing.
Perfectionism “brings home” the discipline aspect and the emotional aspect, but not in a positive sense. If I were to let my perfectionism get to me right now, I would probably just keep thinking about how my head is starting to hurt and I have no idea what I’m writing or if my train of thought even makes sense at all, so I give up on writing this post because I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore, and why would anyone want to read this, etc. etc. and then as a result of this approach/way of thinking, aka this deadly perfectionism, I probably wouldn’t get anything done today. I’d rather complete a task imperfectly than not complete a task perfectly.
Meanwhile my eager best friend keeps texting me almost every day asking for a new blog post.. so giving in to my “I don’t know how good my writing is” thought would result in disappointing at least one of my perpetually excited readers. And I hope she feels special that I’m giving her yet another shoutout on this blog. You’re welcome. 😛
So how do you feel motivated when you’re feeling down or low energy? Do you just suck it up and forget how you feel altogether? Do you throw a pity party and say that your life sucks, and let your emotions give in to every negative thought in your mind? I don’t have the answers. But both Part 1 and Part 2 have their place and their validity.
I do, however, have a few “tricks” that seem to almost always work for me in terms of motivation, though sometimes it takes longer for the motivation to kick in.
Sometimes, when all the energy is gone and motivation is but a distant memory and all I can do is sprawl on my bed which, by the way, is the most comfortable bed ever, I have found that the hidden inner motivated Amy within knows that anything is still possible with her iPhone 8.
Literally though, I can’t even count the number of times my phone inspired me to get out of bed and get things done. What does this look like? A few different possibilites..
Possibility #1: Text one of my bffs, usually the one in my timezone, and say that I need motivation and can’t get out of bed. But for some reason I can still text in bed.. Then she’ll send me all the cheerleader-like texts and emojis and even record herself saying “You can do it” in a weird voice, or come up with a great convincing reason for me to get up. I’m fortunate to have this kind of best friend, but maybe not everyone’s friends are as weird and quirky as us..
Possibility #2:Open YouTube app, and watch or listen to a personal development video (also while in bed). Sam Brown’s videos will usually do the trick. I don’t know why, but I would say in less than 15 minutes I’m usually “pumped” again because something in those videos always sparks renewed inspiration in me.
Possibility #3: Similarly, sometimes I’ll open either my Podcasts app or Libby app to play life-changing podcasts and audiobooks. I am currently listening to The Magic of Thinking Big. If you listen to or read a portion of that book and you don’t feel at all motivated and/or inspired afterwards… maybe you’re not a real human.
There is an overarching principle in all the above iPhone techniques. If you have an Android that’s fine too. The principle is that when there’s no motivation in me, I draw from others’ energy and motivation to get energized myself.
This “hack” somehow works well for me. It even worked, or at least helped to some extent, when I was miserably going through a rough breakup, in which case the bff technique usually worked best.
All that being said, I will add that if you’re feeling down and low energy, you might just need to take a nap or get to bed earlier. Or maybe you just need to eat a healthy meal, drink some water, or go for a run.
Our bodies and souls are so intricate and complex, for which reason practicing self care is (in my opinion) mandatory and foundational for our well-being. Any little issue with our body, soul, or spirit, can affect a person’s level of motivation.
My purpose in writing these three posts is not to address every possible scenario or solve everyone’s problem. I am just a fellow millennial figuring all this out myself alongside you, and sharing my own insights that could potentially be helpful or thought-provoking for my fellow Gen Y-ers.
In Part 1 I talked about the first “extreme” way of looking at the issue of lack of motivation. Extreme #1 is all the way on one side of the spectrum, basically saying that if you’re not motivated, suck it up and forget about your feelings. It’s not about the feeling of motivation. It’s about straight up self discipline. Just do it.
So what does Part 2 look like? Now let’s go to the complete opposite side of the spectrum and discuss a much more “forgiving” way of looking at it.
Extreme #2: Mental Health
On the one hand, sure, self discipline is absolutely necessary to accomplish pretty much anything in life. But at a certain point there is the need to look at what it is that is causing the lack of motivation. Sometimes, it may very well be related to one’s mental health, or lack thereof.
Despite all the stigma of mental health problems, this is actually something that is probably more common than we realize. I was personally never too aware of some of these issues until I became victim to a stigmatized illness myself, for lack of better way to say it. I never thought I could experience a “mental illness,” but to my surprise, life happened and depression decided to pay me a nice long visit.
This post is not about me and my experience of depression, but rather to emphasize this often neglected point, that sometimes, the “lazy” person who won’t get his/her act together may very well have the best of intentions in terms of work ethic, but can only fight against the weight of internal imbalances so much before it takes over him/her.
I never understood why it was so difficult for me to get through college, or any other longer term endeavor, when I KNEW 100% that I was NOT a lazy person and had no intention to be lazy. In fact, I am probably one of the most ambitious people I know, to put it plainly. However, I couldn’t understand why my inner ambition and desire to overachieve didn’t manifest itself in my actions. I would try, and try, and try, only to succumb to that invisible weight that always seemed to win in the end.
You don’t have to feel sorry for me at all. I just don’t know how else to make my point more clear. But I would say that if you’ve been having some serious motivational problems over a longer period of time, and you know that you’ve tried your best (or close to your best), you might want to consider paying a visit to your primary care physician to discuss this struggle of yours. What can you lose just by inquiring?
I don’t know too much beyond depression and anxiety (which I’ve also experienced to some extent, but not as much as depression), but the realm of mental health is a vast territory of mysterious things that I don’t even know about or understand. We human beings are rather complex creatures, to say the least.
I do know however, that for someone with depression, having low energy is not uncommon. I’m not a doctor but I know it has something to do with our physical body and the chemical/hormonal stuff going on inside. And a lot of this “stuff” can be treated with just a little pill, or even just a little bit of therapy. Actually, I really believe that everyone in the world can benefit from therapy, because we ALL have deep issues and wounds that we probably aren’t even aware of. Tis true.
So, this second “extreme” approach or view of dealing with motivational lack is a rather forgiving one, and really gives a person the benefit of the doubt. But I am also hesitant about being too forgiving lest people who actually don’t have clinical mental health issues think they can get away with certain kinds of behavior. But, how do we really know what’s going on in a person’s complex soul? Meh. I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. I just have my experiences.
So Part 1 stresses exercising self discipline, and Part 2 stresses taking care of mental health, both of which I feel are important. But both are also on opposite sides of the same spectrum. Hence, we need to find a way to bring these two points home, perhaps finding a happy medium. Which I guess will bring us to…
A couple nights ago one of my best friends sent me a text suggesting/asking that I write something about how to feel motivated when you’re down and low energy – the title of this post. “My current life problem,” she added.
My response to her: “I’m definitely not an expert at that one.”
Yup, not an expert at all, so I can’t solve your problems. However, I do have some perspective and can share what I’ve learned through my own experience and what I’ve observed of others.
There are three parts to what I’ll be sharing, which are three different ways to look at this issue of motivation – two “extremes” and one “normal.” The three different ways of looking at it depend on the person and the situation.
Extreme #1 – Self Discipline
This may be self explanatory because we’ve been taught either in school or by our parents that we need to have self discipline in order to succeed in anything. Self discipline means you have self control. You’re strict with yourself.
This does not have anything to do with the feeling of motivation at all. Self discipline means you do whatever you need to do regardless of how you feel. I consider this an “extreme” approach/view of what to do when motivation is lacking.
You can easily say, “Well duh, just work hard and you’ll succeed.” Not feeling motivated? Well, then get your act together and work on your character and work habits. Stop being so lazy!
Blah blah blah. Yes, you can say all this to someone or someone can say the same to you, but my guess is that more likely than not, hearing this kind of talk will not solve anyone’s problem. It’d probably just make you feel condemned and angry. Then you may very well just give up on life all together.
Okay I’m being extreme here, but then again, I did label this section with the word “Extreme.”
HOWEVER, there is truth to the positive benefits of self discipline. If we lived by our feelings all the time, and only operated when we felt like it, I’m not sure if we would have been able to graduate from any kind of school. I mean, WHO wants to do homework and take standardized tests that measure the kind of intelligence that is favored by the long established academic system?
I also have never heard of a CEO or any other ridiculously successful person who only worked when the feeling of motivation was strong and present. The reality is, no one on earth was born with the gift of 24/7 motivation. That just doesn’t exist. And none of us would have gotten to where we are today without some self discipline.
Self discipline means being able to do things even when you don’t feel like doing them.
This has been one of the hardest but most helpful lessons I’ve learned in life thus far, being someone who was born with an emotional personality. It’s a lesson we ALL have to learn. Don’t feel like going to work today? Well then, be prepared to be fired if this behavior continues.
It’s harsh but it’s true. So yes, this is one extreme of the spectrum of how to view motivation, or lack thereof.
Stay tuned for the other two parts to this blog post, Extreme #2and Normal…
By the time I hit the “Publish” button it will probably already be the next day, but I still want to say, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! <3
(Update: I published this post well after midnight not because I’m a slow writer but because I was multitasking.. or maybe I should say, distracted. And yes I am vindicating myself.)
Yes, I emphasize the word “happy” because there is no point in moping about not having a “valentine” on an arbitrary day of the year. There is so much to be happy about if you really think about it.
Sure, you may be single or jobless or living in a small place or all of the above, but guess what? You’re also ALIVE! And if you’re able to read this, then you are most likely literate too because you had the privilege of getting a decent education. It’s a privilege to be living, and it’s a privilege to be educated. It’s also a privilege to own a smartphone and to be able to choose where to go for dinner, even if you struggle with major indecisiveness. Just saying. #firstworldproblems
I’m happy because since I am not employed yet, I had the privilege of catching up on sleep today.. which also means I already failed my 30-day 5AM wake up challenge but that is A-OK because I’ve been able to train myself to have a certain kind of mindset (thanks to one of my favorite bloggers Sam Brown).
What Sam taught me (through her 28-day bootcamp, Dream Habit) was that when it comes to creating a healthy habit, the point isn’t to do the habit perfectly. It’s not about doing it every day, but it’s about doing it MOST days. Why only most days? Well, because life sometimes gets messy and some things are out of our control, such as getting the stomach flu.
So as long as we establish a regular healthy habit and are consistent about it, meaning we do it most of the time over a long period of time, rather than doing it perfectly for only two weeks and then dropping it, that is completely fine.
And I do not want to plagiarize by any means, so for everything I just said about habits, I give all the credit to Sam. 🙂
Anyway, I guess I can use myself as an example of this habit consistency/most of the time thing. Two mornings ago I woke up at 5AM. Today I slept in until late morning. But I didn’t beat myself up over sleeping in because obviously, my body needed that sleep. Okay my body also needs to be in bed earlier at night but that’s besides the point.. I am allowing tonight to be one of the exceptions.
I also feel really stupid because I just tried to scroll up by touching my laptop screen with my finger to swipe up like a touch screen. It’s not a touch screen. #millennialproblems
And lastly, I have good news to share!
I got a job offer! YAY! Best Valentine’s Day gift ever! I’m planning to accept the offer which means I will be starting work within the next couple of weeks.. It’s an Accounts Payable Specialist position which is the best starting point job for a career in finance. At least for me.
I know for a fact that it will be very busy at work, like all the time, based on the conversation I had during my interview. But I still want to really work at improving and growing my blog, so I will have to experiment with my scheduling/planning and work-life balance.
Aand I probably wont wake up at 5AM tomorrow, but I don’t plan on sleeping in either. I’m thinking of setting my alarm to 7ish, maybe 8 to transition myself back to 5AM from 11AM. Yup.
Recently I’ve found myself telling certain loved ones not to worry, followed by a certain kind of reasoning behind these words of “wisdom.”
Unfortunately this so-called wisdom of mine came out of lessons learned from my old lifestyle of worrying, making my life miserable and unbearable, and wasting a lot of my time being anxious and/or depressed when I could have been doing something much more productive or rewarding.
But we live and we learn. Not worrying is one of the most helpful lessons I’ve learned in life, but I would say though, that it does require training yourself to have this kind of mindset, especially if being carefree has been the opposite of what your life has looked like to this date.
There’s a song written by someone I know that says “To worry is vain.” I can testify to the truth of this statement. I worried myself from childhood to adulting-hood, because I was born with the kind of personality that takes everything too seriously. I guess you can call me a sensitive soul. And for some reason that just reminded me of The Lion King.
“Hakuna matata” – it means no worries. Doesn’t that sound pretty good?
I’ve worried about the kind of birthday present to get for a friend. I’ve worried about the possibility of not being able to find a parking spot in Los Angeles. In high school I worried about what college I would get into. In college I always worried a lot when I had papers to turn in and finals to take. Then I worried about what I would do after college. I’ve also worried about where I would go for Thanksgiving dinners. And I’ve worried many times about what my next meal was going to be. #youngadultproblems #maybeitsjustme #eatallthehotcheetos
I worried about the need for me to get surgery upon graduating college (and turns out it went very smoothly). I worried about offending other people, so I was often way too self conscious to be able to speak to someone normally for fear of saying the “wrong” thing.
I was very worried about what my dad would be doing when my parents were going through a divorce. So much so that I spiraled myself downward into a black hole of depression. All it took was my mind and the thoughts I allowed myself to engage in. Yes, the situation sucked and it definitely hurt, but in retrospect I would say that some of the pain could have been mitigated by even a slight shift in my thought process. All the “what ifs” I worried about never helped with anything.
Then there were the adult things I worried a lot about. Finding a place to live. Finding a job so I could pay for rent. Finding love so I could get married and have a family. Finding a way to make my serious (but seriously unhealthy) relationship work. And I worried too much about how each dinner date would go with my unpredictable ex, whether he would be happy to see me, or whether he would be aloof and not really want to be there… Aaaand I definitely should’ve recognized all the red flags earlier in that relationship.
But we live and we learn.
I worried about how much it would hurt if my ex fiance (basically) dumped me. I worried that I would never be able to open my heart to someone again. I worried that I would never be able to love anyone else. I worried about having a “second love” cause someone else already took the first.
Then I worried about how I was supposed to get rid of all my stuff in order to pack only three suitcases to move back home to be with my mom. Somehow the moving process all worked out just fine.. but I had already used up so much time and energy worrying about what the moving process would be like.
Then I started to worry about having to start my life all over again at age 27, single and unemployed, because I’m already “so old.”
To make a long story short, recently things started to click in me. As I began to find joy in the little things in life, my mental health began to improve, thus improving my entire well-being, body, soul, and spirit. And one day I kind of stopped and thought, wow, I can’t believe I’m happy. And after much reflecting I had a realization that there was somehow a shift in the way I looked at things in life.
I realized that I didn’t have to worry as much as I did about the possibility of breakup with my ex fiance, because looking back I can see that I was rescued from a disastrous marriage. I knew in my mind that what happened really was for the best and that I would eventually heal over time. I seriously believe that somehow, my positive outlook on this difficult life event has had some positive chemical/hormonal health benefits.
By the way, I’m not saying that worrying is equivalent to taking care of your important day to day responsibilities, and I’m not saying that there will be no pain when things are hard. Human life has many ups and downs and complications, and things will not always go our way. But one thing I’ve learned is how to let go and keep on going forward without letting my mind give heed to avoidable pessimistic thoughts.
Worrying is like a thief coming to steal your most valuable possession: time. But really though, worrying about anything just takes away your precious time, and being that person who worries all the time benefits no one, neither you nor the ones around you. I’m pretty sure others would prefer to be around someone who is less stressed out and uptight about everything.
So today, when my mom was describing to me her ongoing difficulties with major T-Mobile complications, I didn’t know how to comfort or help her except to say (lovingly.. I think) that worrying about it will not make the situation better. Rather, worrying only makes your life more miserable. There’s this song I know that says “everything’s the best that it could be.” And I feel that’s the best way to look at any situation.
There really is no need to worry about anything. Your life does not need the addition of unnecessary pain and suffering. Life is too short to worry. I don’t know about you, but I want to be happy and enjoy the time I have here on the earth. And don’t worry, I will still be a responsible human being, just a happier one. Better than being a responsible worrisome human being. 😉