In episode 272, I received a question from an individual who has been struggling to find their passion, enthusiasm, and motivation for life since COVID-19 hit. In this post, I take a look at the impact of the pandemic on our minds and offer my thoughts and tips on how to rekindle your motivation and continue taking the steps you need to craft the life you want.
I’ve been listening to your podcast for a while now and I love hearing your insight about various topics. I was wondering if you had any advice on feeling stuck and getting out of a post-pandemic rutt. To give you more context, I am 22 years old and currently a grad student studying psychology. Like most people, I struggled during the pandemic and felt like I lost all motivation in various areas of my life (like in school, hobbies, and social life). I tried giving myself time to see if the funk would eventually go away, but even about a year and a half later, I still feel stuck. Pre-pandemic, I felt like I felt more passionate and excited about my future, but now I feel like I’m just living and trying to get through each day. I know a lot of young people in their 20s are probably feeling this way too so I was wondering if you had any wise words to share?
Good question! You are right that a lot of 20 somethings are feeling this way, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth paying attention to. I think an important part to point out in your question is that we are not post-pandemic. We aren’t necessarily at the height of the pandemic and although many of us are not in quarantine anymore, a lot of places in the world still find themselves in quarantine or in and out of quarantine. Even here in the US, things aren’t necessarily back to normal. Things have definitely drifted back toward normality in a lot of ways and we aren’t as limited as we were during Tiger King era quarantine. Even in subtle ways from a lot of people still working at home to certain products not being available at the store to the news cycle to just the attitudes of people.
There are probably subconscious ways that you are still aware of the weirdness in the world, which still can make you feel like you are still holding your breath a bit. I say this from my own personal experience. Truly there is very little practical impact on my life from the pandemic at this point. I’m working full time, my kids are in school etc. But I still find myself waiting for… something to feel perfectly okay.
Focus on the here and now
Another thing about your particular situation that I need to say is regarding your schooling. You said that you are a psychology grad student. It’s probably been very weird having this interruption in your program. Totally understandable. BUT. Your job right now is to get through your program. You don’t have to feel inspired and stoked about your future prospects. You just need to get through the damn program. That’s hard enough. I remember getting advice like this when I was doing my dissertation. That my job wasn’t to make the perfect dissertation. My job was to get the goddamn degree so that I could get licensure and move on with my life.
I answered a question last week about how a person’s job is just a job. In a similar way, this is just your graduate program. This is where you cut your teeth and get your fundamentals, but you will truly learn much more about the work you do and your own self as a mental health professional (if that’s what you are doing) after you graduate and start working.
Tips to help craft the life you want
Few things you can do, though. If you’ve fallen out of your normal routine and find that your days are much less consistent, that is an area that you can have some influence. Having a consistent wake and sleep time, scheduling time for important self-care activities like exercise, having regular meals at a table, and basically pretending like you’re a normal person can go a long way in actually making you feel like a normal person. You can also give yourself permission to be a bit apathetic. If you are harboring guilt and feel weird about the fact that you don’t feel very inspired and interested right now, maybe you can come to a place of recognizing that it’s okay to feel blah about things. Things are weird and things are blah.
Instead of pushing yourself to be jazzed on life at the moment, maybe some self-reflection is necessary to connect to your values. The things that you find important about the world, the reason you started on this journey in the first place, and the passions that drive you. You don’t have to feel perfectly connected to them right now, but reminding yourself of the reason you are here and the direction you are hoping to go can help. Again, you don’t need to be feeling like you are living a fulfilling and values-driven life every single day. Keep your north stars in the back of your mind as aspirations rather than requirements that you are falling short of. You have plenty of time to connect to them and see them to fruition.
If there is anything that you are waiting on, challenge yourself and ask if you need to wait for it. If you find yourself saying, “as soon as things are better, I will…” this is something to pay attention to. Do you need to wait or can you give yourself permission to just get started now? In many cases, the action is what needs to come first rather than waiting for the right time or the right feeling. By acting, you create the circumstances for the inspiration and motivation to emerge.
And overall, I’d say that you could have more patience with yourself. Consider how you would feel about your best friend coming to you with the same concerns. What would you tell them? Would you judge them for feeling bad or not accomplishing as much as they expected? I doubt it. I imagine you would tell them to go easy on themselves. Go easy on yourself. Even if things are drifting back to normal, you very well may still be recovering from the jarring changes of the past year. Give yourself some grace and a chance to recover. You are not running out of time. You have all the opportunity to craft the life that you want. Go easy on yourself.
You can listen to this on Episode 272 of the podcast!
Thank you for the great question!
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