Feeling ‘meh’ lately? Mean to do a bunch of things…. then do nothing? Can’t even seem to set a goal, let alone reach it?

Why is it that you have no motivation to do anything?

The year to do less

If low motivation is new to you, and you simply can’t understand why you've suddenly become so uninterested? Cut yourself some slack, you are in good company.

Here’s what Covid-19 has spectacularly illustrated for us all -- motivation is affected by stress and anxiety.

A year of low burning stress over whether or not we will get sick, or be made redundant, ever have a normal university life, or ever have our free time back from our kids and home schooling?It’s given a lot of us the pandemic blahs. We feel tired and unfocused in a way that wasn’t normal for us. And that's okay.

Motivation and intrinsic needs

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist whose famed 'hierarchy of needs' is still one of the most famous motivation models out there. And it can quite easily explain why the pandemic has killed our motivation.

The idea is that as humans we have certain needs that come before others. We can't be motivated to reach a higher need unless the lower needs are met.

According to Maslow these needs, in an ascending order he drew in a pyramid, are:

  • physiological (food, water rest, warmth)
  • safety (feeling secure)
  • love and belonging (friends, intimate relationships, connection)
  • esteem (feeling accomplished, recognised)
  • self-actualisation (reaching your potential, finishing creative projects).

If you suddenly don't feel secure about having a job and aren't seeing friends and getting much connection (lockdown life, anyone?), then the middle of the pyramid is no longer there. So you don't have the motivation for trying to get a big creative project done (top of the pyramid). Your brain is too worried about getting lesser needs met.

When low motivation is normal

Pandemic aside, when else might it be par for the course to feel unmotivated?

1. You’ve had a big life change.

Again, low motivation in the face of a stressful experience is actually normal.

So if it’s not the pandemic that has you in a slump, take into account the affect of any other life change like a bereavement, breakup, major illness, family drama, or job loss.

2. You've made the wrong decision about something.

If there is one thing that kills our gung ho it’s secretly hating what we are doing. Did you take a new job, or sign up for a course, as you thought you ‘should’? Or are you dating someone because they are good looking, but you don’t actually share values?

Sometimes low motivation is a gift. It's our mind helping us see we need to stop and reassess, then make a change.

3. You are a teenager.

Also go easy on yourself if you are a teenager. This is a time in life when low motivation is quite normal. Your brain is still growing and your body is going through hormonal surges, all of which take a fair amount of energy.

And when you become a teen your 'circadian rhythm' shifts -- the ideal times for your brain to go to sleep and wake up. Research at the Stanford University sleep clinic confirmed that many teens are unfocused and unmotivated because of school hours that don't match their brain's preferred sleep schedule, leaving them exhausted.

When lack of interest in life is a warning sign

If your low motivation has gone on for at least six weeks or more, is not improving, or is getting worse? And you really don't know what it is about?

It might be a symptom of depression. Look out for connected symptoms like:

  • not wanting to see friends
  • negative, doom and gloom thinking where you blame yourself for past events and can’t see a worthwhile future ahead
  • changes to sleep and eating patterns
  • feeling like your body is heavy or numb
  • suicidal thinking, where you wonder if it’s even worth continuing.

Worried your low motivation has rolled into depression? Find a therapist now, book a session, and chat to someone who can help.

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