What is Motivation and How Do You Get it?

October 6, 2020

In talking to friends lately, there’s a lot of talk about motivation, or a lack thereof. It’s not surprising. Especially during this time of COVID 19 and the pandemic. What’s surprising is collectively they shared symptoms of mild to severe stress, with lack of interest in work, exercise, eating well, and being social.

Pandemic Fatigue
Researchers have identified “pandemic fatigue” as an all-encompassing term that may include symptoms of stress and anxiety, fatigue and irritability, deterioration of mood and sleep, emotional upset and depression, that can lead to a lack of motivation and poor performance. Seems about right!

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stress is a broad term used to describe the brain’s response to any demand or set of demands resulting in a vast number of differentiated emotional and biological states. According to the NIH, there are two types of demands or “stressors” that contribute to stress in humans: (1) external / environmental stress, and (2) internal / emotional stress. For example, environmental stress is external, such as a project deadline, and stress that is internal may be caused by persistent fear or worry. While we all experience stress on a daily basis, it’s considered a normal part of life. However, not all stress is equal.

There are two types of stress individuals experience:
1. Distress is negative stress that causes anxiety or unpleasant feelings that can lead to mental and physical issues.
2. Eustress is considered positive stress characterized by feelings of motivation, energy and excitement.

Continuous exposure to distress increases vulnerability to adverse health outcomes mentally and physically. For example, an individual who persistently perceives environmental demands exceeds their ability to adapt may experience feelings of anxiety that could lead to depression and physical illness and disease. Other consequences include weight gain, sleep disturbances, and substance abuse. During Covid distress seems to canceling-out eustress.

Bring on Eustress
When we understand the root cause of our stress and lack of motivation, we can take steps to feel better and move forward. Researches in the field recommend the following ways to include more positive stress in our lives for overall health and wellbeing.

• Physical movement, especially outdoors.
• Adopt an “attitude of Gratitude” – daily reminders of what you are grateful for.
• Push yourself to set small and large goals that are realistic, yet challenging.
• Stay Connected. Maintain your social circle and reach out to friends and family.
• Food as wellness. Conscious consumption will help to fuel your body and mind.

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