Ever since Michelle Obama gave us permission to feel depressed about the pandemic and the state of our Nation, I have allowed myself to feel that not only am I down and out about our country’s state of affairs, but if I am brutally honest, I am lacking the motivation and energy I had when the pandemic first broke out to wear a mask, socially distance, wash my hands and sanitize doorknobs.
Of course, I am painfully aware that Covid-19 is a deadly virus for which no cure currently exists. On a daily basis the media gives advice from public health officials about risk reduction: stay at home, wash your hands, don’t touch your face and wear your mask
So, where does the mindset of being willing to take more risks and ignore social distancing measures and mask wearing come from? Why am I losing my motivation?
As a mental health practitioner, I am aware that a lack of motivation is often a symptom of depression. However, it can also be caused by something else. And that something else, for me, and perhaps for you, is the difficulty I have coping with being unable to “see” the benefits of my actions.
What do I mean by this?
I can’t touch, taste or see the benefits of wiping off my door knobs or disinfecting packages brought into my house.
Because the virus microbes are invisible, I have no idea if I had them before I washed my hands or have gotten rid of them after I have done so.
Also, because I am healthy, it’s very difficult for me to imagine being sick.
I am beginning to doubt if my efforts are really making a difference.
So, I ask myself, “How can I maintain vigilance in the face of being confronted by an invisible enemy and the intangible reward of good health?”
Ways To Get Re-motivated and Inspired From The Inside and The Outside
In psychology, we use the terms intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) when describing motivations to act. Intrinsic motivation comes from inside yourself, i.e. performing the act itself is the reward. Extrinsic motivation comes from an outside reward, for example in the form of a prize or money.
Reaching a goal of good health and feeling a sense of achievement are the ultimate rewards for committing to safety guidelines. But, as we strive to get there, the intangible reward of better health may not be enough motivation to keep up the good work.
In order to do the difficult work of staying healthy by not risking chance, which can seem never ending, most of us could use both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Consider the following ways of maintaining your motivation to continue taking the risks of the pandemic seriously:
- Think beyond yourself. Focus on the value of community and helping to alleviate loneliness and isolation by strengthening ties to others.
- Embrace solitude and the opportunity for self-reflection on your values.
- Stay informed with CDC Covid updates.
- Look to yourself for inspiration. That means doing things because you want to and they matter.
- Think about how wearing your mask is keeping others healthy.
- By telling a friend about your goals to stay safe, you are adding the extrinsic motivation of a “public” commitment.
- Enjoy the journey. Live a life of purpose and the reward will be the person you’ve become on the way to meeting your goal.
- Let go of negative self-talk and replace it with motivational self-talk.
Loss of motivation is something that plagues most of us. Like the pandemic, we must remember that life rarely offers certainty, and that behaviors that reduce risk significantly are worth continuing even if they don’t limit it altogether.
Moreover, the longer you maintain washing your hands frequently, keeping social distance and wearing a mask, the more likely it is they will become habitual and alleviate the problem of their intangible benefits.
Most importantly, don’t become immune to the level of suffering the pandemic creates.
Maybe Nike said it best – Just do it.
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