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How to find more energy and motivation if you feel sluggish

Six tips to boost your energy and motivation and help you say goodbye to feeling bleurgh.

How are you doing after 18 months of pandemic living? Have you discovered a renewed zest for life, or do you feel flat, directionless and generally a bit knackered?

If you fall into the latter camp, are you frustrated, stagnant or physically sluggish? If so, then you could be ‘languishing’.

What is languishing?

Languishing is not a new concept; sociologist Corey Keyes came up with the term two decades ago. But people are talking about it right now thanks to a recent New York Times article that described languishing as “the neglected middle child of mental health”.

Languishing sits between flourishing (when we meet our goals and feel happy and connected with our life passions) and depression.

While we can experience languishing at any point in our lifetime, it typically occurs when we’re stuck in a situation over which we have little control (like Covid) or when we’ve been through a significant upheaval, and the dust is yet to settle (yep, that’d be Covid again).

So what can we do about it?

BAST asked Desiree Ashton for advice on how to combat languishing. Desiree is Academy Lead with The Wellbeing Project, which runs Workplace Resilience and Wellbeing (WRAW) programmes in major organisations. She also trains and mentors WRAW practitioners.

While the NYT article states that languishing can be a precursor to more serious mental ill-health, Desiree stresses that it doesn’t have to be negative or scary. In fact, she’s seen many people make positive changes to their lives because of it.nudecamshd

“Some people don’t even see it as languishing, but rather a chance to hit pause and think about the direction that they want to head in before hitting reset,” she says. “It’s all about how you frame it.”

Desiree’s motto is: Be informed, not defined by the challenges that you encounter.

“Being defined by your challenges allows someone or something to put you in a box,” she says. “But choose to be informed, and the reins are in your hands.”

Six tips to help you – or your students – find motivation and energy

1 Introduce structure

During lockdown, many familiar structures such as commuting and face-to-face teaching fell by the wayside.

While initially invigorating (bye-bye boring train trips, hello to teaching on Zoom in our pyjamas!), this loss of routine may have had an impact over time.

If you feel you’re languishing, try to give your days more structure. Establish regular sleeping and eating patterns (nutritious meals, please). Make time to exercise too – regular trips to the gym or swimming pool can be helpful.

Once you’ve made these changes, give them two or three weeks to bed in before you decide if they’re working.

For tips on finding a healthy work/life balance click here.

2 Tap into what you enjoy

“One of my favourite questions to ask clients is ‘What did you enjoy doing as a child?’,” says Desiree.

“I then encourage people to step back into that playful space and do what they love, be it dancing, riding a bike or singing.”

If you loved singing as a child (and if you’re a singing teacher, odds on you did), make time to sing, but without expectation. Sing favourite songs and play around with your voice. If you find yourself immersed without expending too much energy, congratulations, you’ve discovered what psychologists call “flow”. (This is a good thing. Learn more about flow here).

3 Who are you spending time with?

When we feel wobbly or vulnerable, we often gravitate towards people in our circle of contacts who are experiencing similar emotions. That way, we can talk to them about our own situation without feeling judged.

However, it’s also important to have people in our lives who challenge us (in a healthy way, of course). Look for people in your support network who will re-invigorate you and bring in good ideas to help you in your quest to find more motivation and energy.

4 Do something that is within your gift

Don’t get too caught up in what you can’t control; focus on what you can do.

For example, if restrictions mean you still can’t travel to a place you love, don’t obsess over it. Instead, make plans to visit somewhere that is open to you. Identify three different walks you can do from your front door and do one each week.

By setting goals within your control and ticking them off, you’ll gain momentum – and find more motivation and energy. Achieving these small milestones will give you the confidence to set more ambitious goals.

5 Consider the opportunities the current situation offers up

Sometimes it’s ok to hit pause. If you’ve come through a difficult period, it might be necessary to take time to recalibrate or recover.

“We live in a high drive culture where many people feel the need to move forward constantly, but sometimes it’s a relief to pause,” says Desiree.

“One of the most helpful questions is to ask: ‘what’s the invitation here?’. Is this an opportunity to gently explore other areas or to pivot altogether? Or perhaps one invitation is to stay where you are.

“There’s nothing wrong with having a pause – if it’s a controlled pause. Just ask yourself how long you want to be treading water for.”

6 Look for patterns

Keep a journal or diary so that you can follow how different activities affect your mood.

It can be empowering to develop a strong sense of self-awareness about the patterns in your life. It allows you to dial up on the things that make you feel better to help you find more energy and motivation.

Want to know more?

Learn more about WRAW and becoming a WRAW practitioner.

Read: How to build resilience in a time of Covid.

Watch: WRAW practitioner Line Hilton’s webinar on building resilience.

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