Motivation is a funny thing. Sometimes it is there in abundance and other times it up and leaves you completely. I think being motivated is very important when you have a chronic illness such as fibromyalgia. It is the driving force that keeps you carrying on, even when you’d rather not. When you are motivated, you manage to achieve your goals, no matter how small.
Losing motivation is something that happens to everyone at some point or another, healthy or otherwise. However, I think it is fair to say that it probably happens more frequently to those of us who are chronically ill. Each time we experience a flare up of symptoms, the fatigue and brain fog can make it very difficult to do even the simplest of tasks. When you feel as though you can’t do something, it is easy to lose the motivation to try.
In other instances, the motivation may be there but physical energy is not. Maybe you have the desire to do something but you can’t physically do it. This can be terribly frustrating. So what do you do when you feel as though you have lost motivation? Here are 5 tips to help you:
1. Allow Yourself to Express How You Are Feeling
I have put this as my first tip because I think it is really important. When you lose motivation you can feel a whole range of emotions, from frustration to worthlessness. I used to bottle up my emotions and disguise how I truly felt by putting on a brave face and remaining positive. Positivity is great, but I believe it is best when it comes after you have faced and worked through how you are feeling. Bottling up emotions is unhealthy. Try to open up and talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling or at the very least write it down. Writing things down is a great coping tool as it allows you to process your thoughts.
2. Look to the Past and Put Things into Perspective
Sometimes the good days can make the bad days seem even harder. If you have been feeling motivated and doing well for some time and then all of a sudden experience a flare up, it can feel as though you have been knocked for six. It’s important to keep things in perspective. Remember that it can and will get better again with time. Look to the past and think about the strategies you used to help yourself work through past flare ups. These are strategies you could implement again! Allow your past successes to help motivate you to achieve the same again.
3. Give Yourself a Break
Often we lose motivation when we are burned out. There is nothing wrong with stopping and taking time out. This is particularly true when you have chronic illness and especially true if your motivation goes as a result of a flare up. Sometimes we need to cut ourselves some slack, slow down and take a break. Let’s not overlook the fact that managing our health is hard work, too. It is okay to give yourself permission to ease off self-help practices when you are worn out. As an example, I regularly practice yoga and it is an important part of my self-care routine as it helps manage my pain. However, if my fibromyalgia symptoms flare, I allow myself to take a break from doing this. Sometimes a break is exactly what I need. From my experience, once you are feeling better your motivation will most likely reappear.
4. Reassess What You Want
Sometimes losing motivation can have more to do with a change in what you want to do. There is nothing wrong with changing your goals and deciding that you would rather invest your energy into something else. If you are finding that you don’t have the motivation to complete a project or task, ask yourself if it is something that you truly want to do. If the answer is no, that’s okay. When you live with limited energy, I believe you need to invest it in doing things you either enjoy or that give you a sense of purpose. I don’t believe you always have to finish what you have started. Instead, you are better off putting your energy towards something you know you will enjoy.
5. Prioritise and Ask for Help
Often motivation can go when we feel overwhelmed. When life feels difficult and the tasks we need to do seem impossible, it can be easy to fall into a negative mindset. I find it is important to prioritise tasks and utilise a to-do list. When I write things down, it instantly reduces stress. Partly because I no longer worry about forgetting things and partly because it makes everything feel more manageable when I see it written down.
I used to try to be superwoman and work through as much as I could in a day and would suffer as a result. A to-do list allows me to plan tasks better so that I can hopefully avoid this boom and bust. I will also ask myself if tasks need to be done or if I am putting undue pressure on myself because I feel I should be doing them. Sometimes there are tasks that I can forego doing altogether in favour of doing something else that I enjoy more. I was finding that I did not have the motivation to do the things that I enjoy because I was burned out from doing chores that could wait. I think striking a balance between the two is important.
Asking for help is another great way to reduce overwhelm and revive your motivation. When it comes to asking for help, communication is key. Opening up to people and explaining the reasons behind why you struggle to do certain tasks allows them to gain a better understanding. It also puts them in a better position to help you. If you live with someone, ask them to do a task that you struggle with in return for you taking responsibility for doing another chore that you can know you can manage. I also always show my appreciation to those who help me and will return a small favour when I can. This can be something as simple as making my husband a cup of tea on a good day, which he truly appreciates.
Although asking for help can feel like you are losing part of your independence, I have found the opposite to be true. Help can prevent me from becoming overwhelmed, which means I stay motivated to do things. I am able to do more because of the help I receive from others. As well as benefiting my health, asking for help has also brought me closer to my family. Opening up about my struggles has gained me a new level of support and I hope the same will be true for you too.
About the Author: Donna Grant was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2013 and subsequently began blogging about life with chronic illness. She shares her journey and how she has improved her life with fibro, as well as other inspirational posts, on her blog Fibro Geek.