Have you ever been in a 'funk' or 'lost your mojo and enthusiasm for life' and found it really hard to pull yourself out of it? I have! And I know many women have been in this situation.
I originally wrote this article in 2020 but have updated it to be reflective of the highly stressful last few years that we have all been on the planetwide. I've had personal experience of losing my mojo/ motivation at least once in life (and ended up being burnout out as well). As an emotional personality it has been a bit of a theme in my life, and as a naturopathic practitioner I've had numerous clients ask the question, 'is this what my life is going to be?' or "I'm finding it really hard to be consistent with my habits as I have no energy or motivation.' "I feel burnt out with all that has been going on"
Here we are in February 2024, and I am acutely aware of how many of us are (or have had times of) feeling flat, exhausted, unmotivated and uncertain in these unsettled times.
These 'times in life' appear quite different from the outside looking in. It actually doesn't matter what it looks like to others, it is your inner experience that is most important, and what needs to be restored and nurtured. We want to get on top of it as soon as we can so we don't end up with burnout and adrenal fatigue.
Don't take anything personally Paulo Coehlo
It is unfortunate that our society doesn't generally openly acknowledge or support these periods in our lives. (Think 'mid-life crisis' and the judgements around it, and you will know what I'm alluding to.) I'm not sure why some people don't seem to go through these patches in their life. I have some ideas, such as the involvement of specific genes, (for example MTHFR genetic mutation, past trauma and PTSD or whether some people are better at hiding what is going on, but that is the topic of another article.
The triggers for going through 'a dark night of the soul' or 'the wilderness' are wide and varied: it may be a change in circumstances such as moving house; children either starting or leaving school, or home; or it could be the loss of a parent or job. For others it may be having to deal with a serious health issue, or their hopes and dreams don't seem to be coming to fruition.
The steps below are what I have developed over the years to help me and my clients in moving through these moments in life and to reduce the risk of burnout.
My story: from exhaustion due to physical pain to recovery
The most recent time that I felt tired and unmotivated was early 2019. I've suffered from chronic muscle tension and ongoing upper back issues for a very long time. During 2018 the discomfort was slowly getting worse, I started getting nerve pain radiating down my left shoulder to my forearm. I couldn't exercise or even do overarm stretches without getting a headache the next day. I had to accept that this was not going to go away without some full-on changes to some areas my life. I don't think I even knew which areas they actually were.
I particularly wanted to be free of headaches, as they stopped me from functioning as I would like each day. It meant I would feel groggy, unfocussed, had poor concentration and was often tired, and it affected my mood.
These steps below are the process that I have developed for both myself, and for my clients.
Step One - Acceptance
Firstly, we need to accept that this is where our life is at the moment. Change can only happen when we accept and make peace with what is.
The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new Socrates
In my situation, I had to accept that I can't garden for hours and do other physical work such as painting or lifting. I sometimes had to sleep on the couch as it supported my body better. I may not be able to do a lot of physical work on our permaculture property for some time. I had to accept that I needed to change some things in my daily life.
Step Two - Inner Work
This step can be quite a challenge. So be patient with yourself. Persistence will pay off.
When we are in an unmotivated place, and are exhausted or depressed, we often don't know where to start. There may be many thoughts and emotions swirling around in our head. Our energy and enthusiasm can also wax and wane.
Take time to hone in your self-reflection skills. This means you need to observe and notice your automatic thoughts and responses to situations. Write them down in a journal without judging what you have been thinking. This part is more about learning how you stick.
Often, we impulsively react to a situation rather than taking 'a breath' and calmly responding from a place of maturity. These ways of behaving will have been created in your childhood.
It is important to identify what specific emotions you are feeling. A lot of people may say for example that they are angry or upset, but we need to look under that emotion to find out what is really going on.
When we are triggered in this way it can contribute to negative self talk." Why did I do that?" "Oh, I'm so stupid" Thus we need to understand how and why we are triggered so we can learn to create new, healthier patterns for yourself.
Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath Eckhart Tolle
Spend some time exploring your emotions. You may like to journal, draw or do something creative. This will help you to stop and tune in to your underlying emotions. For example, if you are feeling anger - why are you angry? What is under that? Dig deep. Is it because you are upset or frustrated, depressed, disappointed, grieving or guilty? If you feel flat, why do you feel flat? When did you first feel like that? Can you release or let go of those emotions and focus on today? If you get stuck in this area, I highly recommend talking with an experienced counsellor or psychotherapist as they can help you identify the emotions and work with you to process them. There are some books I recommend at the bottom of this article.
For me, I became more aware that when I feel stressed or anxious I would 'freeze' and hold my breath. My neck, shoulders and upper back were held in a tense position. The muscles didn't relax properly and caused ongoing problems. Breathing carefully and consciously is an important part for me. Read about m y journey with anxiety here.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for
Step Three - Healthy Choices
To feel motivated, we need to ensure our physical body is getting what it needs to function well. Each of these areas need to be addressed:
1. Sleep. Are you getting adequate sleep? When we sleep our body processes our emotions and regenerates our nervous system. I've written an article which discusses how to get a good sleep here.
2. Exercise. Are you exercising? There are numerous research papers out there that stress the necessity of regular exercise. This does not necessarily mean running or going to the gym, getting out in the fresh air and walking is just as good. (Or doing yoga, pilates, Tai Chi.) You need to choose that which makes you feel energised or relaxed (depending upon your individual situation) rather than exhausted. The main thing is to include some form of exercise 3-4 times a week for 30-40 minutes. If you are feeling burnt-out it is important to not push your body. Just a short gentle walk may be all your body wants.
3. Food. Are you eating regular meals? Keeping alcohol and sugar to a minimum? We need to ensure that we are getting all the daily nutritional requirements of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates, as well as 8 glasses of water. I've discussed some easy tweaks to improving your diet here.
For me: I implemented the following:
- a regular walking routine as other forms of exercise (including yoga) were aggravating
- I put reminders in place so that throughout the day I stop and take some slow deep breaths, drop my shoulders, and relax. Read about the technique to relax here
- a conscious effort to process and express my emotions, (otherwise I get headaches and my symptoms are worse!)
- I started taking supplements and herbs consistently to assist my healing
- some regular bodywork
Step Four - Be Consistent
This is actually the hardest part for many of us. It is where the mindset work comes in. We must learn to be consistent, or nothing will change. It is also so important not to judge those times where we fall short of our own expectations. Just get up and start again.
Everyone has different styles when they create a daily routine. My suggestion is to keep it simple. Some people may like to tick off a list, others, keep a journal or a reward system. (Whatever keeps you motivated.)
Going back to my personal story /experience, my body pain isn't gone, it comes and goes, but each time it comes back, I stop, take note of what is going on for me and put my practices back into action. I've found that I can't run on autopilot as that means I may fall back into old habits very quickly.
1. Decide what you do want your life to look like
2. Create a simple daily routine that you can easily follow
3. Include regular selfcare and mindset work on your daily practice
4. Include healthy eating, keep alcohol, caffeine, sugar and processed foods to a minimum.
5. If you fall off the wagon, just get up and start again, without self judgement
If you’re gonna make a change, you have to operate from a new belief that says life happens not to me but for me. – Tony Robbins
If this article and process resonates with you, and you'd like to find out how we can work together, book in a free 15 minute discovery call
If you are ready to make a committed to your health. Book in for my work with me package. Together we can devise a plan to empower you in feeling well physically and emotionally.
If you would like some support to get yourself into a routine you might like to do my four week online course Reclaim your Mojo.
Some book suggestions:
Dinah Bradley - Self-help for Hyperventilation syndrome
Paulo Coehlo - The 4 Agreements
Dr Bradley Nelson - The Emotion Code
Dr Nicola LePera - How to Do the work
Inna Siegal - The Secret Language of Your Body
Eckhart Tolle - The Power of Now