No Motivation November
December 20th, 2020
Hello readers, Brooke and Shaira have been gone for a little bit. We haven't been as active on Hiraeth as we'd like and that's because life kinda hit both of us, hard. We know that a lot of what we have gone through can be related to, so this month's journal is going to be a little different; it's called No Motivation November, and we hope you can find some peace knowing that we are both teenagers navigating college applications, mental obstacles, Zoom classes, and more alongside you.
I’m happy that we both finally found some motivation, and time, to start writing again. Senioritis had hit me early. In fact, I’m writing an entirely personal blog post on my November; it’s going to be a hell of a ride!
Something that I think we should really talk about in this journal is the lack of motivation we’ve both felt these past weeks. I think the reason I was so unmotivated was that during the months leading up to November, I was constantly overworking myself, putting myself in uncomfortable situations with deadlines, and offering to do something even though I knew I didn’t have the bandwidth to do it. I’ve gotten used to the sleepless nights and letting myself struggle. I became so numb to the mental breakdowns, that I just stopped having them. I suppressed how tired I felt and just kept going. I became a machine.
It worked for a little bit- I got a lot of things done, and did a lot of my work until I mentally and physically could not keep up anymore. My lack of motivation snuck up on me; at first, I thought that I was taking a much-needed break. I promised myself that for a week, I was going to take some time to myself by sleeping early, breaking up my tasks throughout the day, and meditating for at least 10 minutes before going to bed. Before I knew it, the time I promised for self-care switched from “I’m going to take a break after this homework assignment to have a proper meal” to “I’m not going to do this homework assignment because it seems too long.”
I fell into a dark hole of procrastination, missed assignments, countless tardies, and half-assed responsibilities.
Another root of my demotivation became myself. Looking back, I realized that a lot of this could have been avoided if I had the backbone to say “no” to other people. I shouldn’t have taken up all the tasks that I did, I shouldn’t have tried to do everything. I spread myself way too thin and became so overwhelmed with the list of things I needed to finish that day, that I pushed off all my responsibilities altogether. My disinterest and passivity not only hurt myself but others around me.
I finally realized my mental state and how dangerous it had become. With college applications due right around the corner, I needed to snap out of this mopey, negative energy. Something that helped me was time. I know it sounds cliche, but as time went on, I noticed that my lack of motivation made me more disconnected than ever. I watched as my friends work hard on their projects and do well in school and even though I chose not to work on my projects or do my assignments, I felt like an outsider. People were talking about their successes and what they had accomplished and I realized that I had wasted the time that I could’ve put into my project, into feeling bad about myself.
I still am “recovering” from the lack of motivation, and still trying to find what excites me, but before I go more in-depth about my experience, please tell us about what you experienced Brooke!
It was No Motivation November INDEED. I’m sorry that you went through all of that, and I am happy to see that you’re on the uphill!
My lack of motivation this November stemmed from similar things. The root of it came from overworking myself, overextending myself, and to quote you on it, spreading myself “way too thin.” A lot of times I think we make exceptions for ourselves, like “oh, we’re not the kind of people who get burnt out—we’re tough ya know.” The reality is actually quite different. I didn’t come up with this idea, but it’s always stuck with me: Most of the time, we don’t break from being weak; we break from being too strong for too long.
Although I unconsciously try to disprove this idea time and time again, it holds true like it did this November. There were a few days in which I worked from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. the next day, basically only leaving my work to eat and play tennis. I wasn’t scared and I wasn’t angry, but I had internalized stress, and honestly, the most prominent emotion I felt was sadness. I was so sad at the mountain of responsibilities I needed to tackle in the morning, and devastated thinking about the load that my friends—including you—were carrying as well.
I hadn’t had time to feel tough emotions sparked by my personal life, but one night, they all came gushing, and my motivation for the month was officially gone. And it was directly correlated to the to-do list that only got larger. I couldn’t cross off a single thing that whole week, but I added several massive “to-dos” every day. It was disheartening to say the least.
Sounds depressing, I know. But while I definitely saw new lows, I also had some incredibly fun times working with my friends. Thankfully, I’ve been taking care of myself. I made sure to eat enough, drink enough water, get some sunshine, and be with family. I’m sorry that you had times where self-care was evaded Shai. That really makes things rough, because you convince yourself that you’ll be fine without it.
It’s weird not having motivation when you are a leader. We hosted practices, I helped lead my journalism class, and we both were spearheading so many other projects. People assume that leaders are motivated every step of the way, which is not true at all. I was still motivated to lead tennis practices and journalism… I don’t know what I would’ve done without that piece of motivation. However, I was almost entirely unmotivated to finish school-related things, whether it be homework, studying, or college applications.
The thankfulness within me to have the opportunity to go to college did not diminish, but I didn’t feel like myself. Typically, when I study for tests or complete homework, I can see the finish line approaching quickly. However, when it comes to the schoolwork load and college applications this year, I can’t see the end. It makes me feel claustrophobic, like I am trapped in a tunnel without a way out.
This kind of thing happens to all of us who have a lot going on. It’s really easy to beat ourselves up about it, but that same disregard of our needs and feelings is what depleted our motivation in the first place. I’ve written about this before on Hiraeth, but lacking motivation can get really messy when you base your worth on your accomplishments.
Shaira, how did you find your motivation again? What are you doing each day differently than you were before?
First of all- everything you said was soooooo relatable. I definitely internalized a lot of stress and since we’ve been overextending ourselves I definitely feel like we both hit a wall. I am so sorry about everything you’ve been through from your emotional stress surrounding your friends and family and just how you felt in general! These emotions that we have felt is the yuckiest feeling because life kinda just stops. I don’t know about you, but when I lose motivation, the days become jumbled together and lose purpose.
I definitely want to emphasize and commend you for taking care of yourself. Readers, it is so important to look after and listen to your body when things get rough. From making sure to eat enough to taking 30 minutes to destress, every ounce of self care helps! Whatever you are going through, please remember that your happiness and health trumps every homework assignment, every college application, every deadline. I’m not saying, “hey forget about everything and screw life!” but more of “hey, if you don’t feel 100%, come back to it when you do.”
Basically, I found my motivation through time and acknowledging that I’m not moving forward in life… which sounds silly and cliche. But, at the beginning of November, I thought me not doing anything was a form of self care. However, looking back, I learned that self care and self-sabotage can often get mistaken for each other. And me not doing anything (and being demotivated) was a form of self- sabotage. I learned a lot about this from Tasha Bailey.
Tasha Bailey (@realtalk.therapist on instagram) is a black creative and integrative counselor from the UK that works with anxiety, self-worth, and imposter syndrome while also deconstructing racial and cultural biases. She is so smart and uses her creativity and intersectionality to put out wellness posts. One of her posts was called “self-care vs self-sabotage.” A lot of realizing self-sabotage comes down to the context of your situation, balance and moderation.
These questions helped me acknowledge that my “self-care” methods were actually sabotaging myself:
Is this an act of love to myself?
What need is this fulfilling for me?
What makes this activity nurturing for me?
Am I taking care of myself or am I avoiding something unavoidable?
How long will this feel good for?
How will I feel after I do this?
At what point does this stop being self-care?
The questions made me bounce out of this negative mindset because I realized that me putting off my responsibilities and doing little-to- nothing during my days wasn’t good for anything.
Something else that I’ve been doing each day to stop myself from feeling this way ever again is by changing my outlook on my responsibilities using the laundry technique. Basically, at first our laundry is just one giant, never-ending pile of clothes, But, let's say if you just focus on just folding a specific amount of shirts or just pants, the laundry isn’t too bad and will be done eventually. Just like our responsibilities and work, we need to start focusing on one or two main goals instead of trying to overextend ourselves by taking everything on at one time. How I look at it is if I finish just one college essay, that’s progress because it shouldn't be all about trying to bang out all the writing in one day but the process and the self-reflection that goes into it.
I hope my personal experiences and tips can help you! But what about you? How have you learned from No- Motivation November and what can you share about it with us?
I have to admit—I usually don’t get much out of the pretty infographics on social media that give life advice. But the self-care questions you listed are actually wonderful. They’re very practical and truly focus on what makes us healthier, more creative, and more content human beings—not workaholics, but not self-serving people either.
I also love your laundry analogy so much, focusing on one or two main goals at a time. We typically connect the words “instant gratification” to consumer culture and social media, but the concept is so present in our daily work and personal growth. I want to quickly get everything off of my to-do list, but that is an impossible feat. I want to change, I want to become or feel something new overnight… but we all know that although we are quite malleable, time is what produces real change.
Well, if you’re on the edge of your seat wondering how I got out of No Motivation November and avoided a Don’t Care December, it was a few things.
As I mentioned earlier, I finally cried. I don’t know how, but it really helps.
Then I started waking up earlier. I am a morning person, and I feel happiest and most productive when I start my day early. If I get the same amount of sleep but just sleep earlier and wake up earlier, I feel so much better and brighter. Of course, I couldn’t wake up early every day—if I didn’t get much sleep one night, I would try to pay off my sleep debt before I woke up early again.
I chucked my phone out of the picture as much as possible. Part of the reason I was so high strung was that I was being texted so often, as I’m sure a lot of you reading this can relate to. That’s the way my friends, teammates, family members, and fellow journalism writers contact me. I love helping people so much, so I learned how to stay energized by taking things in increments. I wouldn’t look at my phone for a certain chunk of time, and then I would go back to it and spend a dedicated amount of time helping anyone who needed it.
The last way I got out of No Motivation November was by leaning on friends. Working together on Discord with others really boosted my wellbeing. I also began healing the anxiety that I would disappoint people if I didn’t volunteer to work on something, opting out of certain responsibilities that I knew others could take on.
If you’re anything like me, you can get annoyed when people hurl advice at you that seems impersonal, vague, repetitive, and impossible. I don’t want to give you a one-size-fits-all way to cure your No Motivation day, week, month, or year. What I can do is let you know that Hiraeth is always here for you. If you’d like someone to talk to, you can hop on our live chat function or reach out to us at email@example.com. On top of that, make sure that you are actively expressing yourself in some way, even if it’s just to your mirror, to God, to the pages of a journal, to your future self in a letter. That way, you might unconsciously work out the kinks in what is overwhelming you and be able to see more clearly where you should proceed next.
Losing motivation is going to happen—and still happens to me more than I’d like—but we cannot beat ourselves up forever, or else we will feel utterly defeated and unable to move forward. I hope that you all can find joy in your work and those around you, and that you truly take care of yourself.