Spring is usually synonymous with a time of optimism and renewal, and perhaps never before have we so eagerly awaited its arrival – or more to the point, that magical date when we hit the 70% vaccinated target and can finally regain some freedom after this interminably long winter of lockdown discontent.
One of the most viral posts this year has been psychologist Adam Grant’s April article in the New York Times where he named the ‘blah’ feeling that so many of us are experiencing as Languishing – ‘the neglected middle child of mental health and the void between depression and flourishing’. The popularity of Grant’s article reminds me of neuroscientist Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett‘s research that emotional granularity, or naming your emotions with greater specificity, gives you a better understanding of them, yourself, and your wellbeing.
So many of us in the creative sector are yet again feeling the brunt of Covid disruptions and questioning our purpose and commitment to this career as we experience a dulling of our motivation and focus. This might be reflected in an inability or ambivalence towards completing tasks and aiming for goals that previously would have seemed effortless.
Being able to name this emotion as languishing, and to realise that we’re not alone in experiencing it, can provide a great sense of solace. Doing a Spring Refresh and Reset with these proven antidotes below will help you reconnect with your motivation and your mojo.
1. Focus on one small goal without multi-tasking
Covid has created massive loss on innumerable levels. A way to counter this and transcend our miasma of joylessness is to look for ways to create small wins, even if they’re as simple as 10,000 daily steps on your Fit-Bit or nailing the crossword. Find something that has a just manageable difficulty that challenges you to stretch your skills but also heightens your resolve in being able to complete it.
Look for ways to create small wins, even if they’re as simple as 10,000 daily steps on your Fit-Bit or nailing the crossword
While trying to complete this goal, treat yourself to an uninterrupted block of time. If you can experience the capturing of your full attention on this task then, you’ll discover that your sense of place, self and time will melt away and the absorption in completing this goal allows you to enter a state of Flow, which is well documented for improving our energy and enthusiasm.
2. Shorten your time-frame
When our minds are dealing with so much uncertainty, our cognitive ability for long term planning and thinking is diminished as our ‘fight / flight’ mechanism takes over and focuses us on the immediate and potentially threatening future.
Instead of focusing on 1-3 year plans, truncate this to 1-3 month plans or even just the end of the month or the end of the week.
Work with this reality and shift your time frames for mustering your energy and instead of focusing on 1-3 year plans, truncate this to 1-3 month plans or even just the end of the month or the end of the week. Once you’ve hit that milestone you can always create another short window of focus until life feels like its returned to normal.
3. Sit with your worries while you declutter
Take your worrying thoughts and allow them to accompany you for an hour as you do some proactive decluttering. By shifting your focus from external factors that you can’t control and by looking for little tasks that you can conquer within an hour, you can provide yourself with a quick positive feedback loop that something has been completed. Don’t aim to declutter the whole shed or attic as that may well end in overwhelm and a half -finished job. Instead what about a pantry makeover, sorting out an office drawer or bagging up your winter woollies.
When you’re in the process of organising your life, you’re also organising your mind and regaining a sense of control that some progress is being made. We don’t let the kitchen bin fill up and overflow, and we should do the same with our thoughts. Sometimes we need to empty our mind and start afresh.
4. Do three daily tasks outside of survival and comfort
If your mind doesn’t feel like it’s engaging in something to help you thrive and is instead is only focused on self-care and survival, then your motivation will drop. Your mind needs to be able to touch the rim of your idyllic future state in order for it to remain motivated. Ask yourself what could be three small things you could do daily to create this connection with your future self and commit to them. Writing them down and ticking them off not only shows evidence of progress but exponentially increases your desire to do more. Have this conversation with yourself first thing in the morning when your willpower is at its highest.
5. Take breaks from technology – get out in nature and experience Spring!
In this precise moment you’re probably doing just fine – you’re breathing, safe, have food on the table and a roof over your head. But during stressful times your mind doesn’t think this is an important thought. In fact, it’s encouraging you to focus on the exact opposite as it’s hardwired to keep you safe from threats.
The media is doing a great job of getting our attention by startling us with clickbait headlines, highlighting polarising debates and Covid obsessions. This combination of a constant stream of startling information and our brain always looking out for danger can result in endless scrolling, news-watching and an exhausting fear-based feedback loop. Create some deliberate intentions around switching off from technology and replacing this time with rejuvenating moments in nature or stillness.
6. Contribute and focus on others
In ‘Languish Land’ it’s too easy to retreat so far into comfort and distraction that we can lose sight of our purpose and what’s real and possible in our life. Humans however are hardwired to do more for others than ourselves as this has always been essential to our survival.
The moment we turn our focus away from ourselves and become focused on others then our attitude and energy improve.
Consciously choosing to show up and be a positive presence in someone else’s life doesn’t have to involve massive gestures or time commitments. The moment we turn our focus away from ourselves and become focused on others then our attitude and energy improve. Who could you connect with today via a simple text or email or better still a call?
7. Self-compassion is your strongest ally
In order to get our life back into technicolour rather than this rather opaque greytone that it’s become, try to start each day creating intention around giving all or some of these tips a go. Notice how you feel during and afterwards and in particular if you can create some consistency around them then what your mood feels like in a short time from now. All of these tips are designed to focus on self-care and self-compassion as these are our strongest allies at present as move from treading water and towards the shore of creative possibilities and dry land once more!