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4 Ways To Maintain Motivation In Tough Times

motivation and dopamine

Brain Health Expert: Patricia Faust

Even in the best of times, it can be difficult to maintain a high level of motivation.

No doubt this year has been challenging for many of us. There is nothing normal about the way we have been reintroduced to going to work or creating our own passion. What has happened to us?

“There has been a metamorphosis in how we view the world, our country, our careers, and sometimes, even our families.”

Maintaining Motivation:

We can’t ignore the fact that we are not the same people we were when this pandemic began. There has been a metamorphosis in how we view the world, our country, our careers, and sometimes, even our families. This has proved unsettling because we are in unknown territory. But we perceive that we are moving back to normal. And this creates a paradox.

After a year of social isolation, we were thrust back into the mainstream of work, school, and social events. To stay current, we push ourselves through the mundane tasks we always had to do. The problem is – none of these are the same as we remembered them. Now, chronic stress makes an appearance again and grabs hold of us.

The continual questioning about everything we know takes a toll. It isn’t long before burnout takes the stage. The ability to stay focused is gone; it is more difficult to complete projects or be creative. Why won’t our brains work the way they used to? Let’s take a look at what is going behind the scenes in our brain!

Dopamine – Main Player In Motivation:

The main player in motivation is dopamine. It has always been referred to as the reward or feel-good neurotransmitter. But neuroscientists have discovered that dopamine is really the motivation neurotransmitter.

It gets you through a difficult project and as you reap the rewards of completing this project, you believe that dopamine was responsible for the rewards of a job well-done. The truth is dopamine kept you motivated and focused throughout the project to get you to this successful endpoint.

“Neuroscientists have discovered that dopamine is really the motivation neurotransmitter..”

Satisfaction In Your Life:

These long months of uncertainty, continually shifting to meet demands placed on you, and honestly living in fear have taken a toll on self-confidence and satisfaction in your life. What can you do?

Dr. Danielle Hairston, an assistant professor at the Howard University College of Medicine, says, “Allow yourself some grace. Change and modify your expectations. Everyone is not starting a new business, a new venture, a new platform, doing new research, a new diet or exercise plan during this time. I think that is what is portrayed a lot, especially on social media. An important step of just getting through the day is to acknowledge that it’s normal and perfectly fine not to be productive or motivated.”

“The added stress of feeling like you can’t keep up just compounds the problem and makes you feel less motivated and inspired,” said Arianna Huffington, the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, which aims to help people deal with burnout and stress.

How do you get your groove back? There are some steps to bring you back from the abyss:

1. Don’t Pretend These Are Normal Times:

There is a long list of reasons why you might not feel motivated. Everything has changed and acting like we can immediately jump back into our pre-pandemic lives only creates more stress in your life.

“Family and friends offer support that is not available anywhere else.”

2. Find Your Network And Lean On It:

One of the most critical pieces of a brain-healthy lifestyle is to connect to other people. This has been glaringly absent during our pandemic lives. Family and friends offer support that is not available anywhere else. And support from family and friends helps ease the stress levels you are carrying. You must make that effort – it is an important step in this process.

3. Make Peace With Monotony And Find Little Joys:

The stress level goes through the roof when there are people so angry at everything that is asked of them. This is their choice, but you need to be able to maintain peace within. The elements of motivation haven’t changed but now we must acknowledge that we are under stress and our outcomes could be different. You need to find small bits of joy interspersed throughout your day. Put together a vision board with images of what creates joy in your life. It will relieve the immediate stress, but it will also start retraining your brain to attract joy.

“When you start to expect and believe you will be rewarded for your actions, your dopamine will start kicking in.”

4. Be Realistic:

If you believe that no matter what you do it will make no difference, your dopamine will not reach levels that will motivate you. When you start to expect and believe you will be rewarded for your actions, your dopamine will start kicking in.

Being realistic on how we approach our work and understanding that we need to be gentle with ourselves will reduce stress. We can navigate the new parameters and feel good about what we accomplish.  This is what motivation and productivity look like now.

Reference:

Herrera, T.  (Oct. 22, 2020). 7 Months into the pandemic and I’m losing motivation. Help!  Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/22/smarter-living/coronavirus-stay-motivated.html

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About the Author:

Patricia Faust is a gerontologist specializing in the issues of brain aging, brain health, brain function and dementia. She has a Masters in Gerontological Studies degree from Miami University in Oxford Ohio. Patricia is certified as a brain health coach and received a certification in Neuroscience and Wellness through Dr. Sarah McKay and the Neuroscience Academy. My Boomer Brain, founded in 2015, is the vehicle that Patricia utilizes to teach, coach and consult about brain aging, brain health and brain function. Her newsletter, My Boomer Brain, has international readers from South Africa, Australia, throughout Europe and Canada. She has also been a frequent guest on Medicare Moment on WMKV and Cincy Lifestyles on WCPO.