Hey guys…do you need motivation to get through your day? It’s getting crazy isn’t it? I don’t know about you but getting out of bed is just so difficult right now! The darkness when I wake up makes me want to stay in a blanket burrito and give up on the day. And did I mention the snow we got yesterday?! Snow! Now I know winter is coming even though I’ve been in denial, but a full day of fluffy snow with some leftover today really brings the message home. It’s getting darker, colder…and for some reason that really impacts my mood and motivation. On top of that we’re nearing the end of the semester which means big projects, more exams and worst of all for me…an oral presentation that I’m dreading. In other words I’m feeling a bit like Tempest; “Let me out, let me out!”
I find that this time of year makes the usual I don’t want to get out of bed and do anything feeling much stronger which means I need to pull out some tricks to keep me going because this is the sort of stuff that sets me back. My saving grace is Mia, because waking up to her teddy bear face and loving licks encourages me to get my butt in gear. If the puppy can do it, I can do it. But if you don’t have a pint-sized fluffy companion (and it’s sadly not enough once I’m stumbling into the kitchen), there are other solutions. But first, I have to share my latest pic; I simply melt when I see this and I hope it brings a smile to your face! (I want to dunk her in my triple espresso…)
Spice Up Your Routine
I could probably spend the whole blog praising my little miracle but I don’t think it would be super helpful so…moving on. What can get us out of bed and be productive? Seriously do you have an idea? I need help. Oooohhhh! You thought I was going to give advice…haha. No. Alright alright, you must excuse me, I’ve had more than my fair share of coffee. Hmm. This is actually a big one. When you don’t want to get up, think about that nice hot cup of coffee that’s waiting for you. Is it not special anymore? Just another part of your daily routine? I get it…so change it up! How about a new coffee? A new flavour, maybe some almond milk creamer? Create a new morning routine for yourself that actually makes you feel like getting up. If you eat in the morning how about planning a more special breakfast? Obviously there isn’t a lot of time, but something out of the ordinary can encourage you AND give you more energy to start your day! How about a nice piece of dark chocolate for a quick dopamine boost? (I’m not tolerable to be around if I wake up and don’t have my Lindt 95%.)
Dealing with Darkness
The psychology of waking up while it’s still dark can really add to the difficulty of getting up because we feel like we should still be sleeping. Let me get a professional to explain: (To read more about it, click here.)
“Bright light is the most powerful time cue for influencing the circadian rhythm,” says Neil Kline, a sleep physician with the American Sleep Association, a professional organization that promotes public awareness. In particular, the sun’s rays tell us to wake up. As Kline explains, when light passes through your eyes, it sends a signal to the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a part of the brain positioned next to your peepers, which helps control the sleep-wake cycle. As the days get shorter, our mornings lose that crucial light cue, so waking up gets harder.
There you have it. But while the psychology may remain, we can at least make sure that our physical needs are met so this really isn’t the time to cut on your hours of sleep! Everybody is different so I won’t give you a number of hours, but there are plenty of resources on that and there’s no substitute for knowing your own rythme. My additional tip is to use lighting to your advantage. Turning on a bright bed side table lamp is quite a shock so I recommend a period of adjustment before the heavy light artillery moves in. However once your eyes have adjusted I find that good illumination can somewhat simulate the process of natural light-cued awakening. Nothing beats nature, but it’s better than nothing. For me it sends the signal that; Ok, this is happening…sleepy time is over. (Insert quiet sigh.)
Find a Reason
Many of us live for the weekend, am I right? I don’t find that very healthy (even though I’ve done it forever), because it suggests the notion that the majority of our week is about struggling, working unpleasantly hard, dragging ourselves through and a bunch of other negative thoughts. It means that we’re not doing what we want to do, but we’re sucking it up. If this is the case, only 8 days per month are ‘happy’. There’s gotta be something we can change about this! Living for the future paves the way for anything from unhappiness to depression and from stress to panic. If you’re here, you probably already know this. Living for the future and then reaching the future but finding that nothing has changed and you’re no happier? That’s terrible! It’s even more intolerable for us because that future becomes foggy, no longer important, and then holds no hope for us. We’re already disinterested by nearly everything and we can’t afford to make that worse. I’ve lived this for nearly 5 years… getting out of bed because I had to. Tricking myself by saying that the pain would end in the future.
1. Waiting for pain to go away can be like hoping your credit card company will forget that you owe interest! 2. The future is one second from now. A minute. An hour. So what time frame of future are you waiting for? Is it a someday? If so…I strongly recommend planning positives that can occur in the very near future; such as later in the day.
Yes I’m ‘crazy’, but not about this. (I’m allowed to joke about it since I have ‘membership’ cards for mental hospitals.) No matter how disillusioned or depressed we are, we need a happy moment. Even if it’s just one, we need a reminder each and every day of WHY we get out of bed. WHY we live and do what we do. I have some decent questions to bring the point home. Maybe it’s true that people with depression think too much and question … but I think that certain questions really do need to be answered. For everybody!
Why did you get up this morning? Why are you going to work? Why are you going to school?
If your answers are something along the lines of “because I have to”, that’s a big warning flag. (Doesn’t it sound a lot like a should statement by the way?) And if you answer “I need to make money to pay the bills, my house / apartment, food, etc.” or “I have to go to school so I can get a good job and make enough money,” then sure. Those are definitive responsibilities in life. I won’t argue, and we do have to grin and bear these things. But I’ve come to realize that it’s REALLY not enough to be mentally healthy. The previous answers are ok if, and only if, they aren’t full answers. I would’ve answered those questions with “I don’t know…I guess I just have to keep going”, but I’m doing my best now to move away from that. We all need money…but why do you need to make money? Don’t say bills and forget your mortgage! What do you love that money allows you the freedom to do? What do you love and live for aside from money, for example things that don’t even require it? Think about it carefully. Have you gone a long time without asking yourself these questions? It’s scary, but many many people neglect these whys and it doesn’t end well. Don’t worry though…it’s never too late and what you can come up with is freeing. With this you can look at things you love that are only feasible during the weekend. Do you enjoy something like biking, hiking, gardening, swimming, playing golf, snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, travel, etc.? Do you just love having a lot of time with your family, quiet time with a good book, intimacy with your S.O., etc.? Make a list of what makes you happy, from big to small, and keep it handy when you need to remind yourself of why you keep getting up.
This brings us back to what you can incorporate into your daily life that makes you happy and motivated. Select from your list the small, most feasible and adaptable pleasures that you can pencil in with as much importance as other reality tasks. I’m not suggesting you let your responsibilities go and replace them with fun, but there are tiny ways that you can make the day more pleasurable. Do you have a long commute and wish you had more time to follow a podcast you love? Set it up for you to listen as you head to where you need to go. (Maybe it’s a self-help program that you could really use but never have the time for…) While our current lives are more challenging and stressful, to say the least, the opportunity to work and attend school online can be a large time saver which gives you more breathing room. I now it’s much harder to do what we used to enjoy, but with a bit of creativity having enjoyment and fun in our lives is still possible! If I want just one thing to come through today, it’s to find the small excitements, joys and pleasures that help give meaning to your efforts. Life without meaning is a dreary cloud that follows you everywhere and doing things solely because you have to is a recipe for constant inner desperation and burnout.
2 in 1
If you have difficulty managing anxiety and increasing calm and inner stillness, try to fit in something you love/enjoy AND that helps you relieve tension and stress. Martial arts, a punching bag, vigorous exercise, etc., can be extremely helpful. Personally I love archery because it releases a lot of my anxiety, pent up anger and frustration and builds my confidence as I improve at the sport. I have a recurve bow, a couple arrows, a target, glove and arm protecter. After that investment, (which by the way is far less than for skiing, buying a good bicycle and the like), I’m all set to shoot in my backyard whenever I want. Even if it’s just a 10 minute break between homework for different subjects, I feel some relief. Remembering when I wake up that I can easily fit in something I enjoy really helps my motivation! I also have difficulty with depression, so I try to include things that help me feel human; alive, happy, and interested. I love wall climbing, but since Covid I haven’t been able to train for many months. I let this stop me for a long time until I realized that since I have good equipment, I could repurpose it (in a sense) to climb outdoors. Climbing really high up invigorates me because of the adrenaline rush that I crave…so with the additional purchase of a carabiner and shorter than usual climbing rope so that I didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg, I was off and…climbing. Here’s a selfie of me at the top of a ‘climb’, which was sadly not a rock face but nonetheless truly exciting and rewarding. (Please note that I’m not encouraging dangerous/risky activities. I’m a certified climber and never recommend attempting these things without the proper knowledge and instruction from professionals.) I just want to share the view!
I encourage you to ask yourself these questions and find out what keeps you going! We all need a reason, and if you don’t have one please don’t stop looking. There’s something out there for you in the short-term, not just long-term goals and moving towards an eventual happy future. Not to sound cliché, but the future is now! Make this day something you’ll be happy about tomorrow.