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Last Updated on October 6, 2020

How to Find Motivation When You’re Totally Burnt Out

How to Find Motivation When You’re Totally Burnt Out

I was weeping in bed for the third time that week and I’ve never been a crier. But eight months after having my daughter, and four months after going back to work, the motivation and energy I’d originally felt returning to my job had completely subsided and I’d hit a wall of fatigue and exhaustion of epic proportions.

As I sat there red faced and sobbing in my pajamas (a great look for me), my poor husband laid there staring at the wall, not sure what to say at this point. He’d already told me I should leave my job multiple times during previous crying sessions. But instead of feeling relieved by his blessing, it only made me feel guiltier and cry even more.

I could never quit, I thought to myself. What if he’d resent me for not bringing in income eventually? I was afraid of being perceived as lazy. Plus we live in an area of the country that pretty much requires dual incomes to live comfortably. How could I leave a steady paycheck and put that kind of pressure on him? Plus I had some people’s dream job! Why couldn’t I just be more grateful!

So I cried. Because I felt trapped. I wondered how to find motivation because I felt so tired but couldn’t not be a mom, or work, or keep showing up in my life. But I felt like I was failing at all of it and in that moment I just wanted to disappear.

Burnt Out? You’re Not Alone.

In this episode of The Lifehack Show, Jade has nailed the typical burnt out situation:

Have you been there–so burnt out and exhausted that it’s hard to remember a time when you were bright eyed and optimistic, motivated to take on the world?

If you’re feeling unmotivated, tired and lost, and have still found your way to this article, I already know two things about you:

  • You’re more motivated than you think you are; and
  • You’re going to come out on top.

How do I know this? Because you’re burnt out enough to read an article about burn out but you still found the motivation to find it and read it. You’re actively taking action to stay motivated, which actually means you are motivated! Yay you!

Now that we’ve established you are motivated to get to a more energized place, let’s get down to the practical strategies I applied to pull myself out of my epic rut so you can start applying them to your own life ASAP.

How I Find Motivation with “The Princess Bride” Strategy

When I think about my experience with burn out, I can’t help but get a visual of when the hero Wesley is declared “mostly dead” in the classic 80’s movie The Princess Bride.[1]

(If you haven’t seen the Princess Bride, keep reading because it’s not critical to understanding the strategies. But, also, it’s a classic, please see the movie! Sounds like you could use a break anyway!)

In case you haven’t seen the movie, let’s set the scene: Our hero Wesley is flat on his back, seemingly lifeless with heavy limbs and no strength left in his body after being tortured to (almost) dead. Hope is bleak. It this point it seems impossible he has any fight left in him to take on his nemesis Prince Humperdink and rescue his lady love Buttercup.

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But with the remaining air in his lungs, he mutters two words: True love.

This leads us to the first strategy for finding motivation even when you’re completely burnt out:

1. Focus on Your True Love

Our hero Wesley had one thing that motivated all of his actions, Princess Buttercup: His true love.

If you really think about it, the same is true for you. Whether it’s an actual person (or people) or a passion, remember your WHY.

What is your reason for rising from this rut? Who or what was your motivation for reading this article? There’s something driving you to not stay stuck. There are some people who are counting on you or some mission that’s bigger than you that provide a clear purpose for everything you do.

All of your efforts should be focused on your true love and getting back to being the person who can show up for that noble cause.

Knowing your true love is your compass. Whenever you’re feeling lost or uninspired, remembering the people or passion that make you uniquely you gives you that sense of purpose that you need to feel motivated to rise, even when you feel like you have nothing left.

In my case, I had to eventually realize that my true love (my husband) wanted his true love back–not this sobbing, miserable zombie I’d become. Like the old adage goes, “Happy wife, happy life.”

As a bonus, you can find out more about this point here: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

When I realized that my complete lack of motivation and burn out was really affecting him, I knew it was time to get to the root of what was really wrong which leads us to step 2:

2. Identify Your True Adversary (And Focus Your Limited Energy There)

There’s always someone or something that has to be defeated in every hero’s journey. In the case of our hero Wesley, he had to defeat Prince Humperdink in order to rescue his true love Buttercup. This singular mission helped him reserve his energy for the most critical moment, when he finally met Humperdink face to face.

In the case of your burn out, there is most likely a root cause that has to be addressed in order to reclaim your motivation. Getting clear on what that is will prevent you from running around trying to fix every aspect of your life and allow you to simply focus on the one or two things that are really the reason everything’s feeling so hard.

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When you’re truly burnt out it’s likely that it’s negatively impacted multiple areas of your life so it may feel impossible to identify the root cause of your struggles at the moment. I know I felt that way.

My health was the worst it had ever been, my social life was bleak because I didn’t have the energy for fun or making plans, my career was stressing me out, being a new mom was hard… and so on.

Here’s my advice on how to get the root cause of your burn out: Do a gut check. What are the first 3 reasons that you think have caused you to burn out? What were the first things that popped into your mind? Write them down!

If you’re stuck, you can also rank each of the following categories of your life from 1-10 (10 being awesome, 1 being awful):

  • Career
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Money
  • Contribution
  • Personal Growth
  • Spiritual Life
  • Health
  • Romance
  • Fun

The aspects of your life with the lowest numbers should help you identify the true root cause of your burn out.

Ask yourself, why is that area a 1? One way to really figure out what’s wrong is to imagine what a 10 would be to you in that area. For example, if you rank your job a 2, what would a 10 be to you? Describe it in as much detail as possible and compare it to your current situation.

For example, maybe your 10 job would be remote but your current job forces you to commute and travel constantly. This has the potential to affect every area of your life but really, the solution to most of your woes is to get a job that lets you work from home and doesn’t require so much travel.

When you’re clear on what’s not working, you can start to see a way out, which leads us to step 3:

3. Remember You’re the Hero

It would have been easy for Wesley to play the victim. After all, he literally was tortured to death and endured unimaginable pain in the Pit of Despair.

But instead of focusing on what had happened to him in the past, as soon as Wesley was brought back to life, he focused on what needed to be done in order to get his girl. He remembered he was the hero, despite how things may have felt or appeared in the moment.

When we’re burnt out, it’s easy to want to play the blame game or feel victimized by our circumstances. I’ve been there.

The thing is that isn’t motivating because it prevents us from having any agency or creative point of view on our situation.

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If anything is going to change in our life, we have to always remember that we’re the hero of our own stories. Despite what circumstances come at us, our responses are 100% our responsibility.

In my case, I knew the commute and stress from my job was one of the major sources of my burn out. I also knew something was wrong with my health but didn’t have any answers or solutions yet. What was clear was that the stress I was feeling wasn’t going to get any better if I kept doing what I was doing.

What I really wanted to do was leave my job and start my own business from home. But it felt too selfish. Even though my husband told me to leave my job, for some reason I still felt the obligation to make myself a living sacrifice for our family.

But one night after weeks of having to take naps in the mother’s room at work just to make it through the day, it dawned on me that I was the reason I was miserable.

I’d convinced myself that my husband didn’t mean what he said, that I had to stay at my job for him; but the truth was I had to give myself permission to make the changes I needed to make to be happier. He’d already done that! The only thing trapping me was… me.

I had to save myself. He couldn’t fix my health. He couldn’t resign for me. I had to do the work and perhaps I was using him as an excuse because in admitting I needed a break or help, in my mind I was admitting weakness.

I was afraid to be that vulnerable and to ask for and expect his complete love and support when I wasn’t “working for it”. I was more comfortable playing the victim of my circumstances and falling on my noble sword because somehow in my mind it made me feel strong.

Can you relate? If so, spend time to answer these questions:

  • If you’re honest with yourself, have you been playing the Hero or the Victim of your story?
  • Claiming your role of hero, what’s your next play?
  • What are you secretly wanting permission for that you need to grant yourself?

Once you take complete responsibility for your circumstances and for saving yourself, there’s another key thing you’ll need:

4. Accept Help from Your Friends

Our hero Wesley was “mostly dead” and unable to walk, feed himself or hold his head up when his friends Inigo and Fezzik found him. If it wasn’t for them, he would have died in the Pit of Despair. But they held him up, found Miracle Max, advocated for a remedy and carried him on their backs until he could stand on his own again.

My story is no different. In order to find my motivation again and recover from burn out it required me to rely on my husband more than I ever had before. It also required doctors, life coaches and the support of friends and family.

It required me to give up my attachment to being tough and not needing help. But at the end of the day, I figured out my happiness and being fully honest with myself about my limitations was the only way to have what I really wanted: Myself back.

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Sometimes showing weakness is the ultimate show of strength.

You are the hero and you’re also human. None of us can do this on our own, nor are we supposed to. When you’re burnt out, it’s important to ask for help and seek out a support system while you find your way back to yourself.

Final Thoughts

Remember, burn out happens to all of us from time to time and we just can’t get motivated.

Sometimes, finding your motivation again requires making a huge life change, as in my case. But sometimes, it can be fixed with a new habit as simple as shutting down your computer, putting your phone out of sight and giving yourself some down time.

My burn out was severe and it took overhauling my entire life to dig my way out. But I’m so much more motivated, re-energized and happier for it.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities on your plate and with all of things you’re thinking you need to change, remember to focus on the ONE thing that’s going to make the biggest impact. You can do it too:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

My thing was leaving my full time job. Which, after months stressing about it, was accomplished in one 10 minute conversation with my manager. And as soon as I did it I instantly felt more motivated and relieved.

Save your precious energy for only doing the things that truly matter right now and your motivation will start coming back sooner than you thought possible.

More About Finding Motivation

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

[1] The Princess Bride, Reiner et al., 1987

More by this author

Kristina Voegele

Author and Success Coach | Founder of Grit & Grace Living | Creator of the Writerpreneur Workshop

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Last Updated on October 9, 2020

How to Get Out of a Funk When You’re Stressed Out

How to Get Out of a Funk When You’re Stressed Out

Life seems like it’s getting more and more stressful. Natural disasters, pandemics, and political events can really bring us down, to say nothing of all those day-to-day stressors like long to-do lists and cloudy weather.

We might feel as if we are “supposed” to feel happy or as if feeling sad or anxious means something is wrong with us. The reality is, every single person on the face of the earth knows what it feels like to be in a funk. From actors and comedians to bestselling authors, CEOs, and meditating monks, we all know what it is like to feel sad, stressed out, overwhelmed, and emotionally stuck and have no idea how to get out of a funk.

Right now, more than any other time in history, we need to be there for each other. If you are in a funk, it can be helpful to remember that there are lots of people, even people you have not yet met, who deeply care about your well-being and want nothing more than to know that you are okay.

The 3 Zones of Emotional Life

Pema Chödrön, the meditation guru and best-selling author, teaches that we experience three emotional zones throughout life.

Zone #1 Comfort

The first one is the comfort zone. This is the zone we all want to be in, but that isn’t necessarily what is in our best interest. In this zone, we experience a sense of security and pleasure, but little emotional growth happens. It’s like being on vacation rather than in real life.

Zone #2 Growth

The second zone is one of emotional challenge. Because most of us haven’t trained in how to hold space for challenging emotions, we often want to resist or avoid this zone and head back to the comfort zone.

The more we resist our uncomfortable emotions, the greater the chance is that we will feel stuck in them, rather than the exhilaration that can come from learning and growing.

Zone #3 Trauma

The third zone is one of trauma. We enter the trauma zone when our well-being gets jeopardized in some way. Perhaps there is a traumatic event affecting us, or our stress levels have reached a level that feels overwhelming. Our mind may seem as if it is on a hamster wheel, and our thoughts may be making things worse.

We may also enter the trauma zone when we are triggered, perhaps without even realizing it, and re-experiencing emotions from a traumatic event that happened long ago. Whenever we are in this zone, it is extremely important to reach out and get support.

Regardless of which zone you are in right now, here are some ideas on how to get out of a funk and support ourselves.

17 Ways to Get Emotionally Unstuck

1. Reach Out

If your emotions are too big to handle on your own or you think you may be in the trauma zone, it is very important to reach out for help. Especially during these challenging times, we need to check in with each other, be available for a chat, and be willing to reach out.

Reaching out for help can take different forms. We might call a trusted friend or family member,  physician, therapist, coach, or help lines like suicide or mental wellness hotline.

Asking for help is a sign of true inner strength. As humans, we were made to collaborate, brainstorm, and invent in the community. When we talk to others about our problems, we usually see solutions and answers and gain insights we never could have discovered on our own.

2. Talk to Yourself (Lovingly)

Another helpful tip is to pay attention to that little voice in our heads, making meaning out of what we experience. What stories are you telling yourself about what is happening in your life? Are you putting a positive or negative spin on what you are experiencing? Is there another way to look at things?

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It can be very helpful to have someone who is willing to stay with us through difficult emotions without trying to change or fix us in any way. Whether or not we have someone like that in our lives, it is essential to learn how to be that type of person for ourselves.

Sometimes we feel like we are in a funk because we believe the negative stories about something that may or may not be true. Could there be a reason to hope right now instead of feeling discouraged? Could something good come out of what is happening, even if it is your own personal growth? What is the silver lining?

We can learn a lot by paying attention to our self-talk. What would the perfect coach, parent, or friend who loved you unconditionally and believed that you were inherently good, innately wise, and perfectly okay no matter what say to you right now?

How about something like:

“You’ve got this.”

“You can get through this.”

“You are so wonderful and resilient.”

“Just focus on the present and be here right now.”

The more we can connect with that loving voice that truly believes that we are perfectly loveable just the way we are, the more confidence we will have when facing tough times.

3. Change Your Speed

Our bodies and minds are so connected. Sometimes, when we are feeling anxious, we move quickly but don’t really accomplish much. If this is happening to you, try moving slower. Sit down. Rest. Go outside and lay on the ground. Take a few nice, long, slow breaths.

Remember to connect with your loving inner voice and say, “You are doing great. Whatever you are feeling is completely okay. You are going to get through this.”

Similarly, when we are depressed or in a funk, it can help to move more quickly. Take a brisk walk, even if it’s just around your house. Play an upbeat song you love and dance, even if it feels silly at first. Do a few jumping jacks. Twirl in a circle.

If you are feeling angry, find creative ways to get any negative energy out of your body in a way that is safe for you and others. Find a stick and beat an empty box or a pile of pillows. Go for a sprint in an open field. Punch a punching bag. Jump up and down. Scream. Talk about it. Do whatever you can to get grounded and start to feel safe again.

4. Go Outside

Research has shown that being in nature directly improves our emotions. Head outside and pay attention to the small details around you. Finding something good in the present to fully enjoy and appreciate can help so much. Sit in the sun and feel it on your face. Treat yourself to a blast of vitamin D. Breathe in the fresh air deeply.

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Notice what you are experiencing with all five senses. What do you see? Hear? Feel? Smell? Taste? How about your intuition? There are so many gifts in the outdoors waiting to be discovered. What do you notice in this moment? Can you find anything beautiful or that you appreciate while you are outdoors?

5. Eat Healthy Foods

Sometimes we fill up with empty calories, sugar, or caffeine that causes an emotional and energetic crash later, especially when you are feeling difficult emotions or feeling exhausted.

Try eating small, healthy snacks that are high in protein, like nuts, meat, nut butter, or something filled with antioxidants like organic fruits and vegetables frequently.

If you are craving sugar, reach for fruit. We often forget how delicious, sweet, and satisfying fruits can be. As you put good food into your body, try to bring your full attention to how it tastes and what it feels like to fully receive the gift of healthy food.

6. Drink Water

When we feel overly anxious or depressed, we might find we have forgotten to care for ourselves and give ourselves the basic things we need, like sleep, food, and water.

Being perpetually dehydrated can lead to other health problems, prevent us from feeling our best, and cause us to feel emotionally and physically stuck in a funk.

Challenge yourself to drink a certain amount of water every day. You might want to start slow, increasing eight ounces a day until you get to 64 to 80 ounces. Try to really enjoy the water as you are drinking and imagine it hydrating, cleansing, and refreshing all of your cells and your frame of mind.

7. Scan Your Body

Sometimes, our moods drop because of physical rather than emotional reasons. Set a timer for three minutes and scan your body, bringing your awareness to whatever you are experiencing with kindness and compassion.

Rather than trying to change anything, just gently send yourself love and acceptance as you slow down your breath and bring your attention to your body. Notice whatever you are feeling with gentleness and awareness, knowing it is all okay.

You might want to stretch, rub your neck, hands, or feet or hug yourself. Or, simply rest.

8. Help Someone Else

One gift that comes as a result of feeling difficult emotions is that we know what it feels like to need support, and so we have a greater ability to be present with others and offer real empathy and compassion.

How can you be of service to others? You might listen to a friend’s sharing or struggles from a place of deep understanding or maybe do a simple task that will really make a difference. You could also drop off food to someone living alone, buy flowers or run an errand for another person, volunteer at a local charity, or offer to help a friend with a carpool and childcare.

Furthermore, perhaps you could be extra friendly with the people you meet. It’s amazing how a friendly smile, eye contact, and a kind heart can shift our whole outlook and realize how much we really matter, even if it’s from a stranger. You can be that person for someone else.

9. Tell Someone “Thank You”

When we are depressed or in a funk, we are very focused on ourselves. When we find ourselves feeling grateful for something that another person has done for us, our brain shifts from a negative groove to a more positive one.

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We step out of our own experience a bit and see a bigger picture. This can set off a flow of endorphins and positive chemicals in our bodies that help us feel better.

Saying “thank you” can take the form of a letter of appreciation, quick email, text or voice message, or just a smile and a word of thanks to a complete stranger for something like bagging our groceries. (Sometimes, the thank you letter we most need to write is to ourselves!)

10. Make a Gratitude List

Another form gratitude can take is making a daily list of things for which we are grateful. Share what you are thankful for with a friend or post photos on social media with the hashtag #grateful.

If you find this difficult to do, think of the love of a pet or a favorite flower or the feeling of the sunset or the ground under your feet. Better yet, spend some time with that pet or appreciate that flower or sunset in real time if possible. Or, take a moment and remember what that might feel like.

You might make a list of the good things in your life and remind yourself about them over and over again. Put them on post-it notes or decorate your refrigerator, computer monitor, or bathroom mirror with your gratitudes.

11. Let Yourself Feel

Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to really give in to the emotion. If you feel sad, let yourself cry. Tears can be very cleansing. Sometimes we feel stuck because we are afraid to feel a specific emotion. However, really feeling and moving through a feeling will get us to the other side.

If you feel anxious or fearful, notice where that feeling is in your body. Breathe into the feeling without trying to change it or chase it away. (If it doesn’t feel safe to do this, or you feel too fearful, trust your instincts. Simply reach out by calling a helpline or contacting a professional like a physician, therapist, spiritual teacher, or coach to help you feel your emotions safely.)

The more we are able to accept our emotions and really feel them, the more we also learn to accept all of ourselves, just as we are.

12. Write About It

Write in a journal or notebook about what you are feeling, thinking, and what is real for you in this moment. Imagine describing how you are feeling right now to a completely loving parent or friend who wants the very best for you and will not judge you in any way.

You might also audio-record yourself talking about what you are feeling and thinking. Then, listen to it with real compassion. Pretend you are a loving friend who loves everything about you, even the tough stuff. Relief comes when we can be a loving witness.

What do you notice? Do you have any new insights or words of wisdom? You can delete the audio-file when you are done. As you do, imagine letting your stories about your experience go so the only thing left is the present moment.

13. Get in “Flow”

Try to get yourself in that magical state of flow where you lose track of time and space and are just doing what you are doing, just for the fun of it. Take time to play.

You might want to sketch, color, or paint. Take some photos. Play an instrument. Write a haiku. Create a collage. Paint. Get out crayons or magic markers.

Set a timer for three minutes and doodle. The end product doesn’t matter. Just let yourself feel the joy of being in flow.

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14. Listen to Upbeat Music

Music has a way of directing our moods. Choose music you really like and listen to it or have it playing in the background as you work.

Try humming along. If you can, try blasting music and making your house your personal dance floor. If you are driving, play the radio and sing at the top of your lungs.

15. Accomplish Something Small

Sometimes, our stuck feeling is a message from our intuition, telling us that we need to do something different or are ignoring an important task. What is one thing that you really need at this moment?

Maybe it’s drinking water or going for a short walk. Perhaps it’s doing that one small thing you’ve been procrastinating. Ask yourself what you really, really need in this moment, the way a friend would.

Take a moment right now to do that thing that is in your best interest. After it is completed, ask yourself again. It’s amazing how we can tend to ourselves one step at a time.

16. Clean Something

There is something very energizing, invigorating, and symbolically powerful about clearing, cleaning, and letting go. Clean out your refrigerator or junk drawer. Throw away 20 things. Wash a window or mirror. Keep it small and doable. When you finish, cheer!

17. Smile and Breathe Deeply

Tell yourself you are lovable, wonderful, and perfect just as you are. At the end of the day, the greatest cure for any emotion that feels too big to handle is love. Send love to yourself and tell yourself that no matter what, whatever you are feeling is perfectly okay, and so are you, just as you are.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to remember about being in a funk is that you are not alone. We all experience difficult emotions. Accepting them and letting go of our expectations about how we are supposed to feel is the key to emotions shifting instead of staying stuck.

The next most important thing is to reach out. Get support. Imagine connecting with others all over the world right now that would want you to be safe and well if they knew you were struggling. Remember everyone who, at this very moment, is experiencing a funk, too. We always have more support than we know.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that we are each far wiser, more resilient, and more capable than we realize. You are completely capable of growing, expanding, and connecting with the inner peace, compassion, and goodness that is who you really are. You’ve got this!

More Support

I am sending you lots of light and love. Here are some more articles and resources about navigating difficult emotions and finding peace even in the face of tough times.

Tips for Overcoming Tough Times

Emergency Resources

Featured photo credit: Kinga Cichewicz via unsplash.com

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