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  • Writer's pictureSarah Covey

Ask a Therapist: On Lack of Productivity

Q: I am really having trouble with motivation these days and I feel really bad about it because I am surrounded by all of the productivity and New Year’s Resolution voices – can you help?

A: First off, let me say that you are not alone. While the beginning of the year tends to feel like a fresh start for so many typically, lots of people are feeling drained and unmotivated at the start of 2021. And that’s okay. It is to be expected, really.

We have been through a tremendously challenging year in 2020 and based on the first couple of weeks in 2021, the challenges are continuing and, in some cases, worsening. So many people in my counselling office are expressing that they are decision-fatigued, tired of problem-solving, weary from pivoting, and totally drained from the never ending acclimatization and adaptation to the unknown and unexpected.

As a culture, we have been navigating a global pandemic, an economic crisis, polarized and intense political unrest, ongoing social isolation, chronic uncertainty and anxiety, and low grade depression. As individuals we are swimming in this cultural pool while still contending with our own personal health issues, parenting struggles, job and financial stressors, and relationship dynamics.

When you back the camera up and take a broader view of your context and circumstances, it makes a lot of sense that you are not feeling particularly productive! I think we have all, understandably, lost some focus, some energy, and some pep in our step, given our current situation. It is highly unlikely that we would enter into 2021 with the same eager visioning and goal-setting that might otherwise characterize a new year.

When we are living in that level of low grade stress constantly, our nervous system is working overtime and it is difficult to muster up a lot of other energy or motivation to do much more than the basics. The productivity gurus want us to be constantly exerting energy and that’s not what is needed at a time like this. The more distress your system is under, the more truly RESTorative care it needs.

We have to have compassion with ourselves in times like this and set much more reasonable expectations for our day-to-day functioning. Be careful of “shoulding” on yourself and watch out for the voice of shame that can kick in and tell you that you are not doing enough.

If we are all learning one lesson for certain through these trials it is that we need to take it one day at a time. Be gentle with yourself and take good care, moment-by-moment. And don’t hesitate to reach out for help along the way. We are all in this together and we can help each other through.

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