If you’re paying attention you might have noticed that I haven’t posted for a few weeks. I wasn’t feeling as interested in playing music either.
Over the last month I’ve been having a major motivational lull. Do you ever experience that?
Often people will discuss how to “get motivated and stay motivated” but I think that’s a little much. In my opinion, expecting consistently high levels of motivation from yourself is unrealistic. Even under ideal circumstances motivation levels vary. Still, during the low times it can be extremely frustrating to feel indifferent about something that you usually enjoy.
All in all, things are improving rapidly (special emphasis for my parents if they’re reading this: don’t worry!) so I’m very happy for that. I’ve got some drum-ish posts on deck, and now that I’m feeling chatty again I’m looking forward to getting those posted. Since it’s been a while since I’ve felt inspired to write, for today I’d like to write about working through my motivational slump.
Fall is always an iffy time for me mood-wise. The shorter days and lack of sunlight make me feel dull, indifferent, and generally unmotivated – especially after dark. As soon as it gets dark it’s over: I’m super grumpy and don’t want to do anything except put on pj’s, read, and go to bed super early. (Ok, complete honesty here… I also watched two seasons of Dawson’s Creek on Netflix recently. One episode after the other. I just couldn’t stop.)
In itself, lazy pj time isn’t a bad thing, but when the sun sets so early (currently before 5pm here in southern Ontario) I can lose all of my evening to the blahs, missing out on both my day to day chores and my fun activities. Besides, when dealing with your mental health ignoring feeling blah doesn’t work. It can be too easy to spiral into something worse: you feel down so you don’t take care of yourself (too much sleep, eating poorly, self-isolating, less exercise… doing less healthy good things in general), which makes your mood worse, then you feel even more down, etc etc, spiral spiral spiral, bah humbug.
This year it took me a couple of weeks to clue in to the fact that I was stuck in the blahs and needed to do something about it. Fortunately, from years of experience I know what works for me.
Making time to sit in front of my therapy light every morning and evening is the most effective tool I have to improve my mood and energy level. (If you experience the seasonal blahs too I recommend considering a therapy lamp. They work.) I also say no to extra activities and prioritize things that will make me feel better – making large batches of easy healthy meals (so I don’t eat only convenience foods and toast), fun exercise, socializing with good people, playing with my dogs, and allowing myself lots of unscheduled time to rest if I need to. All of that doesn’t happen at once, but I start small by using the therapy light and add in more good-for-me things as I feel better.
This year I’m doing well in my battle with the dark days and believe that I’m over the worst of it, but it’s taking time to get into things again.
While I’m getting back on track motivation-wise, the following things help me the most:
giving myself a break
One of the most useful things I’ve learned in my life so far is to be kinder to myself.
When I’m trying but things still don’t go the way I want, it’s easy to be self-critical and think “it’s my fault that I’m not doing this” when “I’m not feeling up to this” is a truer statement.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve become good at identifying negative, bad-mood thoughts and not allowing them much importance. Instead I put those thoughts on hold until I’m feeling less grumpy. Usually they disappear when I’m feeling like my usual self, or if they persist at least I can deal with them rationally at that time.
relax my expectations
Until a few years ago, I was of the “tough it out/push through it/JUST TRY HARDER!” mindset when facing difficulty. In some circumstances that works, but approaching everything that way can make you miserable. It took a lot of time for me to figure out that when I routinely force myself to do something I’m not motivated to do I will start hating it and then avoid it.
So when I’m not feeling great I set much smaller goals. If I’m really feeling blah, my goal is to simply get behind the kit and do a few minutes of anything. In the long run It’s much better for me to maintain the habit of practicing daily, if only for a few minutes, than trying to force a full practice session every day.
Also I try to keep my expectations realistic. For example, I know I’ll have less energy after dark, so I plan around that.
Have you ever heard the expression “a change is as good as a rest”? I agree.
To get me through my motivational lull I changed the way I’m practicing for now.
I like routine. I try to be flexible about it, but it’s more comfortable for me to have a plan for things. So, of course this is how I approach learning. Usually when I practice, structure helps to keep me from distraction, but if I’m not feeling great it can feel like pressure.
So, I’ve ditched the timer for now and am practicing whatever I feel like in the moment. I have a list to work on for my next lesson but think of it as only a suggestion of what to do. Sometimes I practice everything I usually would, other days I do just a bit.
One day last week I spent my practice time with the drums turned off, headphones on, and just practiced 16th notes on the bass drum while listening to music.
In the last week the things that I’ve been most excited about and inspired by are, in no particular order, “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppeliln, watching youtube videos of kids playing drums and having a great time, and “the Lonely Goatherd” from the Sound of music, ’cause it makes me really happy and I can’t help but (horribly) yodel along.
And because I want you to feel happy too, I leave you with “The Lonely Goatherd”.
Take care, and happy yodeling.