In the trailer for her movie Crazy Sexy Cancer, Kris Carr said, “There is no escape. You have a full-time job; you are always at the office of healing.”
It takes hard work and a lot of motivation to heal, whether you have fibromyalgia or another chronic illness.
When I quit working in 2006, I thought, “Now I can work full-time on getting well.”
If you’re not working right now… have you thought about making getting well your new job?
But I don’t want to!
At some point in your journey, you just won’t feel like doing the work. You’ll want a vacation from being sick, taking your supplements, watching what you eat, going to bed on time, and counting your spoons.
Have you been there yet? Yup. Me too.
I’ve been working on getting well since before I was diagnosed in 2007. Some days, and some years, have been better than others.
Sometimes I feel like I’m about two years old when (inside) I stamp my foot and pout, “But I don’t want to!”
How do you regain your motivation?
Here’s some ideas for how to keep doing the work you need to do when you feel your motivation has run out. Try some of these and let me know if they work for you:
1. Remember to have fun. Take time to play.
If you’re feeling burnt out, maybe it’s because you aren’t spending enough time doing the things you love. Instead of just saving your energy for the things you have to do, spend some energy doing the things you want to do.
Many of my clients feel disconnected from what they love to do. One exercise I give as homework is to make a list of everything that brings you joy. My post Honoring Your Body: Getting to Know YOU, is also a good place to start for ideas in getting to know yourself a bit better.
If you haven’t made your Joy List, I encourage you to start one now. Don’t edit this list — and do include both the big things and the little things. If you love to hike, but hiking puts you in a flare for days, put it on the list anyway. If cuddling with your cat or sitting in a sunny spot bring you joy, put them on the list.
After your list is made, go through it and see if there’s a way you can still enjoy those activities. Perhaps you enjoyed hiking because you loved being outdoors. To adapt that activity, maybe you can find short, easy walks or even just sit outside on your deck and still get the same benefits.
Life is too short not to enjoy it. Play a little. You have my permission.
2. Make a list of the upsides.
Have you forgotten what the goal is or why you’re even doing what you’re doing? Take a few minutes to list out all the good things that will come from your actions. Don’t forget to think of both short-term and long-term results.
For example, if you choose to go to bed on time and get enough sleep, will you have more energy to spend with your kids the next day? If you choose to eat healthy, nutritious meals, will you have less aches and pains? After a year of sleeping and eating well, what then?
If you’re not sure what the upsides are, or why you’re doing what you’re doing, talk with your doctor or do some research. Learn why you’re taking each supplement or medication. Find out why you have been given a specific diet to follow.
Although I never recommend stopping medication or supplements without your doctor’s guidance, a small break may show you exactly what that supplement or medication is doing for you! I accidentally did this once by forgetting to take my medication with me on a trip. The outrageous headaches that I experienced that weekend showed me the value of what I was taking. I haven’t forgotten a single pill since!
3. Make a list of the downsides.
As above, make your own list of what the consequences will be if you choose to do — or not do! — a particular action.
4. Take time to remember your successes and how far you’ve come.
It can be easy to think that nothing has changed. However, if you take a few minutes to look back over time, you may see that much has changed! Remember to compare yourself with yourself. Don’t compare yourself against someone younger and healthier.
Remembering other times where you did well will help to “prime the pump” for doing well again.
Talking to someone who knows you well can be a good idea with this one. Often they will see things that we don’t. I’ll never forget my husband’s face after pulling my own luggage off the belt at the airport. I didn’t think it was any big deal, but he was stunned. His perspective helped me realize how far I’d come in getting well. (Who is that Woman? 7/7/2010)
5. Set a new goal.
Have you reached a goal and not set a new one? Or does your current goal leave you uninspired? Is your current goal completely overwhelming?
If you are uninspired, try stretching for a new, bigger goal! If you previously had trouble getting through the day, maybe you’d like to try to participate in a 5k walk or run. Even if you don’t set any time records, just crossing the finish line can be a success. I completed a 5k walk a few years ago and it still thrills me to be able to say I did it.
If you’re already overwhelmed, you may need to do the opposite. Try breaking your larger goal into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Take baby steps and reward yourself as you go. Create a habit of succeeding.
Helping my clients with their goals is one of the things I do best.
I’ve accomplished a lot of small goals along the way these last few weeks and I’m so happy! I’m getting to places on time more, going to sleep earlier, eating better, and even got my new dishwasher installed!
It gives me hope that I’ve been able to accomplish all these goals with your help.
6. Reconnect with optimism.
Get an attitude adjustment. Look at the glass as half full. Remember that healing is possible!
Watch an uplifting movie or read a book. There’s plenty of stories out there of ordinary people overcoming challenges. Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote Seabiscuit: An American Legend, has ME/CFS, so it can be doubly inspiring. Most recently, my husband and I saw The LEGO® Movie. It’s easy to be optimistic when “Everything is Awesome” (the theme song of the movie) is running through your head!
7. Exercise. Move. Breathe.
Exercise releases endorphins and makes you feel good. This can be as simple as swaying to music you love or taking time to breathe deeply. Kris Carr, mentioned above, said she dances to at least one song every day.
There are right ways and wrong ways to exercise when you have fibromyalgia. Take time to learn how to move correctly. You don’t have to feel bad after moving your body.
8. Have a (short) pity party.
Sometimes you have to acknowledge where you are right now in order to move forward.
Give yourself permission to have a pity party if you need to. It’s okay to pout and cry and complain… as long as you don’t get stuck there. Set a timer for 10 minutes, or even give yourself a whole day, and then move on.
9. Talk about it.
Talking about how you feel with someone who understands can be very healing. Just be careful who you choose to talk to.
Choose someone who is positive, supportive, and will help you move forward. A coach, like me, is a great option. A coach is always on your side — plus, we’re trained on how to help you get un-stuck.
Don’t choose that friend who sympathizes but never moves forward. We all have friends like this, who seem to want us to never change and to remain stuck. This is that friend who, knowing you’re trying to avoid gluten and sweets, encourages you to, “just have one bite.” With friends like that, who needs enemies!
10. Do the things that are easy.
We all have things that we find easy — just as we have things that are difficult. I’m a natural night owl, so I will forever have to work at going to bed on time. Taking my supplements, however, is a no-brainer for me.
Give yourself a break and focus on the easy things for a while. Once you get some motivation back, get back to work on the hard ones.
11. Fake it until you make it.
Start working and let the motivation catch up to you.
So you aren’t motivated right now. So what? Do it anyway. Sometimes going through the motions will help you begin to feel more motivated.
Back at the beginning of my journey I realized something pretty obvious (though it was a revelation at the time!):
Waiting until I felt good before I started working on getting better was a bit like waiting until I was in shape before I began to exercise. It just doesn’t work that way! (Doin’ it Anyway, 1/8/2011)
Decide to do it anyway.
12. Talk to your health care provider.
Did you know that being unmotivated might have a biological cause? If you are low in certain nutrients, hormones, or neurotransmitters, it can be nearly impossible to feel motivated.
Low serotonin, for example, may make you feel depressed and give you food cravings that will override all your good diet intentions. Low epinephrine and norepinephrine will cause fatigue, a lack of focus, and a lack of motivation. A good resource for the connection between diet and mood is The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. Take her Mood Type Questionnaire online to see what amino acids you might benefit from taking.
Low thyroid, extremely common in fibromyalgia and ME/CFS patients, can also cause fatigue, trouble concentrating, depression, and more. Check out my post on fibromyalgia and your thyroid for more info.
A couple of months ago, I was finding that I was sleeping about two hours more than normal. I also realized that I just didn’t want to do anything — even things I normally enjoy. I talked to my doctor, who suggested a couple of simple supplements. I feel much better today — and I’m motivated again!
13. Take a break.
When all else fails, maybe it’s just time to take a break. Ask yourself, “What do I need?” Then trust the answer that comes to you.
Maybe you need to take a hot bubble bath with candles, soft music, and all the goodies. Maybe schedule a massage or facial. Sit in the sun. Recharge your batteries.
Thank you for chatting with me the other day. It’s so great to talk with someone who has dealt with fibromyalgia for so long. Thanks again for your encouragement and support.
If you’ve been feeling unmotivated, try one of the ideas listed above. Trust your gut on where to start. If that one doesn’t work, try another one. Let me know how you do.
Single branch of a blooming cherry tree © 2010 iStock/suteracher. Used by permission. All rights reserved.