I have something I really want to share with you all. A few weeks ago, I kind of lost it. I had one of those deep, heart-wrenching breakdowns that you hesitate to talk about out loud, but that hurt like hell. And the thing was, while I was trying to talk myself through it, find my motivation, and use all the different self-care tips that my 10,000 self help books have given me, I just couldn’t figure out what was wrong. It seemed like my breakdown had come out of nowhere. But then I realized something really important: I’d been trying to live my life like everything is normal, when things really just aren’t that normal at all.
We’ve all been swept up into this wild storm that is COVID-19 with no warning, no rule book, and certainly no idea exactly how to cope with suddenly spending 24-hours a day in our homes. As soon as the “Safer at Home” orders started being announced…and extended…and extended some more, I could feel myself trying to grab hold of any safety nets I possibly could in order to convince myself that everything was okay, that I could keep pushing forward in all the ways I’d planned, and the result? I hadn’t given myself the space or permission to really process everything that is happening in our world. To really adjust my schedule, my expectations for myself, and even my definition of productivity. And so, a few weeks ago, I realized that I’d not only lost sight of those things, but I’d lost my direction and motivation, too. Or at least that’s what I thought.
A lot of you have messaged me recently saying that you’ve been feeling the same lack of motivation as I have been while we’re stuck in this COVID bubble — and I really cannot say how much you’ve all helped pull everything back into perspective for me. We’re literally all experiencing this lack of motivation right now. No matter what anyone’s Insta-story tells you, we are all on the same broken-down Disneyland ride together, stuck in the same endless loop with the same song playing over and over (anyone else having “It’s a Small World” flashbacks right now?). And you know what? It is freaking hard! But you know what else? We’re going to roll up our sleeves, revisit our expectations for ourselves, and hit a big ol’ reset button. And I have a few tips to share that’ll help you out along the way.
Before I hit an emotional wall a few weeks ago and became a little crying goblin (yes, you’re picturing that right), I’d been burying all of my COVID-related fears and insecurities behind work and food. Food has become my comfort, my coping mechanism, and my go-to anxiety cure — but not really in a good way. I hardly even realized I’d been struggling with it until recently because I’ve been pouring so much of myself into my work. And as a result, I’ve been depression eating, and depression not-eating, and completely forgetting to eat and then relying on ordering last minute takeout. So, while my work-ethic has seemed to be at an all-time high, my self-care and health routines have been essentially nonexistent. And so my mental health suffered.
Usually, at any other time besides a six-month-long (and counting) quarantine, I’d be so upset with myself for forgetting to take care of my body for so long. For ignoring my hard-set fitness and health routines. But here’s the thing: instead of getting upset with myself, I’ve decided to give myself permission not to be perfect right now. To make mistakes and be okay with them. That’s not to say that I took a look at my poor eating habits and said, “oh well, guess this is me now.” Instead I just gave myself a hug, decided to be okay with where I am at, and found a way to not just change the bad habits but do so in a way that made the bad habits into good habits.
I knew that I needed to find a way to reset these bad habits. That I needed to find a way to infuse something that I love back into my routine. So I started cooking. It sounds almost ridiculously simple. Like, “duh, Nicole, if you want to eat better then you should cook your own food!” But it’s become so much more than that. The act of cooking my meals has not only made me more accountable to a routine in which I, you know, actually feed myself decently, it’s given me a space to reset my emotions by doing something I enjoy that has nothing to do with my usual daily hustle. And let me tell you, cooking is fantastic therapy. I knew that I needed to face my negative habits and move forward with a new mindset, and cooking has brought me that. And rather than think of cooking as something I don’t have time for, I’ve decided to view it as a treat to myself to help me decompress, process, and think. And what’s even better is that by giving myself space to relax, I’m able to bring more creativity and motivation to the work I love and care about most: photography.
So here’s the thing: if you find that you’re losing motivation or feeling stuck, it’s time to take a close look at the patterns you’ve created recently in your day-to-day life and see where you can step back in and take back control. This is where you’ll find a path back to what you love and feel passionate about. While 2020 has truly turned into a year that literally no one could have prepared for, and while we may not be exactly where we had hoped we’d be, that doesn’t mean we can go on ignoring or deprioritizing the things we’re passionate about. We can’t just keep coping — we have to keep living, y’all!
So, how exactly do we hit that reset button on our daily habits and reignite our love and passion so we can start really living again (even if there’s a pandemic running around outside)? Here are a few things you can do.
Start with a brain dump
Just like with cooking (yes, I’ve got cooking on the brain!), you can’t start a recipe until you know all your ingredients. And the same goes for resetting and refocusing your life on what you love. So, before you do anything else, I want you to grab a pen and pencil, or your laptop with the internet turned off, and sit by a window, on a porch, or really anywhere that you can see and enjoy the outside world. Look at the sky, see the world around you, and dump every little thought that comes into your mind on the paper. Don’t judge it, don’t even re-read it (yet), just put it down on paper and let it go. Think about how you’re feeling. Is it different, better, worse, the same as yesterday or last week? Where do you think you’re getting stuck? How can you move past that obstacle in a positive way? Jot anything and everything down.
Now, take one of those obstacles that you listed and see whether you can use one of the tips below to change your perspective of it, or of the control it seems to have over your life and motivation. We often come to realize that what we once thought was a mountain standing in our way is actually just a little mound of dirt that looked intimidating from far away. Now, take one of the obstacles you wrote down and ask yourself…
“…How can I start expressing more gratitude in my life?”
Now, I know I say this all the time, but it’s because it helps me SO MUCH. Whenever you have the chance, start your day by writing out a gratitude list — it doesn’t have to be long or detailed. Just a few notes to yourself about what you’re thankful for. And once you do this, see if you can express any gratitude toward the obstacle you wrote down before. How can you grow from, learn from, or push beyond the obstacle that seems to be holding you back? Appreciating the things we struggle with most helps to take away their power, and in the process helps us take our own power back. So put down your phone, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and find a few things you’re grateful for. You’ll be surprised by how much it can shift your perspective of things and clear up your headspace.
“…What can I do for myself today?”
Just like I did with cooking, find something to do that is just for yourself — no strings attached. Maybe it’s reading, writing, going for a walk and taking pictures, or even cooking like me. Just find something that makes you feel balanced and more like yourself. Whatever it is, just make sure it helps you take care of yourself and your needs. The things we used to do to take care of ourselves aren’t necessarily as easy to come by these days, so find new ways to bring passion and joy into your life so that you don’t spend too much of your precious energy on the things that feel out of your control.
“…How could a little fresh air help put things back into perspective for me?”
One of the hardest parts about quarantine is not being able to leave the house as often or as easily as we used to, and as a result it’s easy to fall into bad habits and thought patterns that really don’t serve us well. Sometimes all we need to break that pattern is to literally get some fresh air. If you have access to backyard space try getting into the routine of doing yoga in the mornings, or going on a walk around the neighborhood or to a nearby park if you’re able. It’ll be a total mental-health game changer. And if you don’t have access to a safe outdoor space, find a window where you can curl up with the sunshine on your face, open it up to let a little breeze in, and take a few deep breaths. You’ll notice the difference.
“…Who can I reach out to in my community for support?”
This one is a big one, and one that can be more intimidating than we’d like to admit. It’s not easy to ask for help, or support, or guidance. But once you do, it can feel like a huge weight is off your shoulders. Especially if you’re feeling particularly unmotivated, finding strength in your community can be exactly what you need to find your footing again and move forward. One thing I really recommend is finding an accountability partner, be it someone you already know or even someone from the Horizon Found Facebook group that you haven’t even met yet. They could help give you JUST the motivation you’ve been needing to stand up and take actionable steps forward toward your goals. So, whatever you do, don’t be afraid to reach out to others on the community page and connect, because guess what? If you’re struggling, feeling lost or confused, I guarantee you are not alone and there are literally tons of other people feeling so much the same way. Remember, we’re all going through this together and trying to find ways to adjust and move forward, so why not help support each other a little bit along the way?
This biggest thing that I want you to remember from all of this, though, is to be okay with things being hard. We’re all learning and adjusting to this new normal as quickly as we can, so it makes sense that it would take our passions and motivations a minute to catch up with us. This situation is a lot to deal with emotionally, physically, financially. So just, please, don’t be too hard on yourself. Show yourself the same love and compassion that you would show other people feeling the same way you are. And even if your motivation doesn’t come back tomorrow or next week, that doesn’t mean you aren’t okay. It means you’re human — give yourself space to move forward at your own pace, give love and gratitude to your process, and I promise you that you will find your balance again. We will all find our balance again — together.
AND If you feel like connecting with other female photographers who are on this journey with you, join our Private Facebook Community Group where you’ll be welcomed with open arms. It’s a place where you can share your work, find inspiration, and ask for advice from all of our amazing members. Click Here to join!