Feeling flat and unmotivated outside of work? Fliss Thistlethwaite does too, and she wants you to know you’re not alone.
I’ve learnt a lot about myself in the last five months. I’ve realised I drink more than I probably should, I really, really need a fan to sleep if the temperature goes above 30C, and I actually quite miss the commute I always thought despised. But more than anything, I’ve learnt to recognise a change in my mood.
When we first went into lockdown, as a nation we quickly had to learn how to sit with our feelings. We were united in fear over this unknown virus sweeping the globe, and similarly united in adoration for the heroes fighting it: NHS staff and key workers alike.
And frankly it’s been an emotional rollercoaster ever since. I’ve impromptu cried while washing up, I’ve found myself being irrationally angry at minor things that I once would’ve let wash over me, and I’ve laughed hysterically at the tiniest thing with friends – gripping onto the good times with both hands. Through all those moments it was easy to recognise how I felt, and why I felt that way. There was logic, rhyme and reason, and in that sense, I could put my feelings into a box and be content that everything would be OK.
But if you asked me today, “how are you?” I wouldn’t know how to answer. I’ve hit a roadblock. The only way I can describe how I’m feeling is flat. With no holidays on the horizon, no plans to see my family (who live and work in Leicester) and nothing exciting planned in my personal life I feel like I’m bumbling along.
Am I scared? Am I bored? I have no idea. But I’m not alone.
Rebecca, 30, has lived alone for a year and, pre-pandemic, this was great fun for her. But everything changed when the country went into lockdown and she found living alone challenging. Although she’s now embarking on an exciting new phase of lockdown life – dating – she echoed my current feelings. “I feel like I don’t know how to feel. It’s like I’ve lost all my outlets to deal with my feelings. If I’m happy normally I’ll celebrate, go for a drink with friends after work. If I’m sad, I’ll get in the car and drive somewhere else. And nothing’s stopping me doing that now, but I’ve lost the momentum to want to do that – I don’t do any of it anymore.”
She adds: “I feel like I’ve forgotten how to be me. Last week I went on a date and the guy I’ve been seeing asked me where I wanted to go… and I didn’t know.
“I’m finding it really overwhelming trying to navigate this new normal life. The really important thing for me – especially because I live alone and I’m working from home too – is knowing that it’s not just me feeling this way.”
Another friend answered my “how are you?” greeting on Zoom last night with: “Struggling to find the hope in anything.” And I felt that in my soul.
I don’t know what the answer is, or if there even is one. Maybe this is a phase I’m going through, like when I wore too much Kohl eyeliner in my Avril Lavigne teenage phase? Or maybe it’s one of the stages everyone will experience as we fight our way through this pandemic as best we can? Whatever the reason for my flatness, I reached out to Life Coach Leanne Evans to see if there was any way of speeding through this and finding my motivation for fun again. She asked me: “What truly brings your pleasure?” And, honestly, I’m going to have to do some work on finding out what that is.
But in the meantime, if you’ve read this and you’re feeling flat too – and you want to try and work your way out of it – here’s three top tips from Leanne.
Make space for pleasure and playfulness
Pleasure and play are missed off many our to-do lists. Life is all about balance, it is nice to have the structure of a good routine, but this ultimately serves as a foundation to allow the space for both pleasure and playfulness. So what truly brings your pleasure? We experience pleasure when we are in a state of receptivity and mindfulness. Think of the tasks that you need to do in your life and see what you can do to bring more pleasure to these experiences. What could you do to bring joy to cleaning your house? Playing your favourite music, taking dancing breaks. It takes just a little bit of creativity to transform mundane tasks.
Gratitude and presence
While it can be great to have something exciting in the diary to look forward to it is also so important to stay as rooted in the present moment as much as possible, so we do not become overwhelmed and drain our energy and motivation.
A gratitude practice can be transformative in helping to shift how we perceive our reality. I always invite my clients to think of three things daily that they’re grateful for no matter how big or small. In terms of staying present, try to keep your thoughts positive and present-focused. If you find yourself going down a negative train of thought, try to shift your focus back to more positive feelings centred on the here and now.
Empower yourself with the things that you can control
For example your daily routine, the food you choose to nourish yourself with and the people you want to spend your time with outside of working hours. When we assume the position of a creator of our reality rather than a victim, we can focus our energy on the things we can control amidst all of the uncertainty unfolding around us.