Month: December 2021

3 Ways to Break Out of a Motivation Slump


Ever have one of those days where you just stare at a screen, give up, and then waste away your time on mindless internet drivel?

Me too. I’ve had several days like that, sometimes strung together as if I’m reliving the same crappy movie over and over.

It’s understandable if this happens to you. The world has seen its share of chaos and nonsense this past year, and good luck trying to disconnect from it all. It reminds me of Nike’s old slogan, Just do it — easy to preach but hard to follow.

Still, we have bills to pay and dreams to pursue. Let’s not forget about our sanity, which seems to whither as we lose ourselves to an existence of constant distraction and low-grade anxiety. To be our best, to be ourselves, we need a sense of purpose. To fulfill that purpose, we must first motivate ourselves to take action.

But what do you do when you’re not feeling motivated? You can fake it, sure, but that’ll exhaust you before you see any real gains.

Productivity hacks? You already know those don’t work. Any trick that pits you against your natural inertia will fail. Like pushing a boulder uphill, you’ll run out of steam in short order.

You don’t need hacks when you’re mentally engaged. Nor do you need to psyche yourself up. You merely need to set the right conditions so that motivation develops organically.

These three strategies have proven most useful to me during times where focus, drive, and action have taken a back seat to inertia.

Create the two conditions for urgency

Remember those days in school where your teacher gave you a week to write a term paper? You’d dawdle for six days, procrastinate, and then pull an all-nighter to get it done on time.

The urgency of a deadline and the consequences of a failing grade pushed you into high gear.

A deadline and negative consequences comprise the two essential components of urgency — the most effective way to motivate yourself. The hand-wringing sense of urgency compels us to tune out the noise and zero in on what’s most important.

An arbitrary deadline by itself won’t create that feeling. If you’ve tried it, you know what I mean. Without a penalty, the threat of a deadline does nothing to spur you to action. Contrast that with a boss who gives you an assignment and says, “Complete this by Friday or you’re fired.”

That’s a consequence with teeth. No matter how boring or pointless the assignment, you’ll motivate yourself to get it done because you want to keep your paycheck.

Since we often lack real consequences for not doing our work, we need to manufacture a penalty. That’s harder than it sounds. I’ve tried accountability partners but never achieved sustained success.

My personal favorite strategy involves giving to a charity I despise if I don’t meet my deadline. There are companies set up to help you do this. Check out the website Stickk. You make a commitment and put money on the line by pledging it to a charity you hate (anti-charity) if you fail to achieve your objective.

Screenshot: stickk.com

Focus on micro-goals

Motivation often wanes when our goals overwhelm us. We check out and seek an escape route through mindless distractions or creative excuses to justify why we quit.

To counteract overwhelm, create micro-goals — an objective you can complete in thirty minutes or less.

When I sit down to write and find myself in a daze, I focus on these super short-term objectives to get myself in a groove. Here are some examples:

  • Write 67 words in the next 12 minutes.
  • Generate three business ideas that don’t include any of the following words: thing, stuff, product, app.

Notice how I stay away from round numbers in the first example. For the second one, I gave myself a constraint. Constraints force you to focus by narrowing the range of possibilities. It’s the single best mental shortcut to enhance your creativity and concentration.

Micro-goals work because they’re quick, engaging, and unusual. Those short bursts of activity often gin up enough motivation to get you into the flow of an activity. To make them work for you, follow these rules:

  • Create urgency by limiting the time limit to 30 minutes.
  • Keep them interesting with unusual targets.
  • Make them challenging by giving yourself a constraint.

Surround yourself with step-up peers

A step-up peer is someone with similar goals as you but slightly above you in skill and accomplishments.

If you’re an up-and-coming artist and you’re comparing yourself to an established celebrity, you’ll likely find yourself discouraged at the long hill you need to climb to reach your goal. That kind of discouragement can stifle your motivation.

But if you focus on a peer, someone just a step ahead of you on the path to success, you’ll find it rouses your ambition because you see their accomplishments as a target you can realistically achieve.

It also sparks your competitive drive when you picture your step-up peers as a pack of runners in a close race. Imagine yourself in second place, trailing by a half-step with a few hundred yards to go. With victory in reach, you’ll find that extra burst of energy to catch up. Compare that to a race where you’re dead last fifty feet from the finish line.

It takes careful planning to create this sort of group, but when done right, it proves beneficial for all involved as you keep motivating each other to push ahead.

All you need to know

For a lucky few, motivation comes naturally. For everyone else, there’s no need to buy into absurd productivity hacks that yield marginal results at best.

No matter how easily distracted or constrained by apathy, these three techniques allow anyone to motivate themselves into a productive state.

  • Create urgency by setting a deadline with consequences
  • Focus on micro-goals
  • Surround yourself with step-up peers

Barry Davret writes about life, relationships, and lessons on growing older. His words are in Forge by Medium, Elemental by Medium, Business Insider, and more.

Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio.

Anxious About Returning to Classroom? Here’s What to Do

Anxious About Returning to Classroom

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When COVID-19 began spreading throughout the world, many countries declared area-wide lockdowns. As a result, schools were forced to move to online learning platforms. Although it was strange at first, students and teachers alike were able to adjust to the change.

Now, almost two years later, lockdowns are lifting and schools are reopening their doors for in-person learning. Once again, students and teachers are required to adjust to change. While returning to the classroom might leave some relieved, it’s a source of anxiety for many others.

By this point, everyone has adapted to the ‘new normal.’ Learning online has become comfortable and convenient if nothing else.

Going back to in-person learning comes with a change of routine and environment. Additionally, giving oral presentations and being surrounded by strangers can be nerve-wracking.

It’s normal to feel uneasy about the situation. Thankfully, it’s possible to get back into the hang of things. Here are four tips on how to return to the classroom without a persistent sense of dread.

Anxiety Symptoms

How does someone know they’re anxious? Apart from excessive worrying, they may experience physical symptoms. Being able to identify anxiety is the first step to managing it. Symptoms can manifest as:

  • Tight throat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Clenched jaw
  • Upset stomach
  • Muscle aches
  • Trembling

4 Ways to Reduce Anxiety

If the anxiety stems from fears surrounding school work, there’s a simple solution. You can order a custom research paper from EssayPro to help shoulder the burden.

And if you are nervous about returning to school physically, keep reading for tips you can apply to your daily life.

1. Ease Into It

As tempting as it is to believe that society hasn’t been affected by the pandemic significantly, the truth is that life is never going back to normal. Daily routines have changed. Public transport that was once flooded with commuters has now put social distancing measures in place making a crowd impossible.

The experiences people have had during the lockdown and the precautions cities have taken in preventing the spread of COVID have changed the way people communicate.

That being said, some of these changes can help people create meaningful post-lockdown lives. Before lockdown, it might have been easy to have a robust social calendar. Hanging out with friends, picking up an extra shift, volunteering, or participating in an afterschool club might have been a natural part of the day.

However, it can easily lead to burnout. More so now, considering the extended period spent in quarantine. Take some time to ease into socializing. Don’t immediately commit to extracurricular activities if it causes anxiety.

2. Use Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk is what leads to self-motivation. It’s the inner voice that speaks in an affirming way to comfort, encourage and uplift an individual. While focusing on positive self-talk isn’t easy, especially when things aren’t looking up, it’s a sure way to get in the right mindset.

Use positive self-talk to gear up for attending a class. Think about the benefits of being in a classroom – like the fact that it can make learning more fun. If you talk to yourself in a more positive manner instead of degrading, you’ll feel more confident and at ease.

Leaning on positive thoughts like these, instead of dwelling on the perceived negatives, goes a long way in reducing anxiety.

Positive self-talk is the voice that says “go” when one feels like stopping. It will help you focus on the bright side and remind you that you are capable of doing the impossible.

Many students are not only returning to in-person learning, but they are also moving to a new school. They could be moving from middle school to high school or even attending college for the first time. Their minds are probably swarming with whether they’ll make friends, fit in, or enjoy their classes.

3. The Odds Are: They Probably Will

One of the most helpful ways to reduce anxiety is to think of something exciting.

Instead of focusing on the negative feelings that come with being worried, practice anxiety reappraisal. This is the art of turning feelings of apprehension into anticipation.

A great way to use anxiety reappraisal in reducing worries about going back to school is by creating a list of exciting things to do. What opportunities will be available in school that aren’t available at home? What new experiences could a new grade, or school, have to offer?

Returning to in-person classes could open an exciting new chapter of your college life.

Plan Ahead

Fear of the unknown frequently causes anxiety. This is why people who think too much about the future are usually anxiety-ridden. Not being able to predict what will happen next or address new challenges contributes to a person’s anxiety level. It’s also strongly linked to the fear of change.

Ironically, planning for the future can help you combat anxiety. Knowing what to expect in a situation gives a person a sense of control. By pinpointing potential pitfalls and coming up with viable solutions, anyone can reduce the amount of anxiety they have.

The trick is not to overthink a situation or plan too far ahead into the future.

Students experiencing back-to-school jitters can calm themselves down by reviewing their class schedule, having a mental map of where their classes are, finding out about their teacher ahead of time, and checking if any of their friends have the same schedule.

Conclusion

There’s a lot of tension that comes with going back to the classroom. Things can’t go back to how they were. Students have to get used to a new way of going about their studies.

It’s essential to keep a positive outlook to progress and keep from staying stagnant.

Students have the power to choose their thoughts and control the outcome of their lives. Positive thoughts bring good fortune while negative thoughts breed despair. Both have an effect on quality of life.

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4 Powerful Lessons I’ve Learned from Grief Since My Mom Died Suddenly

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How to exercise safely with an acquired brain injury

How to exercise safely with an acquired brain injury

Acquired brain injury (ABI) refers to damage to the brain that occurs after birth. Causes include trauma from an external force (e.g., a direct blow to the head), hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain), substance abuse (e.g., alcohol), and tumours or infections (e.g., meningitis). Two other major causes of ABI are stroke and neurodegenerative conditions.

Consequences of ABI may include:

  • cognitive impairment (e.g., memory)
  • physical impairment (e.g., high muscle tone and impaired coordination)
  • behavioural impairment (e.g., impulsivity)
  • social isolation and poor mental health

However, the functional profile for a person with ABI can vary enormously, from someone who, for example, mobilises with a motorised wheelchair, is non-verbal and depends on personal support for self-care, to someone who is fully independent in employment, self-care and mobility.

ABI is common, with around 1 in 45 Australians (432,700 people) living with an ABI with activity limitations or participation restrictions due to disability. Almost three-quarters of these people are aged less than 65 years.

ABI prevalence increases with age, with people aged 65 years or over more than twice as likely as to have ABI with activity limitations or participation restrictions. The rates of ABI are also higher for males than females at all ages.

THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE

People with ABI are among the most physically inactive members of society, and those with severe brain impairments are less active than those with mild to moderate impairments.

This physical inactivity is harmful for health, fitness and function, and compounds the primary impairments resulting from ABI.

There is strong scientific evidence to indicate that:

  • Aerobic exercise improves cardiorespiratory fitness in people with ABI. The quantity and intensity of exercise required for good health is similar to the general population.
  • Strength training improves muscular strength in people with ABI. While the quantity and intensity of exercise required for improvements is similar to the general population, it should be noted that no studies have specifically investigated the effects of strength training on people with ABI who are affected by spastic hypertonia, an impairment that could potentially affect outcomes.
  • Regular functional exercise (e.g., sit-to-stand, walking or climbing stairs) can improve performance on those tasks (e.g., ease of sit-to-stand, walking speed or walking duration).

Exercise can also alleviate depressive symptoms as well as improve other aspects of mood and quality of life for people with ABI. Importantly, exercise, particularly in group settings, provides structured opportunities for social interaction and development of social skills.

exercise rehabilitation

TYPES OF EXERCISE RECOMMENDED

Because the effects of ABI are very variable and the quantity and quality of research on this population is limited, specific, prescriptive recommendations for exercise programs are not possible. However, some general recommendations can be made.

People with ABI are encouraged to be as physically active as they can. For optimal health, the recommended volumes of aerobic and strength exercise are the same as the general population:

Aerobic exercise:

  • Greater than 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity on at least 5 days per week, or
  • Greater than or equal to 25 minutes of vigorous intensity on at least 3 days per week.

Strength exercise: three sets of 8-10 repetitions of resistance exercises at moderate intensity using major muscle groups on at least 2 days per week.

People with altered joint mechanics (e.g., resulting from contracture or altered muscle tone) can undertake strength training with weights, but joint health (e.g., joint pain, swelling) should be monitored carefully.

For people with functional goals, exercise programs should incorporate functional activities (e.g., ease of sit-to-stand, walking speed or walking duration). Additionally, exercise which provides opportunities for social interaction should be encouraged where possible.

SPEAK TO THE EXERCISE PROFESSIONALS

These recommendations may initially be unrealistic for many people with ABI, particularly those with severe mobility impairments, multiple comorbidities and/or those who have been inactive for extended periods. Therefore, it is recommended that an Accredited Exercise Physiologist is involved in the program design and that they use their knowledge, skills and experience to ensure that initial training volumes and subsequent increases in training volume are individually tailored for the person with ABI.

Click here to find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you.

Expert Contributor: Associate Professor Sean Tweedy, PhD and Accredited Exercise Physiologist at the University of Queensland

Are You Being Emotionally Manipulated?


Everybody is manipulative to some degree.

We use manipulation or influence because we are social beings. But for some people, like narcissists, manipulation is a way of living.

Say there’s a friend in your social circle who is singling you out, treating you differently than they treat the others. They apparently like everything you say or do. Are they trying to love bomb you? Or are they just awkward and enthusiastic?

You can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what their true intentions are.

Self-reflection is more productive than endlessly analyzing another person’s behavior. If someone is manipulating you, that causes changes in your life. Let’s talk about some of them.

1. Extreme highs, extreme lows.

One of the best ways to identify a manipulator is that everything about them is intense.

Compared to other people you hang out with, manipulators have a strong impact on your mood. It’s not always a negative impact. In fact, you may start thinking they’re the only person in the world who can cheer you up.

But you can’t trust them to do that consistently. They can make you feel on top of your game — and then tear you down a few minutes later. There’s never a comfortable middle ground when you’re around them.

2. Easy, small decisions turn into a battlefield.

Another telltale sign is preemptive exhaustion. You realize you’re going to be meeting up with them, and you sigh, feeling drained in advance.

Things get really tiring really fast if you disagree with a manipulative person, so it’s easier to just let them have their way. Some manipulators get a thrill out of something as simple as convincing you to order a meal you don’t like. And all their little victories add up to make you feel tired of life.

Note that they don’t always pick fights. Some of them prefer to discuss everything in detail, claiming to look for “the most rational solution”, and they maintain a steady tone throughout. If you get irritated or bored, you feel like the flaw lies with you. Who doesn’t like rationality?

3. You feel guilty all the time.

Guilt is a corrosive force, and manipulators are great at using it to their advantage. They gradually change the way you view yourself, little mistakes you make start feeling like huge personality flaws. Any disagreement becomes proof of your callousness or lack of care.

Not that the manipulator is likely to say so outright — they’ll just insinuate that something is wrong with your taste, your judgment, your friends, your ability to resolve conflicts, and so on.

People with high levels of empathy are easily manipulated. If you want to be kind and reach a compromise, you’ll get browbeaten into agreeing with the manipulator.

4. You think you’re insane, oversensitive, or “too tired to think straight”.

The internet likes to overuse the concept of gaslighting. It’s not about two people having different perspectives on a topic, and it means more than just a lie.

Gaslighting is meant to make you think you’re irrational. If it goes on long enough, you give up: you end up agreeing that the other person knows best.

But it often starts with little things. A manipulator may tell you you’re misremembering something you’ve experienced, or they talk about how forgetful you are. Or maybe it’s your judgment that they like to question. For example, they’ll imply that you don’t understand social situations, that you’re too naive or too cynical.

This may be veiled in a joke or an expression of concern. It’s the first step of a long process that is meant to destabilize your sense of self.

5. You keep second-guessing everything you do.

This is a gentler version of the above.

You don’t necessarily think there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. It just takes you longer than usual to make decisions. You often wonder if you should have done something differently.

This kind of indecisiveness can be the result of various factors — exhaustion, depression, bad past experiences, lack of sleep, and so on. But sometimes, the root cause is that someone is messing with your mind.

Personally, the worst manipulation I’ve been subjected to happened in the form of compliments. The manipulator flattered my ego, made me feel like I was inherently better than the others. At the same time, the seeds of doubt were there. I wanted to live up to this glossy image of me, but I knew it was fake. I gradually became self-conscious, and every decision became agonizing.

The red flags aren’t very subtle, but the thing is…

… manipulators are much harder to spot if they’re close to you.

If you notice bad behavior in a family member or partner, you may think “eh, that’s just how they are”. You can’t see any changes in yourself because they sank their claws into you a long time ago.

But as hard as it is, it’s always useful to look at your relationships with an objective eye. Is there someone in your life who is making you feel tired, guilty, anxious, or like you’re not good enough? If so, it might be time to take your distance.


Eric Sangerma is an entrepreneur, founder of TrulyScaled.com and Wholistique.com and co-host of The Wholistique Show which explores how to reach peak personal and professional performance while living a minimal and balanced life. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Kindel Media.

Busy Mind Keeping You Up? How to Mindfully and Peacefully Drift Off to Sleep

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We Are Broken but We Are Valued


A Rabbi tells the story of a motivational speaker who started off by holding up a crisp new $20 bill. “Who wants this?” he asked. And just about every hand in the room shot up. “I’m going to give this $20 to one of you,” he said. “But first, I’m going to do this.” And he crumpled up the bill. “Who wants it now?” he asked. The hands stayed up. “Really?” he said. “Well what if I do this?” and he dropped the bill on the floor and began to stomp on it. Then he paused and picked up the bill and held it up, crumpled and dirty. “Who wants it now?” he demanded. And all the hands went back up.

“My friends,” he said “you’ve learned a valuable lesson. When I started the bill was worth $20. And no matter what I did to it, you still wanted it. Because no matter what happened to that bill, it did not lose its value.”

“Many times,” he went on, “we are that bill. We are crushed, we are crumbled. We are dropped to the ground into the dirt as if we are worthless. Bad decisions or hapless circumstances make us feel as if we have no value. But never forget, no matter what has happened to you, you will always have value.

There are many versions of the crumpled dollar story out there. Says the Rabbi, “We are valued, we are valuable, no matter what. We are each of us already deserving. We may be crumpled but we never lose our intrinsic worth.

We are all broken. Not always in the most dramatic ways. We have all experienced brokenness, loss and pain. Sometimes we are overwhelmed and feel crumpled and worthless. Even all alone. But human value is innate in us. When we are lost and alone, when we are certain that no one knows us or loves us; when-crumpled and torn we doubt our own value: there is a path. The Psalmist, who knows well the pain of life, tells us about the Holy One who knows us.

“He heals the broken hearted, and binds up their wounds.”

Says the Rabbi, “No matter how crumpled and crushed we are, so long as the breath of life is within us, we can give thanks for life. And from that place of gratitude, we can feel a Divine Presence supporting us. Sometimes, even in our pain, our spirits can soar because we have value.”

May we have the patience to still the voice of our own despair. May we have the courage to reach out to Holiness and begin to feel whole again. May God’s embrace remind us that no matter how we are crumpled, we are still valued.


Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe, a cancer survivor, is a motivational/inspirational speaker on the theme NEVER GIVE UP! He authored “Why Me? Why Anyone?” which chronicles his rescue from leukemia and his spiritual triumph over despair. Known as “The Running Rabbi” for competing in the NY Marathon, he received the “Award of Courage” from President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. Rabbi Jaffe was one of the clergy who visited the American hostages in Iran to offer them comfort and hope and was asked by the President to greet them at the White House upon their return. He received an honorary Doctorate from his seminary for “his work with the sick, and his noble influence upon all people. You can find more information on his website.

Image courtesy of Juliano Astc.