Finding motivation in our turbulent world: advice from a 2nd year Ph.D.

Personally, I am an extreme empath. When things are going wrong around me, I can have intense trouble focusing on my work, deadlines, and goals. With all the happenings in the past two years, humanity's mental health and sanity as a whole took a toll. Therefore, I am sure many are feeling a bit lackluster in the realm of personal growth, motivation, and even general focus.

We all feel a duty to be well informed and many find it hard stopping the mundane task of checking the daily news, no matter how grim the updates are. To that fact I say: We are humans. We are creatures made to thrive off community and connection, even if the community of the news is stealing our ability to focus on the reality of the here and now. And when I say here and now, I mean the time with our work, the time with our families, and especially the time with ourselves.

Before 2020, being a human being in itself was a challenge. Now adding in all these turbulent times creates an overall sense of unease. Again, this is natural and understandable to feel. Yet, for me I want to share a few things that have helped me as a Ph.D. student, who frankly is already generally stressed and uneasy, stay mentally stable while processing the happenings of the world alongside meetings, deadlines, and commitments.

#1 Firstly, have a schedule for each day this week.

Sit down on Sundays. Luckily I am posting this on a Sunday, which I hope leads to some motivation in this area!

Plan your week accordingly, and write down all of your to dos, even something as simple as your time at the gym. My lovely therapist initially suggested this to me after I kept falling through on what I knew I both needed and wanted to do. It has helped drastically. It leads to better accountability, and productivity.

#2 Slow the heck down!

Now this may seem cliché, and outright obvious, but I realize that humans, especially myself, are not too great at this. We live in a world, especially in the U.S., where we jump up at 7am, grab our granola bars, throw on an outfit, and run out the door. To me that is not okay. Certainly our nervous systems do not enjoy it either. We need to have more slow mornings, therefore, again refer to point #1 to aid in this. Lay your outfit out the night before. Determine what you are going to eat for both breakfast and lunch the next day. Well integrated planning leverages our focus more onto our necessary work, and less on the mundane.

#3 Less caffeine please...

Seriously. If NASA is classifying caffeine as a chemical, I am sure that humans should reduce our intake in this realm. If this was a spider on caffeine, just imagine your brain.

Of course I did not reference the amounts given to the spider and how that is comparable to us, but you get my point. In addition, as someone who has general anxiety, caffeine, largely adds to my personal feeling of unease. I am currently on day seven of NO coffee, and feeling quite a bit more chill. I will state though that all human brains are chemically different, and have different tolerances. My experience may be the exact opposite for you. Yet, caffeine is still a stimulant, therefore, proceed with caution.

#4 Find your community outside of your research lab or place of work.

Humans need community, but when I limit myself to solely speaking to those only at work I simply feel less inspired. I found it extremely helpful to find people outside of my lab, that I am able to relate to and have general discussions that lead to my well being. My friend Yasamin is a prime example of this. She may also be a Ph.D. student, yet she is in a completely different college and department all together. Discussing life with her helps me to feel grounded, and supported no matter how short the conversations. Find your niche friends. The workout friend. The friend to grab a cup of joe. Diversify!

#5 Do weekend activities that you look forwards to!

Of course we can continually set weekends aside as simply time to unwind, do our laundry, and cuddle up on the couch while watching our favorite show. However, when I set pure quality time aside to have a movie date with my fiancé on Friday night, or a sunrise beach adventure on Saturday morning, I reap the exponential return in motivation and happiness. Intentional time to ourselves truly does the difference. Running on autopilot destroys our desires to enlighten our creativity.

Overall, I saw a trend here when writing this article. All of the factors that help me stay motivated and focused on my work, fall outside of the realm of my work. It goes to show that when we humans have a greater balance between our work and play, it adds multitudes of energy to our motivation and progress.

This is why I highly encourage anyone feeling a bit lackluster to test out just one of these points to see how they add more joy and motivation to your personal and professional work! Also, do you have any points to add that help you?

We can create change and manifest movements towards a better world. It starts with you. It starts today.

Here is to one hell of a productive, and motivated week for you!




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