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How to Stay Motivated Even Through Challenging Times

COVID-19 changed the world overnight, and we’re all grappling with what it means for both the near-term and the bigger picture. Will we ever get back to normal? Are we in the process of creating a new normal?


It can be hard to stay motivated when things are uncertain. But it’s precisely in times like this that it’s most important to set goals and be mindful about your emotional health.


Here are five ways to stay motivated and protect your emotional well-being, pandemic or not.

1: Set small goals and create rewards.


Setting small goals with rewards can help you accomplish tasks. For example: “As soon as I finish this paper/submit this report, I can go for a walk/have a treat.” This process can be especially helpful if you tend to procrastinate.

2: Practice gratitude.


Practicing gratitude isn’t about denying the problems of the world or the things that aren’t going right in your life. It’s simply about being thankful for what you have and what is going right. Try starting your morning with a few uplifting questions. Things like, “What am I grateful for right now?” and “What/who makes me happy?”

3: Seek out inspiration.


Even in these strange times there are still plenty of ways to get inspired. Listen to self-improvement podcasts, read uplifting books, or join weekly video chats with like-minded peers. We all have gifts to offer the world. Now is the time to share them and reap the rewards of our collective wisdom and experience.


4: Meditate and journal.


Meditation has proven benefits—fMRI scans have shown it can actually change the structure of the brain in a measurable way. Mindful meditation can improve emotional regulation, boost concentration, and help your body regulate stress—it’s worth incorporating into your daily or weekly routine. Journaling is another useful tool. Writing is not only therapeutic, it makes you more likely to achieve your goals.

5: Limit time with negative people.


You know who they are. People in your life who constantly blame others, are unkind or inconsiderate, or are hyper-focused on what’s going wrong in the world. Don’t let others drain your precious emotional reserves. It may be impossible to completely avoid the cynics and pessimists in your life. But, whenever possible, limit your time with these folks.

Need some inspiration? Check out the Inner Space podcast and video series hosted by Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, a world-renowned psychologist who has helped change the conversation around mental health. Her show features conversations with leaders in politics, film and television, fashion, wellness, and many other fields.

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