How do I stay motivated when everything I’ve been looking forward to has been canceled?
How do I stay hopeful and motivated when everything I’ve been looking forward to has been canceled or moved to an online format that sucks? It feels like I’m missing out on my own life, but I also feel bad for being sad because I’m sure there are other people having a much harder time right now.
Well, friend (can I call you that?), I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the exact same way most of the time. Canceled trips, family gatherings, birthdays (including my own) are passing by without any real “event” to look forward to. But I’m learning to slowly shift my perspective, so I hope that sharing how I’m coping will help you too. (Note that I’m using the term coping; I’m not exactly thriving right now either!)
First, I want to pause and think about the last part of your statement: “I feel bad for being sad because I’m sure there are other people having a much harder time right now.” Yes, there will always be people who are having a tougher time than you are in any situation, and that applies outside of a pandemic. And it’s important to acknowledge that day-to-day privilege.
However, we can try to frame this thought as, “There are others who may be going through worse right now, so I am grateful for my own circumstances at the moment. However, my feelings are valid given XYZ, and they deserve to be truly felt.” It’s okay to own that sadness and sit in it for a bit. These are tough times without a doubt—a global health crisis, economic recession, skyrocketing levels of depression and isolation; of course we may be sad. Remember that you are not alone by any means. I’m fairly certain everyone in my life feels this way, so I imagine your networks do, too.
But the idea that we can’t feel bad because others may have it worse isn’t helping anyone—their circumstances haven’t improved simply because you’ve recognized that, and you only feel worse by thinking this way. (Of course, it’s important to be mindful of how you’d externally share this thought with someone who is experiencing a tougher time.) Overall though, it’s okay to let yourself accept and acknowledge that this is not a great time.
Here’s another pivot in perspective: We must try to adapt to this new normal for life events the same way we’ve tried to adapt to working from home. This will be the reality for the foreseeable future (and yes, it does suck), but rather than losing hope, we can brainstorm ways to keep these next few months exciting. For example, my trip to New Orleans to wedding plan with my family was canceled—twice. Instead of dwelling on it, I’m thinking about all the virtual ways I can plan and rescheduling a time to visit closer to the wedding. I wasn’t able to have a typical blowout birthday, but I was able to do a virtual brunch with some friends. I’m pretty sure that this pandemic has resulted in me getting closer to my best friend as we make more of an effort to check in on one another.
How can we pivot from thinking about the things that we’ve lost to the possibilities ahead for us to gain? Here are some ideas to start: Rekindle that friendship that’s been on the back burner for a while. Start writing in a gratitude journal or practicing mindfulness. Think of what truly excites you and schedule time to do that. Find a new hobby you deeply enjoy, maybe even more than whatever you did pre-COVID. Keep an engaged “virtual” schedule with close friends for the coming weeks. And sit with your feelings.
A mix of all of these actions may help keep you energized for the long term. Hope and motivation won’t always come easy, especially in these times, but you can absolutely tweak parts of your life to incorporate more of it. Good luck!
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Henah Velez (she/her) is a Staff Writer at The Good Trade. In addition to her work here, Henah is the Development and Communications Manager at She’s the First, a nonprofit fighting for a world where every girl chooses her own future. Based out of New York City, you can usually find Henah roaming around Jersey City’s small businesses, hanging with her pets, or traveling as much as possible.