Between COVID fatigue, social isolation, the winter blues and the challenges of working from home, many are struggling to stay motivated.

On top of all that, licensed psychologist and Pennsylvania Counseling Services Executive Vice President Kimberly Ernest says that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most people are not able to engage in typical self-care strategies like getting together with friends and family or taking vacations.

“People have had to move away from a lot of the things that are really important to them, and so now they’re really working to try to maintain, but they don’t have some of the things that used to refill their cup,” says Ernest.

Ernest offers the following advice for individuals trying to keep up their motivation:

  1. Simply getting started on a task can help build momentum. “Motivation begets motivation,” says Ernest.
  2. Developing a schedule and planning tasks into the day can create a sense of accountability, as well as a feeling of accomplishment once tasks are completed.
  1. Start by working on projects that feel usable and attainable. And for people like parents or teachers who are trying to motivate others besides themselves, assigning manageable or chunked tasks can help encourage motivation in others.
  2. For individuals working from home, Ernest recommends having a designated workspace as much as possible. “Create that environment that’s conducive to actual work,” she says, to help develop the sense that “this is where I go to work.”
  3. Try to maintain pre-pandemic routines and habits, such as taking a shower and putting on real clothing (not pajamas) before starting the day.
  4. Limit distractions like social media while working. It takes time to regain concentration after a distraction, even a brief one, says Ernest.
  5. Communicating with friends, colleagues or classmates can help maintain accountability for the completion of tasks.
  6. “Give yourself that balance to disconnect and reconnect,” says Ernest, and don’t try to do both at once. When taking time away from daily responsibilities, don’t check work or school emails, don’t feel the need to “keep one finger on the pulse at all times.” Conversely, trying to sweeten an unpleasant task by combining it with something enjoyable, like watching TV, will only make the unsavory task take longer, says Ernest.
  7. Self-care is more than taking relaxing baths or watching movies; sometimes it also entails exercising or eating salads.
  8. It’s OK to take time to be unmotivated, too.

“The universe is struggling with that motivation and attention right now, and so [it’s important] to give yourself grace while also holding your own accountability practices,” Ernest says.