A Guide to Finding Your Motivation During MenopauseMar 01, 2023
Low on mojo? What fires you up can change in menopause and midlife, but it doesn’t mean the flame is gone. It just needs a different fan.
Dragging yourself through the motions more often than not these days? You’re not alone. The physical and psychological changes that occur during menopausal years can cause your motivation to go MIA. Some women even worry that they’ve “gotten lazy”.
Spoiler alert: If you care that you’re not feeling motivated, you’re not lazy. You still have plenty of motivation inside you. You just need to try accessing it from another angle. To help, we called in psychologist Dr. Lisa Lewis for episode 21 of Hit Play Not Pause, Stoke Your Motivation.
Hormonal changes have an impact here, as does transitioning to a different time of life, Lewis says. “If you’re someone who typically feels good and has a lot of energy and does a lot of activities, you can feel sad that you’re losing that part of your identity [even temporarily]. It’s okay to take a moment and be like, ‘Damn this is hard. I hate this.’”
But realize that your motivation hasn’t just vanished for good. For one, motivation doesn’t come from a single source. “We have different tanks of fuel with motivation in them,” Lewis explains. When one is low, the key is tapping into another, even if it's one you never had to use before. That reserve is there to help you keep on keeping on in times like this.
The following guide is based on Lewis’ favorite theory of motivation: the Self-Determination Theory. Here’s how you can make it work for you.
The Motivation Spectrum
We tend to think of motivation as one thing. But there’s a spectrum that ranges from zero to full gas self-motivated with varying degrees in between.
On one end of the spectrum is amotivation. This is ground zero on the motivation scale where there is no motivation to be found. (You’re not here, even if it feels like it. If you were, you wouldn’t be bothering to read this!)
On the other end of the spectrum is intrinsic motivation. This is being 100% motivated to do something for the unfettered love of doing it. When it comes to sport, people often feel intrinsic motivation, says Lewis. But let’s face it, even the woman who loves running or lifting isn’t doing it every single time for the love of the action itself. Often, you’re motivated by some kind of outcome — an external reason. Those are the extrinsic forms of motivation that sit between not being motivated at all and being intrinsically motivated. These are the levers we can manipulate to get our groove back. For example:
What part of what you do is grounded in who you are?
Lots of us are motivated to do our sports and activities because it reflects who we are. This is known as integrated regulation in the motivation model. “When you talk to someone who’s done a Tough Mudder and they’re like, ‘Oh I sprained my ankle, and I couldn’t walk for three days and it was freezing and I fell six times.’ You may think, they’ll never do that again; it sounds like a nightmare. But then in the next breath they say, ‘I loved it! I can’t wait to do it again.’,” that’s integrated regulation,” Lewis says. They didn’t reach an internal state of joy by falling and freezing. But they identify with hard work and discipline, and taking on challenges and these events lets them demonstrate that.
This might evolve over time. Maybe you’ve always been a competitive person, but now that’s not driving you. What does light a spark? Exploration? Adventure? A cyclist who is over competition might get fired up to go bike touring.
What are your big benefits?
Maybe you’re not feeling the gym the way you usually do. Okay. What benefits do you get out of lifting? Stronger bones. Lower blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk. Improved mood and brain health. Better metabolic health. Find one (or more) of your activity’s outcomes that is especially important to you. Powerful outcomes can be powerful motivators. This is called identified regulation on the motivation scale. Tap into it as needed.
Who can you team up with?
You’re not alone, even when it feels like it. Everyone’s motivation wanes sometimes, and you’re bound to find good company in a group of like-minded active people. Join a club or group, like a running club or lifting group that meets regularly. Knowing that others are expecting you (and it’s fun to hang with them) will get you out the door. This is known as introjected regulation in the motivation model. It’s when you get a little push to avoid feeling guilt (aka not showing up) and/or pride (aka yay! I showed up). It can be a great lever to pull when your intrinsic motivation is MIA.
What would be a nice reward?
There’s no shame for even the most intrinsically motivated person to need some external motivation. What would motivate you as a reward? A random day off of work to go to a movie and museum? A hot stone massage? Whatever it is, make a mental deal to treat yourself for getting going when you’re feeling stuck in place. This is called external regulation on the motivation scale. It doesn’t have the same staying power as the other forms of motivation, but it'll get you through in a pinch.
Finally, for some women, hormone therapy, pharmaceuticals like antidepressants, or adaptogens can help with menopause-related low mood and energy levels. (Though we hear from women who are on these therapies who still battle low mojo for periods of time.) It’s also important to note that low motivation is different from depression. If you’re struggling with persistent low moods and dark thoughts, definitely see your doctor.
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