As I pick up yet another toy and clear yet another plate my husband has left on the kitchen counter, I sigh (again). There are so many better things I can be doing than this drudgery. But who else will do the job of keeping the house in order?
Have you recently felt this way too?
Some call it ‘losing their zest for life’ or ‘losing their spark’, others say they are in a ‘mental slump’ or ‘in a rut’. Whatever you call it, the feelings of sadness, discouragement, listlessness, emptiness, emotional numbness and demotivation are common. If feels like we have nothing to look forward to. It affects our brains and puts us in a fog. It affects our emotions and brings our mood down.
I don’t feel like this all the time. But I don’t often have much zest for life since my daughter was born. Sometimes it lasts for days. On those days, I wake up in the morning and look forward to bedtime again, even before I start the day.
I give it time. It takes its course and most instances I get out of it spontaneously, usually after an early night to bed. But before I know it, something drags me back into the greyness again. I know it is happening but I can’t stop my motivation from slipping away. And now I wait to get it back again.
No one can be happy and chirpy all the time. No one can have boundless energy and jump out of bed every morning. But I hate it when I’m in one of my low, apathetic, self-pitying moods and I can’t shake it. I hate it even more because it colours my perception of what is happening around me and I can’t enjoy my family like I want to.
It’s all well and good to be talking about sensuality and living our best life. But how do I even start on doing any of that when I don’t even feel like getting off the couch? When I can’t even be bothered to change out of my pyjamas in the morning because all I have on the agenda is hanging out at home with the kids and doing housework?
Why do we lose our zest for life?
Losing our spark tends to happen after a long or tough day at work or at home. Our zest can go into hiding when we’re feeling drained, bored, under-stimulated or unmotivated. It can present as a ‘crash’ after completion of a stressful project or event. Everyone has their own triggers.
Regardless of what our trigger is, there must be something we can do other than wait powerlessly for our ‘zest’ to come back to us. Our happiness is our own responsibility after all. Enough with playing victim. Time to take control of our lives.
Special note: Long-lasting sadness that is affecting your sleep, appetite and relationships might be more serious. If you think you have depression, please seek medical help.
Acknowledge and accept that we have indeed lost our zest for life
First, we need to acknowledge and accept that we have indeed lost our zest for life. Often simply becoming aware of what we’re feeling helps prevent us from being swallowed by it.
Acknowledging that we’re not happy is half the battle. Being sad is not a weakness, it is a sign there is room for growth. There is no point pretending that we are fine with everything when we are not.
Some moms swear that they are a 100% fulfilled by the satisfaction of taking care of their families and serving others. I am not one of those moms, and I’m sure neither are you. We want more. We need more. There is more to us than just being mom, wife, worker… we are women! We just need to find the energy and motivation that somehow got lost along the way.
How do we rediscover our zest for life?
There is no easy way, and no one way. Everyone is different. However, there are actions we can take to rediscover and keep our zest for life. Be warned, as with all things worthwhile, it is not an overnight process. It will involve some deep thinking and unwavering conscious living.
1. Remember who you were before you became an automaton
I used to go out for weekend breakfasts with friends and sometimes by myself just so I could zone out and people-watch. I would drive through the mountains for the day just for the scenery. I used to paint, garden (not well) and go to the weekend morning markets. I don’t do any of this anymore.
I used to be witty and charming. Now I can hardly think through my mental fog and sometimes when I am really tired, I can’t string a sentence together properly.
What were you like before the burden of being a wife and mom took over? Stop reading for a minute and remember her, the one you think you have lost. Now write down who she was and what she used to do that brought her joy.
2. What is the one most important thing you can do NOW to bring the ‘old you’ back?
I know what you’re thinking because my thoughts were similar. My first instinctual thoughts were ‘I need to make an effort to dress well, sleep enough every night, exercise, eat better, restart all my hobbies, go out with friends again…’ Hold on amiga. You will fall flat on your face if you try to do everything on top of all the other responsibilities you now have. Failing will only increase your disappointment in yourself and deepen your demotivation.
Just choose one thing that you can do NOW and when you have that down pat, go on to the next thing. There is a book by Gary Keller called ‘The One Thing’. He talks about focusing on and doing the one most important thing that will make a difference to your life now. It made a lot of sense to me.
3. Take an inventory of your life
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Have you taken on too much? Over-extended yourself? Is your schedule so packed that you can’t even fit a 5-minute toilet break in?
Have you neglected yourself and your well-being in favour of supporting others around you? You’ll find the times when you are most drained are when you have too much on your plate and are most overwhelmed.
As crazy as this sounds, take a break. Clear your schedule, ask for the space you need from your family. Take time-out for yourself, even if it is just for 2 hours.
You need to focus on yourself for the sake of others around you. Your emotions are your responsibility. In the words of Sarah Wilson, author of the I Quit Sugar 8-week Detox Program ‘It’s like carrying a shallow bowl of water around throughout your life. You have to keep this bowl of water steady so it doesn’t slosh around. Because it usually sloshes all over your loved ones. And when that happens, then you really have to work to fill it back up again.’
4. Identify why you have lost your zest and stop the hamster wheel
Thousands and thousands of thoughts go through our brains all day, every day. And if we actually stop to observe them, we’ll find many of them are re-runs of the same stories. But so much ruminating is exhausting!
Start noticing your thoughts and write them down if it helps. You’ll find that you are replaying unresolved issues without any solution in sight. We need to acknowledge these issues. Ignoring them would only let these unsettled issues fester and grow.
It is worth investing the time and energy to analyze and define what these underlying concerns are. Don’t be afraid to identify whatever it is you are angry, sad, scared or frustrated about. It’s the only way to get it out of your head.
Once you’ve identified the root of the problem, try to work out a solution if possible. Then take action to fix it. Only then will you get off the hamster wheel and find your love for life again.
5. Count your blessings
When you start feeling sorry for yourself, remember all that you have to be grateful for. When you are feeling down, your brain exaggerates the ‘bad’ things in your life. But if you start listing all the blessings you have, you’ll realize that life really isn’t that bad, in fact it’s probably pretty good.
Think of how far you have come and your life will start to feel less bleak.
Were you really that happy when you ‘didn’t have a care in the world’ and did all those things you used to do? Probably not. Chances are you have filtered only the best parts and forgot the sadness, loneliness and emptiness.
I would give my life for my family. I wouldn’t know what to do without them. What the hell do I have to complain about?
6. Create pleasure for your mind and body
One of the reasons we lose our zest for life is because we feel that there is nothing to look forward to. Life feels grey.
Well, give it some colour. Self-care is a word used so often that women forget what an important concept it is. Just a few minutes of regular ‘me-time’ can help you feel calmer, recharge yourself and give you the energy to go on. Here are the top 10 opportunities for moms to find some ‘me time’.
Give yourself a self-massage or exchange massages with your partner. Enjoy the small things like your favourite music playlist. Give yourself small rewards. We have ice-cream after our weekend dinners. It’s something I look forward to throughout the week. If you know there is light at the end of the tunnel, it can help give you a glimmer of hope and motivate you.
7. Move your body
Exercise or take a walk in nature. Exercise is not only important for physical reasons but also takes a lot of stress away from your body. In fact, walking in nature could be the best thing you do for your mood all day.
Dance like nobody is watching! Dancing offers an outlet for you to express your feelings and let it all out. When the body feels good, the mind does too.
Or clean your house. Surprised? Clearing the clutter and improving your environment can actually help you shift your energy. Marie Kondo was on to something with her KonMari philosophy.
8. Connect with someone
Constantly look for ways to feel loved and connected. Humans are wired for connection and we all know that comforting feeling when we are being physically embraced, feeling heard, being emotionally understood and supported by another human being.
Play with your kids regularly – laughter is an incredible mood lifter and playing silly games with your kids can help put life back into perspective. Cuddle up to your husband on the couch in the evenings. Go out with a friend and have a big whinge and an even bigger laugh.
9. Take your power back
Sometimes we lose our zest for life because we feel powerless to control how we spend our energy and time. We start feeling that our children, husband and/or boss dictates our day.
But do they really? While often our external circumstances are out of our control, how we respond to it and how we manage our daily lives are entirely in our control.
Think of what your current perspective of something is and try to reframe it. For example, when I cook yet another dinner for my family, instead of thinking of it as another chore, I think of how I am cooking healthy, nourishing food to feed my loved ones.
If I know I will be resentful about picking up yet another shirt off the floor, I leave it there. To me, feeling like I have the power to decide what I do is more important than having a spick and span house. Eventually my husband picks it up himself anyway.
In the words of Eckhart Tolle – ‘The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.’
10. Try something new
Trying something new can be daunting. The unfamiliar makes us nervous and leaving our comfort zone puts us in a vulnerable position. We have palpitations, we sweat, we question ourselves. Later on we look back and realize we felt ALIVE! There is nothing quite like the thrill of a new experience.
Learn a new skill. Learning something new can elicit dopamine naturally and it can become quite addictive. As long as we constantly feel challenged but not overwhelmed, we will keep coming back for more and constantly sharpen that new skill. This motivation to improve and master something new can fuel us for months if not years.
11. Remember the power of small wins
The internet has inflated people’s expectations about what winning looks like. But don’t underestimate the power of small wins. In an interview with TED, educator Mehrnaz Bassiri said ‘Small wins have transformational power. Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion to favour another small win and another small win until the combination of these small wins lead to larger and greater accomplishments’.
12. Find your purpose in life (ikigai)
Humans are intrinsically driven by a sense of purpose and need it to lead a satisfying life. When you know your purpose in life, you will live a more meaningful existence (i.e be full of zest for life!). You will be more focused on living each day instead of just drifting in the sea of life. Read more about the benefits of knowing your purpose in life.
Make looking for your purpose in life a priority if you don’t know what it is yet. It doesn’t have to be just one life goal for the rest of your life. Life changes, reasons for living evolve. All you need to figure out is what your purpose in life is at this moment in time.
Know that losing your zest sometimes is a really normal part of life. There is nothing wrong with you. Give yourself plenty of grace, reach out and ask for help when you need it.
Lastly, remember just knowing why you have lost your zest for life isn’t enough. You need to take action for anything to change. Not all the ideas discussed above will work for everyone but if you incorporate some of these actions into your life, you will rediscover your zest for life and hopefully stop losing it as often.
Do you have any other ideas on how to rediscover your zest for life? Share your thoughts in the comments section. Looking forward to hearing from you!