Like, take baking bread: On a Saturday? Fantastic. On a Monday? What a chore. Furthermore, that 10-minute Pilates core workout doesn't feel as mood-boosting to you on a Thursday as it does on a Sunday for some reason. In fact, not even bingeing your favorite new show makes you happy when the thought of waking up to log onto Slack for another day of the sameness looms. If this sounds familiar, you, my friend, are likely stuck in the enthusiasm gap.
The enthusiasm gap describes losing the motivation to practice soul-nourishing activities as a result of a mental disconnect between practicing self care at leisure versus fitting it in as a chore.
The enthusiasm gap describes losing the motivation to practice your soul-nourishing activities as a result of a mental disconnect between practicing self care at leisure versus fitting it in as a chore, of sorts. And while it's not a concept that's exclusive to quarantine times (there's a reason why you had to drag yourself to a midweek kickboxing class back when boutique fitness classes were still a thing), the enthusiasm gap has been deepened because of the perma-fatigue affecting our lives under these conditions. Doing even the tiniest of "extra" things can feel exhausting on days when you also have your day job to do. And that's largely because the stress associated with these pandemic times is so tiring, leaving little room for much of, well, anything else on workdays—joy-sparking self care, or not.
"For self care to really work, we have to be mentally present, which is easier on a day off," says clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. "Self-care breaks at work are great, but sometimes we sabotage them by keeping our thoughts on the job even though our bodies are off the clock for a little while. We might also feel some guilt or resentment if we feel like we’re not supposed to do personal things during work time."
To use a simple example, let's say that you try to take a daily walk. Even if this 10-minute jaunt feels like an easy, breezy, beautiful way to kick of your Saturday and Sunday, when you do it on a Monday, you spend the whole time running through your lineup of meetings for the day, stressed about what you should be prepping right now instead of walking around.
That very element of stress, says Susie Moore, life coach and author of Stop Checking Your Likes, is likely less consuming on weekends, as well. This means your mind is better able to focus on your bread, or Pilates, or TV show, rather than work in overdrive to multitask. "There's an element of stress that evaporates over the weekend, where we get to exercise free will on our own timetable," Moore says. But you can still punctuate your weekdays with simple practices to mindfully close your enthusiasm gap—yes, even in quarantine. One mental shift you can make is marking your me-time with absolute inflexibility. That means setting clear, reasonable boundaries—with your partner, friends, and perhaps even employer—about having time blocked out to do whatever nourishes you.
Dr. Daramus agrees, adding that it's important to regard your life and your time as personal belongings to help restore enthusiasm about about enjoying leisure activities, regardless of the day of the week. "Refocusing on yourself can help you feel more comfortable taking breaks," says Dr. Daramus. "At the same time, enjoying your self care and giving yourself a chance to relax can make you more productive."
And ultimately, if you allow yourself the appropriate time needed to enjoy something, you'll more likely look forward to it, even during the week, rather than regarding it as another thing you "have" to do.
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