5 Tips to Stay Motivated Under Stress

By Angela Baker - June 15th, 2020

young man stress out on a laptop

Former President Obama delivered a virtual commencement speech to all 2020 graduates. In that speech, he spoke about the current stressful situations that students face –- an economy in shambles, a pandemic, and having to stay distant from friends. But he ended that speech with talk of all of the opportunities that these situations have provided, such as chances to make lasting changes in society and for the planet. And so, he painted a future that young people can shape and control. They need only stay motivated, get through these troubling times, and keep their “eyes on the prize.”

What Should You Do?

You may not be able to change your current stressful situations, but you can reprogram your mind to get that motivation back. And you need to do this because, over time, lack of motivation will cause burnout. Burnout lasts much longer, and it will take over your whole life.

Here are five things you can do right now that will get you back on track.

  1. Figure Out What’s Causing You Stress

    For students, there are two common types of stress. One is time-related, as when you have too much to do but not enough time to get it all done. And sometimes this type of stress can stall you.

    The other kind of stress students typically feel is situational. It can relate to time stress, but it is more often gained as a result of a situation in your life that you feel you cannot control. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has perhaps caused you stress: You can’t see your friends and family members; stores, restaurants, and gyms are closed; and you are missing out on a lot of fun. 

    The first step in managing stress is to recognize what’s causing it. Then you can work on managing it.

  2. Focus on What You Can Control

    Once you have identified the type of stress you have, figure out what you can control. The rest you have to let go. For example, if you have too many papers due all at the same time, what might you do to control the situation? Maybe you could ask for an extension from one or more of your instructors. If such an extension is granted, you have now lowered your stress level. With lowered stress, motivation can begin to return.

  3. Maintain Your Physical Health

    You have heard this before, but it is one of the best tips to stay motivated. Chemical changes occur in your body when you are stressed. Eating right and scheduling some daily physical activity can restore chemical balances. Both are good techniques to stay motivated. When you feel good physically, you have more energy, and energy can translate into staying motivated at work or in school.

    Another part of “health” is your physical surroundings. If they are messy or dirty, they reflect your lack of motivation. Clean your space up and keep it that way. You will feel better about attacking the tasks before you.

  4. Dump the Ruminating

    Ruminating is the constant replaying in your head the negative things that are stressing you out. It is a common sign of stress, and it causes you to get “stuck” mentally. When you’re stuck, you have no motivation to move forward. 

    When you find yourself ruminating, consciously stop yourself. Instead, identify what is worrying you, ask yourself what you can do about it, and mentally develop a plan. Write it down to reinforce it in your mind. Now you have become a problem-solver, and this a key activity in learning how to stay focused and motivated. If you have a plan, you can see a “light at the end of the tunnel” and walk toward it. You can actually turn stress into motivation.

  5. Stay Connected

    Working on your own can be isolating. And it is even worse when you are unable to get out to socialize in these times. Staying motivated when working from home under during a pandemic is tough. You must find ways to connect with family and friends, and fortunately, there are tools for video conferencing that allow this – Zoom, Facetime, Skype, etc. Just seeing others can provide a big mental boost. And if you are connecting with others who are more motivated than you, you may find their motivation to be contagious. Stay in contact with those people.

This Too Shall Pass

It’s a worn-old saying but true. You can’t avoid stress, but in most cases, it is temporary. Keep your eye on the future as much as possible. Repeat your long-term goals to yourself often. See yourself accomplishing those goals, and use these five tips to practice staying motivated.

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