The end-of-summer slump is real – here’s why you’re struggling with motivation right now

If you’re finding it hard to stay motivated as summer comes to an end, you’re not alone. Here, an expert explains why you feel fatigued at this time of year – and how to deal with it.

If I asked you to name a month of the year when you’d expect to feel less motivated, chances are you’d go for some time like November or January – one of those dark, cold months where the days seem to stretch on for ages and the weather’s too miserable to get outside.

However, while the weather can undoubtedly have an impact on our motivation levels, it’s not the only factor that plays into our sense of drive. 

If you’ve been feeling a little flat recently, you might know what I’m talking about – despite the hot weather, August tends to bring with it the familiar end-of-summer slump.

A term used to describe a drop in motivation that comes about as the season draws to a close, the end-of-summer slump isn’t a universal phenomenon – but it’s not uncommon, either. As autumn approaches and the excitement of summer begins to fade, it’s normal to feel a sense of fatigue.   

“August is mid-way through the year, but it’s also an ending,” says Sally Brown, a BACP registered therapist and coach. “Because we associate September with new starts, August is a transition period when we find ourselves waiting for that new start to kick in. As such, it might feel like it’s not worth making any changes.”

The hype surrounding summer – and the pressure many of us feel to ‘make the most’ of the hot weather – could also affect our motivation levels as the season comes to an end.

The pressure many feel to have the summer of their dreams could also lead to a lack of motivation as we head towards autumn.

Brown explains: “The unrealised hopes of not having your summer work out as planned – for example, because you didn’t do the impromptu beach trips you’d hoped for – can also play into the unsettled mood August brings. Realising that can contribute to a lack of motivation.” 

While, as Brown highlights, experiencing a lack of motivation at this time of year is completely normal, and chances are you’ll feel differently when September comes, you might want to consider speaking a GP or mental health professional if you’re finding it hard to function in the meantime.

You can also have a go at trying to ‘boost’ your motivation if you’re feeling frustrated. While motivation isn’t something that’s easily controlled, there are a few things you can do to help your brain through this weird transition period and tackle any barriers that might be holding you back.

Keep reading to check out some of Brown’s top tips for dealing with the end-of-summer slump. 

How to boost your motivation amid the end-of-summer slump

1. Have self-compassion

“Be your own best friend, rather than your biggest critic,” Brown recommends. “You would never motivate a child by telling them they were useless, stupid or lazy, but we say these things to ourselves all the time. And rather than letting yourself ‘off the hook’, research shows being kind to ourselves makes us more motivated to make positive changes.”

2. Rethink your mornings

“Our waking moments can colour the whole day,” Brown says. “If you usually start by grabbing your phone and scrolling, try something different like getting up and doing a yoga video or going for a walk or run and see if it shifts your mood.”

Going for a walk in the morning could help you feel energised.

3. Be curious

“It might sound counter-intuitive, but making space to really ‘feel’ your feelings around motivation is more productive than trying to ignore them or numb them,” Brown says. “Try a simple mindfulness exercise – sit quietly, focusing on your breathing for a minute or so, then check in with the weather pattern inside. What are you feeling physically? What emotions are there? 

“Use detached curiosity and ask, ‘What’s going on for me? What’s underneath these feelings?’ Stick to ‘what’ rather than ‘why’ questions. ‘Why’ tends to be blaming: ‘Why did I do that? Why can’t I stick to the plan?’ By contrast, ‘what’ is information-seeking: ‘What’s happening? What can I do to feel better?’”

4. Do a values exercise

“Getting in touch with what really matters to you can help reset your course when you feel like you’re drifting,” Brown says.

5. Set micro-goals 

“Tiny daily challenges can give you a sense of progress and movement,” Brown explains. “You could set practical challenges such as walking an extra 500 steps, drinking two more glasses of water, choosing one drawer and decluttering it or you could choose behavioural goals such as really giving people your full attention in conversation, carrying out three small acts of kindness a day, reading a novel for half an hour instead of watching TV.”

6. Talk to someone

“Once you share how you’re feeling, you may find that others are feeling the same, and knowing you’re not the only one can really help. There is also something about putting what we are feeling into words and saying them out loud that helps process emotions and create shifts – which is one of the reasons that therapy works!”

Images: Getty

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