It can be difficult to work out whether you're unmotivated or mentally fatigued.
Mental fatigue occurs when you have been spending a lot of time doing mentally demanding tasks, such as studying or learning a lot of new information, taking on large workloads, or doing home-based activities such as balancing the family budget. These types of tasks can leave you feeling drained of energy. This links back to your dopamine levels, as they can be depleted during these times and, therefore, impact on the way you feel. This can lead to feeling unmotivated and can also affect memory function which is not ideal when you're trying to learn new information.
There are some actions you can take to support your motivation and energy levels, and this is particularly important when you are experiencing increased demands in your life.
Diet plays a huge part in generating your energy level. It can be that you're simply not consuming enough calories or not eating the right mix of nutrients every day, and therefore deficiencies may be present that need to be corrected. If you think your diet is inadequate, you should discuss this with your healthcare professional.
As you've learnt, there are certain nutrients that support dopamine production, and if motivation is an issue for you, then it may help to incorporate these foods into your diet. Foods such as almonds, eggs, fish, meats, avocado, pumpkin seeds, soy beans and bananas are great sources of tyrosine, phenylalanine and vitamin B6 which are necessary for dopamine to be made in your body.
Magnesium and Zinc are also needed to produce dopamine and you can find both of these minerals in whole grains, eggs, brewer's yeast, beef, lamb and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Additional sources of Magnesium include leafy greens, almonds, soy beans and legumes, and you can also find Zinc in oysters, capsicum, seafood and ginger.
Exercise has been shown to improve energy levels and motivation. It does not matter what type of exercise you do, whether it's aerobic exercise (such as jogging), resistance training (lifting weights) or yoga, these all release natural chemicals and hormones in your body which improve mood, motivation and energy levels.
All it takes is to actually get started, and that can be the hardest part.
You can make it easier to get motivated to exercise by using the 10-minute rule described in the Science of Motivation. Commit to going for a walk or doing whatever exercise you have available to you for just 10 minutes. You'll most likely find that once you're doing it, you'll feel like continuing past the 10-minute mark and if not, don't worry. Just plan to do this every day and it'll become a good habit. Soon you'll begin to extend the time you want to do it.
Sleep plays a significant role in regaining energy in your body which in turn, impacts on your motivation. As well as the obvious benefits of sleep in relieving tiredness, sleep is also a regenerating time for your body.
Having even one night of poor sleep can impact your mood the next day, as well as the quality of your sleep the next night, and this can become a cycle if it isn't addressed.
Stress is part of everyday life and we can learn to manage this, however it is during times of increased stress that motivation and energy levels can really be impacted.
When we are under pressure, increased stress hormones are released to help us cope, and some people find that they operate really well under pressure because of this. However, when this goes on for a prolonged period, other health issues can be triggered, such as fatigue, anxiety and mental health issues. It's best not to allow your body to get to this stage and to address what is causing the stress, or become better at managing your stress levels.
Using techniques such as exercise, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and a whole foods diet with quality protein have all been shown to improve stress management and increase energy and motivation.
Caffeine, energy drinks, energy bars, sugar and drugs are all substances that are tempting to use for a pick-me-up during the day or night. Short term, you may feel a benefit, but they don't address the longer term needs that your body may have. Some of these substances can be harmful if overused, and some can create dependency issues when used frequently, as your body adapts and relies on having these substances regularly. This can also lead to tolerance, where your body will need more of them to get the same effect.
Your healthcare practitioner can assess your needs and advise you on safe, long term solutions to improve your energy and motivation.