Part 4: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (and why it’s normal to not feel motivated just now)

Blog 04 Welcome to Part 4 of the Lockdown Mental Health Series. If you missed Parts 1, 2 or 3 you can find them here. Something I’ve heard over and over, both among clients, friends, family and read about on social media is people feeling guilty for not being more productive, not making the most of lockdown and for not feeling more motivated. If you’re one of them, please go back and read part 1 again, and say out loud: Why should you be reminding yourself of that? Because, Covid-19 which has seen an international lockdown and global social distancing recommendations, is not a luxury pocket of time that’s been granted us. Lockdown is a serious measurement with long-lasting consequences for our economy and our overall mental and physical health. Being stuck at home with limited access to friends and family, to, perhaps, certain hobbies that helped us feel happy and calm, limited access to shops, and even limited options for buying certain products like anti-bacterial spray or flour is not normal for us, so what is normal is to feel unsettled by this, maybe stressed or worried. If you’re still working and you have children, you’ve suddenly got more on your plate than ever before, earning money while also becoming a teacher, maybe while feeling guilty that you’re not managing either job as well as you think you should, or that you’re not enjoying this opportunity of quality time as much as you feel you should. Let’s repeat: These are unprecedented times, it’s a global pandemic – this is not a golden opportunity! You have not failed and you are not a lesser person if you leave lockdown and you haven’t learned a new language, or mastered a new skill, or finally tidied your whole house, or created a vegetable garden outside. You have one job just now: Survival. To stay as healthy as possible and keep yourself and others save. That’s it. That’s the extent to our goal as a species: Survival and ensuring the next generation’s survival. Maslow was an American psychologist and he came up with what’s known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (sometimes referred to as ‘pyramid of needs’). His theory was that we have 5 human needs and each stage must be met before we can move on to the next. That’s to say, that we have a basic human need to feel warm, to have shelter, to have access to food and water and be able to rest. If you remove this basic human need, you won’t care about the next stages. Now, if you’re lucky enough to have this need met, you will move on to try and get your next human need met – that of safety and security. But this is a difficult need to have met just now, for all of us, because there is an element of not being safe just now – we’re all at risk for catching Covid-19. According to Maslow, if you don’t have your basic human needs met you can’t go on to get your psychological needs met, the first one being connection, and without connection, we can’t start building on self-esteem and without self-esteem, we can’t become the ‘best version of ourselves’ and tap into our creativity and imagination and all the things we need to learn a new language or new skill. So, give yourself a break. We’re not all in the same boat, but we’re all weathering the same storm and that’s a storm of not having our safety needs met and of loss of real connection. So, instead of being productive or feel guilty, try a dose of kindness and self-compassion. Blog series written by Terese Smith – counsellor, dyslexic and Dyslexia Scotland blogger