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How do you get motivated when depressed?

by Mark Miller May 26, 2016

How do you get motivated when depressed?

Women have a greater risk of suffering from depression than men.

How do you get motivated when depressed? Years ago a comedian said she loved being depressed because she slept 20 hours a day and ate ice cream the other four hours. I suppose if she didn’t laugh about this crippling mental illness she would have cried.

If it’s a serious case of clinical depression, you could become so disabled you quit or lose your job, you contemplate or even attempt suicide or you could be overwhelmed by sadness or hopelessness such that you don’t want to do anything.

If you have these symptoms, don’t even finish reading this blog. Contact a psychiatrist and set up an appointment for therapy.

Suicide Prevention

If you are in the United States and feeling suicidal especially, please call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at (800) 273-8255. They speak Spanish, too. Other countries have suicide help lines, too.

Suicidepreventionlifeline.org stateson its front page:

No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

The help line welcomes call from anyone in crisis, not just suicidal people.

Getting motivated when depressed

The Internet is filled with advice on how to get motivated when depressed—9.91 million results on Google.

MindBodyGreen.com’s article on this topic, 6 Tips to get motivated when you’re feeling depressed, states:

A common response to identifying lifestyle changes that might make a depressed person feel better is, “Easier said than done.” Someone coping with depression may get what she’s supposed to do, but the question is how? After all, depression kills motivation, energy, interest, and focus.

The article says instead of operating at the usual 70 to 90 percent, a depressed person is functioning at 20 percent of potential. The author of the article, psychotherapist Megan Bruneau, says to set yourself small tasks. Instead of, for example, resolving to empty the entire dishwasher, take out three glasses. Then if you feel up to it, keep going. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at three, stop and come back to it when you feel better.

Self-affirmations

Don’t criticize yourself with terms like “lazy” or “unproductive.” Praise yourself. Bruneau calls it self-compassion.

“Try instead to use the same encouraging words you might use for a friend or loved one. If you can’t find the words, read more about self-compassion here,” she writes.

She says simple things that un-depressed people do, like bathing, going for a walk or hanging out with a friend can be very difficult to contemplate for depressed people. They think they don’t have the confidence to perform such tasks, feel overwhelmed and avoid doing them.

She says to “lower expectations for yourself within the task” and try to imagine how good you’ll feel after accomplishing it.

Losing interest

People who are depressed lose interest in doing things they used to enjoy, she says. Maybe you liked to cook, but no longer enjoy it all. Or you liked certain television shows that you can’t stand watching now. So make yourself do things you used to enjoy with the intent of just doing them, not necessarily enjoying them.

The World of Psychology has a blog written by Vicky Poutas that also addresses getting motivated and states:

Telling a depressed person to get motivated is like telling a rock to dance. You’ll get the same result.

It’s not because depressed people don’t want to get motivated. It’s because getting motivated is an overwhelming task when you’re depressed. Is motivation impossible? Definitely not. You just have to find a process that works for you.

Consider medication

She says some people scoff at the idea of taking medication. But if your depression is rooted in a chemical imbalance, the right medication can help you to feel well again. Motivation will follow.

When you wake up in the morning, don’t give yourself time to dwell on negative feelings, Poutas writes. Get up, bathe, groom yourself and “act as if you feel great already and you know for a fact that you’re leaving the house and will have a good time.

At the very least, getting dressed and looking decent can go a long way toward giving you a mental boost. It may even give you enough motivation actually to go to the gym and exercise, which is great for alleviating depression.”

She says if you can’t get the gumption to exercise or pull weeds or walk the dog, don’t berate yourself. Just bathing, grooming and dressing are an accomplishment.

Socializing is important for depressed people, Poutas says. Have a standing date to go out with a family member or friend. If no one is available, she recommends going out in public anyway and people-watching.

Toward the end of the article, Poutas, who also advises setting small goals, writes:

Try doing only one thing at a time, a little bit at a time. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there — each success makes it easier to stay motivated for the next step in your journey to feeling good about yourself.

Symptoms of depression

An article on major depression symptoms at the Mayo Clinic website says people often suffer more than one bout of the illness in their lives. The symptoms occur most of the day on most days, Mayo says. Depressed people may:

  • Have feelings of irritability, sadness, emptiness, hopelessness or frustration.
  • Have outbursts of anger or irritability for even minor things.
  • Have feelings of anxiety, agitation or restlessness.
  • Lose interest in normal activities of hobbies, sports and sex.
  • Have disturbed sleep patterns, including sleeping overmuch or insomnia.
  • Lack energy and feel tired such that small tasks seem insurmountable.
  • Have appetite changes. Some depressed people lose appetite and weight. Others eat too much and gain weight.
  • Feel guilty, worthless or blame themselves for problems they didn’t cause.
  • Not be able to concentrate, think well or make decisions.
  • Think about death a lot and contemplate or attempt suicide.
  • Have physical ailments, such as headaches or back pain.

Depression newsletter

That Mayo article has advice for depressed teens, adults, older adults and tells when to see a doctor and when to get emergency help.

You can sign up for the free Mayo Clinic newsletter Managing Depression here.

Mark Miller
Mark Miller


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