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5 Tools for Staying Motivated When You're Depressed

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I just spent the last three hours playing online cards and watching You Tube dance videos instead of working on a short story due this week. Months ago, I was driven to finish the tasks and deadlines I set for myself and now I’m lucky if I write at all. I used to follow a strict schedule that included yoga, meditation, cleaning, writing, eating, exercising, etc. and now I only do about half the tasks.

It’s starting to occur to me that depression is moving back in. It can be hard to spot because it brings lots of baggage, but only unpacks one shirt at a time. By the time I notice its presence my drawers are overflowing and I’m stuck in the muck and not sure what to do.

Sadly, life doesn’t stop because I’m not well. After years and years of this cycle I’ve created some coping skills to try and keep productive and engaged with life when depressed. It’s really difficult when my carpets are screaming for a hoover and my keyboard is covered in dust and all I want to do is lay in bed all day. So, here’s a few things I do to motivate myself when unwell:

1. Sit with it.

Whenever I want to move through something, I sit in my body and feel it. Right now, the grief and anger that are hiding under my current depression are crushing my chest and making my body feel so heavy it seems impossible to move forward. I’m angry that I’m not working towards my goals and sad because when apathy takes over, I don’t care. It sucks to sit in the uncomfortable emotions but sometimes the only way through it, is through it.

2. Talk to someone.

Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve become so unmotivated until I start talking to someone about how their life is going and I realize mine has been put on hold again. When I get depressed, I get so distracted by my own inner monsters that I forget there is a whole world out there accomplishing things. I find that if I talk to a loved one about my depression, and how I’m feeling useless and like a failure, I don’t have to carry around all that shame and I have more energy to be productive.

3. Create goals.

I’m a goal-oriented person. I need to be working towards something or I get bored and lose all my creative juices. The goals don’t have to be opening a bakery or becoming a lawyer; it can be having a shower and eating a meal. Right now, my goal is to work on blogs an hour a day and stories for 30 minutes. These are easy goals because if I can’t accomplish them I just get angry with myself, become hopeless and go back to watching Jennifer Lopez convince me she “Ain’t Your Mama.”

4. Just start.

Sometimes I have to start doing the tasks no matter how I feel and hope it gets easier. I find the hardest step is the first step. The good thing about starting is it can give me the motivation to keep going. That one shower makes me feel good enough to add on a meal. This path may be slow, but each step is one step closer towards my goals and farther from hours of online crib. I understand when really unwell this can be horribly difficult, so maybe giving yourself compassion and forgiveness can be the goal for that day.

5. Celebrate the good days and forgive yourself for the rest.

Some days I can do yoga, exercise, eat three meals and write for three hours and the next I can barely have a shower and eat a single meal, but I keep trying. Honestly, I’m still working on this tool. I’m actually better at forgiveness than celebration, but giving myself high fives is starting to get easier.

What are some tips you could share?

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Originally published: September 7, 2021
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