While the most known effect of depression may be a lack of happiness or what many people describe as 'numbness', other symptoms have serious implications that make everyday life a challenge. One of the most difficult symptoms to deal with can be the absence of motivation or energy. Whether it’s motivation to get out of bed or meet a deadline at work, here are a few strategies to help you get motivated when you’re depressed.
1. Set small, doable goals.
Over our lifespan, our capacity for productivity changes—our age, natural energy levels, hormones, and physical abilities all have an impact on our capacity. During times of depression, your capacity for productivity may look different, and that’s okay. When we keep setting massive goals for ourselves (things that may have even been easy without depression), it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose motivation all together. To counteract this, try setting small goals you know you’ll be able to accomplish. You can even break down bigger goals into “bite-size” tasks. For example, instead of setting a goal of “clean the kitchen,” create a list of shorter, less-intimidating tasks like “wipe the counters,” “rinse the dishes,” and “sweep the floor”.
2. Add some fun or relaxation in between mundane tasks.
If the last tip had to do with breaking down tasks, this one has to do with breaking up tasks with fun or rewarding activities. This may look like sitting down to read a book, watch a few minutes of TV, or enjoying a snack. For others, it may look like taking a short nap.
3. Celebrate the small victories.
When depression is an issue, no victory is too small to celebrate. Some days, taking a shower is a major victory. Some days, showing up to work is a win. No victory is too small to celebrate. Celebrating each goal met, no matter how insignificant it may seem, not only reinforces a positive outlook on life but also physically makes you feel better. Each time we succeed at something, our brains actually produce dopamine, which helps elevate our mood and motivates us to keep on going.
4. Bring a friend along on errands.
Depression can be a very isolating experience, and often this sense of loneliness further contributes to feelings of lethargy or apathy. Try asking a friend or significant other to go with you as you run errands, exercise, or pick up the kids up from school. Not only does this add the comforting presence of another human being to your day, but it also provides accountability to motivate you to accomplish your goals.
There is no cut and dry formula for regaining motivation when you’re depressed. But there are many ways to get motivated, little by little, to keep you going and help you get through everyday life.