5 Ways to Get Motivated While Depressed
Accomplishing anything while depressed is nothing short of a miracle. Here's how I pull it off.
Depression is a multi-faceted illness that can make you feel horrible about yourself while sucking any sort of ambition or motivation from you. Your inner critic pairs with the depression to tell you that not only are you pathetic, but anything you do is pointless because all you will do is fail. Failure is inevitable, so there's no point in trying.
Allowing this to occur can ruin your life. It has put my own life into a hole that has been incredibly difficult to get out of. There have been days where getting out of bed has seemed traumatizing. The most painful thing I could do was leave the comfort and safety of my own personal hell, and I deserved every ounce of pain that came with it.
However, there are days where I have built up the strength to combat that compulsion. It usually requires more time than is convenient, but once I broke free from the confines of my room, my inertia kept me going. I have discovered a few things that help me gain that momentum and keep going despite the inner critic's insistence.
Put on pants.
The simplest solution for me when trying to get myself motivated is to put on pants. They can be any pants as long as they are not pajama pants. Getting out of the comfort of pajamas is a small but significant shock to the brain that seems to make it switch gears from sleeping to doing something or going somewhere. Once the pants are on, your brain will try to justify why you put them on. My thought process usually goes from "Okay, we put on pants. Must be a reason why," to "Now we have pants on. Guess we have to do something." The great thing is that you may not even need to go anywhere. You jut needed putting on the pants to motivate you to do something constructive.
Brush your teeth.
When you are depressed, even the most basic of hygiene seems like an impossible task. That inner critic tells you that you're not worth the effort to keep yourself clean. For me, this has led to years of poor dental health and horrible skin conditions.
Once I get my pants on, I head straight for the bathroom and brush my teeth. It is the easiest hygiene task to accomplish and only takes a few minutes. This helps you gain that momentum you need to keep going.
Take a short walk.
This is probably the hardest thing to get into the habit of doing, but it can give you the biggest bump in momentum. If you are needing to go to work or somewhere outside your home, just go outside and walk around your house or even the block. It doesn't take a whole lot of time, but it can help get your circulation going and ease your body into motion and keep you in motion.
If you can't walk around your home or block, doing a few laps around the inside of your home can help. While walking around, you can find small chores to take care of which will increase your inertia to keep going. On top of that, you just accomplished several small tasks that you don't have to worry about anymore.
By this time, I'm usually feeling the pangs of hunger. Making a huge breakfast can seem daunting, and that inner critic is probably grasping for straws at this point, telling you that your cooking sucks and you'll just ruin your breakfast. This can easily be beaten by eating something small, portable, and requires next to no preparation. A piece of fruit, a doughnut, a pack of crackers, or a pouch of trail mix can help you satiate the hunger feeling while not messing with your built up momentum.
Start with a small task and build from there.
The final step is where the bulk of your momentum can be built. Once your body has been moving for a while, your stomach is sated, and your teeth are clean, it's time to accomplish something productive. If you began doing small chores while you walked around, this can ease you straight into this step.
The key is to start small. Check your email and text messages, but avoid social media. Getting lost in a Twitter thread or down a dangerous Facebook rabbit hole can kill any momentum you've built up until now. Save the social media for when you're ready for a break, but limit yourself to no more than an hour on it. Set a timer on your phone to keep track of the time you spend on social media.
Once this has been completed, you should be itching to find something else to do. I frequently find myself wanting to get out of the house by this time, ready to head to work. If you work from home, this is the point where losing your focus and momentum can occur. Find a tougher task that will take you longer to combat this feeling.
Maintaining momentum when you're depressed is key to making sure your life doesn't become destabilized from inactivity. Not being motivated can lead to job loss, health problems, and inevitable need to rely on others to fulfill your needs. For me, being independent is a large part of my self esteem, so requiring so much help makes me feel even more inadequate and it validates that inner critic. This can lead to an even deeper depression or worse.
Once you incorporate some form of these steps into your daily routine, getting out of bed will get easier. The desire to stay and wallow in your depression never really goes away and that inner critic is just as tenacious. Taking these steps will give you a leg up on that compulsion and make that inner critic eat their words.