Depression is a motivation killer. It depletes your energy, focus, and drive. You feel like all you can do is stay under the covers and let the darkness consume you.
It is not easy to find motivation when you are depressed, but these ideas can help you get started.
If you try to focus on your entire to-do list for the day, you will be setting yourself up for failure. Break each part of your day down into tiny discrete units. As small as you need them to be. If you can make “get ready” a task that includes everything and get through it all, that would be great. If that is too much, then break that down further. Shower. Brush Teeth. Dress. Those can be separate tasks on the list if you need them to be.
Once you have your day broken down into achievable chunks, focus on the first one you need to do. And only that one. Don’t think about the others until you have finished the first. Then move on to the second. Then the third. Etc.
Visualize yourself completing the task. Focus on how you will feel when you are finished. See yourself in detail completing it with no problems. You don’t lose focus. You don’t run out of energy. It just gets done.
Set small achievable goals for yourself. Work up to larger goals. Begin with ones that are very small and very doable. Don’t set yourself up to fail.
You get credit for each goal you complete. You do not have to enjoy it. You just have to get it done. If you are a great cook who normally adores cooking big fancy meals, but all you can manage is to throw together a PB & J, you still get credit.
Do not judge yourself by the standards of what you do when you are well. Only consider whether you completed the task at hand.
Give yourself a pat on the back. Or a reward.
Consider setting up a reward system. When you are depressed, earn the things you enjoy. Instead of binge-watching your favorite show, earn each episode by completing tasks you need to get done. Time with a beloved pet is always a great reward and will make remind you of how loved you are.
Maybe go buy some small things that you’d enjoy — a book, new bubble bath, stickers, or whatever floats your particular boat. Then keep them on a shelf or in a box and only use them to reward yourself for getting through difficult things on days when your depression is strong.
One word of warning — do not set up rewards that feed your depression. If your favorite show is a downer that will make you feel worse, skip it until you are feeling better. If your depression wants nothing more than for you to stay in bed all day, don’t reward yourself with a nap.
Question and Replace Negative Thoughts
Your depression will feed you many negative thoughts. You need to counter those thoughts.
Begin by questioning them. If your depression tells you that you are unloved, remind yourself of the people or pets who love you. If depression calls you worthless, remind it of the good things you do — taking care of your family or pets, volunteering, etc.
Work on replacing those negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Counter the negative thoughts with their opposite. Even if you don’t believe it. Your brain will benefit from hearing it. If depression tells you that you are unloved, call it out as a liar. Tell it that your husband and your cat love you and need you.
Repetition will make it easier for your mind to accept the alternative version. Don’t let depression be the only voice it hears.
Staying motivated when you are depressed is a challenge, but it is one that can be met. You have more control than you think you do.