bipolar parent

5 Ways to Get Motivated when You’re Suffering from Depression

hoto by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Editor’s Note: Remember how I said I’ll be updating twice a month? Please drop that to once a month, the final Friday. Thank you!

Depression is the pits.

As anyone who’s suffered from a depressive episode knows, motivation for basic activities is a struggle. People living through the worst depressions struggle to get out of bed, to eat, to shower, to get dressed, and any other number of day-to-day requirements.

As I’m currently suffering from a depressive episode, I’d like to outline some ways for you and me to get motivated when you’re dealing with the same. Here are 5 ways to conquer those depression blahs.

1. Challenge the Lies Your Brain Tells You

The biggest lie my brain tells me is, “You can’t handle this.”

And I often find myself taking what my brain says at face value without recognizing that my brain is a liar or challenging the thought.

Once I recognize that my brain is lying and these intrusive thoughts aren’t true, I can go back and recognize what I’ve done in the past that disproves the lie.

And I can challenge my brain, putting it to the test.

Sometimes I really can’t handle my life, but 95% of the time, I can and I have. And if I have handled situations like the ones my brain lies to me about before, I know I can.

When encountering intrusive thoughts, I’ve found the best way to manage them is to let the thought happen, and then acknowledge them with the statement, “Well, that’s a thought.”

Reframing my intrusive thoughts and the lies my brain tells me helps motivate me to manage my expectations and take on the rest of the day.

You’re not worthless. You’re not lazy. You’re struggling. There’s a difference.

And your depressive brain is a liar.

But there’s another good way to challenge your brain, which leads into tip #2.

2. Use Positive Self-Talk

Following tip #1, the best way to challenge those lies is to use positive self-talk.

Talking to yourself is normal, and if you encourage yourself, it can even be healthy.

However, if you lambast yourself, that’s unhealthy. I know how hard it is to tell myself I’m doing great when you’re not, and when I’m depressed, I think I’m not even when I am.

I often get down on myself, telling myself things like, “You’re lazy. No one loves you. You’ll never get through this.”

And those negative affirmations? While not only being patently untrue, they also serve no purpose except to make me feel worse.

So to psych myself up when I’m depressed, I tell myself, “You can do it! You can handle anything–or at least these small things during the day! You’ve conquered depression before!”

This positive self-talk helps motivate me to handle whatever challenge life throws at me, especially depression.

If that doesn’t work, I use tip #3.

3. Reach out to a Friend

My online friends are a huge part of my support system. I am blessed to have them and I recognize how fortunate I am to have people who have suffered depression before and know what it’s like.

So when I need to challenge my brain, the liar, or ask for help, I turn to my online friends for reassurance, which helps motivate me to continue working.

One of those friends helps me with tip #4.

4. Make an Accomplishments List

Another lie my brain tells me, someone who is focused on productivity and unhealthily uses it as a measure of my worth (something I’m working on), is that I haven’t gotten much done.

The problem with my brain is that when facing down a long to-do list, it doesn’t matter how much I accomplish on a daily basis; my brain thinks I made no progress at all and screams at me to get to work, so I can never relax and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

And when I’m depressed, my brain screams louder, telling me I’m lazy and worthless because I can’t get anything done.

This is untrue. I get things done, just not as much as I’d get done without my depression bogging me down.

So like in tip #3, I turn to a specific online friend I have and make a list for her, titling it various things like “Cass’s Accomplishments List” or “What I Got Done Today.”

I outline various activities and accomplishments I’ve done throughout the day, no matter how small, with bullet points. Then my encouraging friend celebrates the little victories with me.

Listing out everything I’ve gotten done over the day helps motivate me to make her proud, and when I look at all I’ve done despite being depressed, even the small things, it makes me proud, too.

Here’s a sample of one of my lists:

What Cass Accomplished Today While Feeling Rotten

  • Brushed my teeth
  • Took morning meds on time
  • Made breakfast for my daughter and me and ate it
  • Got my daughter dressed
  • Made my daughter brush her teeth
  • Brought down my laundry basket
  • Drove to the mall to let my daughter play at the indoor park

And that’s just the morning. Even if you think you’ve spent all your time in bed, there are likely a lot of little things you’ve gotten done throughout the day.

Taking your meds counts as self-care. So does brushing your teeth and taking down your laundry basket.

Try making a list today. It might help motivatwe you.

And if that doesn’t work, try tip #5.

5. Get Dressed

Maybe I should have started with this tip because it’s so foundational. But getting dressed is crucial to my success.

Getting out of bed in the mornings is next to impossible because I need to get dressed to face the day. That’s an obstacle that seems insurmountable at times.

I resist getting dressed because it means my day has started, usually before I’m ready for it. I often lie in bed wide awake for 20-40 minutes after my alarm rings because I don’t want to get dressed. Staying in bed is easier than getting dressed.

But once I do, my brain turns onto work mode. I can’t go back to bed because I’m wearing jeans and shoes.

Getting dressed, especially putting my shoes on, starts off a chain reaction of putting deodorant on, brushing teeth, and taking my meds. They’re habits I’ve formed that putting my shoes on trigger.

My brain orients around donning my clothes because it means my day has started and I’m ready for it, a powerful motivator.

I like to use tip #2 and tell myself, “Get dressed, Cass. You can handle your day.” And once I force myself through the motions of putting on my clothes, even if I’m not feeling it, everything that follows is on autopilot.

If I can conquer getting dressed, the first task of the day, I can handle anything.

And so can you. Try getting dressed today. I wouldn’t be surprised if it signals something in your brain, too.

Let’s Recap

By challenging the lies my brain tells me, using positive self-talk, reaching out to my friends, making accomplishment lists, and getting dressed, I can motivate myself to get things done despite my depression dragging me down by the ankles.

I am not worthless or lazy, I’m just feeling rotten right now, and this, too, shall pass. I can handle my day.

And so can you. You can cope with anything life throws at you.

Try to find some way to motivate yourself. If these tips help you, great! But if they don’t, do some thinking about what will get you up and moving.

If you can’t think of anything, it might be time to let your treatment team know how you’re feeling, or call a warm line, where you can talk with someone who’s been there.

I wish you well in your journey.

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