Tips for Overcoming Low Motivation in Depression
Depression is a common and debilitating mood disorder. It is characterized by symptoms that impact how you feel, think and engage in daily life.
Symptoms of depression include loss of interest, feelings of persistent sadness, low motivation, anhedonia (loss of pleasure), feeling numb, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, fluctuations in sleep and eating habits and patterns, physical pain and discomfort without an identifiable physical cause, suicidal thoughts, irritability, low energy and/or feelings of guilt, worthlessness and hopelessness.
Each of these symptoms compile together in such a way that it becomes difficult to complete everyday tasks or tasks that once had not been challenging.
Low motivation is a common symptom of depression, and it can make recovery challenging for those who are struggling to complete daily activities. When we feel sluggish, de-energized, fatigued and overwhelmed, it can contribute to automatic negative thoughts that we are ‘lazy’ or ‘weak’ or a ‘failure’.
These thoughts reinforce feelings of shame and guilt that can cycle our mood downwards. When we experience emotional dysregulation, it can increase a sense of helplessness and low motivation when faced with challenges.
You are not Alone
If you are struggling with low motivation and depression, you are not alone. Overcoming this obstacle can be difficult, but it is possible. In this article, we will explore some tips for overcoming low motivation in depression.
What Causes Low Motivation in Depression?
There are a number of possible causes of low motivation in depression, including:
– Feeling overwhelmed by numerous demands
– Negative automatic thoughts (belief: “I can’t accomplish anything”)
– Lack of pleasure in activities you used to enjoy (anhedonia)
– Distorted patterns of thinking
– Fear of failure
Tips for Overcoming Low Motivation in Depression
Here are five tips for overcoming low motivation in depression:
- Break down big tasks into smaller one.
When we feel depressed and have trouble concentrating, it can be a challenge to remember all of the tasks that we want to accomplish or we may become overwhelmed by the level of energy we may anticipate a task might take. It is important to break your day down into small tasks that you can complete easily.
It might be helpful to set a timer for each task, so that you are able to remain on schedule and do not take on more than is needed in a certain amount of time.
- Build a realistic schedule
By breaking your day down into small tasks, you are able to more realistically consider how long each task will take. It might be helpful to first create a list of tasks for the day and next to each task estimate the amount of time it might take you to complete. You might even break down the task into smaller steps as suggested above and estimate the time to complete each step.
From this information you can prioritize the tasks that need to be done first and begin adding them onto an hourly schedule. For individuals that are visual, using a weekly schedule with hourly time slots can be extremely helpful in seeing how your day is mapped out.
- Attend to your vulnerability factors that impact mood.
It is important that you consider areas of vulnerability to your mood. These vulnerability factors include balanced eating habits and nutritional intake, optimal sleep hygiene, physical movement and exercise, and attention to your physical health. By prioritizing your basic needs, you are in turn providing an optimal foundation for regulating your emotions and handling daily stressors.
- 10 Minute Rule
Often what perpetuates and maintains our avoidant behaviors are our negative thoughts that promote the idea that a task is too challenging, requires too much energy, is too overwhelming or requires more planning than we have the time for. The 10-Minute Rule asks that we engage in an activity for just 10 minutes and at the 10 minute mark we can then decide if we would like to stop or continue forward in the activity. In this way, we are still listening to our needs, while challenging the negative automatic thoughts that may convince us that we are incapable, ill-prepared or unable to engage in or complete a task at a certain time.
By engaging for 10 minutes, we can reduce the amount of guilt or shame we may experience if we do not engage at all and also build a new sense of confidence when we recognize that a task may not have been as challenging or time consuming as we had thought.
Sometimes we are needing to push ourselves through behavioral activation and opposite action and it is understandable that each of us have demands and tasks that we ideally would like to do and struggle with completing. Often we have guilt or feel ashamed when we have so much to ‘do’ and yet we feel comatose in our bed or on the couch or in our own thoughts that we end up worrying more than we actually engage in what we are worrying about.
Let’s be compassionate with these moments where we get caught up in our emotions and our emotion takes over our thoughts. We are all human. It makes sense that we may not fully embrace or accept that in order to function and engage in a fulfilling life that we have chosen, we are met with daily chores, showering, planning meals for the week, grocery shopping, updating emails, (fill in the blank), and so forth.
These tasks may be easier when there are no additional stressors in our lives. But let’s remember that life has an ebb and flow. There are parts of the year, anniversaries, and life transitions that all contribute to feelings of depression and amotivation. We are allowed to be gentle with ourselves.
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