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Published on September 12, 2018

How to Get Motivated When Depressed and Frustrated

How to Get Motivated When Depressed and Frustrated

Feeling down?

You’re not alone.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 16 million adults over age 18 had a major depressive episode in the United States in 2016 alone.[1]

And that doesn’t include the more common forms of depression and frustration that consume most of us on an all-too-regular basis.

In this article, we’re going to look into the reasons why you may feel depressed and frustrated and how to get motivated when depressed.

First, are you really depressed?

The signs and symptoms of depression on legion.

Depression can create feelings of apathy, discontent, hopeless, sadness and guilt.

Depressive episodes can affect your sleep cycles, leading to restlessness, insomnia or excessive sleepiness.

Behaviorally, in a depressive state, individuals experience more frustration and agitation.

Depression can influence your appetite (in either direction), your cognitive functioning (lack of focus), and your level of energy (fatigue).

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Okay, so let’s say you’re saying, “Check, check, and check.”

What’s next? Let’s explore some of the potential reasons why we get depressed.

7 common reasons for depression and frustration

Scan this list with an open mind and see which ones resonate with you. Often there are multiple factors that trigger our emotional states.

  • Repressed rage: When we are de-pressed, we are pushing down other emotions and feelings. The most common emotion that we push out of our awareness is anger and rage.
  • Unacknowledged envy: For many of us, envy silently eats away at our motivation each day. When we’re not conscious of our envy, it can quickly lead to depression.
  • Unmet basic needs: Abraham Maslow found that we all have basic human needs for safety, belonging, and self-esteem. When we don’t meet these needs sufficiently, we become neurotic. Depression and anxiety are common forms of neurosis.[2]
  • Life circumstances: If you’re going through a divorce or the loss of a loved one, depression and sadness is a common experience.
  • Something doesn’t go your way: You want something to happen—a promotion, a date, etc.—but it doesn’t happen. These circumstances often trigger frustration and can lead to depression.
  • Repressed desires: When we don’t get what we want, we get frustrated. When we don’t even acknowledge what we want, we get depressed. Sometimes these desires are reasonable; other times, they are tyrannical.
  • Living out of alignment: Perhaps you’ve made choices that defy who you are. Or, you’re behaving in ways that go against your personal core values. Making poor decisions and living out of accord with our values, is a sure path to depression and discontent.

What’s next? How do you get motivated when you’re depressed?

The standard approach: What not to do

When most people feel depressed, they try to “push through it.”

In a culture that has a bias toward happiness, we believe depression is a bad thing. If we have depression, we need to change it right away.

And how do we go about changing it? By using brute force—pushing ourselves to do that which we don’t want to do.

But here’s the most valuable lesson anyone can learn about their subconscious mind:

What we resist, persists.

What does this mean?

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Resisting depression or frustration will not only prolong its existence; it may even make it stronger. So, when we try to motivate ourselves through sheer will, we are feeding the very monster we’re trying to overcome.

The alternative approach: Self-awareness

Instead of trying to push through depression, learn from it. It’s there for a reason; a part of you is trying to tell you something.

Do you know what it’s trying to tell you?

Many times, just getting clarity on the source of the depression can reduce it if not release it entirely.

This approach is powerful, but there are two good reasons we don’t take it:

  1. It can be uncomfortable to face the truth behind our depression and frustration. And we often do what we can to avoid discomfort.
  2. The source of our depression and frustration isn’t always obvious. Without sufficient self-awareness skills, we may not be fully conscious of the cause of depression.

3 powerful approaches to overcoming depression

Martin Seligman is considered the father of positive psychology. Early in his career, he specialized in studying depression.

In his groundbreaking book, Learned Optimism, Seligman highlights that depression is a form of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness occurs when a problem appears:

  • Personal
  • Permanent
  • Pervasive

When these three Ps are present, we feel hopeless and get depressed. The methods that follow are designed to help shift you out of the feeling that your problems are personal, permanent, and everywhere.

I’ve come to appreciate the power of taking a multi-dimensional approach to things like depression. Different methods will work for different people, and at different times, so experiment until you find what works for you.

These approaches fall into three categories: mental, emotional, and physical.

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Emotional strategies for depression

If you’re aware of your depression and what’s causing it, you can try going deeper into the emotion itself.

Remember, depression is just a state. You’re not the depression itself.

Try to find the “center” of the depression, and you may realize that it has none. Then, the depression will disappear on its own.

Alternatively, you can express your depression and frustration. Go into a private space, like the bathroom, and talk to the depressed part in the mirror. See what it wants and needs. Often, merely allowing this sad part to express itself can resolve the depression.

Mental strategies for depression

You can also try a meditation technique. Access what’s called the Observing Mind—the part of you that can observe or witness your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Use this Observing Mind to simply watch the depression.

By observing your depression, it creates “distance” between you and this depressive part. And with this distance often comes a different perspective about your life circumstances.

Alternatively, go on Youtube.com and watch a few videos of individuals living in environments that have significantly fewer opportunities than you have. This contrast may reduce the perceived importance of the causes of your depression and frustration, allowing you to shift to a new mental state.

Physical strategies for depression

Some of the most powerful things we can do to shift out of depression and into a more empowered state are physical.

Here’s a list of things you can try:

  • Take a cold shower. Evidence continues to show that exposure to cold activates numerous brain functions that help alleviate depression.
  • Exercise. Numerous studies show that exercise helps reduce depression by increasing endorphins and getting us out of heads.[3] Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes or more at least 3 to 5 times each week. What exercise? It doesn’t matter. Just move! The key is to find something you enjoy doing.
  • Trauma release exercises. Depression and chronic fatigue is often a result of emotions like anger, fear, and sadness getting stored in the body. Trauma release exercises[4] are designed to release these stored emotions.
  • Do something outrageous. Similar to taking a cold shower, try doing something outrageous—anything that “breaks your patterns,” as they say in neuro-linguistic programming. Push-ups, jumping jacks, or jumping rope can work. You can even try putting your head out the passenger window in a car.
  • Be mindful of what you eat and drink. When we’re depressed, we often seek to feel better by consuming foods and drinks that only add to the depression. Sugar and alcohol consumption will likely prolong your misery. Instead, eat foods that help fight depression.
  • Avoid social media. Research continues to link social media usage with an increase in depression and anxiety. This study, for instance, shows that the more people use Facebook, the worse they feel.[5]
  • Ground yourself. A grounding technique as simple as walking barefoot on the earth for 20 minutes once or twice a day can have a tremendous effect on our emotional wellbeing. How? Grounding is an easy way get out of our head and into our body. The more rooted we are in our body, the less rumination we experience, which can break the cycle of depression.

The best long-term methods to optimism

All of the above strategies can help you overcome depression and frustration, but the best long-term approaches to getting motivated in the face of depression are to develop your strengths and cultivate gratitude.

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Playing to your strengths

Seligman and others developed a free assessment to highlight your signature strengths. His research suggests that the best way to ensure happiness in the present is to develop yourself and play to your strengths as much as you can.[6]

Cultivating gratitude

Depression is largely the result of our minds fixating on what we don’t have. Gratitude is an expression of the opposite: by being grateful, we are acknowledging all of the things we have right now.

There’s significant evidence that maintaining a gratitude journal where you highlight three things that you’re grateful for each day can have a measurable impact on your wellbeing within 30 days.[7]

Final thoughts

So how do you get motivated when depressed or frustrated?

Remember, what you resist, persists. Trying to motivate yourself in the face of depression can potentially make the depression stronger.

Instead, accept what you’re feeling right now. But at the same time, you’re not what your feelings.

Depression and frustration may be experiences in you, but they are not what you are.

Understanding the real source of your depression can be infinitely more helpful than trying to “push through it.” Then, focus on things you can do to foster a more empowering emotional state right now.

Approach depression with the physical, emotional and mental strategies highlighted above and your motivation will naturally arise in due time.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Scott Jeffrey

Business Coach, Writer, and Mind Voyager

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Published on May 20, 2019

How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

Time.

When you think of this construct, where do you see your time being spent?

As William Shakespeare famously wrote “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me…”

Have you used your time wisely? Are you where you want to be?

Or do you have unfinished goals to attain… places you want to be, things you still need to do?

The hard truth is, that time once passed cannot be replaced–which is why it is common to hear people say that one should not squander time doing nothing, or delay certain decisions for later. More often than not, the biggest blocker from reaching our goals is often inaction – which is essentially doing nothing, rather than doing something. 

There are many reasons why we may not do something. Most often it boils down to adequate time. We may feel we don’t have enough time, or that it’s never quite the right time to pursue our goals.

Maybe next month, or maybe next year…

And, before you know it, the time has passed and you’re still no where near achieving those goals you dream about. This inaction often leads to strong regret once we look at the situation through hindsight. So, take some time now to reflect on any goal(s) you may have in mind, or hidden at the back of your mind; and, think about how you can truly start working on them now, and not later.

So, how do you start?

Figure Out Your Purpose (Your Main Goal)


The first important step is to figure out your purpose, or your main goal.

What is it that you’re after in life? And, are there any barriers preventing you from reaching your goal? These are good questions to ask when it comes to figuring out how (and for what purpose) you are spending your time.

Your purpose will guide you, and it will ensure your time spent is within the bounds of what you actually want to accomplish.

A good amount of research has been done on how we as humans develop and embrace long-term and highly meaningful goals in our lives. So much so, that having a purpose has connections to reduced stroke, and heart attack. It turns out, our desire to accomplish goals actually has an evolutionary connection–especially goals with a greater purpose to them. This is because a greater purpose often helps both the individual, and our species as a whole, survive.

Knowing why it is you’re doing something is important; and, when you do, it will be easier to budget your time and effort into pursuing after those milestones or tasks that will lead to the accomplishment of your main goal.

Assess Your Current Time Spent

Next comes the actual time usage. Once you know what your main goal is, you’ll want to make the most of the time you have now. It’s good to know how you’re currently spending your time, so that you can start making improvements and easily assess what can stay and what can go in your day to day routine.

For just one day, ideally on a day when you’d like to be more productive, I encourage you to record a time journal, down to the quarter hour if you can manage. You may be quite surprised at how little things—such as checking social media, answering emails that could wait, or idling at the water cooler or office pantry —can add up to a lot of wasted time.

To get you started, I recommend you check out this quick self assessment to assess your current productivity: Want To Know How Much You’re Getting Done In A Day?

Tricks to Tackle Distractions

Once you’ve assessed how you’re currently spending your time, I hope you won’t be in for too big of a shock when you see just how big of an impact distractions and time wasters are in your life.

Every time your mind wanders from your work, it takes an average of 25 minutes and 26 seconds to get into focus again. That’s almost half an hour of precious time every time you entertain a distraction!

Which is why it’s important to learn how to focus, and tackle distractions effectively. Here’s how to do it:

1. Set Time Aside for Focusing

One way to stay focused is to set focused sessions for yourself. During a focused session, you should let people know that you won’t be responding unless it’s a real emergency.

Set your messaging apps and shared calendars as “busy” to reduce interruptions. Think of these sessions as one on one time with yourself so that you can truly focus on what’s important, without external distractions coming your way.

2. Beware of Emails

Emails may sound harmless, but they can come into our inbox continuously throughout the day, and it’s tempting to respond to them as we receive them. Especially if you’re one to check your notifications frequently.

Instead of checking them every time a new notification sounds, set a specific time to deal with your emails at one go. This will no doubt increase your productivity as you’re dealing with emails one after the other, rather than interrupting your focus on another project each time an email comes in.

Besides switching off your email notifications so as not to get distracted, you could also install a Chrome extension called Block Site that helps to stop Gmail notifications coming through at specific times, making it easier for you to manage these subtle daily distractions.

3. Let Technology Help

As much as we are getting increasingly distracted because of technology, we can’t deny it’s many advantages. So instead of feeling controlled by technology, why not make use of disabling options that the devices offer?

Turn off email alerts, app notifications, or set your phone to go straight to voicemail and even create auto-responses to incoming text messages. There are also apps like Forrest that help to increase your productivity by rewarding you each time you focus well, which encourages you to ignore your phone.

4. Schedule Time to Get Distracted

Just as important as scheduling focus time, is scheduling break times. Balance is always key, so when you start scheduling focused sessions, you should also intentionally pen down some break time slots for your mind to relax.

This is because the brain isn’t created to sustain long periods of focus and concentration. The average attention span for an adult is between 15 and 40 minutes. After this time, your likelihood of distractions get stronger and you’ll become less motivated.

So while taking a mental break might seem unproductive, in the long run it makes your brain work more efficiently, and you’ll end up getting more work done overall.

Time is in Your Hands

At the end of the day, we all have a certain amount of time to go all out to pursue our heart’s desires. Whatever your goals are, the time you have now, is in your hands to make them come true.

You simply need to start somewhere, instead of allowing inaction waste your time away, leaving you with regret later on. With a main goal or purpose in mind, you can be on the right track to attaining your desired outcomes.

Being aware of how you spend your time and learning how to tackle common distractions can help boost you forward in completing what’s necessary to reach your most desired goals.

So what are you waiting for? 

Featured photo credit: Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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