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Last Updated on December 17, 2020

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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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Get Motivated to Work and Start Your Day With Positivity

How to Get Motivated to Work and Start Your Day With Positivity

Learning how to get motivated to work every day is a common problem, no matter if you love or hate your job. If you hate your job, it goes without saying that finding the motivation to show up is not easy. However, you’ll also find that even if you love your job, there are mornings when you’re clawing at the walls to get out of bed.

It’s easy to fall into a rut and get stuck in the same ho-hum routine, and inevitably, the excitement for work diminishes. However, if you consistently motivate yourself to show up at work every day, you’ll experience:

  • Increased energy levels to get into work mode.
  • More enthusiasm to attack challenges as they arise.
  • Better sustained results over the long haul.

If showing up at work every day were easy, everyone would be doing it, and it wouldn’t be costing businesses $84 billion a year[1]. Part of the issue, though, is that organizations attempt to motivate you with bonuses, promotions, attendance awards, company luaus, virtual dog shows, and pizza.

Not to say it’s necessary to do away with these incentives entirely, but organizations are missing a massive opportunity to provide you with the tools to teach you how to get motivated to work.

Instead of depending on the organization to find motivation, here are some ways to find motivation to go to work each day.

1. Remind Yourself “Why” You Work

Too often, employees base their motivation on external sources like accolades, bonuses, and job promotion. These may feel good, but they’re just a “sugar high” and don’t last.

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Consider your own motivation as something that’s internally sourced. The simplest way to identify these internal sources of motivation is to find your own personal “why.” This sense of purpose will offer fuel for the long journey ahead[2].

    For example, maybe you’re heading to work on Monday to appease the boss, lay the groundwork for a raise, or just get through a project that’s been hanging over your head for a while.

    It’s a lot like losing weight for a class reunion or a beach trip. While both are definitely motivating factors to lose weight, it’s usually not sustained over the long term.

    Consider how your workday motivation changes when you think about the example you want to set for your kids, how you want to help your co-workers that you’ve been with for years, or how you believe in the overall mission at your company.

    Perhaps, you simply believe that the job you’re doing helps you learn and prepare for the next step in your career. Those are deeper, more meaningful reasons that will help you learn how to get and stay motivated to work.

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    Figure out your “why” with the help of this guide.

    2. Use the Hemingway Technique

    Nothing helps your workday motivation like momentum, and Ernest Hemingway had a brilliant approach. His technique was to leave the last chapter or paragraph unfinished at the end of the day, especially when he knew exactly how it was going to end.

    Then, when he sat down at his desk the following day, he could immediately start writing and build momentum for the rest of his day. He’d never find himself at his desk wondering what to do next.

    You can apply this technique to your workday motivation. Instead of staying late on Friday or working over the weekend to wrap up your work, pick a stopping place strategically, so when you get to work on Monday, you know exactly what to do next. This type of momentum will carry you through your workday.

    3. Take Control

    It’s so easy to let the first few hours of your work fill up with meetings. Take control by planning and scheduling your first few interactions of the day so you’re looking forward to them.

    Set up a coffee meeting or a conference call with someone at the office who is typically upbeat and creative. This is a low-stress way to get motivated to work because it just involves showing up and a little bit of planning.

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    You can also gain motivation by connecting with your family at home. In my family, we often plan breakfast together and hold our own little breakfast party. It really helps us get our day started off right in every positive way, and the motivational momentum we get carries over into work (and school).

    4. Break Big Tasks Into Smaller Objectives

    If you know you have a big task or project waiting for you at work, it can really kill your motivation. You’ll feel stressed before even arriving. In order to diminish that work anxiety and feel better about the day ahead of you, break any big tasks you have into smaller objectives.

    For example, imagine you have to create a 30 minute presentation before Friday. If you look at it as one big project, it will feel overwhelming, but if you plan to work on 10 minutes of that presentation each day, it will feel much more achievable.

    5. Celebrate Big and Small Achievements

    If you’re struggling to learn how to get motivated to work, it may be time to reward yourself for all the work you do. Did you finish that 30-minute presentation on time? You could treat yourself to a nice dinner as a reward for completing that big goal.

    This doesn’t only apply to big tasks or achievements. If you finish a small task you had been putting off, reward yourself with a 15-minute break. This will increase your motivation as well as help you feel less stressed throughout the day.

    When you set goals, plan a reward ahead of time so you have something to look forward to. Don’t underestimate the power of a small reward to help you feel motivated in your day to day work life. 

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    You can find more ways to make dull or boring work more interesting in the following video:

    Final Thoughts

    We all have our ups and downs, and there will be times when we just don’t feel like doing anything productive. This is normal, and you can do something about it. Use any of the above tips to help yourself get motivated to work and improve your big picture outlook.

    Take time to start with one of the tips above, and adopt it for your weekly routine. You may find your motivation naturally becomes a non-issue as you walk along your career path.

    More Tips on How to Get Motivated to Work

    Featured photo credit: krakenimages via unsplash.com

    Reference

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