Like we often talk about at The Depression Project, when you're in a depressive episode, it's very, very common to lack motivation to do the things that you otherwise would. In particular, as we often hear from members of The Depression Project's 3,000,000+ person social media community, when you're feeling depressed, it's especially common to feel unmotivated to work. And, if you can relate, then in this blog post, we're going to share with you three strategies to help boost your motivation to work when you're struggling with depression.
Strategy #1 To Boost Your Motivation To Work When You Feel Depressed: Get In Touch With Your Values
To share this first strategy with you, below, we've included a free excerpt from our cognitive behavioural therapy-based Depression Lack-Of-Motivation Journal.
In order to feel more motivated when you have depression, it can be really, really helpful to remind yourself of what your values are. This is particularly the case when you find yourself thinking “what’s the point?”, and when you can’t see any reason or purpose to do anything. In these situations, reminding yourself of your values can give you back that sense of purpose, and help you see the reasons why it’s worth taking action. And, when you have a sense of purpose and a reason to do something, then you’ll likely find that you’re much more motivated to actually do it.
What Exactly Are "Values"?
While there is no one single definition of what values are, a description that we find illuminating is:
Values are our heart’s deepest desires – for what we want our life to be about … for what we want our life to stand for … for the kind of person we want to be … for how we want to treat ourselves and other people … for how we want to act and the qualities we want to develop.1
Or, to put it in simpler terms:
Values are what fill our lives with worth and importance.2
In particular, some examples of values include:
- Being kind to others;
- Being generous;
- Being compassionate;
- Being honest in your relationships;
- Being honest with yourself;
- Being authentic;
- Holding yourself accountable in order to try to be your best self;
- Continuously learning and developing;
- Achieving goals that you set for yourself;
- Being curious about the world around you;
- Being loyal towards others;
- Being creative;
- Being open-minded;
- Being courageous in the face of adversity and during difficult times;
- Making a positive contribution;
- Being dependable and reliable for the people around you;
- Being a responsible parent;
- Acting with integrity;
- Being resilient;
- Persevering and not giving up when things get hard;
- Being healthy;
- Being modest;
- Being independent;
- Helping others.
End of free excerpt
How Getting In Touch With Your Values Can Help Boost Your Motivation To Work When You Feel Depressed
As we hope you can see, reminding yourself of your values can help boost your motivation to work when you feel depressed - particularly if your values include, for example:
- Being financially independent;
- Being a responsible parent;
- Making a positive contribution to society and the lives of others;
- Achieving goals that you set for yourself (since you may have one or more goals related to your work and your career);
- Learning and developing (which is something that working and pursuing a career can help you to do);
- Freedom (since working and the income it provides you with can give you more freedom in life to do what you want);
- Patriotism (since working supports your country!).
In particular, you can remind yourself of your values such as these by, for example:
- Writing a list of them down and reading over it when depression makes you feel unmotivated to work;
- Having someone you're close to remind you of your values when depression makes you feel motivated to work (such as a partner or a trusted friend);
- Repeating a values-based affirmation to yourself when depression makes you feel unmotivated to work (such as, for example, "I really value being financially independent, which is something that working allows me to be"; or "I value contributing to society and positively impacting others, and my work helps to make life a little bit easier for my customers").
Strategy #2 To Boost Your Motivation To Work When You Feel Depressed: Reward Yourself
Like we also mention in our Depression Lack-Of-Motivation Journal, yet another way to increase your motivation to do something which you don’t feel motivated to do is to reward yourself for doing it. And, when it comes to boosting your motivation to work when you feel depressed, you may find it helpful to reward yourself by, for example:
- Treating yourself to something you enjoy after you've completed your work day - such as, for example, a cup of your favourite tea at your local coffee shop, or a session of playing your favourite video game (in particular, you may find it helpful to create an "enjoyable after-work ritual").
- Additionally, from time to time, you could buy yourself something nice that you wouldn't have been able to afford if you weren't working - such as, for example, a meal on the weekend at a restaurant you enjoy, a new outfit or tickets to your favourite entertainment event at the end of the month, and/or a vacation at the end of the year. Rewards such as these can give you one or more things to always look forward to, and as a result, they can help boost your motivation to work when you feel depressed.
Strategy #3 To Boost Your Motivation To Work When You Feel Depressed: Try To Make Your Work As Pleasant As Possible
When you're in a depressive episode, it can of course be extremely difficult to find joy in anything - particularly your work, which you may not even enjoy on the best of days. However, if there's anything you can do - even something small - in order to make your work day more enjoyable, then it can also help you to feel a little more motivated to work. On that note, a few things you may be able to do to make your work days a bit more pleasant could be, for example:
- Making a point of doing something you enjoy in your lunch break (e.g. eating something you find really tasty, listening to music you like, reading a book that's hooked you, etcetera);
- Having a social interaction with someone you enjoy talking to (e.g. sharing a coffee break with a colleague you're friends with, messaging a friend, etcetera);
- Talking to your boss to see if you can do more of whatever work you enjoy, and less of whatever work you don't enjoy.
Final Words When It Comes To Lacking Motivation To Work When You're In A Depressive Episode
Like we started off this blog post by saying, when you're in a depressive episode, it's extremely common to lack motivation to work (or do anything else, for that matter). However, if you practice implementing the three strategies that we've just shared with you, then it can help boost your motivation to work, and as a result, make it much easier for you to do so.
All our love,
The Depression Project Team.
McKay, M., Wood, J. C., & Brantley, J. (2019). The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance. New Harbinger Publications.
P.S. If you'd like to learn a lot more strategies to help you overcome "depression lack-of-motivation", then we think you'll find our CBT-based journal extremely, extremely helpful: