Getting It Up: How to Entice Motivation

For me, even when I am depressed, I am still the same Type A, obsessive perfectionist I have always been. My brain is still going a mile a minute, flooded with to do lists and goals and all of the other shit that plays in a loop in my head. My conundrum here is that the depression renders me physically useless. I’m exhausted. I can’t concentrate. I know what I want to do, what I want to accomplish and achieve, but instead of taking action, I do nothing. And because I do nothing I want to do, I get even more depressed. And the depression causes anxiety. And the anxiety renders me useless. Alas the vicious cycle continues.

So, is there a remedy for this situation? How do you muster up the energy–how do you find a shred of motivation–when you are emotionally and physically drained? When I was in treatment, I learned about this tactic called “Behavioral Activation.” Now bare with me because at first you are going to read this and most likely say to yourself (or declare vehemently outloud) that this is a crock of shit and/or the most unhelpful notion you’ve ever heard of.  I assure you my friend, I shared the same sentiments.

Essentially, behavioral activation is this: do it, even if you don’t want to. The theory behind the principle is that when people are depressed they tend to disengage in activities or isolate (no shit!!) which in turn makes the person even more depressed. Behavioral activation is identifying small behaviors and activities you can do and then identifying what the reward will be. Here’s an example:

I came home from work today and wanted to curl up on my couch in a ball and binge watch TV. So I did. And then as I was doing this, I felt anxious because I haven’t been focusing on my writing at all. So, I told myself all I had to do was five minutes of writing and I made a quick list of the benefits of doing this would be.  (See below)

  1. I would feel proud of myself for making time to write
  2. I may not want to stop once I started
  3. I could have a new blog post, which I haven’t posted in weeks.

Guess what? I’m still writing and it’s been a good twenty minutes. It was a struggle–and I mean a struggle, to pry my body off the couch and grab my computer. But I pushed myself. Just a little. And I now I can go to bed feeling satisfied rather than disappointed in myself.

I know this is easier said than done–trust me I know. When my PMDD symptoms start to show, the lack of motivation increases significantly as does my decrease in my energy. But I know that if I’m going to have to live with this, to endure the mix of hormonal and chemical imbalances, then I am going to have to do my part to fight to salvage the pieces of myself that make me who I am. If that means having to work a little harder–having to make a deliberate and conscious effort to do the things that make me feel whole, then that’s what I’ll do.


What are your thoughts on behavioral activation?


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