How to Cope With Lack of Motivation in Major Depression

Updated on April 17, 2017
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As someone who suffers from major depression, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to have absolutely no motivation to do anything.

Learning to cope with lack of motivation is difficult but can be done.
Learning to cope with lack of motivation is difficult but can be done.

Lack of Motivation: A Common Symptom of Major Depression

As someone who suffers from major depression, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to have little or absolutely no motivation to do just about anything in life. It seems that depression can rob a person of any joy that normally comes from anticipating doing things—even favorite things like long-loved hobbies and crafts, playing with pets and children, exercising, and so forth.

For me personally, I have always been very motivated to get to work. As an entrepreneur, I have enjoyed starting businesses and managing them. Daily, I have eagerly anticipated getting to work to assess the "state of the union," tweak performances, and provide oversights and leadership. Seeing the work my husband and I have begun spring into action and thrive has been exciting and rewarding. But, depression had changed all of that for me.

What Lack of Motivation Feels Like to Someone with Major Depression

Lack of motivation can make it feel as if there is no reason to do anything. Most adults can easily see what needs to be done. Someone with major depression cannot get it done. This is the difference. For most adults, just seeing what needs to be done brings with it the motivation to get the task or job done. That is all the motivation that is needed. Depression somehow takes that normal drive out of the person and leaves them with the understanding and knowledge of what needs to be done but without the will to do it. Knowing that others may judge their behavior as lazy, incompetent, or otherwise apathetic adds feelings of guilt to the person with depression.

If this all sounds familiar to you, know that you're not alone. This can be helped, especially by focusing on the three tips that I'll now address in this article.

Ways to Cope with Lack of Motivation in Depression

Below, learn about three major ways to cope with a lack of motivation if you're depressed.

1. Add Structure to Your Days

Add structure to your days. Most people function better on a schedule and every time you knock off a scheduled task, this yields a feeling of completion and efficiency which can make you feel good. If you work independently or on your own schedule, still try to set a schedule for yourself and stick to it so that there's a routine in your life that gives your day a purpose. Other things that you can do include create a task list of daily chores or to-do's and work to accomplish some tasks on it each day.

Be sure to give yourself credit and plenty of positive self-talk for getting some things done at the end of every day. The more you do this, this more it will ring true and feel better for you!

2. Eat Well and Get Plenty of Rest

Eat well and get plenty of rest. This is crucial and lends to good health, which is essential for everyone's quality of life. Nothing can replace taking good care of yourself when you are experiencing depression. You are going to feel tired. Combat fatigue by being sure you get adequate rest at night and take a short nap in the afternoon if needed. Eat good balanced meals and snacks. Some foods that can help give you energy are:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Caffeine in healthy doses—know your limit or you might get a crash
  • Whole wheat and whole grains
  • Brown rice
  • Healthy sweets like dark chocolate
  • Eggs
  • Legumes (beans, hummus, lentils, etc.)
  • Water is key! If you're not hungry but feeling low on energy, get some fresh air and take a few healthy sips of water

As far as rest goes, it's best not to sleep too much or too little. Sleeping too little obviously will make you tired, but sleeping the day away can leave you feeling sluggish and even less motivated. Stick to the recommended amount of sleep for your age group and, as mentioned above, keep up with structure and a good diet.

3. Power Through

That's right. When you really don't feel like doing something, do it anyway. The motivation or urge to work, exercise, play, craft, or whatever it is you would like to feel like doing may not appear while you are depressed. But don't miss out on the daily activities of your life, the big and the small, because the motivation isn't there. Jump in and get started when you can. At the end of the day you will feel better having accomplished something—anything at all. Depression may rob you of motivation; don't let it rob you of your life. Remember, every time you end up powering through and doing something, you're beating depression at its own game. It's better to have done something than just sit around and think about doing it.

Think of it as going to the gym—while many dread the prospect of getting ready to do so and actually going, no one ever really regrets having done so and most of us feel so much better afterwards. Stay strong!

What do you know?

People suffering with major depression may lack motivation to perform simple tasks like bathing, cleaning and cooking. These are signs of laziness.

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Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        MARYANN 51 2 months ago


      • profile image

        Amanda 7 months ago

        I have bipolar depression, borderline personality disorder, and anxiety. I understand what you mean by just DO IT and you will feel better. It doesn't always work that way with other people.

        For myself, making myself shower, get dressed, etc. I have to literally NOT think about doing it. People who are depressed tend to think WAY to much. They literally over think everything. If I need to wash dishes, I won't do them and just constantly think about having too to the point that I can't do them.

        My husband is a big help with my depression and other mental problems. He doesn't fully understand but with me explaining to him how I feel and how I can't seem to get off the couch due to having a feeling of being "stuck". My "stuck" feels like I have a black bag or something tying me down to where I can't move but just sit there. I've literally rolled myself off the couch just to get off of it. It sucks.

        I learnt not to stress myself out which I do anyway. It's REALLY hard not too when you're an adult with kids, bills, etc.

      • profile image

        Idk 10 months ago

        All of these things require motivation...

      • profile image

        William 13 months ago

        My life is crashing down around me and I know what to do to fix it but I can't motivate myself to do it. Any additional advice that might add on to the article above?

      • profile image

        Amy 14 months ago

        Total waste of advice although I know you mean well. Telling a depressed person who low self esteem/confidence/motivation to power through and just make yourself do it, or get more sleep (Which btw, most depressed people sleep too much to begin with) This advice sounds great but for most people in this situation, if it were that easy......they would just do it.

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        Kevin 15 months ago

        How do you have things like depression, bipolar, and anxiety diagnosed? I have tried on a couple of occassions and each time they have sent me to talk therapists, and after 13 sessions or so each, I gave up because we were no closer to diagnosing anything. I felt I was wasting my time even though for a couple hours after appointments I felt a little better, but what is the point if it only lasts an hour or 2? I need some real help because I feel like I am getting worse every day. Thanks for any help. I live in Springfield, OREGON btw.

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        Marcus Tregowning 16 months ago

        The best advice I can give someone is just to do the thing you want to do, and you will feel better.

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        Andrius 17 months ago

        I'm going through the same thing for almost two years after I started freelancing. I got to the level where I'm not confident about my skills, started not to believe in my own projects. To make it short, things that were pushing me forward and building my confidence turned to opposite direction.

        I know that one of the most important reasons for that is my sensitivity, perfectionism and very high-level of self-criticism. I used to write enormous material goals for myself, that I was not able to fulfill. Those definitely don't bring anything good :)

        I always question myself, why I'm not happy with my life? I have a beautiful fiancee. From career perspective everything seems to be okay too as I get decent hourly rate for the job I like. I just need to work to make a good living. The thing is I'm not working that much. Meaning, I do not fulfill my expectations, that lead to demoralization. I'm in "closed circle" that I can't get out of.

        Well, actually sometimes I can. Just those good periods usually last only for week or two at the best. Usually, I'm able to build my energy due the strict daily routine in the end of the "work" week. But everything dissolves after the weekend. It usually takes just a one bad thought to destroy results that are very hard to achieve.

        Enough of my situation. As it's not the first day I'm facing this problem, I can guarantee that your tips really work. But I would add the need of meditation and constant motivator that would help to maintain positivity. Our thoughts create our reality. If we are not careful with our thoughts, we'll definitely end up living the life we don't like.

        Even though I would be happy if people would he much happier than they're now, it feels good to read about other people fighting against themselves. Good to know that I'm not alone. Hopefully, someone will find my story and considerations helpful. Even if not, it's great just to share the thoughts. When we write, we think of the situation more. Better understanding of ourselves and helps to solve the problem. Just I would not recommend to fall into my case when you start think too much and act too little. As it's said in Hindu Vedas, the natural state of our souls is action. We simply cannot be happy doing nothing. So, whenever it goes wrong try your best to go to the nature for a walk, exercise, photography or anything else. Even if you find million of excuses why you can't just like I do - forget about those. Excuses are excuses. Humans are the children of nature and nature will definitely is the best cure for all mental diseases.

        I wish you and myself stronger power of will fighting against our apathy. And once again, when you start seeing bad things in your life, try to replace those thoughts with positive ones.

        All the best!

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        Emma 18 months ago

        This was honestly very helpful!

      • profile image

        Delian 4 years ago

        Thanks. I'll try pushing thru the cloud and move

      • gsidley profile image

        Dr. Gary L. Sidley 4 years ago from Lancashire, England

        Some sensible advice in this hub.

        If someone waits for the motivation before attempting an activity they may well be waiting a long time. Often the motivation comes after completing a task.

      • kansasyarn profile image

        Teresa Sanderson 5 years ago from Rural Midwest

        Dear N2m, Thanks for taking the time to read and share. I understand what you are going through. Lack of motivation is really upsetting because we know what needs to be done and we want to be able to do something. But, just doing the basic tasks of living can be overwhelming. I have not totally mastered lack of motivation, but am so much better today than I was 2 years ago. If you haven't read it, take a look at the book mentioned here, "Getting It Done When You Are Depressed." It was a major help to me. Blessings!

      • profile image

        N2m 5 years ago

        These suggestions don't really help me to get motivated. My job/work and even some hobbies don't interest me. I feel compelled to pay no mind to such things if I just don't care about it. I just can't focus and trying to force myself into doing something I have no motivation for is agonizing. I'm not sure I'm easily bored or have a short attention span. I'm so annoyed when trying to work that I distract myself by find sites like this on the internet.

      • kansasyarn profile image

        Teresa Sanderson 5 years ago from Rural Midwest

        Dear Conservative Lady, I am so glad to hear of your success in recovery from depression. We are travelers on the same road, and I wish you a peaceful journey. Blessings to you.

      • Conservative Lady profile image

        Sheila 5 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

        I agree with your suggestions on surviving lack of motivation during depression. I am finally starting to see the light after 3 years of darkness due to losing my son unexpectedly. Never give up and keep praying for an end to your suffering - it will come.

      • kansasyarn profile image

        Teresa Sanderson 5 years ago from Rural Midwest

        Thanks so much for sharing.

      • Claudia Tello profile image

        Claudia Tello 5 years ago from Mexico

        I wish I could believe that it does get better because it kind of hasn't for the last 12 years, I wouldn't wish this state of being not even to my worst enemy. The positive input I can give is that all the people suffering from depression who live in the US are lucky because you really do have access to lots of support in many different ways. In Mexico that is almost non-existent. Outside help is key to recovery because family and friends usually get fed up with the issue.

      • kansasyarn profile image

        Teresa Sanderson 5 years ago from Rural Midwest

        Dear Brian,

        Thanks for sharing. I can understand what you are going through. It does get better. It has taken me 2 full years to get back to my "almost" normal self. Stay in touch with your treatment team and lean on family and friends who love you. It does get better. And you can live with it.

        Blessings to you.

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        Brian 5 years ago

        As a young adult suffering from clinical depression and mood swings, i've lost everything, including all of my motivation in my careers and hobbies, the past year. It did have to do with a bad breakup but I constantly have negative thoughts in my head and have no motivation whateversoever, i've done nothing the past year. I also can't really do anything with no money so that doesn't help at all. Right now it's really hard looking forward to the future when you're rock bottom

      • kansasyarn profile image

        Teresa Sanderson 5 years ago from Rural Midwest

        So glad to hear of your success! I, too, am recovering from major depression. What a blessing to be at peace!

      • dkm27 profile image

        dkm27 6 years ago from Chicago

        Very helpful Hub. I beat major depression. 13 years ill and 28 years well. Recovery, International saved me after all treatments were to no avail. It takes work, but one can do it.

      • kansasyarn profile image

        Teresa Sanderson 6 years ago from Rural Midwest

        Glad you found it helpful! Thanks for your comment!

      • SuperheroSales profile image

        SuperheroSales 6 years ago

        Thank you for writing this article. It was very helpful!

      • kansasyarn profile image

        Teresa Sanderson 7 years ago from Rural Midwest

        Thanks so much for reading and the kind comment! It is appreciated!

      • Reynold Jay profile image

        Reynold Jay 7 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

        I enjoyed your article very much. Up 1 and Useful.