How do I find the motivation to do something when I’m feeling anxious or depressed? That’s a good question.

Right now, I’m sat in bed writing this. It’s 8am and I’m trying, unsuccessfully, to convince myself to get up and start the day. My anxiety is rising at the thought of it.

Since COVID-19 lockdown started, I have found it harder and harder to keep my morning routine going. I wake up and just stare at the wall until my dog pesters me to get up and take him out.

Usually I enjoy taking my dog for his morning plod (he’s 11 now and a proper old man) or going out for a run. Lately it’s something I have to force myself to do.


COVID-19

When lockdown in the UK happened, my Sports Massage clinic closed overnight and I also got laid off from my part time job. This has resulted in me feeling like I’m in a constant state of anxiety and I haven’t been sleeping as well as I need.

I am exhausted and with exhaustion comes lethargy and everything seems like such a struggle. I’ve been trying to give myself a new focus and something to structure my day around. It’s hard, really hard, but I have to keep going.

I need to change this mindset. I need to create some motivation even though I’m feeling anxious and a bit depressed. Depression does the opposite when you want to get motivated and it leaves you beating yourself up for it.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experience these feelings. I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life. Whenever life doesn’t go as expected or I feel in a bit of a rut, I know that I have to act in order to get things going again. I used to always say “I’ll do it when I feel motivated.” It never happened that way.

I’ve read so much about how you need to just start and then motivation will come. This used to make me so mad! How the hell can I just start when I have absolutely no motivation to even think about trying to start??!!


Unfortunately, it’s true!

Motivation happens after action. Not before. If you wait to feel motivate then you’ll never start. There are so many things that I wish I started but never did because I didn’t have the motivation. I would be so much further ahead in my life and career if I’d believe what I was reading.

I didn’t want to believe it. It didn’t seem possible that all I had to do was just try, even for 5 minutes. Until I did.

One day, I sat down and forced myself to start the thing that I had been putting off. I’d told myself that I could stop after 5 minutes if I wanted to. So I started and you know what? I didn’t stop after 5 minutes. I rarely stop after 5 minutes. Sometimes I’ll carry on for a bit longer and other times I’ll still be at it an hour or two later.


What’s behind my reason for not starting?

I think what prevents me from starting is fear. I’m afraid that I’ll start and I won’t be able to do it which will prove to that annoying voice in my head that it was right. It’ll show me that I was wrong, I can’t do it. Who did I think I was kidding to even try?!

However, once I convince myself to start, I usually prove that voice wrong. I can do it. I’ve also learned to accept that if I try and can’t do it then who cares anyway, at least I gave it a go!

That’s anxiety and low self-esteem for you! As soon as my anxiety starts to rise, my self-esteem starts to drop. My ability to believe in myself virtually disappears.

But I’ve found that once you take action, you start to feel better for just starting. This action spurs you on and then the motivation is created and you want to continue. The self-belief increases and the anxiety slips away. This is how to find motivation even if you’re feeling anxious or depressed.


What else can help?

I’m going to tell you about other things that you can do to help when you’re struggling. These are the things that made me roll my eyes when I was first told about them but they do actually help.

These things gave me something else to focus on when I was feeling sorry for myself, they distracted me and helped me get out of my own way.

It’s weird how I started to feel more in control of my life just by focusing on my health and not whatever it was in my life that was causing me the stress or anxiety.

You’ve probably heard them before but I feel that they are worth mentioning.


How I find motivation when I'm feeling anxious or depressed
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Sleep

Make sure you are getting the right amount of sleep. If you get too little or too much sleep then this will have a detrimental effect on your health.

Having decent sleep can be hard to achieve when you’re not in good mental health. I know that if I’m anxious or stressed then it affects my sleep which affects my ability to deal with the stress or anxiety. It’s a vicious circle that I have to try to break.

If’ I’m struggling to get to sleep then I’ll try a bit of meditation. Or have a read of this NHS article for help on how to get to sleep.


Food and Drink

I try to eat healthy most of the time. Food is fuel for your body and brain so I try to give it the good nourishing stuff.

I still have days when I eat the contents of my cupboard. I’m an emotional eater. If my emotions are all over the place then my instinct is to feed them to shut them the heck up.

I’m getting better at noticing what I’m doing and will try to talk myself back around. I start off asking myself why I’m eating. The answer is usually “to make myself feel better” which prompts the follow-up question “is it working?”. 99% of the time my answer is no. So why am I eating it?

Most of the time this works but sometimes it doesn’t and I end up eating anyway. I’m only human after all!

I always drink 2 – 2 ½ litre of water a day plus a few cups of tea. I love my cups of tea! If I don’t drink enough then I get a headache so that’s my sign to check how much I’ve drunk and increase if necessary.


Exercise

We all know that exercise produces endorphins, those chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. They help bring about feelings of euphoria and general well-being. Exercise also improves the ability to sleep.

I aim to run three times a week, I don’t always succeed but that’s my goal. It’s achievable for me but sometimes I struggle to get out of the door. I know that I’ll feel so much better after I’ve finished my run but that sometimes that still isn’t enough to get me to do it.

In these situations, I’ll turn to Instagram for a bit of inspiration. Seeing other women posting their runs helps me to change my mindset and go for a run. 


If you’d like to take up running but don’t know where to start then read my blog called How To Run With Couch To 5K. If you’ve already started running and want some tips then I’ve got you covered right here!


Recharge

You need to make sure you’re getting enough time to relax and recharge. No, this isn’t when you’re sleeping. It’s giving yourself time to do something that makes you feel nourished and/or makes you happy. Self-care is important and you shouldn’t feel guilty for prioritising it.

I’m an introvert and I need time to recharge after being in a social situation. I might have just spent a couple of hours with a great friend and had a blast but I still have to recharge and get my energy levels back up. This might take a few hours or a couple of days.

It took me a long time to work this out and to give myself permission to do this. Down time is so important if you’re anxious or depressed and trying to create motivation. It’s mandatory now because I really need it.


Friends/Support System

Having the right people in your life to support you and give you a boost is so important. A couple of years ago I had a really tough time and it showed me who my real friends are. They were the ones who kept in touch to make sure I was ok and who were there for me in whatever format that took.

It also showed me who was in my life that I didn’t feel I was getting a benefit from. There were a few people in my life that seems to be in it for their benefit and weren’t as available when I needed their friendship.

I made the difficult decision to end those relationships as they weren’t give and take. I was doing all the giving but wasn’t getting anything back when I needed it the most.


Reward Yourself

Make sure you give yourself credit for your achievements, large and small. Every time you do exercise, congratulate yourself for doing it. If you’ve drunk your 2 litres of water for 5 days in a row then be proud of yourself for sticking to it.

Why not create a habit tracker so you can see how amazingly you are doing! This actually helps you find some motivation when you’re anxious or depressed.


Prevent Getting Overwhelmed

This is probably the most important. It’s all well and good thinking of new goals and trying to create new healthy habits but sometimes that means that we put far too much pressure on ourselves.

Maybe aim for one new habit per month? If you try to do everything at once then you’ll end up dropping the ball on something and giving up on it all. You’ll decide you’re a failure and this is the opposite of where you need to be.

Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or a few days. Just get back on it!


I’d like to hear from you if you have a story to share or some tips that I haven’t covered regarding how to find motivation when you’re feeling anxious or depressed. Please leave a comment below or get in touch via one of the ways on my contact page.


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