Community Contributions: Getting Off The Couch

Here we go — a real, nuts-and-bolts discussion topic. One I’m hopeful we all have some suggestion or method or useful tip to offer.

Our friend Dave asked today Does anyone have any tips or suggestions about how to motivate yourself when depressed or when you don’t feel like doing anything?

We’ve never outright had a brainstorming session on what we do when we don’t, won’t, or can’t do anything. So…whatcha got?




[Complete side note as evidenced by the number of times I just hit “Enter”: Clearly I have a new image strategy: For the time being, I’m searching the Flickr Commons (public domain photographs from various library-type sources) for some key words from each post. Easy!]

  1. said:

    I’ll start this off. My first instinct was to suggest a To-Do list with built-in rewards. On top of that, I also respond well (but not necessarily for the best reasons) to peer pressure and accountability. If people know I’m supposed to do something, there’s a much (MUCH) better chance I’ll be able to force myself to do it.

  2. erinire said:

    Peer pressure and accountability yes, but there is something of a personal commitment as well. When I’m at my worst, I’ve lost my personal commitment to being better, so everything else kind of slides away.

    I’ve found, for myself, that the key is doing something that makes me feel powerful. Sometimes it’s as simple as cleaning off the stovetop or taking a long shower, but sometimes it’s as risky as taking shears to my own hair. It should be a task with little focus or merit attached – like, I can’t try to edit a wedding if I’m feeling really off – but one with physical force and motion. The hair thing, I mean, it’s not for everyone. But a clean stovetop… that’s something we ALL can get down with.

  3. Alan Smithee said:

    I eat. And I try to not beat myself up.

  4. I try to do the basic things. Get up and get dressed, even if you are not up to going out. The act of keeping up basic hygiene, and dressing yourself can actually feel like an accomplishment when you’re severely depressed and can sort of force you to feel like you’re still part of the real world and not that netherworld of depression. I also go with those basic tasks: take out the trash, maybe do the dishes, get the mail, clean the kitchen countertops. Or just do one of those things, not all. I start with picking up junk off my floor that I’ve let pile up into a huge mess because I was too depressed to clean for months. That’s a good start. Just taking a trash bag and gathering up all the crap that needs to be thrown out, and cleaning up. Life is so much less pressured and depressing when your home is clean(er). Going outside in the sunlight is supposed to be helpful, according to my former therapist, but I’ve never gotten to into that. Music motivates me. I play loud music, fast music, rock or folk-rock or alternative/indie music, and I can do more that way than I can in silence. I try to reward myself. If I clean for two hours, I then let myself talk a break and veg out and watch TV. A reward system really can work well.

    I respond to accountability too, but sometimes that’s too overwhelming and a person is too isolated to have anyone to be accountable too, so it doesn’t work. If that’s your situation, I would try to do the things that make you feel better about your immediate environment. And then work your way out from there.

  5. I will feel very stuck, almost like concrete where I can’t move. Someone told me to say, “If I was going to ____clean the house___, __go to work____, the first thing I would do is ___put on my shoes___, __put on a bra___, ___ find a dustrag__” Many times that helps. I think it’s because I haven’t committed to anything—I am just doing one more step. And then another.

    Or, when I feel overwhelmed, I say the smallest thing I will do. Well, I will put the laundry in the washer, but I don’t have to put it in the dryer.” Most often, I do end up putting it in the dryer.

    Bribe myself—if you go to work, you can check your email there. Call so and so, etc.

    My dad said, “80% of life is just showing up.” So what if I am not 100% at work today. I am 80% there. Okay.

    Set my alarm to wake me to a good get out of bed song. The kind I don’t want to hit snooze to.

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