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Overcoming Inertia in depression II

drama mask glassWhen last I wrote the topic was on how to manage the inertia, the lack of interest in doing things, which often accompanies major depression and bipolar depression.  This is a symptom of depression and acts to separate you from your life, from the activities and people that you used to enjoy.  It robs you of healthy pleasure and positive experiences and may lead to social withdrawal, all of which worsen depression.  More importantly, this lack of interest adds negative thoughts and feelings to your day at a time when you may already bear that burden.  My last discussion included using the phrase “action precedes motivation” as a way to address a lack of interest and help you get yourself going.  The premise behind this phrase is that you do not wait until you might feel like doing something before you take action – just go ahead, get started and do some activity that interests you or used to interest you anyway, whether you feel like it or not.  Eventually the motivation for doing it will follow.  For example, perhaps you used to like to play basketball and now, with your depression, you are no longer interested.  But do not sit around and wait to feel ready to play again.  Just go out and play right now, before you feel motivated to do so.  You will find that eventually the motivation to play the game will follow.

Another technique that some people often find helpful is to use the phrase “Act as if” when your interest or motivation to do things has waned.  “Act as if” means that you take steps to do something presuming you possessed the interest, skills, competence or motivation to do so already.  Do not wait until you feel like doing something – act as if you are on top of the situation and ready to go.  “Act as if” you are the best checkers player around even if you feel otherwise.  Don’t worry about overdoing it – your depression symptoms will keep it in check.  If a friend asks you to join him/her for dinner, “act as if” you are having a good time and are enjoying the meal even if deep down you don’t really feel like it.  You may be surprised to find out that your opinion about the evening may change over the course of the dinner, and you may actually end up having a reasonably good time.

As you can see, it takes quite a lot of work to overcome the powerful and negative messages that accompany an episode of depression.  Put yourself in the driver’s seat and take control of the situation – try to not allow the depression run your life and what you want to do.  Take a deep breath and make the effort to step over the inertia, the lack of interest and pleasure and motivation, and just do it anyway!  You may be pleasantly surprised.

Stay well!

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