How to get motivated when you're feeling depressed?

by Jessica Holsman

Dear Jess,

How do you study when you are feeling depressed or lacking motivation? Depression is something I’m battling, and I want to try hard and get good marks, but I always lack motivation to do my homework or study. I write down and schedule my work but it never gets done.

I often just come home from school and dive into my bed for an hour to rest, but recently it’s felt like I have not been able to get up and do my homework at all.

I’m not sure what to do?

Anonymous x

Hi Lovely,

That' sounds awful! I'm so sorry you're having a tough time! I can't begin to imagine what it must be like to be deal with the responsibilities and pressures of school while also battling with depression...

It sounds like you've got a lot on your plate and fair enough if it's been challenging to meet your study requirements and find the motivation each day to keep going! You are so strong, and I can only imagine that it must be really hard. I hope you have a strong support system to help you through this too!

Have you spoken to anyone else about how you are feeling and everything that's been going on? 

It can be really helpful to confide in a parent, family member, psychologist or even speak to the school counsellor. It really depends on who you feel most comfortable talking to, but I definitely think it's important to have people who you can rely on for extra support and also to get some helpful strategies for how to deal with depression and make life a little easier. 

I'm not sure if you've seen it, but I released a web series last year on my YouTube channel called Mind Full. It's about mental health and the different resources we have access to online nowadays. It was a really eye opening experience  to meet with so many different experts and talk about mental health and wellness. The series taught me about just how many more new resources are available to help improve our mental health and moods. I WISH I knew about all of these when I was growing up! It's this kind of stuff that makes me think about how much good social media and technology is actually doing for people around the world. Feel free to watch the series and find out more about the new resources available here: I think you'd find it really helpful!

I also know that many people feel comfortable opening up to a friend or family member but when it comes to accessing professional help, not everyone wants to or can actually go and see a psychologist for a number of different reasons. There's a lot of great apps, help lines, and online resources that are really effective and a lot of them are free too. Some of my favourite apps include Headspace and Smiling Mind and in Australia we have a crisis helpline called Lifeline and a chat line for kids and teens called Kids Help line.

I'm also wondering whether your teachers might be able to give you some extra support and see how else they can help when it comes to managing the work load if things are getting overwhelming for you? Just a thought, but it might be worthwhile talking to your parents and having them speak with your teachers if they haven’t already.

When it comes to actually increasing your motivation and energy to work, I definitely think you are on the right track  with mentioning the importance of writing down and scheduling your homework. I always write down my to do list and schedule it into my diary to begin with. I find it helpful to also set myself a timer, make little rewards for when I complete my work and make sure my work environment facilitates productivity (good lighting, cosy space, cup of tea, essential oils, and my puppy Winston by my feet! hehe) When I really lacked motivation to study, I would try study in a library to separate my home and work life and opt for studying in a group and feeding off of others people’s energy to help me feel more in the mood to revise. 

Some of these might be an option for you, but it sounds like at the core, once you start feeling better with your mood, your motivation to work will increase. It's like one of my favourite sayings - "You can't pour from an empty cup." If you have nothing to give to yourself, how can you be expected to give to others? In this case, if you aren't feeling good within yourself, how can you find the energy and motivation to direct your attention to something like your studies? 

I'm just picturing you feeling like you're pushing through each assignment or carrying around a bag full of bricks on your shoulders each day, feeling like the weight of those everyday tasks are getting heavier to hold. I guess what's also coming to mind is that you need to find some ways to fill up your cup and give yourself a big dose of self love and self compassion! 

What sort of things do you like to do just for you? 

There's no set list of activities but maybe you love to run yourself a bath each afternoon with yummy essential oils and dried petals, bake choc-chip cookies, curl up with a good book before bed, have a spa day on the weekend with a friend, paint watercolour or write poetry? Whatever nurtures you!

Also, I hope you have a supportive family and friendship circle because this really can help a lot when life gets tough!

Sending lots of love and strength and I hope things get better soon. Stay strong and know you are doing the best you can. Life can have its ups and downs and you are doing an amazing job!

Love, Jess x