This feels especially relevant right now while we are all stuck inside with little to nothing going on.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or trained mental health professional of any kind. I am just a young person who has been both officially and unofficially diagnosed with several mental illnesses and disorders over the past few eight years as well as having a long family history of mental disorders and unhealthy coping mechanisms as well as suicidal tendencies. I have also received counseling of several types during my childhood, which has helped me come to terms with a lot of different parts of my disorders and learning disabilities. Everything I write is based on my own personal experience with coming to terms with my differences and adjusting to how my brain works. Please do not take my word as gospel of any kind – these posts are only meant to help further open the dialogue around mental health and dispel the stigma around mental illnesses and disabilities.
Have you ever had a good idea all of a sudden? Like, a really good idea? One that you knew could change your life in a big way, or even change the lives of people around you? An idea that you could see exactly how to start working on and knew what you would need to make the idea successful?
But… you just don’t feel like doing anything to start your idea. You can see it in your head: the idea, fully fleshed-out and alive, pulsating with creativity and inspiration! It just doesn’t feel like… you want to do it right now. Maybe later. Definitely later. You promise yourself this.
Except… you feel the same way the next day. And the next. And before you know it, you have pushed this wonderful, inspired idea into the depths of your subconscious, never to be seen again. Until you finally remind yourself about that one great idea you had that one time. And now you get sad and reflective, wondering to yourself: what if I had done something with that idea? That idea, brimming with potential, could it have been something incredible?
Eventually, you resign yourself to the reality of your situation, shaking off your sadness and moving on, pushing the idea to the back of your mind once more. And your life is simple and fine for a while. Then, one day, you get another great idea. An idea that could possibly change the world. But… you just don’t want to act on it.
This cycle? It’s a common plight for people struggling with depression. Some of the most brilliant people in the world, living or deceased, had battled depression in their lives. These people always had so many unfinished projects and ideas left behind after they died, causing many historians and scholars to wonder what could have come from these abandoned ideas.
Some people call this lack of motivation “writers’ block” or “artists’ block”. However, for people with depression, this is something more serious than a step in the creative process. This process begins with an excited “Oooooh!” and ends with a deflated “Meh.” This isn’t a fear of hard work or intense effort but is instead a full-bodied sense of hollowness. A feeling not unlike a balloon being slowly deflated until nothing remains but a shapeless husk. Now you know what this is, as well as what it does to you. Now you need to know how to defy it.
The answer is annoyingly simple: just push through it. When you feel that sense of just not wanting to do a project, ignore it. Push it down. Work on the task anyway. The hardest part of doing anything is starting. It’s okay not to love the beginning. Fortunately, the process is easier once you have a foundation to build on.
Another strategy to implement is to break up the task into smaller, more manageable chunks that can be done in 10 or 15-minute increments. Sitting down and working on something for an hour or two can seem very intimidating and off-putting, especially when there are much more relevant things you can accomplish in that amount of time. However, taking short breaks and using them to work through the small portion of the project can help renew your energy and help increase your motivation and passion for the work. This will make it more likely that you will carve out similar time slots for it in the future.
A way to monitor the small components of a project is to make checklists or to-do lists for yourself. Nothing too specific or constricting, but general ideas for what you can work on when you have a few minutes of free time. Whenever you think of something small do to for your project or something to incorporate into it, write it down on the list. This way, whenever you are ready to work on the grand task and cannot think of anything you can do, you have a pool of options to pull from to accomplish some of the jobs.
Also, when you have smaller parts to focus on, it is easier to notice your progress and accomplishments as you go along. Sometimes, when faced with a grand mission, any small work you do can seem insignificant and worthless on a larger scale. This makes it harder to be motivated to do any work at all.
Anyway, in this time of social distancing and working from home, I know a lot of people, including me, are finding themselves falling into ruts with their work, school, or job. I hope this helps you with pursuing ideas you enough in a way that is manageable and not overwhelming.
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Until next time!