As revealed in a recent report, the mental health of 44% of employees surveyed had declined as a result of the pandemic. A significant portion of that reported decline represents individuals suffering from depression. According to the World Health Organization, depression affects about 280 million people worldwide.
If you’re clinically depressed (i.e., have reached the point where your everyday living has been significantly impaired), you should, of course, seek help from a psychologist or psychiatrist. If your depression is so severe that you’re having suicidal thoughts or are considering self-harm, you should call 911 or get in touch with your medical practitioner immediately. Seeing a psychotherapist and availing yourself of the therapy and/or medication he or she can provide has proven time and time again to be reliable and effective.
But if you’re not clinically depressed and are instead suffering from something I will call “low mood” and want to deal with it yourself, then consider reframing or looking at what you have to do to make things more meaningful and inspiring.
This might mean connecting your feelings with your values. Or perhaps you need to give greater weight to emotions and feelings that have come into play. If you’re experiencing fear, try to identify exactly what part of a task is causing that fear. Not every fear is connected to an identifiable cause, but a lot of them are.B
Don’t ignore or stifle your emotions and feelings. They are telling you something. Listen. They can provide a lot of valuable data that can be used effectively during any decision-making or problem-solving process.
Having critically examined your feelings and emotions for all the information and insights they can provide, you can move on to creating sustainable change in order to move from dark and pessimistic to light and optimistic.
The critical starting point at this stage is to find the inspiration or energy generator that will illuminate your gloom and motivate you to get off your butt and do something. And this is the key. It is inspiration that results in motivation and is the antidote to low mood. Think of it as adding a reason to put one foot in front of the other — or as the proverbial journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step. Visualize the destination and take that first step. Your momentum will carry you forward.
My two-step remedy for overcoming low mood:
1. Use inspiration as a source of motivation.
Initially, we need to determine what inspires us. Inspiration comes from within. Often, it’s not clear what exactly that is. If you find that’s the case, then work from the general to the specific. Are you inspired by the more mundane, like money and what it will buy? By the more spiritual or altruistic? By being a learner or thinker? By building teams or being a caregiver for others? By protecting nature or advocating for climate change policies? By being creative or inventing new things? By your purpose or legacy? By some person?
Once you’ve determined what you’re generally inspired by, you can move on to the specific. But whatever you do, don’t shortchange this initial step of considering what you are inspired by. Give it some serious thought and make sure it is in alignment with your values. Without doing it you could flounder for a long time wondering how on earth you’re ever going to be motivated enough to take that first step and overcome your low mood. If this process is challenging on its own, ask for help. A trusted friend or fellow worker may be able to help you reconnect with your own North Star that will help generate actionable energy and make motivation sustainable.
2. Use motivation as a source of vitality and action.
Once you’ve determined what you’re motivated by, the next step is to use that knowledge to move beyond low mood to strong, energized action. I call this having vitality. The way it works is that you focus on the objects, feelings or people that motivate you (let’s call it “your dream”) and allow, or force if you must, your dream to inform and fuel your vitality.
“Inform and fuel” can be difficult, and it can be accomplished in different ways, but basically it means you have to come up with a plan — an actionable plan that will lead to the realization of your dream.
You can start by assessing your personal environment. For example, you can do some preparatory work like organizing your files, cleaning up your email inboxes and tossing whatever junk you have accumulated. You can move on to critically evaluating whatever impediments there are to the realization of your dream. And lastly, you come up with The Plan.
The Plan is a written document that you share with others (I didn’t say this was easy) in which you specify exactly what you’re going to accomplish and when. Be sure to put in some easy initial steps so you reinforce belief in yourself and attain momentum to keep moving forward. The last thing in your Plan isn’t the accomplishment of your dream, it’s how you’re going to celebrate once you’ve reached it. If nothing else, the party or trip or purchase or whatever you will reward yourself with might be sufficient incentive in itself to carry you to your goal.
In addition to considering the above suggestions, a big help also would be a better understanding of the nature of the conditions in which you’re operating. Thus, readings in emotional intelligence and personal development are almost a must. They will allow you to recognize and appreciate the feelings and emotions that are the underpinnings for all that you do. Focusing on your core values, as enhanced by that knowledge, can help you understand your inspirations, determine more effective motivations and restore the vitality needed to get out of your low mood.
Remedying low mood with inspiration and sustainable motivation often takes time and persistence. So start small, but keep moving. You get motivated, first of all, by understanding the causes and triggers of low mood. Then, by building on your lesser successes as you go, you move on to full vitality and a more fulfilling state of being.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
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