Matthew C. Whited, PhD; Associate Professor, East Carolina University
It’s common for people to experience symptoms of depression such as feeling down, lacking interest in things, not feeling motivated. Lots of things can lead to feelings of depression. Perhaps it is something that doesn’t go our way. This could be a job interview, an interpersonal interaction, or we fall short of a goal. Maybe something happens to us out of our control, like a medical issue or a relationship break-up. Feeling depressed for a period of time is a natural response to these types of situations, and sometimes we begin to feel better after a week or two. When these feelings persist for more than two weeks and we’re not able to find solutions we can end up feeling stuck, apathetic, unmotivated, etc., for quite some time.
The main thing to pay attention to here is that depression is not your fault. Depression is often the natural response of your brain and your behavior to external adversity leads you into a challenging situation. If your situation doesn’t change, however, then neither will your natural response. So, we must engage in what often feels like unnatural responses in order to dig ourselves out of our funk and move forward.
If you are feeling depressed, you likely won’t feel motivated to do the various things that could actually help alleviate these symptoms of depression. Our natural tendency is to sit and wait to feel motivated to jump back into our lives. That’s why the remedies for depression feel unnatural and why they work as antidotes to depression.
As a therapist, I’ve seen many people struggle with the “M-word”: Motivation. When we look at others, we see that they seem to have motivation to spare. They seem to jump out of bed, ready to conquer the world. While you are feeling depressed, it can be a struggle just to drag yourself out of bed, or to do something that you know would make you feel better.
The misconception here is that we think that these world-conquerors had the motivation before they started moving and it’s actually the opposite. We feel motivated to do something because of our past success with it. If what we’ve experienced recently are failures, then it’s natural not to feel motivated. Instead of waiting for motivation, build Momentum. Momentum comes from initial small movements with a chosen direction that builds up into an ongoing rush towards the direction you want to go.
Building momentum is like pushing a large rock downhill. First, you need to pick a direction (pushing in one direction for 2 inches and then the opposite for 2 inches just leaves you where you started). Then you need to concentrate on making small movements in that direction. When we’re feeling depressed, your brain and body can resist any movement, so focusing on small changes is key.
Also, you need some sort of direction. Ask yourself, “Where do I want to go?” and then take the smallest step in that direction. For someone who has just experienced a medical event, such as a heart attack, their goal may be to live a healthier lifestyle.
Now, a “healthier lifestyle” is a rather vague and lofty aspiration. Broken down, the first step may be to choose one heart-healthy recipe to try out. That may seem like an inconsequential change, but it builds Momentum. The more Momentum you have, the easier it is to make further changes, like going to the store to buy the ingredients for that heart-healthy recipe.
Don’t listen to your brain
Your brain is evaluating what’s going on around you and giving information about its conclusions. The problem is that, even though your thoughts seem logical and accurate, the thoughts your brain creates are as much a product of external adversity as your behaviors are. In other words, the things that have happened to you that have led to depressed feelings are directly influencing your negative thoughts of, “I’ll never amount to anything”, “I clearly can’t do this”, etc. This means that these thoughts aren’t honest, true, or rational. The best way to change these thoughts (which are products of your situation) is to dismiss these thoughts and change your situation.
Again, you change your situation by building momentum in your chosen direction. As we change the behaviors that are associated with feeling depressed, our thoughts come along for the ride and become more positive, accurate, and rational. As we try out that heart-healthy recipe, there’s less room for your brain to say “I’ll never be healthy” and more room for positive, rational, thoughts. The key is to take your time, make small changes, and celebrate your successes, no matter how small.
See a health professional if a depressed mood persists
If you’ve tried to gain momentum and are struggling with how to do it, what direction to go, or your thoughts are just too loud to dismiss, it may be time to seek the help of a therapist. Mental health treatment can help you make progress in the direction you wish and overcome negative thinking. If you have insurance, there may be some degree of mental health treatment coverage and is often the best place to start when trying to find a therapist.
It’s important to know when treating depression, that not every therapist is a good match for every patient. So, if you are not happy with your treatment, a different therapist with a different approach may give you what you need. Medications, such as antidepressants, are also an option. These can help you gain and maintain Momentum. However, antidepressants by themselves are not as effective, especially in the long term, when used in the absence of therapy.
Depression and motivation
How to get motivated with depression
Depression and Health
“I didn’t want to do nothing to law enforcement so I just found some white men to kill,” said Kori Muhammad in his confession to police.
The second week of his capital murder trial started with his first police interview after his arrest.
From the moment police arrested him, the shooter knew exactly why.
“Because I killed those people and the security guard,” he said.
He gunned down security guard Carl Williams on April 13, 2017, telling police Williams had harassed him.
Surveillance video from the motel where it happened told a different story of a sneak attack while Williams talked to the defendant’s friend.
Muhammad hid out after that, but got WiFi long enough to see himself named as a suspect on ABC30 five days later.
That’s when he changed his plans from trying to leave town to walking downtown and becoming a serial killer with race on his mind.
“When I walked up to the (PG&E) truck, I saw a Mexican driver and a white guy,” he said. “I didn’t want to target the driver because he was Mexican so I shot the white dude.”
Zackary Randalls was the first white man he found. Mark Gassett and David Jackson followed.
And the defendant laid out his decisions in detail to police detectives.
“This is telling me that he knows exactly what’s going on,” said Fresno police detective Miguel Alvarez. “He knows exactly what occurred earlier.”
But the defendant didn’t make it through the entire confession, deciding to disappear and leave an empty chair behind as he’s done a few times during the trial.
“Mr. Muhammad informs me he would like to go back to his cell,” defense attorney Richard Beshwate told Judge Jonathan Conklin.
“Recognizing your right to be present, you’re asking to return back to your cell?” the judge asked Muhammad.
“Yes sir,” he responded.
Before he left court Monday, the defendant flashed a Nation of Islam newsletter for cameras, and his religion — denounced by mainstream Muslims — could be part of the case against him.
His confession included a few off the wall comments about his deadly magic, but investigators have argued his belief system may sound like conspiracy theories, but it’s openly discussed and accepted in the Nation of Islam.
The defense will argue it’s evidence he was insane at the time.
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USA Academy – a new private school based in Coosada that’s expected to offer online classes and field a football team this fall – introduced veteran coach Rush Propst as its first coach on Jan. 2.
Less than two months later, Propst is out.
Propst announced his departure last week and admitted he clashed with USA Academy founder Dusty DeVaughn. He said contract negotiations reached an impasse when the school insisted including a clause in the proposed contract stipulating a $500,000 buyout if he left the school before December 2020.
USA Academy plans to play a national-level schedule that includes IMG Academy (Fla.) and St. Frances Academy (Md.), but construction of a planned 5,000-seat stadium and adjacent football operations center has not begun.
Propst rose to national prominence as the head coach at Hoover when MTV’s “2-A-Days” chronicled the program, but left amid controversy before resurfacing at Colquitt County (Ga.) and building a nationally-ranked program. He was fired at Colquitt County in 2019 amid controversy.
Why did Propst leave USA Academy before signing contract? What’s his next move? Propst talked to AL.com this week and here’s excerpts from the hour-long conversation:
Q: Why did you leave USA Academy?
Propst: “There were enormous philosophical differences about how to build a football program. That’s the main reason. There were others, but philosophical differences was No. 1, and No. 2, I did not feel comfortable about not having a physical plant secured.
“We’re less than six months away from an Aug. 22 first game with a schedule (DeVaughn) put together. I didn’t put the schedule together. He put the schedule together. That was a problem, too. I don’t know a football coach in America – do you know of one? – who doesn’t control his schedule. In high school football, usually the head football coach does. I’ve never known of anyone who didn’t have control of their own schedule.
“With that, you throw in (playing) IMG (Fla.) and St. Frances (Md.) and Good Counsel (Md.) and some of these schools, and you don’t even have a building to go to work in? That’s tough sledding.
“The other thing, I’ve been over there a couple of times. I didn’t have an office. I didn’t have a place to sit down and work. This thing went down Jan. 2 and here it was approaching March 2, last week, I didn’t see anything changing in two months.
“Here’s the other thing, the month of January and the months of February, March and April are critical months in the development of a football program. Well, not a single kid was in, so that’s alarming to me. The other thing that was alarming to me was all these re-class kids.
“I’m not saying it’s right, wrong or indifferent, but I wasn’t sure about dealing with re-class kids. They’re older kids. They’ve already completed their eligibility in high school and they re-class, and if they did not play on the varsity in a varsity game as a freshman, they could re-class and play in this private league. But nobody does that. The teams we’re playing don’t have re-class kids.
“I was OK with a few to get started, but I didn’t want to base our whole program on re-class kids. All of a sudden, these kids come in and six months later they’re gone, and I didn’t see that as the right thing. Some of the teams we were playing were concerned with that – really concerned with that – and I would be, too. You’re putting your kids who are 10th-graders or 11th-graders and you’re putting them up against kids who have already finished playing high school football.”
Q: What’s next for you?
“Lord, I don’t know. I’ve got irons in the fire at a couple of places … I don’t know really which way to turn.
“People are going to say, ‘Why did you quit a job when you don’t have a job?’ But I didn’t feel comfortable with USA Academy. I wish the best for them. I do believe there is a need for that type of platform – and educationally it’s good, there’s nothing wrong with that and it’s the wave of the future – but looking at who you’re going to play and how ambitious it is to get it done.
“For 38 years, I’ve worked January, February, March, April to get ready for spring ball in May. It’s a bunch of hard work and it’s a grind, but today – March 2 – we should be going into what I call Phase 2 of the offseason program. You’ve got about six-to-eight weeks of conditioning and strength and conditioning with your players. If you’re not doing that, you’re behind.
“I’m going to sit back. I really enjoyed my time at UAB last year and Bill (Clark) and I are such good friends anyway, and my volunteer time there (during the 2019 season) was really enjoyable. He let me hang around the program and be at work every day and analyze and work and give my opinion when I was asked, but I did it for free and didn’t get paid at dime. I thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it, so I would like to do that again. I would like to go down that road in the college football ranks.”
Q: Do you think you’ll coach in high school next season?
Propst: “If I had my ’druthers, I’d rather be on the next level, but I would look at a high school job if it’s the right fit for me and my family. I have a son who played ninth-grade football at Colquitt last year, but now that he’s on the varsity level, I’ve got to find a place for him to play football. My daughter will be in the ninth grade next year, and my youngest will be in the eighth grade.
“I’ve got to do something. It’s always been about me, but this time I need to it based on my family. … I know people say this, and sometimes they don’t mean it but I mean it, I’m going to let the Good Lord open the door for me. I haven’t listened to him enough sometimes, but I’ve learned that in last 10, 11, 12 years.
“When I got cancer, life changed for me a lot. When you get cancer, your perspective changes a lot. I’m healed No. 1, and No. 2 I’m going to listen to my Lord and Savior. Wherever he leads me, that’s what I’m going to do. So, I do have a calmness and peace about me.”
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With regard to apathy, the famous Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti wrote in The Truce: The Diary of Martín Santomé: “I have the terrible feeling that time goes by and I do nothing, nothing happens, and nothing moves me to the core.”
What I believe Benedetti was referring to is a state of indifference, or the suppression of feelings such as excitement, motivation or passion, or, for short, “apathy.” If you are experiencing this feeling a little more often than you think you should, read on. You are not alone.
Whenever you feel that something vital is missing from your life, yet you lack the drive to pursue it, you are afflicted with this curious “not feeling,” which is a state of boredom that can be emotionally and even physically destructive.
The word “apathy” came into the English language in the late 16th century from the Greek word “apatheia,” according to Merriam-Webster. Apatheia stems from a Greek adjective, “apathēs,” which means “without feeling.” And apathēs was formed by combining the negating prefix “a-” with “pathos,” meaning “emotion.” Thus, the definition of “apathy” is a lack of feeling, emotion, interest or concern.
Despite the clear definition of apathy, however, trying to describe exactly what you feel when you are experiencing it is not easy. After all, how can you describe something that is essentially the absence of most everything else? We’re pretty much stuck with describing the things apathy is not.
But this isn’t to say that apathy isn’t powerful, especially if you’re in a leadership position. For example, perhaps you’re experiencing a lack of enthusiasm or appreciation of the value of goals. This might lead to reduced self-esteem and the belief that life lacks purpose entirely. This intolerable lethargy could then distort your focus and sensitivity. You might feel like you can’t concentrate, complete tasks, create new ideas, etc. In general, you feel stuck, unproductive and unmotivated.
The remedy for apathy is to change your outlook. You’ll need to focus on how to address why you’re feeling the way you are and find the motivation that can act as your life preserver in the deep river of apathy. Imagine yourself drifting on this river right now: As you float along without a rudder and buffeted by the currents, life on land — and in your organization — goes on, so you need to connect with it. But you can only do this by attacking your apathy at its source. So, let’s take a look at the three steps leaders can take to transform apathy into motivation:
1. Determine what triggered this state. Which of your needs were not being met when you started feeling apathetic? What did you need more of? Less of? Start by assessing your environment and identifying the procrastinating habits it gave rise to. Whether at work or at home, something caused your apathy, and you need to find its source.
2. You must want to feel motivated again. If you’re content to continue feeling apathetic, you won’t be able to move past it. So, think about which wants and desires you would like to have satisfied. A good place to start with this is to reflect on your negative self-talk and limiting beliefs. Are they taking you out of the game entirely? Commit to making the necessary changes in order to eliminate them, and switch entirely to empowering thoughts and empowering beliefs. This will facilitate your development and attainment of your goals.
3. To feel motivated again, you must create your own engagement plan. Revisit Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is a theory in psychology that suggests our actions are motivated by achieving seven certain needs. Be specific about what you need and want to accomplish. Ask for help, as needed, and follow through.
Apathy is a temporary emotional state. Once you label a feeling as apathy, it starts an internal curious dialog, the outcome of which should focus on motivation. This is because by finding your motivation, you can transfer your mental state from dwelling on your inability to act, to determining what will help you overcome your ennui and further your long-term best interest.
In searching for what will best motivate you, remember that the end result is to create the life you want — the life that will bring you the most fulfillment. And it’s extremely important that you are clear as to what kind of life you want. Be specific. Vague generalities such as “I want to happy” aren’t enough. Exactly what do you think it would take, within reason, to make you happy?