Bipolar and The Lack of Motivation By: Rick Qualls

By: Rick Qualls 

I just don’t want to.

There I said it.

Maybe you know the feeling. One symptom for many with bipolar is a lack of motivation. For some it is the result of anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure.

Finding pleasure in activities turns our “motivation” on. But when everything seems like a gray fog it is difficult to motivate. 

The lack of motivation and fatigue is one of the most debilitating symptoms of bipolar. Fatigue can be severe, perhaps being unable to motivate to get out of bed in the morning.

Often in our bipolar lack of energy and motivation is frustrated by what is a co-diagnosis of ADDHD or Anxiety.

What can we do to manage debilitating pleasure/ lack of motivation?

First, check your meds. Let your psychiatrist and psychologist be aware of any further decrease in your motivation. Sometimes a med change will help increase motivation/pleasure.

Second, watch your sleep schedule.  Go to bed at the same time every night and awake at a similar time each morning. Know what is your optimal sleep time. It may be longer than what you may realize. Changing your sleep schedule can trigger a depressive or manic episode.

Rituals such as a warm bath, use of relaxing essential oils, and practicing deep breathing exercises before bed can help reduce anxiety.

Probably the last thing you want to do is exercise. However, this is a third thing that can make a difference in increasing motivation. Exercise creates and releases “feel good” brain chemicals. These chemicals can increase motivation. Movement creates movement.

A fourth thing to do is to make small goals. For example: Today I will walk around the block. Or today I will attend my personal hygiene. Or today I will accomplish this first part of a work assignment. 

When you accomplish these things reward yourself, make sure it is a healthy behavior.

Be careful of your amount of caffeine consumption during the day. Coffee or energy drinks can cause a “crash” that can lead you to decrease in energy making fatigue and lack of motivation worse.

Sometimes we use negative emotions to push ourselves to accomplish a task, only to have that emotion leaving you more exhausted and drained.. For example, when I was in school I would feed my anxiety to push projects to get done. Worry and racing thoughts would help temporary but would lead to a a depressive or manic episode. It was some years before I realized that accelerating my anxiety was causing mood problems.

Shame may be a negative emotion we use to try to amp up motivation. The problem with “shame” based momentum is that it feeds the already self-loathing of a depressive episode.

Be careful using a negative emotion to try and increase your motivation because it will leave you in a worse place than before.

The Bible gives us some healthy places for motivation and advice on reframing negative emotions.

Philippians 4:6 RSV: “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Ephesians 2:10 NLT: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

James 1:19 NIV: My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry….

Finally, feed your hope.

Galatians 5:5 NIV: For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.

What techniques do you use to increase your motivation?

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

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