i feel so stuck

i feel so stuck
Photo by Ahmed Nishaath / Unsplash
"I'm doing terribly mentally and getting out of bed each morning feels harder and harder. i feel so stuck"

This was a text I received from a 25-year-old yesterday. It is a conversation that has become far too common, and the likelihood is you have had a similar discussion. Or you may have said this to someone recently. 

When depression sinks in, we often withdraw from many activities due to low energy and a lack of interest. It feels like we are wearing an unnaturally heavy coat that can't be shaken off.

Then, the spiral begins. 

A Scenario Of The Depression Spiral

Jenny's depression started so subtly that she didn't even notice it. She had been busy with various responsibilities at work and the start of the school year for her kids. Then her dad fell and broke a couple ribs, which took extra time from her already busy schedule. She stopped going to the gym for 45 minutes after work to conserve energy. She also found it hard to concentrate, so the reading before bed tapered, as did monthly night outs with her girlfriends. Even lunches with her co-workers started dwindling because her energy felt deflated. 

Weekends began to change. Before, she could easily be found drinking tea on the back porch or planning a camping trip with the family. Depression caused Jenny's world to shrink, as it does for so many people. Weekends turned into weekends binge-watching a screen, and work lunches turned into her office door being shut. 

The depression spiral is a scary turn of events. It can turn the most satisfying life into one entirely unrecognizable, with you in the middle of it all. As we continue spiraling, we amplify isolation.

Why Do We Avoid Activities?

Jenny's avoidance behavior makes sense if you consider the consequences of depression. Take, for example, her refusal to grab lunch with her co-workers. Once an enjoyable experience, Jenny now plays a new scenario out in her mind. 

She will have to muster up the energy to go, only to face the possible questions of how she is doing or what she has been up to lately. It's overwhelming. Eating alone in her office is predictable, and feels safe. Every time she closes her door, she breathes a sigh of relief, which only reinforces her pattern of avoidance. 

Soon, she adopts a new narrative about herself: I'm someone who prefers to be alone. 

SimultaneouslyJenny is forgetting the positives that come from eating with her work friends. While she might feel awkward at first, in the past, she really enjoyed those lunches. More often than not, she would return to her office feeling energized and rejuvenated for the afternoon. 

Two Power Factors Drive Avoidance of Activities

  1. An instant feeling of relief when we successfully avoid what we anticipate to be challenging.
  2. The absence of gratification when participating in an activity erodes our enthusiasm for it. 

Behavioral activation aims to disrupt these recurring patterns.

Lead With Action, Not Feeling

Like Jenny, many people wait until they feel better to get back to the things they enjoy. A more effective approach is to gradually start doing rewarding activities, even if you don't feel like it. 

Especially when you don't feel like it!

This became all too clear for me when I began writing. I love the idea of writing, but it can be a slow, begrudging process some days. But I show up. I do it.

Not because I always feel like it but because consistency is the key to unlocking life. Consistently do the right things, even when you don't feel like it. 

Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together, and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. - William James (1911)

How Do I Find The Motivation?

Many people think about motivation as a mysterious, elusive force that we avidly chase in the hope that it will bestow upon us the vitality required to complete our responsibilities.

Motivation isn't like a mystical fairy dust that magically pulls us off the couch; it's the outcome of action.

Motivation follows action, not the other way around. I call this the "Just Start Method," which I regularly use when my drive wanes.

The most challenging part of any project is always the first step, but it is also when the change begins. Instead of waiting for motivation to strike, take action - any action, no matter how halting or flawed. 

Action creates momentum. 

Momentum leads to change.

This momentum is analogous to a snowball rolling down a hill, gradually increasing in size and power until it becomes an unstoppable juggernaut. As you take action, you will see progress, which is a powerful motivator.

Your brain begins to realize, "I can actually do this," and you find yourself riding the incentive wave, feeling stronger and stronger.

Take any step toward your goal instead, and watch as inspiration enthusiastically joins you on your path.

The Formula Of Change

I gave the sender of that message a next step. It was clear and actionable, but I left it up to her to decide what she would do with it. Ultimately, we cannot make the horse drink, only lead it to water. 

If you feel stuck like this young woman, realize there are next steps you can take, but only you can take them. Remember this formula:


  • The D is your dissatisfaction with how things currently are.
  • The V is your vision for the future.
  • The F is the first step you're going to take.
  • And the R is your resistance to change. 

When your dissatisfaction is deep enough, your vision big enough, and your first steps clear enough, you'll overcome resistance and actually change.