Is it mid-year burnout or depression? What to do when you are not motivated to do anything

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Trying to function without healthy motivation takes its toll on your mental and physical health, creativity and performance.
Trying to function without healthy motivation takes its toll on your mental and physical health, creativity and performance.
FG Trade/Getty

That feeling when you wake up and the only thing you're looking forward to is going back to bed?

Never mind work, you wish you could cancel all social plans and spend the weekend sleeping or mindlessly consuming social media content or series and movies.

When the weekend rolls around, you don't even have energy to brush your teeth, eat, shower or open the curtains.

You feel sad, emotionally tired or numb.

Some people experience this feeling as a passing episode – a bad day – while others have prolonged episodes of what feels like seasonal affective disorder (SAD), mid-year burnout or depression. It's hard to really know without getting a proper diagnosis, but the feelings you could be experiencing and shrugging off as "a passing dark cloud" could be more serious and get worse over time.

One in three South Africans will have a mental illness in their lifetime, according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) and things have only become worse since the pandemic started.

The main challenges experienced by many of us since the Covid-10 lockdown started are:

  • Anxiety and the pandemic (55%)
  • Financial stress and pressure (46%)
  • Depression (40%)
  • Poor family relations (30%)
  • Feelings of suicide (12%)
  • Substance abuse (6%)

While many of us struggle with our mental health, only one in 10 South Africans have accessed mental health treatment or care, says SADAG.

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Many factors can decrease motivation, according to Faith Mathenjekwayo, a counsellor based in the east of Johannesburg, but the most common one relates to a lack of interest in your daily activities.

A lack of motivation sometimes goes hand-in-hand with depression and a person might also have other symptoms such as sadness, tearfulness, irritability, weight loss or gain and possibly thoughts of self harm.

“If you still have the desire and ability to get out of bed and go about your day-to-day activities but feel tired, this is probably a lack of motivation coming into play,” says Faith.

Many factors, including trauma, can contribute to a lack of motivation and depression. “Traumatic or stressful events can lead to depression. There may also be a genetic component. More women than men are diagnosed with depression, although this may be because men don’t seek treatment as often,” says the counsellor.


Depression can lead to a range of cognitive, behavioural and physical symptoms. It is important to note that individuals may experience varying signs and symptoms from the next person who may also experience symptoms of depression.

Here are some common signs and symptoms for those who are less motivated:

  • Low or depressed mood or noticeable mood swings.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in doing things that you once found to be fulfilling.
  • Significant change or fluctuation in weight (excessive weight loss or gain).
  • Noticed decreased ability to focus or concentrate, especially for longer periods of time.
  • Decreased motivation or lack of motivation.
  • Increased feelings of fatigue.
  • Decreased level of energy.
  • Slowness in activities.
  • Feelings of worthlessness.
  • Recurring thoughts of death or others dying.


The the first step in dealing with a lack of motivation is to admit that you have a problem, according to life coach, Lifi Thlaki, from Burgersfort in Limpopo.

“Begin to notice what I call physiological disturbances when your jaw tightens, your stomach is tied in knots, your energy is drained or you feel symptoms of tension or stress. These are all indicators of low motivation,” he says.

“The more mindful you are, the more opportunity you have to shift to an optimal motivational outlook. Motivation is a skill. You can learn to experience high-quality motivation anytime and any place you choose.”

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Lifi says if you are not motivated, it’s wise to re-evaluate your circumstances. “You can consider your social environment, your work and hobbies. Find the things you enjoy do in and spend more time doing them. Instead of over-indulging in food or entertainment, take steps to better yourself physically or mentally,” he explains.


Lifi says there are certainly steps that you can take to live happily, less anxiously, be more effective in relationships and more productive in your everyday life. Some suggestions to improve your daily life are:

Have daily challenges in life: The reality is that with every decision we make in life, there is a positive or negative outcome. Try to do your best in everything you do and make decisions that you believe are right for your life. Try to counter self-criticism with positive praise, even with the smallest accomplishments.

Treat people how you would like to be treated: Always be kind to others. Try to get involved in community events or even help strangers. People appreciate an unexpected helping hand. In addition, you will also gain fulfilment by helping others.

Try to relax: There is healthy stress, then there is unhealthy stress. An example of healthy stress could be experiencing anxiety about an upcoming job interview, finding out if you are expecting a baby boy or a baby girl, preparing to go out on a date or preparing for an upcoming examination.

Try to make your “peace of mind” a priority and relax. Relax by taking slow and deep breaths, listening to soothing sounds or music, practising yoga or meditation, trying out a new hobby, going on a walk, going on an outing with a friend or your family members, or exercising to burn off some stress.

Get help: SADAG is dedicated to suicide-prevention and crisis-intervention for people going through crisis. The organisation runs a toll-free Suicide Crisis Helpline. If you or a loved one are in crisis, you can call 0800-567-567 or visit the SADAG website.

Additional reporting by Vincent Phahlane

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