How to be motivated even though you are anxious

Are you experiencing a significant lack of motivation?

That is very common when you live with depression and anxiety. When you live with a mental illness, you are often tired, and your fatigue makes it hard to get anything done.

So what can you do? How can you get your motivation back?

Thanks to Rik for submitting this guest post about how to be motivated when anxious. I know this is a topic we can all relate to in these troubling times.

This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you click a link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. See my Privacy and Affiliate Disclaimer pages for more info.

Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional (and neither is the guest blogger who wrote the post). Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.

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How to be motivated even though you are anxious

You wake up and thoughts already start racing. Maybe you’ve had a bad dream. Maybe a thought just popped in your head.

Is that itch normal? Or could it mean that I am sick?

Will I make that deadline?

Am I able to deliver on my promises?

Does my partner still find me attractive?

What if I get in an accident?

What if someone attacks me?

Is something under my bed?

You have barely opened your eyes and your mind is filled with anxious thoughts. You lay there, worrying about something and you just want to go back to sleep.

How are you expected to do anything with such a bad start to the day?

Fighting a lack of motivation

You feel no motivation. The day is ruined already.

These are common mental gymnastics for people with anxiety. It is a downward spiral of things that might happen. But besides your worried thoughts, nothing bad is actually happening right now. You’re totally fine!

Let me repeat that. Besides your worried thoughts, nothing bad is happening right now.

The trick is to get rid of your worried thoughts. But it is actually not that easy to stop an anxiety attack. You are wired to keep paying attention to your anxiety.

purple background with white text that says "How to be motivated even though you are anxious," black and white photo of a woman sitting on the ground with their hands on their head

Why anxiety demands your full attention

If you are in a dangerous situation, it is important to pay attention. Because if you don’t pay attention, you could get hurt, or die.

Luckily, most of us are rarely in real danger. But we still pay attention to the things that anxiety tells us are the most dangerous things in our lives.

For people with anxiety, danger is always lurking just around the corner. Even if the situation is only slightly troublesome. A worrying thought pops in your head and now the situation demands all of your attention.

And because you are convinced of the urgency, you are wired to keep paying attention to it until you distract yourself with something else, or are convinced that the situation isn’t dangerous anymore.

If you frequently have anxiety attacks, you probably already have some techniques on how to stop an anxiety attack. One of those techniques hopefully distracts your mind from worry, so you can go on with your day. Because convincing an anxious mind the situation is safe is much, much harder.

But even if you aren’t anxious anymore, it has completely drained your energy. You feel absolutely no motivation to do anything.

Is the task itself making you anxious?

Start immediately with the task. There is no other solution. Procrastination is simply delaying something you don’t want to do. You are failing to get on with life.

You are avoiding a negative feeling. But feeling good right now comes with a cost. You still need to do whatever you’re procrastinating and it is not going to be less horrible tomorrow.

In fact, it is likely going to be more horrible! The deadline will be closer and the anticipation has been torturing you.

Push through, start now!

purple background with white text that says "How to be motivated even though you are anxious," black and white photo of a woman sitting on the ground with their arms around their legs.

Can you use your anxiety to motivate yourself?

Your anxiety will be gone when you do the task, either because you are distracted or because the task itself was making you anxious.

When you realize that, you can use your anxiety to complete your tasks.

Students who use their anxiety to study achieve higher grades. You can use your anxiety to perform better. In fact, by preparing for your tasks, your anxiety will be lower than if you did not prepare at all.

Do you know what your goals are?

By setting clear goals, you are more likely to accomplish them. It’s hard to hit fuzzy targets. Clear goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

For instance:

“My goal is to get a job as a registered nurse within three months after I graduate from nursing school.”

This is a clear goal. It is specific, you can measure the amount of job applications, you have the right qualifications, it is in line with your current education and there is a deadline. These things make it easier to actually achieve your goal.

goals journal, how to be motivated

Click the image to order a goals journal and get started!

Is your goal too big?

The hardest part of any task is starting. By breaking your tasks down to sub-tasks, you are more likely to begin. Climbing a mountain starts with the first hill. Climbing the first hill starts with the first step. Break your tasks down until you want to begin right now!

For instance, if your task is to “Write a report”, and you are having difficulties with beginning, then you need to make the task smaller. Are you still having trouble with starting the task? Make it EVEN SMALLER!

-Write a report.

–Figure out what subjects need to be mentioned in the report.

—Write the first subject.

—-Open a word processor on the computer.

—–Start the computer.

——Sit in front of the computer.

——-Go to the room with the computer.

——–Stand up.

———Put phone down.

———-Close all apps.

purple background with white text that says "How to be motivated even though you are anxious," black and white photo of a woman with her face in her hands

Ask yourself: Why?

Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic. In other words, it can come from within or from the outside. You want to do a task because the task itself is rewarding or because you are rewarded by someone/something else when you do it.

Intrinsic motivation is much more powerful. If something is not motivating you, find the enjoyable aspects of the task or increase the reward you get from it.

Build habits

Motivation is fleeting. And sometimes, we need more structure in our lives. Like getting out of bed, exercise and brushing our teeth. These things take a lot more willpower if we don’t do them regularly.

But when we do them regularly, they are much easier for us. They don’t take the same amount of willpower. We have strengthened our “toothbrushing muscle”. Or our “getting out of bed muscle”.


Anxiety and motivation don’t go well together. Anxiety paralyzes.

Therefore, it is essential to learn strategies to get rid of your anxiety. You need to learn how to stop an anxiety attack. Distraction techniques are more effective than most other strategies, but everyone is different. Find a technique that works for you!

If you don’t have time to get rid of your anxiety, you need to rip the band-aid off. Like Nike says: “Just do it.” Use strategies to lower the amount of effort for the first step. Realize that procrastination is only going to make things worse.

If we have to do something regularly, it is important to build habits for these tasks. This way, our paralyzing anxiety doesn’t have the same hold over it. We do things much easier when we do them every day.

About the Author

Name: Capitalcharacter





Bio: Rik Bulthuis is the founder of He has a BSc in Psychology and an MSc in Human Decision Science. He helps people to make necessary changes in their lives and reach their goals. But most importantly, Rik is someone who loves to help people find their happiness again. Visit the site if you’ve lost your happiness.

Thank you so much, Rik, for sharing your great insight into how to be motivated. I know a lot of people are suffering from heightened anxiety right now and will find this useful.

Let us know in the comments how you stay motivated when you’re anxious. We would love to hear from you! Also, make sure to share the post if you found it helpful!

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Related posts for motivation and anxiety:

Health Anxiety: What It Is & What You Can Do

Is there a cure for anxiety?: Separating fact from fiction

How to challenge negative thought patterns

What mental health is + 11 things it is NOT

61 thoughts on “How to be motivated even though you are anxious”

  1. I especially like the idea of USING your anxiety to help you be more motivated. Instead of thinking, “this anxiety is bad, I have to get rid of it before I can do anything productive,” you can say, “I am anxious, how can I reframe this to benefit me?”

    1. Yeah I loved that too! Use it for good and not for evil LOL. I’ve been panic cleaning. Which still isn’t maybe “good,” but hey, I’m cleaning so…. Thanks for reading!

    2. Hi Amanda,
      it’s difficult to actually remember doing this when you are in “anxiety mode”. But staying in the negative thoughts will likely make your anxiety worse! So I hope you can apply it in your life and get some positivity out of your anxiety by completing a task or distracting your thoughts!

  2. These are really great tips. Thank you for sharing. It’s really helpful. I suffer from anxiety attacks and I know how hard is to stay motivated. I usually lover my goals and plan better.

    1. Hi Natalie,

      Instead of lowering your goals, lower your first step. You should never give up on your goals because you are dealing with anxiety. Don’t let anxiety win.

      Lowering the first step might help you get started sooner. And make it possible to achieve your goal!

      Thank you for reading,

    1. Hi Bethel,

      Exercise is in my opinion the number 1 best thing you can do when you are dealing with anxiety.

      There is a lot of science backing this up! Regular exercise is essential!

      Thank you for reading,

    1. That’s a great idea. That’s pretty much how my to-do lists work, although in just a boring format, not a bullet journal lol. Thanks for reading!

    2. Hi Lizzie,

      That sounds like it works like a charm!
      What do you do with the things that you keep carrying forward to the next day? Do you remove them from the list?

      Thank you for reading,

    1. Hi Jen,

      starting is just easier said than done for a lot of people.
      But when you consistently “Just Start”, you will find that it becomes easier every time. Because “not starting” is much worse in the end.

      Thank you for reading,

    1. That’s great that you think it could help. I hope it does, and that he starts feeling better soon. I know this is a difficult time for many, so he’s not alone there. Thanks for reading!

    2. Hi Melissa,

      I recently wrote an article on feelings of overwhelm. I list 14 things that can do when you are overwhelmed with life.

      It might help your son even better!

      Thank you for reading,

    1. Same. 2020 has been a super gross year LOL. Political stuff, personal stuff in my life. Just a fail. BUT I figure it can only go up from here right? Thanks for reading!

  3. I love this blog. Sometimes anxiety has me literally paralyzed. The lack of motivation that you talk about can be really detrimental for my business but also for my psych moving forward. I love your approach and will totally be using these!

    1. Hi Jess,

      Lists are so cool. Besides helping you get things done, they also get you out of your head. All the things that you are worried about, can be written down. And once they’re on that piece of paper, you are allowed to forget about them a little. Because you can always remind yourself of these things by looking at the paper later.

      Thank you for reading,

  4. You are right about using our anxiety for motivation. That’s what I am currently trying to do and I pray it works so that I don’t feel more anxious.

    1. Hi Bo,
      I’m also curious if it works for you!
      Otherwise, try to distract yourself when you are anxious by doing something else. I watch something on YouTube to make me calm when I’m anxious.

      Thank you for reading,

    1. Thank you Crystal! There is much more information on DTT and my own website if you’re interested.

      Find what works for you though, because everyone is different.

      Thank you for reading,

  5. I’ll keep these in mind. I always try to stay motivated. Some days I do have lazy days but then I remind myself it’s back to work the following day. I think everyone needs a mental health day now and again.

    1. Hi Amber,

      You can’t always be “on”. But with the internet and our mobile phones, we sometimes forget to unplug. There are more entertaining things on your smartphone than you can ever experience.

      It is therefore incredibly important to unplug once in a while. Especially if you are prone to anxiety. Just let your mind wander. That way, it can make sense of things.

      Thanks for reading,

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