How to Escape an “I Give Up” Mindset

girl with head on desk and giving up

Your eyes open as you wake up, seeing the morning sun filtering through a window shade. And you immediately feel it. The heaviness. The fog. The black cloud. That feeling of intense sadness that makes you want to stay in the comfort of your bed instead of getting up to face the day.

Maybe your depression is weighing you down. Or, perhaps your anxiety is just too much and you don’t want to encounter situations throughout your day that will challenge your already fragile nerves.

And that’s when you think: “I give up.”

By saying this to yourself, maybe you’re giving up on your to-do list for the day. Or in a larger sense, you feel like giving up on your life goals, and perhaps yourself in the process.

Everyone is prone to this “I give up” way of thinking at certain points in life. According to The University of Scranton, 30% of those who set New Year’s resolutions give them up within two weeks. It’s tough on a normal day to stick to your goals. When you pile on depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, it can be easy to see why anyone would want to throw in the towel.

If you’re grappling with these mental health hurdles, you should know that it’s not your fault that you’re thinking these thoughts. In fact, it’s to be expected, and that’s okay.

Instead of allowing your lack of motivation to define you, you can learn why certain disorders can lead to this “I give up” way of thinking and what to do about it.

Causes of an “I Give Up” Mentality

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and helpless these days, it may help you to realize that your “I give up” thinking can be attributed to your biology, and not something you’ve done wrong.

Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, believes that these I-give-up thoughts oftentimes stem from depression.

“Depression is one of the principal causes,” she says. “It typically creates a lack of motivation and deep sadness that prevents the person from seeing beyond that.”

Another leading source of this way of thinking is anxiety, something that can make you feel powerless.

“Anxiety can be a common cause as well,” Catchings notes. “The fear of doing something, and what can happen if we do it, makes some people want to give up before even trying.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also make one want to give up.

Catchings shares that “PTSD can also fall under this category. Many symptoms affect the person when this diagnosis is present, causing him or her to feel like giving up. Some of these symptoms are fear, panic attacks, sadness, low self-esteem, and negative cognitions.”

It’s no wonder that difficult mental health disorders tend to make people feel less-than-inspired to take on the day. Apart from depression and anxiety, life circumstances can bring about this ruminating.

“Learned helplessness, as a result of depression or anxiety, or even due to life circumstances, can be another cause,” Catchings observes. “However, this is not as common.”

Why Do We Give Up So Easily?

It’s likely that we can agree that it’s easier to be negative than positive when we’re dealing with mental health challenges. You fall into old patterns and habits. You get angry when a goal isn’t easily realized. It’s easy to think “I give up” if our brains have been trained a certain way.

Catchings says that there can be several reasons as to why we give up so easily, adding that“negative past experiences, family systems growing up, fear, chemical imbalances, lack of social support, adjustment issues, a negative event.” can all contribute to this sense of helplessness.

As Catchings pointed out, this negative thinking can go all the way back to our childhoods.

“It can easily be a result of our upbringing. Sometimes we learn this behavior from our parents, and it is very difficult for us to change our approach. It can also be that our parents allowed us to quit, and they did not encourage us to complete anything. In other words, it can be a learned behavior,” Catchings says.

Why to Continue Trying

The idea of not putting forth any effort can sound appealing when you’re feeling depressed or anxious. Effort takes energy, and maybe lying in bed would feel a lot better. It might feel good in the short term, but there are consequences to giving up that will matter in the long run.

Catchings lists the potential consequences of giving up:

  • You won’t get to experience the feeling of accomplishing something
  • Learned helplessness
  • A lack of learning experiences
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Lost educational and professional opportunities
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress

“When you give up, you are missing out on opportunities and experiences,” Catching says. “The last thing you want in life is to look back and say, ‘I wasted this much time giving up instead of trying and seeing even failure as a learning experience.’”

Helpful Tips for When You Feel Desperate and Depressed

When you’re really feeling down or a situation has arisen that challenges your motivation, first, try to stop yourself as soon as you think, “I give up.”

“You can do a quick body and mind scan and check if someone, or something, is causing this lack of motivation,” Catchings says. That will allow you to quickly take action and at least assess what might be causing these feelings of defeat.

When you focus on those less-than-desirable feelings, try not to panic or get angry at yourself. As Catchings says, “Please remind yourself that the feeling may be uncomfortable, but you can deal with it and still motivate yourself. In other words, acknowledge the feeling and let it know that you are still in control.”

In the long term, reframing your thinking can be beneficial.

“This means thinking positively,” Catchings elaborates. “For example, instead of saying, ‘I cannot do that,’ reframe to say, ‘I cannot do that, but I can do this instead.’”

You can also practice visualization, imagining yourself doing something difficult due to a lack of motivation. The more you practice the technique, the easier it may become to actually accomplish the goal you feel like giving up on.

Additionally, you can ask yourself if the problem or issue will matter in six months, one year, or five years, which “helps us to keep perspective about how bad our situation is,” Catchings says. “Most of the time, it is not as bad.”

When You May Need Help

If motivation is scarce and those “I give up” thoughts won’t go away, don’t be ashamed to ask for help from friends, loved ones, or a licensed therapist. If you’re looking for help accomplishing your goals consider trying online therapy, a convenient and inexpensive way to get assistance in order to start following through with what you set out to.

“You can look for help,” Catchings says. “Seeing a therapist can help you to learn tools to regain your happiness and motivation again.”

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