The Trouble With Being on Autopilot

I’m currently making my way out of a months-long mental funk, and things have felt a little off. That’s not to say that I’ve been struggling too much or things are unbearable. But sometimes you end up in a bit of a funk, and if that affects your mental health it can take some time to climb out of that hole. This time, I realized one of the main reasons I ended up in this funk was that I was on autopilot when it came to my mental health. Though being on autopilot has its benefits with getting through our day-to-day activities, it can also contribute to negatively affecting our mental health.

Before I go further, what do I mean by the term being on autopilot in regards to mental health? Obviously when we hear the word we think of a car or other vehicle that’s driven automatically, letting someone/something else take the wheel while we mindlessly enjoy the journey. But did you know that we can be on autopilot in the very same way?

When it comes to being a person, being on autopilot means going through daily activities mindlessly or without very much thought or focus. A good example here is when someone makes a drive they’ve done a thousand times before, and when they get to their destination they forget they made the drive.

Until recently, the only context I’d heard of someone living their life on autopilot is from entrepreneurs and inspirational speakers who push people to chase their best life. And while I believe there’s merit to that point of view, I’m talking about something a little different here. My trouble with being on autopilot is that while it’s good for me at times, it’s also a tricky place to be in if I want to stay mentally healthy.

As we’ve previously discussed here, there are symptoms of depression that lead to a loss in enjoyment, pleasure, focus and concentration in our day-to-day lives. There are plenty of ways that being on autopilot has allowed me to get things done when I’m dealing with symptoms of depression or anxiety.

However, being on autopilot also means my brain is on a blank, default setting. For someone experiencing depression, that default setting can be incredibly negative or self-critical. If you live in that negative default for too long, you can end up in a weird headspace where you’re not depressed, but not really feeling good about anything, either.

There are pros and cons to being on autopilot, and the trick is often figuring out when those times are and how to take advantage of them. Self-awareness and action go a long way toward getting out of a mental health funk, especially when it comes to being on autopilot. At the end of the day, figuring this out is like other aspects of managing mental health – you want to find the solution that’s right for you and your wellness.


11 thoughts on “The Trouble With Being on Autopilot

    • Nathan @ MBNB August 12, 2021 / 8:23 pm

      I have learned a lot about treatment resistant topics because of you, thank you for sharing! Mental health can be so nuanced, and I get reminded of that on a daily basis.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The Healing Mom August 11, 2021 / 4:55 pm

    How do you go about getting out of autopilot? Or is it through awareness or some kind of change in terms of self talk?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan @ MBNB August 12, 2021 / 8:25 pm

      A big part is awareness – I have to name what I’m feeling and acknowledge that things aren’t as they should be. My self talk doesn’t always change, but I can call out my own thinking for being flawed and incorrect, which is very helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

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