When I’m depressed, I go from sitting on my couch in the same spot, to sleeping in my bed and back again. It feels impossible to do anything but sit and think bad thoughts. I am completely miserable. The truth is however that sitting and cogitating on how miserable and desperate I feel is very bad for me. It doesn’t help me feel better and only serves to strengthen the cycle of depression. I feel depressed, so I do nothing and feel even more depressed. So along with my other golden rules I have an antidote to the cycle of depression. Alone it doesn’t cure depression, but it is one factor that can greatly improve my chances of moving out of a depressive episode. I now know that doing activities, no matter how small, can greatly improve my mood. So when I’m in that depressed state of inaction I say to myself
“I’m going to feel miserable if I sit on the couch and I will feel miserable if I do the dishes. But if I do the dishes I will at least achieve something and I will have a clean kitchen.”
So I convince myself to get off the couch and I do the dishes. Now I’m not saying this is easy. It is a massive challenge. Huge! But it is something tangible that I can do to actively improve my mood and get me on the road to recovery. So this is what I do:
1. Each night I get out my notebook and I write a plan for the following day. Depending on how I feel depends how much I squeeze in. I write down times of the day and then beside each time I put an activity. This is what my day looks like today:
8am – Have coffee
9am – Get dressed
10am – Write a blog
12pm – Lunch
1pm – Crochet
3pm – Have coffee
6pm – Dinner
Notice that I haven’t put a great deal on my list. The trick is to keep it simple. If you’re feeling really depressed only add things that contribute to your self-care such as getting dressed and brushing your hair. Believe me it makes you feel good to tick things off your list every day, even if those things are the very basics such as making a coffee or eating lunch. At the end of each day review your list. Feel good about all of the things you achieved that day. Try not to focus on any activity that you didn’t get to that day. That’s totally ok. You can always put what you didn’t do today, onto your list for tomorrow.
2. Include fun things every day. The most foreign concept to you when you’re depressed is to have fun. It seems absolutely impossible. So you have to start with the basics. When you write your plan for the day, include a simple activity that would normally bring you joy. My go to’s are crocheting and having coffee. Be cautious that when you are depressed it is very difficult to concentrate, so things like reading may make you a little frustrated. Choose a fun activity that doesn’t require too much of you at first. It can be anything from drawing to exercising to gardening. Keep it simple, keep it small and achievable and keep it fun. When you do the activity you won’t have fun at first. You won’t feel it. But keep at it because it is doing you good. Your brain will change because you are doing a fun activity. Keep doing it and eventually it will contribute to you feeling better. At the end of the day you will not only have done something fun and changed your brain, but you will look at your list and feel good that you have achieved something that you had planned.
I love this golden rule because it has worked so well for me. It is so overwhelmingly difficult in the beginning but like anything the more you practise it the better you get. It is well worth the effort. Depression is such an insidious all consuming and constant monster that overtakes your life and effects your every decision and movement. Take back control of this monster. Choose to do just one little thing to dent his armour. Just one thing at a time, no matter how little. Doing this won’t cure your depression, but it will certainly be a good start to changing your brain chemistry and that in the long run will help make you feel better. What have you got to lose? We feel miserable when we do nothing, so feel miserable and achieve something, no matter how small.