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Depression Self-Help: An Action Guide to Planning Your Time and Feeling Better

Depression robs you of motivation and energy and it’s not surprising that when feeling down you’d probably rather just stay home and in bed a lot of the time.

Unfortunately, by minimizing social contact and exposure to sunlight and fresh air and by spending less time doing what used to be really enjoyable you only perpetuate a negative cycle of depression:

You’re feeling tired and lethargic so you don’t go for a walk or do any physical activity – and then you have trouble sleeping at night and you feel even more tired the next day…and so on.

You ruminate on negative thoughts – thinking, “No one can stand to be around me because I am so unlikable” and so you decline to meet up with friends as you used to do. After a while, no one calls you to meet up anymore (since you always decline) and you take this as confirmation that no one likes you.

Although it’s very hard, if you’re feeling up to some depression self help, spending more time out of the house and with other people can do a lot to help you on your path to recovery.

However, because it’s so hard to break out of habits of inactivity, you’ve got to do more than just say to yourself that you’ll try to get out more – you’ve got to make a structured activity plan and make a serious effort to stick with it, even when you don’t feel like it.

Depression Self Help - Using an Activity Plan to Get Out and Get Active1

  1. If you just rely on your motivation at any given moment there’s good chance you’ll spend a lot of time on your couch, doing little and feeling low.
  2. By carefully scheduling worthwhile activities to a weekly plan – such as things you used to enjoy doing or social outings with friends – there’s a greater chance that you’ll actually get out and get active, even when you don’t feel like it at the time.
  3. By getting more active you’ll start to break out of behavioral and mental cycles that perpetuate depression.

Get Organized

Use your phone or tablet's organizer or buy an organizer/planner type book, one that has a schedule for the day/week with time slots to pencil in appointments and commitments etc.

Write Out a Time Schedule of Your Obligations and Responsibilities

Starting for the week ahead of you, take a few minutes to pencil in all the things you must do over the course of the next 7 days.

Some examples might include:

  • Mon - 2:30 dentist appointment
  • Mon to Fri - cook dinner for family 5:30 to 6:00 and clean up kitchen from 6:30 to 7:00
  • Tue - do grocery shopping from 2:00 to 3:00
  • Mon to Fri – walk dog from 9:00 to 9:30 in the morning
  • Saturday – take son to hockey practice from 7:00 to 9:00

Be thorough here and try to write down all of your obligations for the upcoming 7 days because it’s within the blank time-spaces that remain that you’re going to start adding  worthwhile activities.

Brainstorm a List of Worthwhile Activities

Take a few minutes to make a list of activities that you might want to add to your diary. Using categories can help you get started.

Try writing activities under the following categories, as well as any other that are relevant to you, and remember that since this is the brainstorming stage, you can write down anything that comes to mind, no matter how outlandish.

  • Social Activities - Such as going to your parents’ house for dinner or meeting with friends to go to a movie
  • Hobbies and other interests - Reading a novel, spending some time tinkering with the car engine, gardening etc.
  • Exercise - Heading to the gym, going for a brisk walk, riding your bike etc.
  • Activity Treats - Going shopping to buy a new outfit, going to the spa or getting a massage
  • Relaxation Activities - Meditating or doing yoga
  • Sleeping Times – Scheduling a consistent 8 or 9 hours of sleep on a regular schedule can improve the way you feel and up your energy levels

Adding Worthwhile Activities to Your Weekly Schedule

OK, now that you’ve got your list of ideas at the ready it’s time to add worthwhile activities to your weekly schedule.

Since you don’t want to get overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to start off by adding only 1 or 2 worthwhile activities per day. If that works well for you, you can always add in 3 or more per day in future weekly schedules.

Sticking to Your Schedule (Except When You Don’t)

This may sound a bit contradictory, but it’s important that you make a serious effort to stick to your weekly schedule and to complete your worthwhile activities, even when you don’t feel like it. That being said, it’s also important that your weekly activity diary not cause undue stress, so if you really can’t or really don’t want to do something, it’s OK to skip it or to adjust your schedule accordingly.

Things will come up – that’s OK, just do your best to complete as many of the activities you’ve scheduled as you can.

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