Depressive symptoms can make people feel tired, even first thing in the morning when they wake up. They may also feel a lack of energy and motivation—so all the activities of work and fun begin to pile up, undone. When they look at their undone work and all the fun they’ve missed, they can feel sad and overwhelmed, leading to a spiral of feelings of guilt, uselessness, and failure. And so they miss out on even more work and more fun, and the cycle perpetuates itself.
One way to break out of this cycle is just beginning to increase activity levels, bit by bit.
But when you’re overwhelmed and have so much to catch up on, where do you even start?
The Center for Clinical Interventions, an office in Western Australia that creates and disseminates information for people with mental health challenges, has developed a bunch of links to help with this problem.
For example, their Behavioral Strategies for Managing Depression includes a list of 185 ideas about pleasurable activities that someone could do! Check these out:
- planning: thinking about planning a day’s activities
- exercising: going ice skating, roller skating/blading, playing tennis, slacklining
- making stuff: sketching, painting, writing, cooking
- thinking: about your good qualities, you’re a person who can cope, and you have a lot more going for you than most people
Check out the list—it’s super long and has something for everyone.
When you’re feeling depressed, it’s hard to remember these activities are open to you. You have to plan fun and enjoyable activities into your life, and it’s this effort that can counter the feelings of depression.
The module includes a worksheet to help you track your activities and rate your depression, pleasant feelings, and sense of achievement before and after the activities. It also has a weekly schedule to help plan out daily responsibilities and pleasurable activities.
Setting reasonable goals for yourself in the beginning is important so it won’t feel like too much too soon. Start slow by adding just a few small activities a week. Then slowly increase the number of activities over time. Choosing to perform tasks that give you a sense of achievement or mastery will help you feel like you are starting to regain control over your life. Once you have a sense of achievement it may encourage you to do more.
This is just one of the Center for Clinical Interventions’ modules to help with behavioral health problems. Check out the full list here—it’s cool.
What are the fun, pleasurable, or rewarding activities you engage in to help counter your depression and boost your mood? Share your strategies with us!