The fight against your depression may be the hardest thing you do in your entire life. There is no such thing as a guaranteed antidote but in my time as a counsellor talking to people suffering with depression, I have noticed certain themes that appear when people talk about actions they have taken that seemed to help them in some way. I have talked about some previously. You can read post No.1 here, and No.2 here.
So, for this post I want to put out the idea of setting goals and how it could help in your fight against depression.
Many people experience a feeling of worthlessness when depression is present. This idea that you are not of any value is fed by the lack of energy or motivation that often accompanies the depression. It can become a destructive cycle.
You wanted to get up early today but ended up staying in bed until tea time. You feel bad about yourself for not doing what you said you were going to do which leads you to have even less inclination to do it in future, because, well, you're rubbish and can't even get out of bed early on one day so what's the point in making any effort? And the less effort you make, the more you believe you are worthless. And so it goes on, with you getting progressively lower and feeling even worse about yourself.
So, what about goal-setting then?
In the example, you set yourself a goal of getting up early and you didn't do it, so it actually made you worse. This is where you have to be clever....
The key is not just to set goals. You need to set 'achievable goals'.
If you took a look around your house and decided it needed to be cleaned from top to bottom, telling yourself you are going to do it all tomorrow could be setting yourself up for failure. If you try but fail then you have more evidence to support your idea you are worthless.
So try not to sabotage your effort by setting a target that is unrealistic. This is where you need to be honest with yourself and what you are capable of.
Instead of deciding you are going to clean the entire house, how about just one room. Or maybe just one part of that room. Or just one cupboard or drawer.
The crucial thing is that whatever goal you set yourself, you believe you will be able to do it EVEN IF YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE IT WHEN THE TIME COMES.
Perhaps you own clothes that when you wear them you feel smarter or that you have made an effort. Your goal could be to wear them one day. Perhaps even lay them out ready the night before so you don't even have to go through the effort of taking them out of your wardrobe on the day.
Instead of vowing to go out for a long walk, because everyone knows exercise is good for depression, perhaps decide you will at least step foot outside and breath some outdoor air at some point. It's better than nothing.
These small achievable goals have numerous positive effects.
Firstly, things get done. whatever it was you decided you wanted to do, it's done.
Next, you prove to yourself that you do still, in fact, have the capacity to say you will do something and then actually do it.
Next, your self esteem will rise. You may not necessarily notice it at first but the act of setting a target and achieving it releases good chemicals into your body which can also lead to you viewing yourself and your actions more positively.
Also, imagine how better it would be at the end of a day to be able to say "at least I did that", instead of "another day wasted, doing nothing".
It's harder to think purely negative, dark thoughts about yourself when there are chinks of light there.
Just to repeat, the crucial thing to remember is to set 'achievable goals'. It doesn't matter how small or insignificant these things may seem to others. They don't know what you have to deal with and the struggle you have every day. Only you know the difference it makes to you, both physically and emotionally when you do them.
If getting up before 2pm and putting on your favourite T-shirt just for a couple of hours before you go back to bed makes you feel good for a short while - Go for it!!
The more goals you hit, the more momentum you could gain. You could start setting more optimistic goals. Then, as you achieve these higher expectations you can make comparisons.
You will be able to remind yourself that last week all you did was get up before dinner time once but this week there was a day you were up before breakfast.
That's progress. That's improvement. It means things are changing.
Before you know it, you could start to entertain thoughts that maybe there is a life where depression doesn't control you. You may start to trust yourself and believe in yourself again.
All this could stem from that first single 'achievable goal'.
If you have reached a point where you feel you need to talk to somebody to help with your depression then I offer counselling face to face and also online. Click here to see where I am and also how to contact me.