Keeping an Activity Diary
When I started treatment for depression, I began by keeping a simple diary of the week using a worksheet from the
website, provided by my therapist. The online hub is bursting with various resources for those suffering with mental illness to try. I used a handful when working in CBT sessions, in order to achieve a greater understanding of what I am going through, and the origins of how the illness came to exist and manifest. Out of all of the activities, the
was the one I returned to
The aim of using the sheet was initially to determine what I was getting up to every day. I was struggling to complete simple tasks and pursue hobbies that once brought me joy; such as reading books and watching films. Establishing an understanding of what I was getting up to every hour significantly increased the control I felt I had over my life. No minute slipped away on the sly. I could sit down at any point to see exactly where I was spending my time, and what I was spending it on.
Once I had found patterns in my behaviour (I noticed that I worked during the day, but lost time in the mornings and evenings) I was able to begin seizing free time to build healthy habits. Referring to
, I pulled activities from it to double the diary up as a schedule too. With guidance from my therapist, I started small; adding ten minutes of reading in here and a film to watch in there. To make film watching easier, my therapist suggested I have an interval in the middle of films. I personally found this to be an amazing idea and one I have since gone on to implement frequently.
Having the Activity Diary to refer to gave me a starting point and helped me structure my day. I would wake up knowing the outline for the hours ahead and it acted as a base to go back to if I ever felt lost. It stopped me spending too much time in my head. This made living feel a lot more manageable. I was focused on the day at hand, rather than the days as a whole. I wasn't sitting and wondering if I was wasting time, but instead aware of how I was always working towards something; and that 'something' was making sure I was getting better.
I then went on to rate all completed activities out of 0-10 for enjoyment and the sense of achievement I felt from completing them. At first I found the scorings to be low across the board. I was having to force myself to complete anything, as I found myself constantly fighting having one eye on the clock and my mind drifting. To counteract this, I implemented a rule from my therapist, that I could only suspend an activity once. This took into account my changing moods and how I wouldn't always want to complete certain things on certain days, whilst halting the possibility that I would avoid something entirely and risk hindering my progress. With determination, and through returning to these activities time and time again, it got easier. I became less time conscious and allowed any negative thoughts to wash over me rather than haunt me. As my happiness and willpower grew, my scores for enjoyment and achievement presented an improvement.
As time went on, I steadily increased the number of activities I took on, and how long I spent doing them. Always taking into consideration my concentration, and being careful not to push myself
far. I have come to appreciate that some days will be easier than others and that not being hard on myself, if I achieve more in one day than another, is especially important. Much to my surprise, I saw my productivity grow when I increased the time I spent indulging in what I loved; a key indicator of this being the post count on my blog for 2016 in comparison to previous years. It was lovely to learn that unwinding and taking time for myself is just as important as working my socks off. Whilst I don't use the sheet anymore, I continue to use a weekly planner and to-do lists every day without fail. Keeping an Activity Diary helped me put myself and my life back together, and I would be so lost without the lessons it taught me!