Breaking Down The Wall
In my second or third CBT session, my therapist likened tackling depression to breaking down a brick wall. In order to break down the wall (
) you need to continuously repeat the activity of hammering away at it (
completing constructive activities, i.e. daily tasks, hygiene routines, hobbies, exercise, socialising, etc
) and push through any urge to stop (
negative feelings, thoughts and behaviours
). Of course breaking down a wall takes time, and like many things can seem utterly impossible until it's done, but that's where the metaphor rings true.
Depression can make the most enjoyable activities seem like a chore and turn the simplest tasks into exhausting challenges, but in the end the only choice is to ride the wave and keep on keepin' on. Sure it sounds easy on paper, and of course this goes out the window when you're trying to read a chapter of a book for fun, and your mind is on anything else but that; except through creating smaller tangible steps to give yourself something to focus on and work towards, you'll start to see positive progress. With this in mind, I thought I would share some steps that have helped and are helping me in the hopes that they may help you too...
List goals and ideals
I found the best place to start was creating a massive list of goals. There is no limit on these goals for no goal is too big or small - even if one of your goals is to shower every other day. It helps to consider everything you want to build into your daily routine, restart doing and things that
you've always wanted to do. For example, I wanted to read more often, get back into watching films and take piano lessons. Having a sheet of paper with everything on it can give you something physical to refer to and concentrate on. I've found that by making a list I don't find myself feeling lost as much, as there is always something on the list I can do.
This list isn't definitive and is likely to continually grow as you find more you would like to do - just don't let the size of the goals or list itself dissuade you. Think of it
more as a referral sheet or overall plan than a strict to-do list with a deadline
This is where you identify ways that'll make reaching your goals achievable. You take a handful of the goals and schedule in small steps to work towards them throughout the week. Make these steps realistic. For example, to work towards reading more, I was encouraged to make time to read each day. Naturally I began thinking about clearing a half hour slot, when my therapist suggested I could start with ten minutes and build the time up gradually. I decided to complete ten minutes of reading a night, and more often than not would end up reading for longer as I got into the swing of it. Naturally there will be times that scheduled activities get missed, we're only human at the end of the day, but it's important to try and try again. My therapist told me to put the rule in place that I can only delay an activity once. If I decide not to read that day as I don't feel like it, I must complete the activity when I've rescheduled to do it. This takes into account that there will be days in which completing said activity will be harder, but stops the activity from being repeatedly avoided and falling off your radar altogether.
One minute rule
In the vein of starting small, I was introduced to the one minute rule from the
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
podcast. The premise is simple; if you have something to do that you know will take less than a minute, get it done and out of the way. This has meant I make my bed, put dirty dishes away and take worn clothes to the washing basket as and when I need to. Completing little tasks throughout the day stops there being a build up which will take longer to sort out and therefore is more helpful in the long run. Another tip I learnt from a
video is to put something back where it belongs whenever you get up from sitting down. Similarly this helps you tidy as you go and get around having to deal with a growing mess - something I really struggle with. Rubin wasn't wrong when she said: "
Cut yourself some slack
You didn't get around to doing one, two, three, any of the things on your schedule today? That's okay. I found myself continuously comparing my productivity now to how I had been in the past and becoming increasingly frustrated. When I was at school and studying for my A-Levels, I was so driven and determined. I could sit and work on a project for hours and hours without ever becoming too distracted. I would push myself to complete work early and to the highest standard I could. My therapist gently informed me that I wasn't in that position anymore and instead am in a new one. This was hard to hear, but helped me understand that I needed to navigate things differently. Some days will be harder than others, and not everything will change or be back to normal all at once, but that doesn't mean I won't ever be back to where I once was -
and then some
Take your time and celebrate your mini victories.
Celebrate mini victories
You got out of bed? You cleansed your face? You saw friends today?
. Okay. I
it can feel bizarre to celebrate things many may see as insignificant, but it's important to remember that nothing big ever happens all at once. It takes a lot of little steps to achieve incredible things, so don't disregard any positive steps as they are just the beginning. There will be periods in which your moods soar and dip, but by taking note of these achievements and referring to them when you're experiencing a dip, you can remind yourself of just how far you've come. Never forget that tomorrow is a clean slate and a great place to start over.