Depression and To Do List

The Good Ol’ To Do List!

Everyone has one either physically written out or mentally written in their mind.  We all have things we need to do from basic daily chores to house reno’s, mowing the lawn, going to the dentist etc.

Personally, I am a big fan of lists.  They have helped me keep tabs on what I need to do and the feeling of crossing off something is satisfying.  I get a sense of accomplishment when I am able to have a productive day getting “stuff” done.

Enter depression and my enjoyment of lists disappeared.  As many of you reading may be aware, depression sucks the life right out of you.  Just getting out of bed each day can feel like a chore.  There are many days when you know you need to get some things done but your energy/desire/ability to do so is not there.

For people who enjoy being productive, this can lead to a great sense of failure.  You beat yourself up for being lazy and feel like you “should” be doing more.  This abuse on yourself leads to you feeling even worse.  That daily cycle beats you up and the depression worsens.

Counselor’s Advice

When I started going to therapy, I was living on my own again and basically had to fend for myself.  I didn’t have family or friends near by to help me with the daily chores like getting groceries, cleaning or cooking.  I had to do everything on my own.  This was a huge challenge on those days when I was really really down.

My counselor and I talked about this and I explained that I would have this list of things I needed to get done but there were days when I couldn’t do them all….or even a few of them.  I felt like I was completely useless and I beat myself up about it.

She started to explain to me how this kind of list was a negative for somebody in my position.  When we see a long list of things we need to do we often become overwhelmed if we can’t get to them all.  That sense of being overwhelmed can often lead to doing nothing.

Her advice – write out one or two things that you want to accomplish each day.  Given the debilitating effect of depression, focusing on one thing can often take all your effort.  So don’t worry about ALL the things you need to get done, instead focus on ONE thing you need to get done.

Say it is getting groceries.  Prepare yourself to go out and get what you need.  When you are back, relax.  Take the rest of the day off.  Treat yourself to something.  If you happen to find the energy to do something else, BONUS!  If you don’t, who cares, you had a productive day.

As time goes by, and you keep progressing with your recovery, you will find you can start doing more each day.  If you have a bit of a set back, go back to small steps again for a few days.  Don’t beat yourself up.  You are not being lazy.  You are doing what you need to do to get better.

Small Steps

Don’t feel like you have to recover in one day/week/month.  It is a process that will take time.  This strategy for taking on the to do list helped me so much.

I started focusing on one thing a day and after awhile I realized I was doing a couple things.  Some days I would be extra productive and get a few things done.  But if I didn’t, I accepted that it was OK.

little steps

Life is busy and it can feel like we have so much to do.  A lot of things we do need to do but most things can wait until tomorrow.  As long as you are focused on small steps, and you are determined to get better, good things will start to happen.