“Action is the antidote to despair.” – by Joan Baez
As you can see by the 12-day gap in blog entries, staying in action consistently can be difficult for a depressive. (If you have depression and have figured out some effective strategies for keeping yourself moving, I’d love to hear them! No doubt, many others would, as well. Feel free to enter them in the Comments section.) Having my mother visit for two weeks may have been a factor, but I want to be effective in my life and achieve my goals regardless of who’s visiting or what’s going on, barring the occasional hurricane or insect infestation. As you may have gleaned by now, my recovery from depression is a work in progress.
So, what to do? Ahh, fodder for many blog posts to come. The place to start, I think, is with some gentle structure—what I call “The Dailies.” These are three simple actions that, no matter how inconsistently you perform them, will give you an emotional and physical boost. The more consistent you are with completing these tasks daily, the better you’ll feel and the more their completion provides a foundation for further accomplishments. As your health improves, you’ll be able to take on greater levels of sustained action.
The Three Daily Actions…
The three actions that you can strive to perform daily are as follows:
- Make your bed every day. This takes about five (5) minutes. Do it immediately after getting out of bed. Yeah, I know, it took you an hour to wake up and another hour to put your feet on the floor; that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be Better Homes & Gardens; just toss the pillows aside, brush off the bottom sheet and pull the top sheet, blanket, and spread up. Put the pillows back. The physical exertion required to do even this much will get your blood moving and your brain working just a little bit better. And you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment at the beginning of your day (even it if is 1:00 in the afternoon).
- Do some kind of physical movement for 10 minutes every day. This could be doing easy arm and leg exercises while you’re lying in bed. It could include taking a couple of turns around your apartment complex. Or it could look like putting on an upbeat CD and dancing. Anything to get your body moving. Enlist one or two of your support team members to be exercise buddies. A neighbor would be ideal in this role. You’ll likely feel a greater sense of optimism after you’re done.
If your depression is moderate: Increase your physical activity to a 20-30 minute walk. Walking is truly one of the best exercises for people with depression. It doesn’t require any special equipment, can be done at any time of day, and it’s free. If you have access to a pool, take advantage of that. For days when the weather is too hot or too cold to be outside, check out exercise videos from the library that contain several brief workouts.
If your depression is mild: Increase your physical activity to a 30-40 minute walk or workout. This will catapult you into a feeling of well-being and greater functionality.
- Call a member of your support team. Even if it’s just to check in and say, “Hi, I’m still alive,” you should be in touch with another human being by voice or in person every day. I encourage you to call rather than text, as the sound of another person’s voice provides a greater sense of connection. Make your phone call as early in the day as you can to power you up for the rest of your day. If you need help with something, ask.
Make your bed. Move physically. Call someone supportive. That’s it. Just three simple daily actions that will improve your life in ways that may seem insignificant but will be, in reality, both uplifting and healing. If you can’t do all three actions, then do what you can.
…And How to Get Them Done
Here are some suggestions on how to actually accomplish these actions:
- Set a timer or stopwatch.
- Bookend with a member of your support team—this could be a resident family member or roommate. “Hon, I really need to go for a 10-minute walk, but I won’t do it if it’s just me. Would you mind coming with me?” (“Hon” could probably use the walk, too. And if “Hon” says no, ask someone else.)
- Give a member of your support team permission to remind you to complete at least one of these actions every day.
- Set a virtual reminder in your online calendar or PDA. Don’t turn off the beeping until you’ve started the action.
- Go low-tech: post stickies with reminders in key places (bathroom, fridge, etc.).
- Write on a piece of paper, “Love and support come to me through my phone,” and tape it to the back of your phone. Read it every time you pass by the phone or pick it up.
- Project yourself into the future to the time after you’ve completed the action(s) and imagine how much better you’ll feel.
- Ask your Higher Power for the motivation you need to complete these actions. You’ll be amazed at how your mood and energy shift after saying this simple prayer.
I recognize that these actions are simple but that completing them may not be easy, depending upon the severity of your depression. Do not allow yourself to feel bad if you don’t do them, or only do one or two of the actions; this is not an exercise in inducing guilt or adding to your stress load. It is an opportunity to practice nurturing yourself, boosting your brain chemistry, and reminding yourself that you’re not alone.
(c) 2010 by Patricia R. Henschen