Depression is a selfish beast. Instead of having you focus externally on your family, friends, job, pets, interests, plans and dreams — it forces the focus within. You isolate, shut out the world and focus on you. This is especially true in the mornings when it is hard to get out of bed and get things done. You feel tired and negative. An outstanding pile of work is waiting for you by your office computer, and yet you just cannot force yourself to do it. The negative, internal cloud has you in its grip and focusing on things outside of yourself is impossible, or so it would seem.
If you have noticed that your depression makes you float through your day without any purpose, forcing you to second-guess every decision and choice you made, then you have also noticed that your depression can feel out of control. That however, could not be further from the truth. You can always exercise control. The question is how?
When you are depressed, it always helps to know in advance what your day will look like. The best method for doing so is to put a plan in place when you are feeling a bit better. You have enough to worry about when depression actually hits, without worrying about what to do. Putting a plan together when you are depressed puts you at a disadvantage, assuming that you can create some sort of structure when you can barely get through your day. One of the biggest problems with not being able to have anything to do on your depressed days is that the minimum structure of any kind can lend itself to a purpose for getting out of bed.
Lets look at someone who has a whole day ahead of them without having anything planned. If they wake up and do not have anywhere to be or anything to do, they are placing themselves at a high risk for staying in bed all day. If our “someone” spends a day in bed, that “someone” is also missing out on a potentially meaningful or enjoyable activity. Often, if by the end of the day nothing was accomplished, the negative thinking kicks in and says: “You did not get anything done. You did not interact with anyone today. You do not feel accomplished or worthwhile as a human being. You have no purpose or meaning in life.” By this point — your depression is in full control.
Unfortunately, this scenario is common. When you do not set up a plan or structure for your depressed days, you are asking for more trouble. It works the same way with our brains. Structure can give an incredible sense of peace and calmness. Knowing that you have something to do or somewhere to be can help fuel your energy, even when you think you are spent. Without a structure, you can spend your days in a fog, wondering if you can get anything done and question the meaning of your life. Structure can give purpose for getting out of bed.
Here are some suggestions to setting up structure:
- Break up your day into hours and decide what you will do during each hour.
- Purpose: You will be able to focus on what needs to be done instead of focusing on you and your negative thoughts.
- Schedule repeated events into your planner.
- Purpose: Following some routine is healthy when your brain is depressed. Routine activities can help you function on habit, getting you from one hour to the next.
- Make your schedule in advance.
- Purpose: On your depressed days, decision-making is an impossible task. Make your life a little easier and decide in advance on your schedule.
- Make each day meaningful.
- Purpose: It can be a huge relief to know that you have something to do or somewhere to be. This is your purpose for the day and your measuring mark for what you are able to do on your depressed days.
Not having a structured plan can lead to more depression, not less. This makes intuitive sense because on your depressed days you are more focused inward and have more time to contemplate your thoughts, and ‘buy into’ the negative thoughts. Stop waiting and help yourself find meaning, even on your depressed days!