Rare exercises on how to be functional when you’re crippled by severe depression
I know how depression feels – you’re are avoiding going to sleep just because you don’t want to experience the next day, or maybe the opposite, you’re sleeping all the time just to avoid dealing with your life.
The smallest tasks seem impossible, you know that you should take a shower, but you just can’t muster up the strength to do it and sometimes you just don’t see the point either because you spend most of your time alone at home.
Not even talking about other people, in most cases people that have never dealt with depression can’t even understand you, you sometimes even get responses like “Why can’t you just pull yourself together?” or “Just stop feeling sad!” This makes you feel even worse since you feel that you are all alone in this horrible nightmare.
You would like to do productive things, you really want to, but even when you pull yourself together to start, you lose all of your motivation to continue. You just feel so powerless and hopeless and that feeds into the depression cycle and makes you feel even worse!
It is not easy to learn how to deal with depression, but it is possible. It takes tremendous effort, but if there was one thing that depression really taught me is to never give up. And in all honesty, when you have to actually fight with yourself to brush your teeth it is impossible not to become a mental warrior!
I read this on Reddit and I think it describes depression perfectly – “Having depression is like being in an abusive relationship with your brain”. So remember, when you fight for those inches of progress, don’t listen to those abusive thoughts that say there is no point in doing this! You will fail or others won’t like you. You wouldn’t take this stuff from others, so don’t take it from yourself.
I’m going to cover some issues that I dealt with and what strategies I used to overcome them.
Dealing with depression when it feels like no one understands you
Depression is tough, but it makes things even worse when it seems like people don’t understand. There are certain moments when it feels like that no one cares until you don’t try to kill yourself. And it actually is really hard to open up to someone about your issues.
The thing is… depression usually lies. It whispers in your head that no one will ever understand you and that there is no point in reaching out. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly people who refuse to acknowledge how serious depression is, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find support.
In the USA alone about 20 million people of all ages suffer from depression. You can always find support! Depression is nothing to be ashamed off!
There are so many supportive people out there! You should try to find at least one! It is super important that you get face time with that person.
The first go – to is family and friends. But sometimes it may feel like you will be too much of a burden to them, don’t worry, if you are in school go to your school therapist.
If that is not a possibility you can always Google for “free depression therapy in *your city*”. The chances are that if you are in a decent sized city, you will find one! You can always do paid depression therapy, but that can get really expensive and is not an opportunity for everyone.
What if I can’t find someone to talk to in life?
The internet is vast and I give you 100% guarantee that you can find some support online! There are tons of places where people are really supportive and will give you all the help that they can give you!
Here is what I suggest that you do.
- Open a new tab in your browser
- Open Google
- Type “depression forums”
- And go register to one of the many forums that talk about depression
- Or go to http://reddit.com/r/depression or http://reddit.com/r/anxiety where you will find over 100k people talking about depression and anxiety in each of those subs!
Go to any of those places and start a thread, you will soon find that there are people like you and that there are people who truly care. Don’t be ashamed to ask for a friend there if you feel lonely! Just ask: “Hey, I feel lonely most of the time and it feels like no one really understands me, anyone care to talk in PM’s?” You will most likely find someone in hours!
How to do that thing, when you’re crippled by depression !
Depression sabotages every effort that you try to make in order to feel better and when you don’t do it, you feel worse. It feeds on itself! It is important to break this cycle. I know that it feels like every cell in your body is fighting against you doing that small thing.
Making your bed, brushing your teeth, making a meal, taking a shower… all of these things feel almost impossible to do, they seem like impossible tasks.
The trick here is to make a MICRO-to-do list.
This one simple thing can bring massive improvements in your life. Before I get into how to do it let me tell you why it is so powerful.
As I mentioned before, depression feeds on itself, so it creates this cycle:
You want to do the thing -> You try to do the thing -> Your bran tells you that it is too hard or there is no point -> You don’t do the thing -> You feel even more depressed because you didn’t do the thing
The cycle repeats itself and every time it repeats itself it gets you into a deeper state of depression. So breaking it is the key! And this exercise helps you to do it.
Let’s say that you want to take a shower and your depression is telling you that it takes too much time and effort, but deep down you already know that if you don’t do it, you will feel terrible later.
You have to break it down into MICRO tasks. They have to be so small that even you find it ridiculously easy. I strongly suggest that you do it on a paper, but you can do it mentally one by one.
Here is how the list might look like:
- Take the blanket off
- Sit up
- Stand up
- Walk to the shower
- Turn on the light
- Take your pants off
- Take your shirt off
- Step into the shower
- Start the water (at this point you’ve already achieved your main goal)
- Put shampoo in hair
- Wash the body
- Rinse out shampoo from hair
- Step out of the shower
- Get a towel
- Put pants back on
- Put the shirt back on
This is a really long list, but the magic is in that you trick your brain into thinking that these are so ridiculously small tasks, that you CAN do it. Don’t think too much about the length of the list. A great trick would be to fold it up so you only see 1 – 3 tasks at a time. That way you don’t get too overwhelmed.
Some might say that takes too much time to make this list or you don’t have the strength to make this list. If the latter is the case then go META, do MICRO tasking for the MICRO tasking list.
This exercise gets the ball rolling and breaks the cycle. So you feel empowered and can find the strength for the next tasks. Here is the positive cycle.
You want to do the tasks -> You make the MICRO task list -> Each finished MICRO action helps to build the productivity momentum -> You finish the task -> You feel better about yourself and depression reduces.
I found that for me productivity and actually doing the small things is a crucial step in overcoming depression. The first day I did only one tasks, the second two and so it grew and I felt better day by day!
Little known exercise, which is super effective in overcoming negative thoughts!
Another big issue with depression is that it keeps feeding you the thoughts that you are worthless, you can’t do anything right, no one likes or loves you, you will never get better etc. The list goes on and on.
This exercise is also an extremely good add-on to the previous one, as you will surely experience negative thoughts when you will try to do it like – there is no point in doing this, it will never help me, I’m a lost case.
People usually recommend you to fight your negative thoughts, but they usually don’t tell you how to do it. So here is a step by step guide on how to do it. I would say that this exercise did about 70% of all the work in my recovery from depression. I can’t stress how useful it was for me.
Open up Excell or just take a piece of paper and write down all the negative thoughts that are in your head, ALL OF THEM no matter how insignificant they might seem. Here is an example list:
- I’m worthless
- I can’t seem to do anything right
- I’m a burden to everyone
- I will never get better
- No one likes me
- There is no point in what I’m doing
Again, this is just an example and they are really generalized, if you have ones about a specific situation write those ones down as well.
Then you start giving rational response to every single one of them. Remember, this is depression talking not you, if you’ve been suffering from depression for a long time it might be hard to tell the difference between what are your thoughts and which ones come from depression, but most likely they all come from depression!
Here is how your responses might look:
This is not true, before I started to experience depression, I was a productive guy that did a lot of things and I brought value into other people’s lives. And even now, when I’m not functioning properly, I still sometimes help out my mum and my friends. It is true, that my productivity has dropped, but that is only due to depression, I’m still quite good as a human being.
I will never get better
How can I know this for sure? There are dozens of people that have gotten better by working with their depression. I shouldn’t try to predict the future, I should just do my best to get better and then if something isn’t working I should just try something else. I also have to remember that it takes tremendous effort to beat depression, so I shouldn’t give up too fast.
No one likes me
Also not true. Although I’ve lost quite a few friends due to depression, there is still David that hangs out with me. Also my father seems to be interested in me getting better.
You should spend at least 10 – 15 minutes each day doing this exercise, because you will come up with new negative thoughts that arise from various situations, reply to them all! It will make you feel better and if you make this a habit, you will actually start talking more positively in your thoughts.
These three things should help you to see that dealing with depression is hard, but there are things that you can do on your own to help you get better. Remember to keep fighting!
If you have any questions about the exercises feel free to leave a comment.
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