Depression: A Way To Start Moving When It Feels Like You Can’t


One of the nastiest symptoms of major depression is the lack of momentum or motivation for getting things done.

Building up energy for movement seems impossible when you are at a standstill, and when it hurts to move.

Yet, there are certain activities depressed people engage in to find symptom relief. Some of us veg-out watching the shopping network, curl up and nap, read novels, play video or card games, do crosswords, or thumb through magazines.

These coping activities can be used to help us get going, even when we cannot bear the thought of moving. By using our favorite symptom-relieving activity as a reward for taking the smallest of steps, we can begin to stir our momentum.

Step and Reward Strategy

Let’s say that the only time life feels bearable is when you curl up on the couch and watch the shopping network. Yet, you cannot completely forget that the bathroom needs cleaning. The last time you were in there some alien looking cooties were multiplying around the toilet rim.

Here’s what you might try:

  1. Write down, or make a mental list, of small steps you can take to clean the bathroom; steps that are so small they require little time or energy (e.g., picking up a towel and putting it in the hamper, or sprinkling cleanser in the sink).
  2. Every time you complete one small clean-the-bathroom step you reward yourself with 30 minutes of shopping network symptom-relief. This makes each step doable because you know that in a very short time you will enjoy relief for a half hour.
  3. You can help yourself take each step by thinking something like, “I don’t want to do this but I will, because it won’t take long and then I can enjoy the sweet relief of numbing myself with the shopping chatter.”
  4. If at anytime you have the energy to complete more than one cleaning step you can, but you are under no obligation to do more than one at a time.

If you spend an afternoon or evening using this strategy the bathroom will be a bit cleaner and your momentum will be stirred. Just substitute your most effective coping activity for the shopping network and you are good to slowly go at whatever task needs to get done.

Photo credit: Phil and Pam Gradwell


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