For example, we might find that other people in our life are a source of stress: we can try talking with them about changes they might make but, unless they actually identify the issue for themselves and are willing to make those changes, then the issue will remain largely out of our control.
We can often put a lot of time and energy into wanting things to be different, but, on reflection, realise that we have little personal agency to make that change ourselves. The message here is not about giving up on the difficult things – it is about focusing our energy into areas where it will actually be effective (rather than wasting it on areas where it will not), and setting realistic and achievable goals accordingly. It is unlikely we will achieve everything we want in one go, particularly if we are struggling with depression and anxiety, making each step feel harder.
Identifying Areas for Change
A useful starting point is taking a piece of paper and writing down a number of things in your life you wish were different. Don’t try to be too organised at this stage: simply write down words or phrases that come into your mind.
Then, organise them into four main groups:
Making a Start
Being kind to ourselves is important here. It is like building a house: it is critical to spend time on laying down secure foundations to enable us to make progress later on. Putting some important things in place is the first step, which will enable you to reflect more accurately on the other things in making your plans for change.
Self-care in the mornings
First thing in the morning is often a particularly difficult time when your mood is low. If you are finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, then making yourself a clear, straightforward self-care plan for the first half hour of the day can help you start the day as well as possible. Try to set yourself the target of getting up out of bed within 10 minutes of waking up.
Example: When I wake up ____ I will get up straight away if I can, or else have the alarm set to give myself one 10-minute snooze if I want one and then get up
Straight after getting out of bed I will ____ put on the light or open the curtain and take a few deep, relaxing breaths
Then I will prepare myself for the day in a self-caring way by ____ having a shower, getting dressed and eating something nutritious for breakfast
If I am finding this difficult to do ____ I will be kind to myself and recognise how hard it is to do this when I am feeling so low. I will encourage myself to try anyway, because I know it will make me feel better in the long run. If it is a particularly difficult day I will let myself go back to bed for half an hour before trying again
Making a Soothing ‘Home Space’
Is your room a welcoming, comfortable place to be? Does it offer you a soothing place to rest and re-charge, as well as an environment conducive to study and concentration? Some aspects of this might be outside of your control, but what can you do to improve your home environment and make it a less depressing place to be?
Consider five simple things you can do to make your room a more pleasant environment in the form of a set of intentions.
Depression and anxiety can narrow your perspective and work to keep you looking inward. The more negatively introspective you become, the firmer depression takes hold and the more you get sucked into depressed thinking and tunnel vision.
Using purposeful distraction is a powerful way to resist this depressed ‘rumination’ habit. So, one way to choose useful activities for your list is to look at how well they might distract you and engage your mind in something purposeful or meaningful.
My ‘Focusing Outward’ Ideas
If you are feeling very low, then just aim for very simple distractions to start with – as long as they are reasonably constructive. You can then build up towards more meaningful ways to engage your time, energy and hope.
Look at some of the suggestions below, and make a list of activities that you can refer to when you need ideas for something to distract you from depressive rumination:
My ‘Focusing Outward’ Plan
Choose one of the ideas you have listed above, and plan to put it into action this week. Write an intention statement to help you make a clear, focused goal.
Here is an example: