Feeling Depressed? Here's How To Manage Depression Through Activity
If you're dealing with depression, you probably know all too well about feeling unmotivated, tired all the time, and not enjoying things you used to love. It can make you slack off on your responsibilities and stop doing the things you enjoy, which just makes your depression worse. But don't worry, in this article, we'll show you how to manage your depression by increasing your activity levels!
Why You Might Be Feeling Depressed
Depression can be caused by a variety of factors, from genetics to major life stressors and personal experiences, such as one's upbringing. It's a complex condition that affects people in different ways. But here's the kicker: no matter what the root cause is, depression can actually make itself worse! That's right, the symptoms can feed into each other and create a vicious cycle. So it's important to recognize the signs of depression and seek help before things spiral out of control.
The vicious cycle of depression is a well-known phenomenon. Depression leads to low motivation, lack of interest in hobbies or activities, and decreased energy, which understandably causes a person to reduce their activity levels and possibly neglect important responsibilities. Over time, this can further reduce energy levels and motivation, fuel negative self-talk about a person's self-worth, value, and competency, and foster feelings of guilt, hopelessness, helplessness, defeat, and sadness.
On top of dealing with their own lack of motivation and negative thoughts, people with depression might also have to face criticism and negativity from those around them, which acts to reinforce their negative self-talk and depressive feelings. Yet again, another vicious cycle!
How to Manage Depression Through Behavioural Activation
One of the most effective ways to combat depression is through the utilization of a CBT technique known as Behavioural Activation, which is a fancy way of saying "take action". This powerful, yet simple, approach has consistently demonstrated its effectiveness as a treatment method for depression can help you learn how to manage your depression better.
The key is to actively participate in activities that bring you joy and a sense of accomplishment. Overcoming the initial obstacles of feeling unmotivated, tired, and uninterested can be challenging, but it is crucial to approach this struggle with self-compassion. We are not advocating for a dismissive and invalidating "suck it up buttercup" mentality. Instead, we encourage a gentle push towards lifting yourself out of this depressive state. Acknowledge the difficulty of finding motivation and constantly remind yourself of the reasons why you are determined to overcome your depression.
When we purposefully immerse ourselves in such activities, we experience a boost in self-confidence, heightened productivity (thus alleviating any guilt over neglecting our duties), and a surge of energy and positivity. This, in turn, fuels our motivation to pursue more activities, effectively breaking and reversing the cycle!
Tips for Practicing Behavioural Activation
Brainstorm activities - Think about things you actually might enjoy doing. What brings you joy in life? If you could be doing anything right now, what would that be? Similarly, think about activities or responsibilities you have been neglecting that might feel good to accomplish. Do you need to make intentions to start brushing your teeth daily, put away your laundry, or cook dinner? For both pleasure and mastery, write down a list of things you could do and incorporate 1 thing a day (or week if that is more feasible to begin with) into your schedule.
Start small - Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do too many things at once. Chances are, this will either overwhelm you to the point of procrastination, or you won’t be able to complete everything you set out to do, which will only lead to negative feelings/thoughts about yourself (e.g., feeling disappointed or thoughts like “I can’t do anything right”) and contribute to your depression. Pick 1 thing a day that is either for a sense of enjoyment or accomplishment that is feasible and realistic to complete.
Create a schedule - Plan out activities you might want to do each day and add them to your schedule. Again, you want to make sure it is realistic in order to set yourself up for success rather than failure in your goals.
Monitor progress - Log how you feel before and after each activity. Did going out for ice cream with friends make you feel happier? Or did working out today make you feel more productive? Whatever the activity, reflect on how it impacted your mood. You might start to notice that certain activities produce more positive effects than others; as you work through these strategies, you can adjust your approach as needed.
Be gentle - Recognize that recovering from depression is a journey that will have many hiccups along the way. You might have something unexpected happen in the day that prevents you from completing your planned activity, or you might just have a particularly down day that really sucks the energy from you and makes you not want to do anything. That is ok ‒ this will happen. Be patient with yourself in how quickly you are making progress, be kind to yourself if you don’t reach your goals one day and give yourself a pat on the back for taking these steps to improve your mental health!
The Bottom Line
Depression is a serious mental health issue that can have a profound impact on an individual's life. However, it is important to remember that there is hope and that this vicious cycle of depression can be broken! By intentionally engaging in activities that bring joy and a sense of accomplishment, individuals can create positive experiences that combat depressive symptoms. If you struggle with depression and need support in navigating your recovery, speak to a licensed therapist who can work with you on these techniques and other proven methods to treat depression. With the right tools and guidance, you can overcome depression and live a fulfilling life.
Our team of online and in-person counsellors and psychotherapists in Barrie provide quality and effective mental health counselling services near you in Barrie and virtually across Ontario to individuals (6+), couples and families. We also offer an Affordable Therapy Program that provides counselling services in Barrie to individuals (12+) who are facing financial challenges that need mental health support.