Every single professional who has treated or helped me with my illness has said the same thing: the best thing you can do for yourself is to keep active both physically and mentally. This makes total sense – dwelling on how I feel or wishing I was someone else or just feeling sorry for myself doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that would help my recovery along.
Depression steals the joy from hobbies and things I used to like, and washes the colours out from the world around me. Anxiety makes me scared to try anything, even things that I’ve successfully done dozens of times before. It can be very, very difficult to motivate myself to do anything when all I feel like doing is staying in bed or hiding in a corner in the basement.
I try to think of everything in terms of “wins”. A win doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary, but it can sometimes feel like it takes an extraordinary effort to accomplish it. On bad days, some things I may consider a win are:
- Sitting up in bed and putting my feet on the floor
- Getting out of bed
- Eating breakfast and taking my medication
- Taking a shower
- Sitting on the couch instead of going back to bed
On better days, some of the things I could consider to be a win are:
- Going outside for a walk
- Doing laundry
- Cooking or baking something
- Being engaged in one of my hobbies
- Writing a blog post
- Making a phone call
- Reading a magazine
- Doing anything that keeps my mind occupied
So what do I do to try and get a few wins every day?
Music can help. Sometimes I find that playing some loud, up-tempo music that I can tap my toes to will help me shrug off some of the depression or anxiety and allow me to sit down and accomplish something. It doesn’t always work but sometimes it helps, and listening to music is a good thing anyway.
Dr C suggested that on days when I am up and about but have trouble motivating myself to do anything in particular, I should pick a hobby or activity and force myself to do it. She said that even if I don’t want to do anything, by forcing myself to do something I may find myself enjoying it after a little bit. On the days when I can summon up the willpower to force myself to, say, play around with my microscope, it usually only takes a few minutes before I’m hooked and can sit there for an hour looking at tiny things. Some days it doesn’t work, but I find that it often does, and spending some time enjoying a hobby can help me feel a little better, too.
Sometimes I will try to be my own coach and say encouraging things to myself as I try to get moving. If I say phrases like “baby steps” and “you’ve done this before, you can do it again” to myself, it can help me remember that I don’t need to take on the whole world all at once – all I need to do is a teeny tiny thing… followed by another teeny tiny thing. If I put enough tiny things together, I may find myself sitting at the table with my breakfast eaten and medication taken, which is a good start to the day.
Some days, no matter how badly I want to or how hard I try, I just can’t get myself to do anything. I need to remember is that this is okay. Recovery is a lot of work and sometimes I can’t help taking a day off. The important thing to remember is that the next day is another opportunity to put a couple of wins under my name.