Anxiety. Depression. Chronic Illness. Grief. Each of these is its own world. What they have in common is that they can make you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. Things might get so bad that curling up in a ball and staying in bed seem like the best option. Sometimes, it’s all you are physically and mentally capable of doing. Very quickly, days turn into weeks. More time passes. Eventually, people stop being nice and understanding. It’s not fair. You didn’t ask for this.
One day, you realize life is moving on without you. It’s time to re-engage.
How do you re-engage when you can’t even get through the day?
The only way to kick start your system, is to do things even if you don’t feel like it.
You’re probably thinking “seriously, your big fancy advice is to just do it anyway? The old ‘fake it till I make it’?”
Well, yes. A brain overwhelmed by anxiety, depression, grief, or loss only has a small amount of energy. Every psychological, emotional, and physical action you do requires a certain amount of energy. Let’s say, when things are good, you spend X amount of energy on each action. When you are overwhelmed, you spend X+Y amount of energy on each thing. Unfortunately, you don’t get extra energy just because you need it. It’s the opposite: you have less mental energy when you need it most.
The 5 Point System for Getting Things Done
Your brain watches your body and your body watches your brain. As you do more, your brain will look at your body and think “if I can do this much, I must be getting better.” Eventually, you will want to do more. Don’t wait for motivation to kick in to get started. Motivation only comes after action.
Since you’re working with limited reserves (and possibly limited time), I want you to focus on getting the basics done. Focus on these 5 key activities. You get a point for doing each one. Your goal is to get 5 points a day, at least 4 days a week:
- Get out of bed
- Get dressed
- Eat a meal
- 1 meaningful activity (preferably outside the house)
Get out of bed around the same time every day, preferably before 10am. You get to determine the order of showing, getting dressed, eating, and engaging in an activity.
The activities will vary based on where you are, your access to a car, and whether you are suffering from any significant physical symptoms related to chronic illness. Here are a few ideas for a meaningful activity:
- Picking up hours of work here and there (e.g., baby-sitting, dog walking, park time work)
- Running an errand
- Exercise (even for 10 minutes)
- Go for a walk
- Do laundry
- Pick a spot in a room to organize (e.g., night stand, desk, kitchen counter, entry way to house)
You may be thinking: “Seriously? What’s the point?” I frequently have patients tell me they used to be able to do so much more. Doing laundry hardly seems significant since they were once capable of working full time, raising a family, and caring for a house all at once.
Doing something every day is the only way to get out of this rut. Your actions become habits and good habits will help you get and stay healthy.
Don’t wait for the perfect time. Any action is progress.
I know you can do this.
Talk to you son,