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The Creative Way I Motivate Myself to Do Small Everyday Things When I'm Depressed


Although my medication has been keeping my depression and anxiety at a dull roar, I’ve realized lately I’ve been slacking off on a lot of things in my life. I frequently just don’t have the energy to do things that usually would be considered part of someone’s normal day… for instance, taking a shower or making a lunch to bring to work. My life seems to have turned into a quest to get as much sleep as I can. I’ve always considered myself a person who likes to live life to the fullest… but in times like these, it is a struggle to get myself to live life at all. Not that anything bad is happening, really. It’s actually been pretty good most of the time. I finished my nightmarish school year job, I got to go on a weekend trip to the coast, went to an autism conference and then my trip to Chicago. I guess it is more like, because I had these two trips back to back, combined with the homesickness I felt after returning from Chicago, I’ve had a hard time getting everything reorganized and getting a routine in place.

I was thinking about it and I remembered how, when I first moved to Washington, I was working as a substitute teacher. I had so much anxiety about going to work, that I ended up making my own incentive plan, the way I would for one of my little kids with behavioral challenges. For every hour I worked, I rewarded myself with a sticker. Once I got 100 stickers, I would get myself a treat. Once I had that visual reminder hanging on my wall, and the satisfaction of putting stickers on it each day, it was somehow a lot easier to go to work. Don’t ask me why, but it worked.

So I’ve decided to try something similar for now. I wrote down all of the things I might have to do in a day to take care of myself and my apartment. I assigned points to each of the things, with things I hate the most being worth the most points. I broke things down into small pieces. Instead of “clean house” or even “clean kitchen,” it was “load dishes,” “unload dishes,” “sweep,” etc. Each day I will add up the points I’ve earned. Once I get to 100 points, I will get a treat. The treat I pick varies, but most likely I will end up ordering a new subscription box, since I’ve been fascinated with them lately.

Here is the list of activities and points so far:

1. Unpacking: 20 points

I really hate unpacking, especially from a trip to Chicago because it makes me feel homesick to look at all the things I haven’t seen since I tearfully packed to come back. So, my suitcase from Chicago is still in my trunk, and my duffel from the coast is still at my Auntie Em’s house!

2. Showering: 5 points

Yeah I know that sounds like it should be worth less, but although I love taking showers, it can be really hard for me to motivate myself to actually take one. There are just too many steps involved.

3. Grocery shopping: 3 points

Should maybe be worth more… sometimes I do it online and get groceries delivered, but I find it somehow stressful to grocery shop at all, and tend to avoid it.

4. Taking my dog for a walk: 3 points

This is worth a lot of points because my dog Lily walks as slowly as a snail, so going for a walk with her is very time consuming!

5. Doing a fun extra thing: 3 points

This is included, and worth three whole points because it is hard for me to motivate myself to leave the house for any reason if I don’t have to leave for work. My apartment is like a nest of safety.

6. Making a healthy lunch: 2 points

7. Scrubbing the floor: 2 points

8. Taking recycling out: 2 points

9. Taking garbage out: 2 points

10. Spending 10 minutes decluttering: 2 points

11. Vacuuming: 2 points

I actually like vacuuming, but having Lily barking her head off and my cat Yoshi hiding under the bed refusing to come out makes it a lot more difficult.

12. Cleaning the fish tank: 2 points

Probably should be worth more, but I actually like doing it.

13. Folding laundry: 2 points

14. Putting away the laundry: 2 points

15. Going to work: 2 points

Because that should be worth something, right?

16. Eating breakfast: 1 point

Fewer points than making lunch, because I am actually hungry for breakfast when I wake up, which is sometimes a motivator, whereas packing a lunch is impossible because I am not going to eat it until later and I can’t imagine ever being hungry for it.

17. Loading dishes in dishwasher: 1 point

18. Putting away dishes: 1 point

20. Sweeping the floor: 1 point

21. Mopping the floor: 1 point

22. Wiping the counters : 1 point

23. Dusting: 1 point

24. Washing the laundry: 1 point

Fewer points because all I really have to do is carry it down to the laundry room and toss it in. The washing machine does the hard part.

25. Drying the laundry: 1 point

(See above).

26. Taking the dog out (not for full walk): 1 point

27. Taking my meds: 1 point

28. Scooping the litter box: 1 point

I do this multiple times per day because Yoshi demands a clean litter box, so this should help me rack up lots of points!

29. Staying awake: 1 point

Yes, I get one point just for staying awake all day and not taking a nap, because when I get home from work I’m exhausted and drained, but napping messes up my sleep cycle. Weekends are an exception because, you know, it’s the weekend.

After I manage to get to 100 points once, I may up the ante and add in some more things, such as one point for drinking a glass of water, one point for making a phone call, etc.

For now, I already made seven points today, so my system seems to be working!

I probably seem like a lazy bum to some. But if I was truly lazy, I wouldn’t be trying so hard to find ways to get myself moving, right? Right?

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Thinkstock photo via iprogressman.