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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Recovering from a depressive episode or managing depression long-term takes energy and planning. You may think, how am I going to find energy or motivation when I feel so poorly?

Depression can strip you of your self-esteem, self-confidence and motivation. Approach this in the same way you would approach a friend, loved one or child. You would approach helping that person in a reasonable, caring manner. Do the same for yourself. The key is to begin with small steps.

Say you want to begin exercising, attending to bills or mail, increasing your socialization or housework. Would you tackle all of these simultaneously? Of course you wouldn't. Pick one that is a priority to you. You then will need to set up a reasonable plan as to how to proceed with accomplishing your goal.

Let's go with exercise first. Overall, your goal may to improve your health. Your goal may be to walk a mile but how would you do this? You would train by walking one step at a time. I had a patient who had been an avid runner prior to having a moderately severe episode of depression. He essentially had given up on running and was not engaging in any exercise. He was ready to begin exercising again. His initial goal was to run 30 minutes 5 times per week. I asked him to rate on a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being the most likely and 1 being the least likely) the likelihood that he would accomplish his goal. He rated his goal as a 4. We know that a rating of higher than 7 is where we want to be in order to increase our chances of goal completion. After further thought, he changed his goal to stretching for 10 minutes two times in the next week. He then rated the likelihood that he would accomplish the goal as a 9. One week later, we reviewed his goal and he was able to successfully accomplish it!

The idea is to be your own cheerleader, be kind to yourself. You deserve to feel good and to be happy. Set up reasonable goals and then honestly rate them using the 1-10 scale. It is OK if you need to change your goal. Find a support person to share your goal with. Studies show that this will make it more likely that you will follow through. Once you have accomplished your first goal, you will find your self-esteem and confidence are boosted. Don't stop now, set up your next goal. Set your self up for success! You can do it


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