Sounds like you are having a really difficult time! Good on you for reaching out for help. Seeing a Psychologist who practices evidence based therapy (suported by research), could help you to shift some patterns of thinking, emotional experiences and behaviours that seem to be getting in the way of you feeling more like yourself. As Janice mentioned, visiting your GP is a good starting point. You can access what is called a ‘GP Mental Health Referral’ to receive medicare rebates for your visits to a Psychologist. It is important to shop around in order to find a Psychologist you feel comfortable with.
In the meantime, a quick way to get some leverage in your mood is to push yourself to increase your activity levels. Depression propels us to curl up inside and watch movies; cutting ourself off from positive experiences which only makes us feel worse about ourselves. Research shows that two types of activities (if engaged in regularly), can provide some improvement in mood: pleasurable (fun) and mastery (sense of achievement) activities. It may be tricky to come up with ideas when you have been feeling so low. A good place to start is reading through a list of suggestions you can find on google by searching ‘pleasant activity inventory’. Try to include 1-2 activities per day.
This may sounds really difficult however, there are several advantages to becoming more active, even when you don’t feel like it:
1. Activity makes you feel better.
At the very least, activity can serve as a distraction from your painful feelings. It can help you feel more in control of your life, and as if you are achieving something. You may even find yourself enjoying the activity you are involved in.
2. Activity makes you feel less tired.
When you are depressed, doing nothing will only make you feel more even more exhausted. If you have been depressed for a long time you may have even lost strength and fitness because of periods of inactivity. This lack of fitness increases feelings of tiredness and lethargy.
In addition, when you do nothing you will be bored, your mind will be unoccupied, and you will be more likely to dwell on negative thoughts. Getting active will ensure that you are less bored, have less time to think negative thoughts, and by doing so, gradually increase your strength and stamina.
3. Activity motivates you to do more.
After some time of increasing your activity levels you should find that your motivation to do even more increases. The more you do, the more you will feel like doing. The more you do, the less anxious you will feel about the deterioration in your life.
4. Activity improves your ability to think.
By becoming involved in activities, you are giving your mind a chance to take a break from negative thinking. Once you get started, you will be able to think more clearly, and problems that seemed overwhelming will be viewed from a more positive perspective.
To assist you to increase your activity level and motivation, it is helpful to use an activity schedule. Consider the following points.
- Plan one day at a time.
- Plan the activities for the day the evening before, or first thing in the morning. Set aside time to plan the day ahead. Think about when would be best for you to do this.
- Plan activities on an hour-to- hour basis. You may find that initially this is too difficult. If this is the case, plan at least one activity for pleasure and one for achievement each day. Once you begin to experience the benefits of increasing your activity level, your confidence and energy levels will gradually increase, allowing you to gradually plan more and more activities.
- Break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
- Aim for a balance between pleasure and achievement/mastery in your day.
- Work towards getting back to the routine you had before you were depressed and include activities you used to enjoy.
- Try to stick to the activity plan as closely as possible. However, it is important to remember that if it is not possible that you need to be flexible. If an activity is missed, proceed to the next one.
Let’s look at activity scheduling in more detail. When you are trying to increase your activity levels two kinds of activity are important:
- Pleasurable activities: activities that offer enjoyment and fun
- Achievement Activities: activities that offer satisfaction, a sense of job well done.
Overall the aims are to:
- Increase activity levels
- Increase involvement in both pleasurable and achievement oriented activities.
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