One of the conflicts in my personality is that I crave the feeling of achievement and ‘being productive’, but I’m not always very motivated and I dislike following routines.
This was a particular problem when I was signed off work five years ago with depression. The depression had been caused by long-term work-related stress. I had gradually slipped into patterns of working longer and longer hours and these long work hours gave me a feeling of achievement. They weren’t actually very efficient or productive, but that was a different issue!
So when I was signed off work, I was initially unsure about how to fill my time and I wanted to avoid feeling as if I was just ‘wasting’ time without being productive. And yet my body and brain were telling me to slow down and to focus on my health and wellbeing.
One of the solutions I came up with was a daily ‘to do list’. I created a simple table in Microsoft Word and listed all the things I ‘should’ do and some that I would enjoy (even if the depression had taken away some of this feeling of enjoyment). I printed my checklist out and put it inside a plastic sheet protector so that I could cross things off with a whiteboard pen.
Just the act of creating the list was a useful way to get back in touch with what my body and brain were telling me that I needed and the things that I knew I ‘ought’ to do or that might help me in my recovery.
The list started with very quick wins such as eating breakfast and taking my prescription of antidepressants. I made sure I included choices so that I didn’t start trying to rebel against a self-imposed routine and was quite specific in things like what exercises I had previously enjoyed doing. I included tasks that would help me to recover, both in the short term and longer-term strategies such as learning more about depression. And there were stars to colour in, to give me a small sense of achievement.
There were days when I earned all fifteen stars and others when I didn’t accomplish many of these things beyond eating a meal and getting dressed. But I was kind to myself and simply aimed to earn a few more stars the next day.
Click below to download my sheet so that you can adapt it for your own use. Please comment below if you find this helpful or have other suggestions for tasks to include in a basic daily routine for recovery.