Science and Sensibility

A psychological potpourri

End Both Depression and Procrastination Now

How to break from a persistently down mood

When you feel depressed, you suffer from a painful down mood. You may withdraw from life, feel a profound sense of loneliness and worthlessness, and believe that life will continue in this way forever. Can you turn this bad situation about? You can if you don't procrastinate.

In both procrastination and depression, you may avoid taking corrective action. For example, if you feel lethargic you may believe you don't have the energy to take corrective actions. This pessimism is a catalyst for procrastination.

Believe you are helpless to overcome a depressed mood and reconnect with other people, and you've given yourself an excuse to procrastinate. When this secondary procrastination follows depression, you'd better learn to get past this barrier. (For information on how to address secondary procrastination, click on Depression and Secondary Procrastination).

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Pessimism is both an excuse and a hypothesis. If you believe that you can never stop feeling depressed, can you prove that in Court? Can you raise reasonable doubts about your pessimistic prediction? Is it possible for you to see what you can control?

 If you feel swamped by depressing pessimistic thoughts, use my flip technique. Create a productive self-fulfilling prophesy. Start with this question: It is possible to take one small step in the direction of relief from depression? What might that step be? Might it be calling a friend? Go ahead. Take the step.

Here are some other steps: (1) Keep connected to other people, and you'll feel less lonely. (2) Work with a counselor who specializes in depression. (3) Read and use concepts from self-help books on depression that are written by doctorial level mental health specialists.

Taking corrective action for depression, such as the above, will normally prove challenging. Depression saps energy. Procrastination can interfere. However, if you stretch a bit to follow through on activities to curb depression, you are likely to come closer to feeling relief. Here is a four-step framework that you can use to create a positive new direction:

1. Recognize that depression has correctable features. For example, if you believe you are helpless to change, find exceptions to that line of depressive thinking. You can take that corrective action now.

2. Depression normally feels debilitating. Nevertheless, you can act, even in small measure, to progressively master techniques to end your depression.

3. Use tested tools that you can use to combat depression. They can range from developing empathy for yourself to following a predictable routine followed by intentionally inserting potentially pleasurable activities (activity scheduling) after each accomplishment that you designate as a step in the process of doing and getting better.

4. Combat procrastination. Tell yourself you will later learn and use coping tools when you feel motivated, and you are in a contingency mañana procrastination trap. This is where you make a corrective action dependent on doing something else first, such as feeling motivated or knowing everything under the sun about depression. If you are in a depressed mood, do you really expect to feel motivated and know everything about depression first?

Acting to get relief from loneliness and depression may be the last thing you want to do when you feel depressed. However, that is a tested path toward relief from depression. Grimly accept this reality, and here are some more things to do:

1. Physical exercise is as good an antidepression activity as any other is. Force yourself daily to follow a moderate physical exercise routine. This can amount to three brief 10-minute sessions of running in place a day.

2. Consider a reasonable daily dose of Omega 3 from fish or a capsule. This correlates with an improved mood. (Omega 3 is a buffer against coronary heart disease and may help improve cognitive functioning.)

3. Question you negative thinking. You may find that these thoughts reflect a form of Swiss cheese  logic.

4. Talk with a positive-minded relative of friend about everyday matters. In making this connection, refuse to complain about your depression. Work on building empathy for others, and this can help you exit from your shell.

You are likely to struggle with combatting depression. Nevertheless, act as if you were capable of acting effectively. You may soon find that you are acting effectively.

For my free on-line podcast on depression, click on CBT Depression Workshop. For powerful ways to combat depression, click on:  The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression (Second Edition). To overcome procrastination, click on: The Procrastination Workbook

© Dr. Bill Knaus

Bill Knaus, Ed.D., is the author of more than 20 books; one, "Overcoming Procrastination", was co-authored with Albert Ellis.


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