Depression can feel like a damp and chilling wind that won’t leave. This wind can distort your views and shade your perspective.
Saturated with pessimism, you may doubt that you can do anything on your own to combat depression. However, this is an assumption, not a fact. When you feel depressed, giving up on yourself is a cognitive symptom. It's also a prelude to procrastination. Caught in both cycles, you suffer from a double whammy. Now, what do you do to quell this dual condition?
People who suffer from depression often have coexisting complications, such as anxiety and anger. Secondary procrastination is a common but hidden coexisting complication that can deepen and extend your feelings of depression. Knowing what is going on when depression and procrastination coexist, gives you an advantage when it comes to breaking a depressive cycle where procrastination interferes with corrective actions.
Here’s how secondary procrastination works. You feel depressed. You put off taking corrective actions to control, contain, or gain relief from depression. Procrastination also is a symptom that shadows depression. You put off many of your usual activities of daily living. You may experience a pile-up effect where you have much hanging over your head to do. You feel overwhelmed and stressed. You tell yourself that you are too depressed to follow through on the tasks expected of you. You are now in a vicious cycle: 1. You have an emotionally draining, depressed, mood. 2. You procrastinate on addressing depression. 3. Procrastination on life activities extend from the depression. 4. Stresses from falling behind can fester and add to your sense of depression. Fortunately, you can break the cycle and simultaneously build a protective resilience against future depressions.
Combatting Secondary Procrastination
When stricken with both depression and procrastination, you have at least two challenges: 1. Combatting procrastination on addressing your distress condition. This may include getting information about the condition and applying what you learn. 2. Combatting procrastination that shadows depression by following through on the activities you put off because of that condition.
This two-step approach is simple to articulate but not so easy to do. Procrastination is an impediment to overcoming itself. It’s also an obstacle to combatting depression.
You can pursue this two-step approach by engaging in purposeful activities. This is a time-honored and effective remedy for most forms of depression. An active procrastination pattern is not.
Procrastination can burden an already stressful situation. However, even at a sharply reduced pace, you can still gain ground and build a positive momentum. The adage, “slow and steady wins the race” describes a reasonable pace.
One of the best ways to help yourself break a depression-procrastination cycle is to force yourself to attack key daily tasks that you put off when depressed. This is ordinarily not easy. It’s also not as difficult as you may first think.
You have many ways to work your way out of a joint depression and procrastination rut. You can apply procrastination technology to meet this challenge. This is where you apply methods and techniques to improve your performances by keeping yourself on track by doing what is most important for you to do.
Getting relief from depression may be your top priority. By starting and finishing key activities of daily living, you serve that priority.
Here’s one technique for a start. Think about an exit plan from procrastination that shadows depression. In your mind’s eye, create a doable first step. Imagine yourself executing the first step. Take the step. (The Chinese general Lau Tzu [circa 570-490 BC] is quoted as saying, “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”)
Here’s another. Identify a daily activity that you’d normally do when you are not depressed, and are not doing now. For example, when you feel better, you'd phone your best friend. You don’t do this now, and you don’t answer your phone. Create a to do list that contains only that item: call friend before 10:00 AM. Force yourself to make the call. Then do something that you ordinarily find pleasurable, such as arranging flowers or working for ten minutes on your model airplane hobby.
Here’s a third. It’s not that you can’t go through the paces of managing your daily affairs. Your energy level is naturally lower and so you are likely to move slower. However, if you believe that you are helpless, and therefore can do nothing to improve your emotional situation, use the impossibility exercise and see if this doesn’t lead to a change in your perspective. Instead of saying that you can’t act, change this to” “It’s impossible for me to take any action whatsoever to either do or get better.” All you need is one contrary example to falsify that procrastination provoking assumption.
If procrastination follows depression, consider combatting both depression and its shadow procrastination with procrastination technology. You may experience yourself earning double gains and feeling better. You are less likely to lapse or relapse.
For comprehensive psychology self-help for combatting depression: The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression (Second Edition)
Part 3 on Combatting Procrastination describes natural reasons for procrastination and seven principles for change. The program is free. Here’s the link: Part 3: 7 Principles for Change.
For information on a proactive psychological ways to combat depression, tune into my free 1 hour 38 min podcast on combatting depression: CBT Depression Workshop
© Dr. Bill Knaus