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End Both Depression and Procrastination Now

How to non-procrastintingly break from a persistent down mood

When you feel depressed, you suffer from an extreme 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 change this unfortunate situation? 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. By procrastinating, you've confirmed your belief that your pessimistic view is right. That's circular thinking. You can break out of this vicious circle by taking a small step toward a corrective action.

Believe you are helpless to overcome a depressed mood, and you've given yourself an excuse to procrastinate. When this secondary procrastination follows depression, how do you get past this barrier? Change the narrative. Tell yourself that it is difficult and challenging to act when you feel as depressed as you do. That is as it is. Difficult, however, doesn't mean impossible. Make this cognitive shift and you've shown yourself you are not helpless. You've done something to change. (For information on how to address secondary procrastination, click on Depression and Secondary Procrastination).

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 can restructure your thinking from seeing what you can't do to what you can do, you've eliminated a common excuse for procrastinating.

If you feel swamped by depressing pessimistic thoughts, use my flip technique. Create a productive self-fulfilling prophecy. 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 three 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 doctoral-level mental health specialists.

Taking corrective action for depression will typically prove challenging. Procrastination can interfere with breaking free from this inertia. However, if you stretch a bit to follow through on activities to curb depression, you are likely to come closer to feeling relief sooner. 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 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, to intentionally inserting potentially pleasurable activities (activity scheduling) after each accomplishment that you designate as a step in the process of doing and getting better. When you follow through, write out why you didn't procrastinate. It is as essential to know how you get yourself to follow through as why it is that you put things off.

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. Here you make a corrective action dependent on doing something else first, such as feeling motivated or knowing everything under the sun about depression. Then, you put off doing the contingency. If you are in a depressed mood, what is the purpose of feeling motivated and knowing everything about depression before move yourself in the direction of a positive change?

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. Accept this reality, and here are some more things to do:

1. Physical exercise is as good an anti-depression activity as any other is. Force yourself daily to follow a moderate physical exercise routine. For example, is it possible for you to run in place for ten minutes for the next ten days? After that time, decide if you’ll continue, expand the time, or stop. (When something isn't to be done forever, you might follow though longer.)

2. Consider a reasonable daily dose of Omega 3 from an oily fish like a salmon, or take a fish capsule. You can improve your mood. (Omega 3 is also a buffer against coronary heart disease and may help improve your cognitive functioning.)

3. Question your depressive thinking, such as life sucks. You may find that such thoughts are a form of Swiss cheese logic. They are full of holes. For example, are there any exceptions? Find an exception, and you found a flaw in that logic. You've shown yourself that your life can’t be 100% bad.

4. Small talk with a positive-minded relative or friend. Refuse to complain about your depression. Work on building empathy for others, and this can help you exit from your shell of depression.

You are likely to struggle with combating depression. That is the nature of the depression beast. Nevertheless, by acting as if you were capable of performing adequately, you may soon find that you are operating 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

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