Setting goals can seem like a great way to start getting things accomplished and get yourself where you want to be in life. When you are suffering from depression though, it can seem pretty daunting to even think about. It can feel like you are just setting yourself up for failure because you are stuck in the mindset of “I am just going to screw it up anyway, so why bother?”
That is why I don’t think you should set big goals in the beginning. Let’s not even think about running a 5k or starting a new business venture. You aren’t going to get there if you can’t get out of bed. Maybe that sounds a little negative but just bear with me for a minute.
What if you thought about setting goals on a much smaller scale? Why not start with getting out of bed by a certain time three days this week? Why not set a goal of showering every day this week? If you get out of bed before 10 am every day this week, take a shower but still feel the need or desire to get back in bed then fine, get back in bed. Guess what? You just killed your goals! You exceeded the first goal by getting out of bed every day instead of just three days and you blew it out of the water by taking a shower every day. If you think about it – how many of those days will you actually climb back in bed after you are all fresh and clean from that shower? Maybe you will actually go a step further and get those week-old sheets off your bed and throw them in the wash. Hell, maybe while those sheets are in the wash you will go really wild and pick up your bedroom floor, clear off your nightstand, maybe even start the dishes that have been piling up. I bet, that if you did even one of those things after you got out of the shower instead of going back to bed you would be super proud of yourself. I know that I would be proud of you.
Doesn’t that seem so much more doable? Doesn’t it seem a little less intimidating to think about achieving two or three small, but similar goals? Rather than trying to jump into one big goal that you don’t at this point in time see yourself achieving without a lot of frustration, without maybe giving up on it altogether? I am not saying you can’t start a new business or run that 5k. I know you can. What I am saying is to start small and work from there. Give yourself small accomplishments along the way to keep yourself motivated. Start by bettering yourself, getting out of bed, going for a walk, doing some research in the market you want to break into. Accomplishing small goals and continuing them, gives you little building blocks, steps to work from towards those bigger, seemingly, impossible goals. When you start small and have success there, giving yourself something to build off of instead of diving into the deep in head first – then the bigger goals won’t seem so intimidating.
In the beginning, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Don’t set yourself up for failure by aiming too high. I know, I have seen the memes that say to set the biggest goals, but when you are depressed you are starting a couple steps behind. There is nothing wrong with that, but doesn’t it seem a lot more logical to catch up first? Doesn’t it make more sense to practice success by starting small, then when you are ready to, you go for it and aim as high as your heart desires.
One of the most important things to remember when in the beginning is to give yourself credit for what you do accomplish. Be proud of yourself for your successes, no matter how small you think they are. When you don’t succeed immediately, don’t go beating yourself up for it either. That just isn’t nice. You wouldn’t shit on your friend for not accomplishing her goals, would you? No, you would give her credit for what she has done so far and encourage her to reach for more. You aren’t going to get anywhere if you are just putting yourself down all day. Do the opposite. Build yourself up.
As you go through and start accomplishing your small goals, make sure you celebrate yourself. Be proud of yourself. Tell people in your life about it, let them be proud of you. It is not silly to celebrate the fact that you finally were able to get up and make your bed three days this week or that you got outside and went for a walk. That is huge!
When you start setting goals try to find someone to share them with. Telling someone about what you are working towards is a great way to help hold yourself accountable. Ask this person if they can just check in with you once in a while. Even just a text once a week “Hey, how are you coming along with A, B, and C goals?” Maybe this person can come up with a few goals of their own and you can be there for each other. It doesn’t even have to be someone local to you. It can be a friend from a distance or someone you know online that is trying to meet their own goals. Check in with each other, see how they are doing. Support them when they need it and be so proud of them when they deserve it. I bet that they will do the same for you.
If you don’t have a good support system or you can’t think of anyone you are comfortable with asking to help you, that is fine too. Don’t stress over it, it isn’t a deal breaker. There are actually apps that you can set up on your phone that check in with you. Check to see how you are doing throughout the day, week, however, you want to set it up. If you don’t want to ask a person, then find an app and utilize it.
Check out the app called Sanity & Self. It is geared towards women, but I am sure anyone can utilize it and make it work for them. It helps you keep track of rituals you want to start doing – such as yoga, meditating, taking a shower, anything. You can add in your own personal goals, not just the ones they suggest. It even has a section you can use to journal, easily from anywhere, right on your phone. Sanity & Self also has a ton of short videos you can watch that give you advice and inspiration to keep working towards self-improvement.
Youper is another app that you can download to help check in with yourself and keep you on track. When you first open the app it comes up with what they call your assistant; it asks you how you’re feeling and then if you choose to do so, it will ask some follow up questions such as what caused you to be in this specific mood or mindset – such as exercising, reading, eating healthy, drinking alcohol or sleeping too much. You can set it to check in with you throughout the day. Youper also has a section where you can track symptoms of depression and other mental disorders, giving you a graphic that shows your progress as you work towards getting better.
Another beneficial thing that you can do for yourself on your journey to getting better and working towards those end goals is tracking your progress. Use the apps, use a journal, whatever you are most comfortable with – use it. I promise you won’t regret it. It feels so good to check back when you are having a hard time believing that you are making any progress. If you have somewhere to look back and see that two weeks ago you were only just getting out of bed every day and doing the bare minimum to get through and function, and now you are going for a walk every day or putting in thirty minutes towards what you need to do to work on your business idea, then you will be able to be proud of yourself. Tracking your progress is huge, having a reminder of your progress and how great you are actually doing can really help to keep you encouraged and heading in the right direction.
In the end, don’t let yourself get discouraged with an off day. You are going to have bad days. You are going to not be able to accomplish a goal right off. What you do is just say “Okay, I didn’t do A, B, or C today, I wasn’t feeling well enough. I accept that. I will try again tomorrow, no harm done.” Then you move on. Don’t think about it anymore. Read a book, watch a show, just don’t think about the fact that you didn’t do one small thing that day. Don’t sit and continue to dwell on it. Who cares. It is one day. You have so many more of them to try again.
If you keep building your steps, getting up on those steps and start to work on building another one, then before you know it you will have reached the top – you will have reached your end goal. Those bad times of living in your bed will be a thing of the past, a different time, a different life.