And when I’m depressed, I ignore anything that has less than 3 stars. Urgency is also about being able to say no to non-essential tasks. So, meeting your work deadline is essential. The church bake sale is non-essential. When we say yes to everything, we amplify our stress.
One of my friends’ mom, a pastor, says: ‘If you can’t say no, then your yeses mean nothing.’
Third and finally, getting stuff done when you’re depressed is about understanding difficulty. So, when I’m depressed, I label all tasks as a 1, 2 or a 3. If it’s an easy task, it’s a 1. Examples include eating breakfast or taking a shower.
If it’s a moderately difficult task, it’s a 2, and a 3 is reserved for difficult tasks. For example, finishing a paper in college or scheduling an appointment with your child’s teacher, or meeting a difficult work deadline. And when I’m depressed, I focus on finishing all the 1 level tasks first. And every time I cross something off my list, even if it’s taking a shower, I feel empowered and I think: ‘Bipolar, watch out, I’m coming, I got this!’ And as I finish off all the 1 and 2 level tasks, I build the confidence to tackle the 3 level tasks. And you can also help yourself by turning a 3 level task into a 1 level task.
So, I remember a time when I was in my therapist’s office and I told her: You know, I want to exercise because experience has told me that when I exercise, I feel better about my bipolar disorder. But I’m just too depressed to do 30 mins of exercise right now. And she said to me: If you don’t have 30 minutes, can you just give me 10 minutes? That was life-changing advice. So now I aim for 10 minutes. And 10 becomes 20. And 20 minutes becomes 30 minutes.
Today we’ve talked about 3 themes in getting stuff done when you’re depressed. They’re proactiveness, urgency and difficulty. Almost always when I use these strategies, they work. But there are days when the bipolar disorder or the ovarian disease, or the Myasthenia Gravis, or all of the above win. And when that happens, I remind myself of something that I want to share with all of you. I want to share this with anyone listening, who fights depression, or who loves someone that does.
Yes, depression is real. But hope is real. Courage is real. Resilience is real.