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Using Goals to Help Yourself Cope With Depression

By HERWriter
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Mental Health related image Photo: Getty Images

Goals are an important part of anyone’s life, but with depression it’s necessary to not lose sight of what you want to accomplish in life.

After accepting that you have depression and learning to talk to others about your condition, another major step in coping with depression is to make goals for yourself, update your goals or keep the ones you always had. The focus for many people tends to be on overcoming the depression itself, but you can also have goals not related to relieving your depression to use as a sort of motivation.

Realize that depression is not an excuse to give up on life. Many people have accomplished the unthinkable with depression. For example, an abnormal psychology textbook states that Queen Victoria had depression after her husband died, and the actress Ashley Judd has spoken of her depression. One website, www.popcrunch.com, lists 135 famous people who have said at some point they’ve had depression. These include Truman Capote, Helena Bonham Carter, Winston Churchill, Sheryl Crow, Ellen DeGeneres, Emily Dickinson, Kirsten Dunst and Princess Diana. All of these people have been successful despite their depression. This means that you can do it too.

You don’t have to be a famous person with depression, but you can keep a few goals in mind that you want to accomplish even with depression. For example, maybe you’ve always wanted to become a book editor or a marine biologist or an engineer. If you have a career goal in mind, you can start planning steps to achieve that goal, like going to college. There are many resources on college campuses to help you graduate and start a new career, so don’t assume you will be alone through that process and have to fend for yourself. What you do have to realize is that you will have to take some responsibility and ask around and find those resources. This can be a challenge, but keep sight of your overall goal and that can motivate you to complete the process.

Another non-depression goal could be to expand your interests and try a new hobby. Have you always wanted to try kickboxing or learn how to sew? Check out a local community center or gym for some ideas. If there is a fee involved, that can be even better. Sometimes paying for something first can make you feel more motivated to keep going to classes.

There are also some depression-related goals. Keep in mind that you don’t always have to suffer from depression symptoms. There are treatments available, like medication, therapy and lifestyle changes. For example, the National Mental Health Association held a panel in 2001 that supported the idea of encouraging “Americans suffering from depression and anxiety [to] aim not for partial improvement of the illness but for remission (virtual elimination of symptoms) and complete recovery of quality of life.” This seems to be a lofty goal, but with diligence it could be accomplished if people with depression have the proper support.

Depression is not necessarily caused by anything in your life, but in many cases it may be linked to low self-esteem and low confidence. Perhaps there is something you’d like to improve on, like lose weight or get a makeover. These things might not be necessary and always remember that you’re perfect the way you are, but if you think doing these things in a healthy way will make you feel a little better, then why not? You can even make other less serious goals, like making sure to buy yourself a new outfit every six months (if you can afford it). These types of goals can let you have something to look forward to in some way, and that’s important with depression.

Sometimes depression can lead to social isolation, so one other serious goal relating to depression could be to get out and socialize more often. This can be a major challenge, especially if you’re suffering from a major depressive episode. In severe cases, it’s probably best to rely on a few very close friends and family members for support, and even a psychologist, then work yourself up to getting out in public and socializing.

In other cases, like if you have on ongoing depression with less severe symptoms like dysthymia, it can still be challenging. However, you can remind yourself how wonderful it can feel to have friends next to you to talk to and laugh with. If you’re worried about what you might say or that they might judge you if you’re feeling low, you can always suggest activities like going to a fair or watching a movie that won’t require you to talk so much at first so you can become more comfortable. There are also some depression support groups with other people who have depression, so that might be a way to find other people who won’t judge you for how you act and feel. Other depression-related goals can be to make your diet healthier and to get more consistent sleep.

One study found that “lifestyle changes - such as getting more exercise, time in nature, or helping others - can be as effective as drugs or counseling to treat an array of mental illnesses.” Other lifestyle changes include religious involvement, diet and nutrition improvements, relaxation, stress management and improving and creating more relationships. The study states that there are “psychological costs of spending too much time in front of the TV or computer screen, not getting outdoors enough, and becoming socially isolated.”

Although these all seem to be solutions for decreasing depression, there is still the need for motivation to accomplish all of these lifestyle changes or goals – that can be the tough part. A therapist can help you figure out how to motivate yourself to work on all these goals, and perhaps medication could be required to help you at first. Start helping yourself today by writing down all the goals you want to accomplish, and next talk to a therapist to see what you can do to achieve those goals.

Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Apporach by David H. Barlow and V. Mark Durand

Add a Comment1 Comments

I figured this one out,that I had to set goals in my life in order to survive depression.I cannot afford to buy medication and some days it is very difficult to face but I had to figure out how to cope to keep myself from feeling so down so I have a few things under my belt that I know for sure that work for me,walks,writing down how I feel,always plan ahead to set goals even if it is something small and flowers to perk me up also reading self help books a night.I know when all else fails I just try and think that there is always tomorrow and not to be so hard on myself.

May 20, 2011 - 9:47am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.