People who live with depression can easily become overwhelmed when faced with what may seem like little tasks. Just thinking about doing the dishes or laundry can cause exhaustion. Depression causes life to become a constant battle. Getting out of bed and coping with the ruminating thoughts (which are characteristic of chronic depression) can be more than we have the strength to do. While dealing with depression and its ebbs and flows, cleaning often falls to the very bottom of the priorities list. Unfortunately, when this happens, we’re faced with the guilt. We want so badly to do these “normal” things other people do, but we just cannot. The depressed and those with chronic depression are NOT LAZY, and calling us lazy is something that beats us down even further and contributes to the stigma about those with mental health issues.
Over the years I’ve spent dealing with depression, I’ve come across some different techniques and have tried almost all of them at some point. Which ever method I use will depend on the day and whether it’s the depression or me running the show. For those of us who suffer from such a drastic loss of energy we are never alone! This is something I find is so common among people with depression. Maybe these tips will ease some of pressure that comes with staring at that pile of dishes.
A) Using a timer. Do not be over zealous and start out with 30 minutes. If the motivation level is really low 5 minutes may be the best you can handle. The goal does not have to be to complete the task…that could take maybe a few days but at least you feel you have accomplished something. If you would like to do a few different tasks set the timer for each one. Don’t try the “chicken with the head cut off” thing.
B) If you make a list only do one thing at a time. Do not try to start different tasks and end up with nothing completed. However much you have determined you want to accomplish always take it one step at a time. If your goal is the laundry then you can feel better about yourself even if that is your only completed task.
C) I will go back to the laundry. Sometimes just one task needs to be broken down. Maybe fold 5 pieces of laundry. Then when you can come back and fold another 5 pieces. People get too caught up in the size of the task. That is not the goal. You know you have done what you set out to do.
D) If it is possible some people just hire a cleaner. Between the depression and the guilt you can be rendered incapable of getting through the day. So if that is an option do not feel guilty because you are not capable.
E) Anything you may be faced with needs to be broken down. Setting up a daily routine can help anytime. Setting particular things that you do each day. Maybe Monday dusting the living room. When the task does not feel so overwhelming the better the chance is that it can be done.
F) I read about a lady that will sit down to watch her favorite show and work on a task during the commercials. I find getting yourself up off the couch is half the battle. Things get easier after that.
G) Doing something regularly to avoid being over come with anxiety. I always rinse my dishes. If not I could end up with a pile of dishes with caked on food and that becomes a huge job. Mom keeps a spray bottle of shower cleaner in the shower so she sprays it down after her shower and then the shower does not get so dirty. I have a container of lysol wipes in the bathroom and in the mornings after I am done getting ready I take a few minutes just to use one to wipe the sink. I do not even think about doing it anymore and I do not end up with a gross sink.
H) Music can make a big difference. Get into the boogie dance and cleaning can turn out to be enjoyable.
I) Some people prefer to make a list at the end of the day of what they have accomplished which makes them feel better about the day they had. Some do not work well with a “to do” list.
J) Using disposable items is also helpful. The more you do not have to clean the better but many would rather use re-usable items. Using the disposable for the bad days can ease the stress.
K) Some times you have to call for reinforcements. Company can shrink the size of a task. Maybe even talking to someone on the phone can make things go quicker. I know for many it is too difficult to ask. If they are a good enough friend that they would come…they are probably a good enough friend to understand why you had to ask. Looking around and seeing a clean house can make it all worth it. You can breathe again.
L) You rarely see me doing only one thing at a time. On bad days the last thing I want is to give my thoughts room to roam. I will always have music playing, the television in the back ground or my headphones in listening to an audio book. I have found the audio books a huge benefit. Whether cleaning or getting out for a walk I have something to focus on and before I know it the task is complete.
I hope you may have found something in my list that can prove useful. It is difficult for those on the outside to understand how something that is as trivial as doing the dishes can give us grief for hours. “I want to…I want to.” “I can’t.” Depression is like spending the day climbing a mountain and the smallest things can become a huge boulder we are trying to carry on our way up. DO NOT LET THE GUILT GET YOU! It does not matter how small…or if there is nothing there is one thing that does not change. You are doing the best you can.