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Living with Depression: Daily Routines for Mental Wellness | Ep. 373

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Innehåll tillhandahållet av Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT, Kimberley Quinlan, and LMFT. Allt poddinnehåll inklusive avsnitt, grafik och podcastbeskrivningar laddas upp och tillhandahålls direkt av Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT, Kimberley Quinlan, and LMFT eller deras podcastplattformspartner. Om du tror att någon använder ditt upphovsrättsskyddade verk utan din tillåtelse kan du följa processen som beskrivs här https://sv.player.fm/legal.

In the realm of mental health, the significance of structured daily routines for depression cannot be overstated. Kimberley Quinlan, an anxiety specialist with a focus on mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and self-compassion, emphasizes the transformative impact that Daily Routines for Depression can have on individuals grappling with this challenging condition.

Depression, characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in once-enjoyable activities, affects every aspect of one's life. Quinlan stresses that while professional therapy and medication are fundamental in the treatment of depression, integrating specific daily routines into one's lifestyle can offer a complementary path toward recovery and mental wellness.

THE POWER OF MORNING ROUTINES FOR DEPRESSION

Starting the day with a purpose can set a positive tone for individuals battling depression. Quinlan recommends establishing a consistent wake-up time to combat common sleep disturbances associated with depression. Incorporating light physical activity, such as stretching or a gentle walk, can significantly boost mood. Mindfulness practices, including meditation, journaling, or gratitude exercises, can help foster a healthier relationship with one's thoughts and emotions. Additionally, a nutritious breakfast can provide the necessary energy to face the day, an essential component of "Daily Routines for Depression."

DAYTIME ROUTINES FOR DEPRESSION

Throughout the day, setting realistic goals and priorities can help maintain focus and motivation. Quinlan advocates for the inclusion of pleasurable activities within one's schedule to counteract the anhedonia often experienced in depression. Techniques like the Pomodoro Method can aid in managing tasks without becoming overwhelmed, breaking down activities into manageable segments with short breaks in between. Exposure to natural light and ensuring a balanced diet further contribute to improving mood and energy levels during the day.

EVENING ROUTINES FOR DEPRESSION

As the day draws to a close, engaging in a digital detox and indulging in relaxation techniques become crucial. Limiting screen time and investing time in hobbies or skills can provide a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Establishing a calming bedtime routine, including activities like reading or taking a bath, can enhance sleep quality, an essential factor in "Daily Routines for Depression."

WEEKLY ACTIVITIES TO OVERCOME DEPRESSION

Quinlan also highlights the importance of incorporating hobbies and community engagement into weekly routines. Finding a sense of belonging and purpose through social interactions and new skills can offer a much-needed respite from the isolating effects of depression.

NAVIGATING TOUGH DAYS WITH COMPASSION

Acknowledging that the journey through depression is fraught with ups and downs, Quinlan advises adopting a compassionate and simplified approach on particularly challenging days. Focusing on basic self-care and seeking support when needed can provide a foundation for resilience and recovery.

In conclusion, Daily Routines for Depression are not just about managing symptoms but about rebuilding a life where mental wellness is prioritized. Through mindful planning and self-compassion, individuals can navigate the complexities of depression and move towards a more hopeful and fulfilling future.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

If you’re living with depression today, we are going to go through some daily routines for your mental wellness.

Welcome. My name is Kimberley Quinlan. I’m an anxiety specialist. I talk all about mindfulness, CBT, self-compassion, and skills that you can use to help you with your mental wellness.

Let’s talk about living with depression, specifically about daily routines that will set you up for success. My goal first is to really highlight the importance of routines. Routines are going to be the most important part of your depression recovery, besides, of course, seeing your therapist and talking with your doctor about medication.

This is the work that we do at home every day to set ourselves up for success, finding ways that we can manage our depression, overcome our depression by tweaking the way in which we live our daily life because the way we live our lives often will impact how severe our depression can get.

There are some behaviors and actions that can very much exacerbate and worsen depression. And there are some behaviors and routines that can very much improve your depression. So, let’s talk about them today.

DEPRESSION SYMTPOMS

Let’s first just get really clear on depression and depression symptoms. Depression is a common and can be a very serious mental illness and medical condition that can completely negatively impact your life—the way you feel, the way you think, the way you act. It often includes persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness that can really impact the way you see yourself and your own identity. It often includes a lack of interest in pleasure in the activities that you once enjoyed.

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to very severe. They can include symptoms such as changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, loss of energy, excessive guilt, difficulty thinking or concentrating. Sometimes you can feel like you have this whole brain fog. And again, deep, overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.

Now, it is important to recognize that depression is not just a temporary bout of sadness. It’s a chronic condition. It’s one that we can actually recover from, but it does require a long-term treatment plan, a commitment to taking care of yourself, including therapy and medication. So, please do speak to your medical professional and a mental health professional if you have severe depression or think you might have severe depression.

It can also include thoughts of wanting to die and not feeling like you want to live on this earth anymore. Again, if that’s something that you’re struggling with, please go to your local emergency room or immediately seek out professional mental health or medical health care.

It is so important that you do get professional help for depression because, again, depression can come down like a heavy cloud on our shoulders, and it tells a whole bunch of lies. We actually have a whole podcast episode about how depression is a big fat liar. And sometimes when you are under the spell of those lies, it’s hard to believe that anything else might be true. So, it’s very important that we take it seriously. And as we’re here today to talk about, it’s to create routines that help really nurture you and help you towards that recovery.

TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION

Before we move into those routines, I want to quickly mention the treatment for depression. The best treatment for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy. Now there is often a heavy emphasis on mindfulness and self-compassion as well. Cognitive behavioral therapy looks at both your thoughts and your behaviors. And it’s important that we look at both because both can impact the way in which this disorder plays out.

If you don’t have access to a mental healthcare professional, we also have an online course called Overcoming Depression. Overcoming Depression is an on-demand online course where I teach you the exact steps that I use with my clients to propel them into setting up their cognition so that they’re healthy, their behaviors, so that they bring a sense of pleasure and motivation, and structure into their daily lives. And then we also very heavily emphasize self-compassion and that mindfulness piece, which is so important when it comes to managing highly depressive and hopeless thoughts. So, that’s there if you want to go to CBTSchool.com/depression, or you could go to CBTSchool.com, and we have all the links right there.

DAILY ROUTINES FOR DEPRESSION

All right, so let’s talk about daily routines for depression. Research shows that, specifically for depression, finding a routine and a rhythm in your day can greatly improve the chances of your long-term recovery. And so, I really take time and slow down with my patients and talk to them about what routines are working and what routines are not. I’m not here to tell you or my patients, or my students how to live their lives and what to do specifically. I’m really interested at looking at what’s working for you and what’s not. Let’s first start with morning routines.

What often very much helps—and maybe you already have this, but if not, this is something I want you to consider—is the importance of a consistent wake-up time. When you’re depressed, as I mentioned before, a common depression symptom is sleep disturbance. Often, people lay awake all night and sleep all day, or they sleep all night and they sleep all day, and they’re heavily overwhelmed with this sleepy exhaustion. It is really important when it comes to morning routines that you set a time to wake up every morning and you get up, even if it’s for a little bit, if that’s all you can handle. Try to set that really consistent wake-up time.

What I want to emphasize as we go through these routines for depression is I don’t mind if you even do tiny baby steps. One thing you might want to start from all of the ideas I give you today, you might just want to pick one. And if that’s all you can do, that is totally okay.

What we also want to do is we want to, if possible, engage in some kind of light movement, even stretching, to boost mood. There’s a lot of routine, even just stretching or gentle walks outside. It doesn’t have to be fast. It doesn’t have to be for an hour. It could be for a quarter of a block to start with. But that light exercise has been shown to boost mood significantly. And then if you’re able, maybe even to do that multiple times throughout the day.

Another morning routine that you may want to consider is some type of mindfulness practice. Again, we cover this in overcoming depression and with my patients in CBT, but some kind of mindfulness practice. It might be journaling, it could be a gratitude practice, it could be preferably some kind of meditation. Often, what I will encourage my clients to do is just listen to a guided meditation, even if you don’t really follow along exactly. But you’re just learning about these concepts. You’re learning about the tools. You’re getting curious about them if that’s all you can do. Or if you want, you could even go more into reading a book about mindfulness, starting to learn about these ideas and concepts because they will, again, help you to have a better relationship with your thoughts and your feelings.

Another morning routine I want you to maybe consider here is to have some type of nutritious breakfast, something that supports your mental health. We want to keep an eye out for excessive sugar, not that there’s anything wrong with sugar, but it can cause us to have another energy dump, and we want to have something that will improve our energy. With depression, usually, we don’t have much energy at all. So, whatever tastes yummy, even if nothing feels yummy, but there’s something that maybe slightly sounds good, have that. If it’s something that you enjoy or have good memories about, or if it’s anything at all, I’m happy just for you to eat anything at all if it’s not something that you’ve been doing.

Let’s now move over to work-day or daytime strategies or routines. The first thing I want you to consider here throughout the day is setting realistic daily goals and priorities. We have a course at CBT School called Optimum Time Management, and one of the core concepts of that course, which teaches people how to manage their time better, is we talk about first prioritizing what’s most important.

If you have depression, believe it or not, one of the most important things you can do to prioritize in your daily schedule is pleasure. And I know when you have depression, sometimes nothing feels pleasurable. But it’s so important that you prioritize and schedule your pleasure first. Where in the day can you make sure that you do something enjoyable, even if it’s this enjoyable, even if nothing is enjoyable, but you used to find it enjoyable? We want to prioritize your self-care, prioritize your eating, having a shower, brushing your teeth. If nothing else gets done that day, that’s okay. But we want to prioritize them depending on what’s important to you.

Now, if you’re someone who’s depressed because you’re so overwhelmed with everything that you have to do—again, we talk about this in the time management course—we want to really look at the day and look at the schedule and say, “Is this schedule nurturing a mental health benefit to me? Is it maybe time for me to reprioritize and take things off my schedule so I can get my mental health back up to the optimum level?”

I have had to do this so many times in the last few years, especially as I have suffered a chronic illness, really separate like an hour to really look at the calendar and say, “Are these things I’m doing actually helping me?” Sometimes I found I was doing things for the sake of doing them to check them off the list, but I was getting no mental benefit from them. No real value benefit from them either.

Another daytime strategy you can use is a technique or a tool called the Pomodoro Technique or the Pomodoro Method. This is where we set a timer for a very short period of time and we go and we do the goal and we focus on the thing for a short period of time. So, an example might be I might set a timer for 15 minutes, and all I’m going to do during that 15 minutes is write email. If 15 minutes is too much for you, let’s say maybe you need to tidy up your dishes, you might set a timer for 45 seconds and just get done with what you can for 45 seconds and then take a short break. Then you set the timer again. All I have to do is 45 seconds or a minute and a half or three minutes or five minutes, whatever is right for you, and put your attention on just getting that short Pomodoro little bout done.

This can be very helpful to maintain focus. It can be very helpful to maintain the stress of that activity, especially if it’s an activity that you’re dreading. And so, do consider the Pomodoro technique. You can download free apps that have a Pomodoro timer that will set you in little increments. It was actually, first, I think, created for exercise. So, it sets it like 45 minutes on, 20 seconds off, 45 seconds on. And so, you can do that with whatever task you’re trying to get done as well.

Another daytime routine I want you to consider is getting some kind of natural light or going outdoors. There is so much research to show that going outside, even if it’s for three minutes, and taking in the green of the earth or the dirt under your feet, really getting in touch and grounding with some kind of nature, or being in the sunlight, can significantly improve mood. So, consider that as well. And again, I’m going to mention, make sure you eat lunch. Eat something that boosts your mood and boosts your energy levels.

Now let’s talk about evening or wind-down routines for depression or practices. Now, number one, one of the things that we often do the most, which we really need to be better about, and this is me too, is doing some kind of digital detox in the evenings. Try your hardest to limit screen time before bed because we know screens before bed actually disturb our sleep. We also know that often we spend hours, hours of our day scrolling on social media. And even though that might feel pleasurable, it actually removes us from engaging in hobbies and things that actually make us feel good about ourselves.

One of the best ways to feel good about who you are and to feel accomplished is to be learning something or mastering something. I don’t care if it’s something that you’re starting and you’re terrible at. We have a lot of research that even moving and practicing a skill will improve and boost your mood so much more than an hour of sitting and watching funny TikTok videos.

Now, again, if all you want to do is that for right now, that’s fine. Maybe spend five minutes doing some hobby or task—something that you enjoy or used to enjoy—that you feel like you’re getting better at. Maybe you learn Spanish, you learn to crochet, you learn to knit, you do paint by number. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just pick something and work at something besides looking at a screen, especially in the evenings.

Another evening routine I want you to consider is some kind of relaxation technique for depression—reading, take a bath, maybe do again some stretching or some light yoga, maybe dance to one song. Anything you can do to, again, move your body. Again, we have so much research to show that moving your body gently, especially in the evening, can help with mood.

Another thing here is to find a comfortable sleep routine and bedtime routine. So, if you can, again, go back to your scheduling, and if you’re not good at this—we do have that online course for time management—create a nighttime routine that feels yummy in your bones. Maybe it’s reading a book, a lovely warm blanket, the pillow you love, a scent—sometimes an oil diffuser would be lovely for you. Dim the lights, close the blinds, create a nice, warm, cozy nook where you can then ease into your sleep.

Overall, weekly activities and routines that you may want to consider for your mental wellness include again finding hobbies. It doesn’t have to be grand. You don’t have to sign up for a marathon. You don’t have to become an amazing artist. You can just pick something that you suck at. That’s okay.

I always tell my patients to do paint by number. It requires very little mental energy, but you do have this cool thing that you did at the end that you can gift somebody, or you can even scrap it at the end, it doesn’t matter. Put it up on your wall—anything to get you out of your head and out of the mood piece—and really get into your body, moving your hands and thinking about focusing on other things.

One of the most important things that you can do to help boost mood and decrease depression is to find a community of like-minded people. The social interaction and improving and maintaining connections between people are going to be so important. In fact, in some countries, the treatment per se for depression, no matter how depressed somebody is, the community go and get them, bring them out, they have a party for them, they cook for them, they surround them, they dance with them. And that’s how those communities and tribes help people get through depression. And we in our Western world have forgotten this beautiful, important piece of community and being a part of a big community family.

Now, if you have struggled with this and it’s been difficult, I encourage you to reach out to support groups. There are so many ways—meet-up groups, local charities, volunteering, maybe finding again a hobby, but a place where you go and you’re with other people, even just doing that. You don’t have to spend a lot of time, but being around people. Even though when you’re depressed, I know it doesn’t feel like that’s a helpful thing. We do know that it does connect those neural pathways in our brain and does help with the management and maintenance of depression recovery.

Now, what do we do, and how can we maintain these routines on the really tough days? When it comes to handling the tough days, I understand it can feel overwhelming. All of this can feel like so, so much. But what I’m going to encourage you to do is keep it really simple. Just doing your basic functioning is all that’s required on those really tough days. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get all the things done on your list. Be compassionate, be gentle, encourage yourself, look at the things you did do instead of the things you didn’t get to do, and also seek support. Reach out to your mental health professional or a support group or your medical doctor or family or a friend or a neighbor if you’re really needing support.

There will be hard days. Depression is not linear. Recovery for depression is not linear. It’s up and down. There will be hard days. So, be as gentle as you can. Keep it as simple and as basic as you can. Do one thing at a time. Try not to focus at the whole day and all the things you have to do. That’s going to help you feel less overwhelmed and, again, help you get through one thing a day.

Let me do a quick recap. The importance of routine is huge. Routines are going to be probably one of the most important parts of your long-term recovery, besides, of course, treatment and medication. It will help you to get through the hard and stressful days and will also allow you to slowly make steps into the life that you want, and often, because we have depression, depression can take away the life that we want. So, that routine can help you slowly build up to the things that you want to do and get back to the life that you do really value.

I encourage you all to play around with this. Remember, look at the routine you have already, and maybe add one thing for now. Take what works for you, but if some of the things I mentioned today, don’t leave them. Please don’t feel judged or embarrassed if some of these aren’t really working for you. We have to look at what works for us and be very gentle with ourselves with that as well.

I hope this has been helpful. The routines have really saved me in my mental health. And so, I hope it helps you just as much as it’s helped me.

Have a great day, and I’ll see you guys next week.

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Innehåll tillhandahållet av Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT, Kimberley Quinlan, and LMFT. Allt poddinnehåll inklusive avsnitt, grafik och podcastbeskrivningar laddas upp och tillhandahålls direkt av Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT, Kimberley Quinlan, and LMFT eller deras podcastplattformspartner. Om du tror att någon använder ditt upphovsrättsskyddade verk utan din tillåtelse kan du följa processen som beskrivs här https://sv.player.fm/legal.

In the realm of mental health, the significance of structured daily routines for depression cannot be overstated. Kimberley Quinlan, an anxiety specialist with a focus on mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and self-compassion, emphasizes the transformative impact that Daily Routines for Depression can have on individuals grappling with this challenging condition.

Depression, characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in once-enjoyable activities, affects every aspect of one's life. Quinlan stresses that while professional therapy and medication are fundamental in the treatment of depression, integrating specific daily routines into one's lifestyle can offer a complementary path toward recovery and mental wellness.

THE POWER OF MORNING ROUTINES FOR DEPRESSION

Starting the day with a purpose can set a positive tone for individuals battling depression. Quinlan recommends establishing a consistent wake-up time to combat common sleep disturbances associated with depression. Incorporating light physical activity, such as stretching or a gentle walk, can significantly boost mood. Mindfulness practices, including meditation, journaling, or gratitude exercises, can help foster a healthier relationship with one's thoughts and emotions. Additionally, a nutritious breakfast can provide the necessary energy to face the day, an essential component of "Daily Routines for Depression."

DAYTIME ROUTINES FOR DEPRESSION

Throughout the day, setting realistic goals and priorities can help maintain focus and motivation. Quinlan advocates for the inclusion of pleasurable activities within one's schedule to counteract the anhedonia often experienced in depression. Techniques like the Pomodoro Method can aid in managing tasks without becoming overwhelmed, breaking down activities into manageable segments with short breaks in between. Exposure to natural light and ensuring a balanced diet further contribute to improving mood and energy levels during the day.

EVENING ROUTINES FOR DEPRESSION

As the day draws to a close, engaging in a digital detox and indulging in relaxation techniques become crucial. Limiting screen time and investing time in hobbies or skills can provide a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Establishing a calming bedtime routine, including activities like reading or taking a bath, can enhance sleep quality, an essential factor in "Daily Routines for Depression."

WEEKLY ACTIVITIES TO OVERCOME DEPRESSION

Quinlan also highlights the importance of incorporating hobbies and community engagement into weekly routines. Finding a sense of belonging and purpose through social interactions and new skills can offer a much-needed respite from the isolating effects of depression.

NAVIGATING TOUGH DAYS WITH COMPASSION

Acknowledging that the journey through depression is fraught with ups and downs, Quinlan advises adopting a compassionate and simplified approach on particularly challenging days. Focusing on basic self-care and seeking support when needed can provide a foundation for resilience and recovery.

In conclusion, Daily Routines for Depression are not just about managing symptoms but about rebuilding a life where mental wellness is prioritized. Through mindful planning and self-compassion, individuals can navigate the complexities of depression and move towards a more hopeful and fulfilling future.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

If you’re living with depression today, we are going to go through some daily routines for your mental wellness.

Welcome. My name is Kimberley Quinlan. I’m an anxiety specialist. I talk all about mindfulness, CBT, self-compassion, and skills that you can use to help you with your mental wellness.

Let’s talk about living with depression, specifically about daily routines that will set you up for success. My goal first is to really highlight the importance of routines. Routines are going to be the most important part of your depression recovery, besides, of course, seeing your therapist and talking with your doctor about medication.

This is the work that we do at home every day to set ourselves up for success, finding ways that we can manage our depression, overcome our depression by tweaking the way in which we live our daily life because the way we live our lives often will impact how severe our depression can get.

There are some behaviors and actions that can very much exacerbate and worsen depression. And there are some behaviors and routines that can very much improve your depression. So, let’s talk about them today.

DEPRESSION SYMTPOMS

Let’s first just get really clear on depression and depression symptoms. Depression is a common and can be a very serious mental illness and medical condition that can completely negatively impact your life—the way you feel, the way you think, the way you act. It often includes persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness that can really impact the way you see yourself and your own identity. It often includes a lack of interest in pleasure in the activities that you once enjoyed.

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to very severe. They can include symptoms such as changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, loss of energy, excessive guilt, difficulty thinking or concentrating. Sometimes you can feel like you have this whole brain fog. And again, deep, overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.

Now, it is important to recognize that depression is not just a temporary bout of sadness. It’s a chronic condition. It’s one that we can actually recover from, but it does require a long-term treatment plan, a commitment to taking care of yourself, including therapy and medication. So, please do speak to your medical professional and a mental health professional if you have severe depression or think you might have severe depression.

It can also include thoughts of wanting to die and not feeling like you want to live on this earth anymore. Again, if that’s something that you’re struggling with, please go to your local emergency room or immediately seek out professional mental health or medical health care.

It is so important that you do get professional help for depression because, again, depression can come down like a heavy cloud on our shoulders, and it tells a whole bunch of lies. We actually have a whole podcast episode about how depression is a big fat liar. And sometimes when you are under the spell of those lies, it’s hard to believe that anything else might be true. So, it’s very important that we take it seriously. And as we’re here today to talk about, it’s to create routines that help really nurture you and help you towards that recovery.

TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION

Before we move into those routines, I want to quickly mention the treatment for depression. The best treatment for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy. Now there is often a heavy emphasis on mindfulness and self-compassion as well. Cognitive behavioral therapy looks at both your thoughts and your behaviors. And it’s important that we look at both because both can impact the way in which this disorder plays out.

If you don’t have access to a mental healthcare professional, we also have an online course called Overcoming Depression. Overcoming Depression is an on-demand online course where I teach you the exact steps that I use with my clients to propel them into setting up their cognition so that they’re healthy, their behaviors, so that they bring a sense of pleasure and motivation, and structure into their daily lives. And then we also very heavily emphasize self-compassion and that mindfulness piece, which is so important when it comes to managing highly depressive and hopeless thoughts. So, that’s there if you want to go to CBTSchool.com/depression, or you could go to CBTSchool.com, and we have all the links right there.

DAILY ROUTINES FOR DEPRESSION

All right, so let’s talk about daily routines for depression. Research shows that, specifically for depression, finding a routine and a rhythm in your day can greatly improve the chances of your long-term recovery. And so, I really take time and slow down with my patients and talk to them about what routines are working and what routines are not. I’m not here to tell you or my patients, or my students how to live their lives and what to do specifically. I’m really interested at looking at what’s working for you and what’s not. Let’s first start with morning routines.

What often very much helps—and maybe you already have this, but if not, this is something I want you to consider—is the importance of a consistent wake-up time. When you’re depressed, as I mentioned before, a common depression symptom is sleep disturbance. Often, people lay awake all night and sleep all day, or they sleep all night and they sleep all day, and they’re heavily overwhelmed with this sleepy exhaustion. It is really important when it comes to morning routines that you set a time to wake up every morning and you get up, even if it’s for a little bit, if that’s all you can handle. Try to set that really consistent wake-up time.

What I want to emphasize as we go through these routines for depression is I don’t mind if you even do tiny baby steps. One thing you might want to start from all of the ideas I give you today, you might just want to pick one. And if that’s all you can do, that is totally okay.

What we also want to do is we want to, if possible, engage in some kind of light movement, even stretching, to boost mood. There’s a lot of routine, even just stretching or gentle walks outside. It doesn’t have to be fast. It doesn’t have to be for an hour. It could be for a quarter of a block to start with. But that light exercise has been shown to boost mood significantly. And then if you’re able, maybe even to do that multiple times throughout the day.

Another morning routine that you may want to consider is some type of mindfulness practice. Again, we cover this in overcoming depression and with my patients in CBT, but some kind of mindfulness practice. It might be journaling, it could be a gratitude practice, it could be preferably some kind of meditation. Often, what I will encourage my clients to do is just listen to a guided meditation, even if you don’t really follow along exactly. But you’re just learning about these concepts. You’re learning about the tools. You’re getting curious about them if that’s all you can do. Or if you want, you could even go more into reading a book about mindfulness, starting to learn about these ideas and concepts because they will, again, help you to have a better relationship with your thoughts and your feelings.

Another morning routine I want you to maybe consider here is to have some type of nutritious breakfast, something that supports your mental health. We want to keep an eye out for excessive sugar, not that there’s anything wrong with sugar, but it can cause us to have another energy dump, and we want to have something that will improve our energy. With depression, usually, we don’t have much energy at all. So, whatever tastes yummy, even if nothing feels yummy, but there’s something that maybe slightly sounds good, have that. If it’s something that you enjoy or have good memories about, or if it’s anything at all, I’m happy just for you to eat anything at all if it’s not something that you’ve been doing.

Let’s now move over to work-day or daytime strategies or routines. The first thing I want you to consider here throughout the day is setting realistic daily goals and priorities. We have a course at CBT School called Optimum Time Management, and one of the core concepts of that course, which teaches people how to manage their time better, is we talk about first prioritizing what’s most important.

If you have depression, believe it or not, one of the most important things you can do to prioritize in your daily schedule is pleasure. And I know when you have depression, sometimes nothing feels pleasurable. But it’s so important that you prioritize and schedule your pleasure first. Where in the day can you make sure that you do something enjoyable, even if it’s this enjoyable, even if nothing is enjoyable, but you used to find it enjoyable? We want to prioritize your self-care, prioritize your eating, having a shower, brushing your teeth. If nothing else gets done that day, that’s okay. But we want to prioritize them depending on what’s important to you.

Now, if you’re someone who’s depressed because you’re so overwhelmed with everything that you have to do—again, we talk about this in the time management course—we want to really look at the day and look at the schedule and say, “Is this schedule nurturing a mental health benefit to me? Is it maybe time for me to reprioritize and take things off my schedule so I can get my mental health back up to the optimum level?”

I have had to do this so many times in the last few years, especially as I have suffered a chronic illness, really separate like an hour to really look at the calendar and say, “Are these things I’m doing actually helping me?” Sometimes I found I was doing things for the sake of doing them to check them off the list, but I was getting no mental benefit from them. No real value benefit from them either.

Another daytime strategy you can use is a technique or a tool called the Pomodoro Technique or the Pomodoro Method. This is where we set a timer for a very short period of time and we go and we do the goal and we focus on the thing for a short period of time. So, an example might be I might set a timer for 15 minutes, and all I’m going to do during that 15 minutes is write email. If 15 minutes is too much for you, let’s say maybe you need to tidy up your dishes, you might set a timer for 45 seconds and just get done with what you can for 45 seconds and then take a short break. Then you set the timer again. All I have to do is 45 seconds or a minute and a half or three minutes or five minutes, whatever is right for you, and put your attention on just getting that short Pomodoro little bout done.

This can be very helpful to maintain focus. It can be very helpful to maintain the stress of that activity, especially if it’s an activity that you’re dreading. And so, do consider the Pomodoro technique. You can download free apps that have a Pomodoro timer that will set you in little increments. It was actually, first, I think, created for exercise. So, it sets it like 45 minutes on, 20 seconds off, 45 seconds on. And so, you can do that with whatever task you’re trying to get done as well.

Another daytime routine I want you to consider is getting some kind of natural light or going outdoors. There is so much research to show that going outside, even if it’s for three minutes, and taking in the green of the earth or the dirt under your feet, really getting in touch and grounding with some kind of nature, or being in the sunlight, can significantly improve mood. So, consider that as well. And again, I’m going to mention, make sure you eat lunch. Eat something that boosts your mood and boosts your energy levels.

Now let’s talk about evening or wind-down routines for depression or practices. Now, number one, one of the things that we often do the most, which we really need to be better about, and this is me too, is doing some kind of digital detox in the evenings. Try your hardest to limit screen time before bed because we know screens before bed actually disturb our sleep. We also know that often we spend hours, hours of our day scrolling on social media. And even though that might feel pleasurable, it actually removes us from engaging in hobbies and things that actually make us feel good about ourselves.

One of the best ways to feel good about who you are and to feel accomplished is to be learning something or mastering something. I don’t care if it’s something that you’re starting and you’re terrible at. We have a lot of research that even moving and practicing a skill will improve and boost your mood so much more than an hour of sitting and watching funny TikTok videos.

Now, again, if all you want to do is that for right now, that’s fine. Maybe spend five minutes doing some hobby or task—something that you enjoy or used to enjoy—that you feel like you’re getting better at. Maybe you learn Spanish, you learn to crochet, you learn to knit, you do paint by number. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just pick something and work at something besides looking at a screen, especially in the evenings.

Another evening routine I want you to consider is some kind of relaxation technique for depression—reading, take a bath, maybe do again some stretching or some light yoga, maybe dance to one song. Anything you can do to, again, move your body. Again, we have so much research to show that moving your body gently, especially in the evening, can help with mood.

Another thing here is to find a comfortable sleep routine and bedtime routine. So, if you can, again, go back to your scheduling, and if you’re not good at this—we do have that online course for time management—create a nighttime routine that feels yummy in your bones. Maybe it’s reading a book, a lovely warm blanket, the pillow you love, a scent—sometimes an oil diffuser would be lovely for you. Dim the lights, close the blinds, create a nice, warm, cozy nook where you can then ease into your sleep.

Overall, weekly activities and routines that you may want to consider for your mental wellness include again finding hobbies. It doesn’t have to be grand. You don’t have to sign up for a marathon. You don’t have to become an amazing artist. You can just pick something that you suck at. That’s okay.

I always tell my patients to do paint by number. It requires very little mental energy, but you do have this cool thing that you did at the end that you can gift somebody, or you can even scrap it at the end, it doesn’t matter. Put it up on your wall—anything to get you out of your head and out of the mood piece—and really get into your body, moving your hands and thinking about focusing on other things.

One of the most important things that you can do to help boost mood and decrease depression is to find a community of like-minded people. The social interaction and improving and maintaining connections between people are going to be so important. In fact, in some countries, the treatment per se for depression, no matter how depressed somebody is, the community go and get them, bring them out, they have a party for them, they cook for them, they surround them, they dance with them. And that’s how those communities and tribes help people get through depression. And we in our Western world have forgotten this beautiful, important piece of community and being a part of a big community family.

Now, if you have struggled with this and it’s been difficult, I encourage you to reach out to support groups. There are so many ways—meet-up groups, local charities, volunteering, maybe finding again a hobby, but a place where you go and you’re with other people, even just doing that. You don’t have to spend a lot of time, but being around people. Even though when you’re depressed, I know it doesn’t feel like that’s a helpful thing. We do know that it does connect those neural pathways in our brain and does help with the management and maintenance of depression recovery.

Now, what do we do, and how can we maintain these routines on the really tough days? When it comes to handling the tough days, I understand it can feel overwhelming. All of this can feel like so, so much. But what I’m going to encourage you to do is keep it really simple. Just doing your basic functioning is all that’s required on those really tough days. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get all the things done on your list. Be compassionate, be gentle, encourage yourself, look at the things you did do instead of the things you didn’t get to do, and also seek support. Reach out to your mental health professional or a support group or your medical doctor or family or a friend or a neighbor if you’re really needing support.

There will be hard days. Depression is not linear. Recovery for depression is not linear. It’s up and down. There will be hard days. So, be as gentle as you can. Keep it as simple and as basic as you can. Do one thing at a time. Try not to focus at the whole day and all the things you have to do. That’s going to help you feel less overwhelmed and, again, help you get through one thing a day.

Let me do a quick recap. The importance of routine is huge. Routines are going to be probably one of the most important parts of your long-term recovery, besides, of course, treatment and medication. It will help you to get through the hard and stressful days and will also allow you to slowly make steps into the life that you want, and often, because we have depression, depression can take away the life that we want. So, that routine can help you slowly build up to the things that you want to do and get back to the life that you do really value.

I encourage you all to play around with this. Remember, look at the routine you have already, and maybe add one thing for now. Take what works for you, but if some of the things I mentioned today, don’t leave them. Please don’t feel judged or embarrassed if some of these aren’t really working for you. We have to look at what works for us and be very gentle with ourselves with that as well.

I hope this has been helpful. The routines have really saved me in my mental health. And so, I hope it helps you just as much as it’s helped me.

Have a great day, and I’ll see you guys next week.

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