I’m not a therapist (I have a little counseling training, but I’m not licensed), and I’m definitely not your therapist, so if you’re really struggling, please get the in-person help you need and don’t rely on blog posts to get you through. Help is great!
Depression and anxiety are thieves.
They steal our joy, our peace, our time, our hobbies, and sometimes even our careers and families. If they are a part of your life in big or small ways, you may find that they make it a little harder for you to reach your goals – or even just to start toward your goals! I hope these tips help you outwit them – they’ve worked for me in a variety of situations, and they’ve worked for everyone else I know who has tried them. You can do this.
1. Write it down.
Have a goal? Write it down. Want to get some things done today? Write them down. Feeling happy, or sad, or something else? Write it all down.
Your brain can only do so much at once – and what it’s doing might not be helpful in this case – so take back some control and write everything down. Clear your mind. Take a look at what’s really going on.
A written list is easier to get done, step by step and item by item. It’s also a great way to see if you’re stuck for a good reason (do you want to go running but need the right shoes? do you want to eat vegetables as snacks but haven’t bought any?), or if you’re trying to do too much at once.
2. Stop researching and trust yourself – or get someone involved who you trust.
Stop searching the web for classes and workouts. Stop reading about other peoples’ workout experiences. Stop scrolling their instagrams and wondering if what they’re doing will work for you. Stop reading articles about everything. Stop looking for the right aromatherapy or thermostat setting to reach your goals, stop waiting for the right astrological alignment, stop shopping for tea or supplements or magic powders that might work for you even though they don’t seem to work for anyone else. You’re not doing research, you’re just overwhelming yourself and talking yourself out of everything that you already know you want.
Can’t stop? I understand – it can be hard to learn to trust yourself. The right personal trainer can be amazing for getting through patches like these and learning what to do to reach your goals. You don’t have to go forever if you don’t want to, but in 2-3 months you can accomplish so much with the right professional guidance.
Do you have a superfit friend? Be careful if you ask them for help – what works for them might not be right for you, they might not understand what you need in order to reach your goals, and they might not be available in the right ways for you.
3. Take the first, smallest step.
Tiny steps are not a trick to get you to make bigger steps – they are the only kinds of steps we really make. So give yourself credit for taking a walk today, doing a random workout from YouTube (ask me for recs if you need some – and check out our free workout videos), cooking those lentils, or whatever else you’ve done to take action. When you’re done with the first tiny step, move on to the next one.
4. Be honest.
No one likes to be honest with themselves all the time. But if you’re scared of failing, just admit it. If you’re playing games and avoiding what you know you really need to do, admit it. If you are being stubborn about taking steps from this page, admit it…and try taking one. Don’t feed the thieves by adding on more layers of story to the ones your brain already built up!
5. Stay out of the future.
Anxiety lives for the future. In fact, if you stay in just this exact present moment, it’s impossible to be anxious. Anxiety wants you to make a chart and check off each pound you lose/mile you run/push-up you do until you reach some big lofty goal; real life says just make it through today and worry about tomorrow when it gets here. Life is unpredictable and you don’t have to be perfect to make progress.
6. Stay out of the past.
Depression, meanwhile, hangs out in the past. Remember all the times you failed? Remember how many times you’ve tried this before? OH WELL. (I really mean it! Say it with me! OH WELL.) Unless you have a time machine and you can go back and edit those prior experiences (call me!), chalk them up to “learning” and “life experience” and let the rest go. Carrying all that mess with you isn’t making you stronger, but carrying some real weights around will.
7. Get accountable for the small things.
When I’m struggling or trying to adopt a new habit/practice/outlook, I print off 3-4 copies of weekly checklist for myself of the 5-6 new things I want to get done. I don’t need 100 copies – after a few weeks, either the new stuff will have stuck or I will have found a better idea – and I don’t need a list of 100 things, because life is full and I can only do so much.
These tasks might be alarmingly simple – wash the dishes daily, walk for an extra 10 minutes, read for 5 minutes – but if they’re not getting done without reminders, make yourself some reminders! I usually post my list on the fridge or keep a copy in my planner so that it will find me before I can forget about it.
8. Understand that progress is not a straight line.
I’m not telling you that to make you feel better – it’s the truth. Everyone has up days and down days, productive days and foggy days, easy tasks and hard tasks. One tough day truly doesn’t mean that all is lost. (And if you’ve been writing things down from step 1, that list of accomplishments should help you see that you can do it, so keep going.)
9. Stop checking the roots.
Whatever it is you’re planting, let it grow. Stop digging it up hourly to check the roots. Trying to lose weight? Weighing in twice a month is enough. Working out? 3-4 times a week is totally enough. Eating better? Just do your best each day, and maybe log or photograph your meals to make sure you’re eating the rainbow. The person you found back in step 2 can help with this – if you think you should take a peek at the roots, try asking them first.
10. It’s okay.
Whatever today is, it’s okay. You don’t have to feel a certain way about your progress, your goals, your body, or anything – just feel how you feel. You can feel crummy and still work out or eat well – and you can feel happy and still work out or eat well. Your feelings don’t need to dictate those choices in your life.
If you need a day off, it’s okay. If you accidentally binge on internet stuff instead of actually getting things done, it’s okay – just try to put a safety net in place so it doesn’t happen too often. If you got fries when you had planned to get a salad, it’s okay – but see what you can do to make the choice you had wanted to make next time.
It’s okay to need reminders. It’s okay if your progress doesn’t look like anyone else’s. It’s okay if you’re struggling with things that you think should be easy. Take your road one step at a time, don’t stop walking, and you will get to a new place before you know it – probably a place that you can’t even imagine right now. (So stay out of the future, will you?)
11. Drink a glass of water.
Sometimes, that foggy, lousy feeling is just dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, your brain has to work harder (which can feel like depression), and it’s harder for your lungs and heart to do their jobs (which can feel like – and even trigger – anxiety). Drink up! And take a deep breath for once.