As the months continue to go by, it’s no secret that sheltering in place is a part of what we must consider our new normal. The stress and anxiety felt at the abrupt transition to staying at home have now progressed into chronic anxiety and stress. Whether you are working from home, suddenly homeschooling your child, or trying to find a way to occupy your time due to unemployment, coping with this heightened level of stress, anxiety and depression can largely be done by sticking to a schedule.
At times when feelings of depression and anxiety may become overbearing due to the number of changes ever present, scheduling activities can serve as a catalyst to jumpstart healthy coping. Dr. Christine A. Padesky formulated a useful Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) method to boost your mood and improve your sense of value.
Three types of activities that boost mood are pleasurable activities, accomplishments, and tasks that overcome avoidance. Incorporating a dynamic schedule consisting of these components will shift your motivation. Let’s take a deeper look into the three categories:
1. Pleasurable activities include the things we look forward to doing. When analyzing what qualifies as this for you, try asking yourself, what makes me feel good? One of our therapists, Dorinda Woodley, LMFT offers some fun examples here to help your brainstorming begin.
2. Accomplishments are those daily activities must be done. This includes the small tasks like showering or getting dressed, or the ones that require more effort such as cooking a meal or working on a project. Try asking yourself, what is meaningful to me, to prevent succumbing to the dreaded feeling of your couch or bed taking you as a hostage for the day or the week. For example, having your laundry washed and folded by the beginning of the week can reinforce your value of looking your best.
3. Overcoming avoidance is the final and most difficult category to complete for the obvious-they are the least pleasurable activities. These tasks may be avoided due to its difficulty or the potential uneasy emotions that may arise. Scheduling and completing just one of these helps boost your mood and provide you with the confidence to continue on with your list. Tackling the large pile of mail that’s been accumulating for months because of the anxious feeling of missing out on the present can be started in small steps. By breaking down this overwhelming task into more feasible steps, the task then becomes more manageable. For example, these steps can include organizing the mail first by date, then by importance (junk vs bills) and then finally getting around to opening a few pieces a day.
Discovering which combination of activities is best suited for boosting your mood can be done through practicing mindfulness, journaling and thoughtful reflection. Paying close attention to how you are feeling before and after each completed task can provide insight as to how to plan a day that brings the most satisfaction. Click here to access a tool provided by Dr. Padesky for a helpful outline if a visual structure keeps you focused.
For help pinpointing which category your life activities fall within, click here for another useful worksheet.
Once you have an idea of which activities will be incorporated in your day, the hardest part can be sticking to the schedule. Here is an hourly PDF that can be edited and customized for each day for the extra discipline.
Remember, scheduling your daily activities is not about keeping busy. It is about making the promise to do the things that are meaningful to you. Supercharging activities with your values intertwined allows us to benefit from them increasingly. Give yourself the opportunity to change the quality of your days by utilizing this CBT method.
About the Author: Rudairo Segbeaya is a Behavior Therapist and Pacific CBT’s Office Manager. She is currently interested in understanding the relationship between race and mental health specifically within the African American community as well as finding possible solutions to healing intergenerational trauma. Rudairo received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of San Francisco and is currently undertaking a Master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University.