As a society, it’s clear that sheltering in place has transformed the way we will live forever. The stress and anxiety felt during the abrupt transition to staying at home now may be chronic in your life. Whether you are working from home, homeschooling your child, or trying to find a way to occupy your time due to unemployment, coping can seem impossible. If you are looking to jumpstart your life, creating a routine is a helpful first step.

In times of change when feelings of depression and anxiety may become overbearing, scheduling activities can serve as a catalyst to jumpstart healthy coping. Dr. Christine A. Padesky created a useful Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) method to help boost your mood, improve your sense of self and help maintain your mental health.

Three types of activities that boost mood are pleasurable activities, accomplishments, and tasks that overcome avoidance. Incorporating a dynamic schedule consisting of these things can help 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 start. For example, if a value of yours is looking your best,  washing and folding your laundry at the beginning of the week can be reinforcing for this value.

3. Overcoming avoidance is the final and most difficult category to complete for the obvious, it is full of your the activities that give you the least pleasure. These tasks are usually avoided due to its difficulty or the potential uneasy emotions that may arise. Scheduling and completing just one of these tasks helps boost your mood and provide the confidence to continue on with your list. Avoiding the large pile of mail that’s been accumulating for months because of the anxious feeling of missing out on the present can be tackled in small steps. By breaking this overwhelming task down, it becomes more manageable. Organizing the mail first by date, then by importance (junk vs bills) and then finally getting around to opening a few pieces a day is just one way to break down this big chore.

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 will give guidance on 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. Rudairo received her Master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University.

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