Over the years it is possible for the activities and responsibilities of life to layer, each on top of the others. The combined weight of all these activities and responsibilities can be crushing. One of the first steps in taking stock of your life is to look at what you are doing.
Depression can occur when your activities are out of balance in the following ways:
- You have too many activities, and the sum of them outweighs their individual value. When you’ve got too many things going collectively, you’re too busy to enjoy any of them individually.
- You have many activities but too few worthwhile ones. When the sum of your activities is draining, it interferes with the worthwhile ones.
- You have too few activities in your life. When your biggest activity is inactivity, you rob yourself of the stimulation and engagement of purpose and people.
If you have developed a pattern of tying self-worth to activity, you may find it difficult to let go of some of the things you are dong. If you have developed a pattern of believing in your own incompetence, taking on new pursuits may frighten you with their potential for failure. If you have developed a pattern of being afraid of making mistakes, an honest appraisal of why you are engaging in an activity may be uncomfortable because of needed changes it might reveal.
Your life patterns are the result of your perception or view of life and what you believed would happen. They are often forged in childhood. Once you understand your personal life patterns, you will be better equipped to discover certain perceptions and expectations that led you to either negative or positive actions.
If you have the perception that your life is always supposed to be smooth sailing, the inevitable ups and downs can cause great anxiety. Down times are not put into proper perspective, because you don’t consider them to be legitimate in your life. Down times are supposed to happen to other people but not to you. If you are unprepared to deal with these down times, then confusion, frustration, and depression can result.
If you have the perception that you don’t deserve to be happy, you will filter the events of your life to make sure you aren’t content. Good things will be met with suspicion, and bad things will be welcomed as old friends.
If you have the perception that the only way for you to be safe is to be in control, you will have a heightened sense of anxiety over life events. Since people are rarely in total control over their environment, and never in control of other people, this perception leaves a persistent, nagging feeling of insecurity. This perpetual sense of unease can lead to anxiety and depression.
By acknowledging negative perceptions, you can move forward toward a view of life that is neither unrealistically rosy nor unrelentingly gray. Acknowledging your pace, patterns, and perceptions allows you to control and alter them to support your optimism, hope, and joy, even when life throws you a curve.
Are you depressed? Though no replacement for a formal diagnosis, this survey can help you recognize the signs.
SOURCE: Chapter 4, “Living Life On Purpose,” in Moving Beyond Depression by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.
Review Blog Schedule (every weekday devoted to excerpts from a different book by Dr. Jantz)