In today’s hectic, action-packed society, we often pride ourselves on our productivity and busyness. We fill each day with work, technology, errands, and activities that leave little room for much else. However, over time it’s possible for your productive and busy days to become unhinged from their original intent.
You might become so entrenched in your hectic routine that the activities begin to lose their meaning, and you feel like you are simply spinning your wheels each day without any true direction. You may begin to feel that your life is not making a difference or that what you are doing and how hard you are working is not moving you forward on the path you were hoping to take. Life seems busy and burdensome, yet without purpose. This outlook can be a major factor in environmental causes of depression.
If you are experiencing this empty feeling of depressed burnout, it may be time for you to reevaluate your routine and focus in life. While there may be a great many things in your daily routine that you cannot change, you may be surprised at how many things you can. One of the keys to overcoming depression is to honestly and realistically evaluate your life and then develop a plan to change those things that are in your control.
You may be reluctant to do this exercise for fear it will make you even more depressed. But the objective of taking stock is not to create an inventory of all the things that are wrong with your life. Rather, taking stock will help to categorize the changeable and unchangeable things in your life to intentionally move forward, out of depression and the doldrums of meaninglessness. Here are some simple steps to help you evaluate your routine.
- Reflect on your daily activities. Make a list of all of the things you do each day, leaving space after each item. Begin with the moment you wake up, and write down every event that takes place until you put your head on the pillow each night.
- Write down the reasons for engaging in each of these activities. Are they for you or for someone else? Are your reasons for engaging in each activity the same today as they were when you started? Have the reasons changed? Have you?
- Next to each reason, write down how this activity makes you feel. Do you look forward to each activity? Do you dread it? Does it bring you joy or anxiety?
- Determine if the activities are changeable. What would happen if you stopped doing that activity? Or did it less often? Are you responsible for the activity? Or is someone else?
- On a new sheet of paper, write down a list of dreams, goals and activities that bring you joy and make you feel truly fulfilled. Though a bit morbid, two strategies to help you discover this list is to write your ideal obituary or think of what you would choose to do if you only had 6 months left to live.
- Next to this list of fulfilling activities, write down what steps you would need to take to incorporate these activities into your daily life. What would that life look like? How would each day unfold?
- Finally, compare lists. What changes, even small ones at first, can you make today to your first list to bring you closer to a more fulfilling, joyful life?
Too often, we live our lives feeling like spectators instead of active participants with the power to choose our own course. We get swept up into the mindless hustle and bustle of each day, losing sight of what really gives our lives purpose and meaning. It’s as if we are on autopilot, but depression happens when our autopilot gets stuck in a hectic, negative descent. Unless we take intentional action, chances are that circumstances won’t force a change to the positive. If you are feeling uninspired, burned out, and depressed, it’s time to actively and intentionally participate in the course of your life.
Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Turing Your Down into Up: A Realistic Plan for Healing from Depression.