How to Make Yourself Do Simple Things That Your Depression Renders Impossible

Those who are depressed or have some other mental health problem, such as anxiety, may find themselves unable to do simple things, like folding laundry or washing the dishes that have piled up in the kitchen. Such chores turn into insurmountable problems, and coping with it may be challenging. Here is what is recommended to people having difficulty bringing themselves to do simple things.

Image Credit: / Dmytro Zinkevych

Have you ever found it hard to force yourself to pay the bills? Actually, the very need to force yourself is a possible sign of an underlying mental problem: healthy people do such chores with ease, without energy being depleted after going grocery shopping.

Haunted by thoughts about the uselessness of your efforts, you cannot get rid of the feeling that doing things like getting up, brushing your teeth or doing the laundry is nonsensical. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. There words, though ancient and holding true, are what immerses you into the swamp of desperation and despondency, leading you to abandon hope and refuse to keep on doing the simple things that are mere trifles to anyone else.

Doing the impossible

There is no uniform description of the thing that becomes an insurmountable problem for a person who is depressed or suffers from anxiety. Not does it even have a conventional term. Some call it the Impossible Task, but most therapists are familiar with the phenomenon, either by this name or some other.

For the depressed, everything seems very hard. According to Beck’s theory about the cognitive, or negative, triad, a patient with depression is haunted by uncontrollable negative thoughts about the self, the future, and the world. That is, thoughts like “I am hopeless” or “everything will get worse” become automatic and persistent.

The reason why something becomes another impossible task is the fight or flight response, psychologists report. Your brain perceives it as a danger, something that should be feared, and your body strives to avoid doing it, no matter what. Coping with it is undoubtedly difficult. Here is what you can try doing to get rid of the problem.

  • Set realistic goals

Thinking about all the things that you need to do may frighten you. Instead of trying to cram everything in your schedule, do something that seems least impossible. Doing at least something will help you actually start getting back on track. If your goals are too vague (‘To finally finish that report’), add more details to them (‘To write two pages of the report’). Less time-consuming tasks are easier to do.

  • Focus on the things you have done to be inspired to do more

Yes, there are a lot of things to be done, but you have already done at least something – you have got out of bed, took your clothes on, and even brushed your teeth. Why can’t you do something else? It’s not what you cannot do that matters now, but what you can. Think about what does not make your heart sink, something you can do right now. Does going for a walk and spending an hour in the park watching birds sound like a good idea? Go and do it.

  • Schedule your tasks – including the impossible one

Set a schedule for the week. Do not make it too busy: set realistic goals and check off the things you have done. This way, you will be able to track your progress and know what and when you should do.

  • Ask for help

There is nothing bad about asking for help. Be it a professional or just your friend, getting it off your chest can help you cope with the problem. For example, your friend or relative can actually do something you dread – regardless of whether it is paying the bills or having your fridge repaired. A professional (or even your friend!) can help you identify the cause of such behavior and prevent more impossible tasks from appearing.

Depression is not the only cause behind being unable to do simple things. Those suffering from anxiety or PTSD are also prone to such problems. Treatment of the underlying condition is a must; otherwise you will face more of these in the future. “Impossible tasks” may resemble procrastination, and vice versa, so if you have an opportunity, consult a professional. If left untreated, the problem can have a significant negative impact on your life.

P.S. If you are a friend of a depressed person, do some research and learn how you can help them – because you can help them.


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