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Depression

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Behavioral Activity Scheduling

Depressive symptoms can feel immobilizing. Once your motivation and energy decreases, it takes longer to complete activities, if you even do them at all. Things do not feel as fun and enjoyable as they once did, they may even feel like a chore. Most activities don't seem worth it.

In an effort to protect the limited energy you have, you may start sacrificing activities from your schedule. You may skip class, stay in your room, stay in bed, and only do what you feel is absolutely necessary. Although protecting your energy serves a function, sacrificing important activities is not an effective long-term strategy.

Activities play an important role in how we feel. We can gain a sense of pleasure, connection, accomplishment, and confidence through different activities. Certain activities may increase our depressive symptoms and make us feel more isolated. Either way, it is important to understand how our behavior impacts our mood.

The first reason to keep track of this information is to get an accurate picture of what your activities and mood looked like throughout week, hour by hour. In a word or two, write down what you were doing (e.g. Shopping, grocery store, walk, sleeping, video game, class, therapy, etc). It sounds like it could be a lot of work, but it will only take a couple of seconds. After you record what you were doing, rate your depressive symptoms during that hour on a scale from 0 – 100. (Use this weekly activity schedule to record your activities and feelings)

0 = Not all all, 20 = A little, 50 = Medium, 80 = A lot, 100= Most I've ever felt

Depressive symptoms feel relentless, consuming, and overwhelming. However, our mood does change throughout the day, often depending on what we are doing. It is crucial to have an accurate picture of what activities you are engaging in throughout the week as well as the impact of those activities on your mood.

Once you have a complete picture of what your activities and mood looked like throughout the week, you can use the schedule to begin identifying patterns from the information.

  • Did my mood change throughout the week? What patterns do I notice?
  • What activities impacted my mood? How? Why?
  • Are the activities that helped my mood in my best long-term interest? What other activities could I do to feel better?
  • Did anything make me feel worse? Why? Are those in my best interest?
  • Any particular days or times of the day I felt better?

Based on those answers, think about your upcoming week. What activities can you plan to increase the changes that you will feel better? Activities help because they actually make you feel better, like exercise, they give you something to do which challenges negative thoughts and distracts you, and they give you opportunities to succeed and connect. Most people find that by implementing a combination of social, pleasurable, and mastery (something that you can accomplish, like doing your laundry or going to class) activities into their week has a positive impact on their mood.