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Setting Realistic Goals to Overcome Depression

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 3 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Depression Goals Attain Attainment

Setting realistic goals to overcome depression isn't always easy and can seem like a difficult task. There are many ways to make this process easier by helping you to organize your goals meet them and learn from setbacks along the way.

Doing The Impossible

Some may feel powerless and hopeless that their depression will ever be treated and an attempt to set any goals may seem impossible. When depression overwhelms a person, it is hard to even know where to start setting goals. Your first goal should be to obtain an accurate diagnosis of clinical depression. Assuming you have done so, your doctor is a good starting point for treatment and he or she can also provide more realistic aims of treatment and will tell you what you can expect to see for results. Although you may feel like you will never manage to climb out of the dark hole, your doctor can put your circumstances into perspective.

Realistic Versus Idealistic

At the other end of the spectrum, some people may have very high expectations of depression treatment and may feel that their illness will just 'disappear' rapidly. For most people, this will not be the case. Optimism and hope are wonderful feelings, especially when you have been depressed for some time, but when experienced in excess they can bring a sense of false relief and may lead to disappointment when results aren't as rapid or effective as anticipated. Try not to put time constraints on your progress. Medications and therapy can take time to work.

Break It Down

Consider looking at the individual aspects of your depression. You might try to separate your depression into smaller, more manageable parts such as:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Mental

Look at ways you can improve your physical symptoms of depression. If your eating patterns are poor, plan to improve them slowly each day. If your body is sore and aching, consider scheduling a massage for muscle relief. Tend to your negative thoughts through treatments such as biofeedback or cognitive-behavioural therapy, where you can create a more positive mindset. Address emotional aspects of your depression by participating in activities that make you feel less sad, such as a hobby, social time with a friend or perhaps a sport. If you can view your depression as a series of smaller parts and you aim to address each one individually, you can feel less overwhelmed and more realistic in your goals to overcome depression.

Choosing Your Goals

You may wish to also separate your goals into short-term and long-term goals. A short-term goal may be to go for a 10-minute walk one day and a long-term goal may be to nurture and improve a relationship with someone in your life. Some of the questions you may wish to ask yourself when setting goals are:

  • What do I want from life?
  • What are the things that give me motivation?
  • What things make me feel good?
  • What would I like to change?
  • How can I change the things that I don't like?
  • What are my hopes and wishes?

Using a Diary

Some people find that writing in a diary can help to release tension each day, and this can give you a sense of where you are in your attainment of various goals related to depression treatment. Others prefer writing a specific list of the different goals and making notes on progress or setbacks each day. This can help you to identify those areas which require more work as well as provide you with a sense of accomplishment for those areas where you are experiencing progress.

Ask For Input

When setting realistic goals, it can help to obtain input from family or friends who may better be able to view the situation clearly. Oftentimes, if a depressed person is taking on 'too much,' family and friends can help to bring them back down to reality and encourage them to slow down and take it easy.

One or More Setbacks Does Not Equal a Disaster

Be kind and gentle to yourself by accepting and forgiving any setbacks. You may not reach every goal you make and in fact, it's human and natural to experience setbacks but criticizing yourself is only counterproductive to depression management. Experiencing setbacks does not mean all of your goals are in vain. If you don't meet a goal, think about ways to improve your chances of realistically meeting it and be sure to also focus on the positive aspects of those goals you do meet.

Reward Your Efforts

The best reward for reaching a goal is the confidence and satisfaction that you have been successful but that doesn't mean you can't use other incentives. Treat yourself to a dinner out or perhaps a new item you have been wishing to buy. It's a nice way of acknowledging and appreciating your own efforts and capabilities in attaining your goals.

Getting Support

Support is a major element in your ability to reach your goals for depression management. Ultimately, you are the one who is battling your depression, but consider medications, therapists and a support network of friends and family as important factors for treating your illness. Overcoming depression alone can leave you more isolated and challenged when you try to reach your goals. A support network can keep you on track and make depression management more effective. Regardless of where you are in your depression recovery, goals are an important part of your well-being. Setting realistic goals to overcome depression can help you to maintain the hope that you will beat your depression, one step and one day at a time.

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