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Behavioral Activation

Keep Your Mood from Suffering While Stuck at Home

No one is immune to depression. You can take the most positive person in the world, put him in a room with no windows, social interaction, or rewarding activities and his mood will inevitably suffer. Now, consider what's happening in the world. Millions of people are restricted to their homes, cut off from their social support systems, and forced to wait for life to return to normal. Fortunately, to be human means we all have the ability of choice—the ability to choose how we spend our days even if those choices are limited.

There's a common theme among individuals who experience depression: their current behaviors and their desired behaviors don't match. In other words, they aren’t participating in any activities they find fulfilling or enjoyable. For a number of people, the closing of bars, concerts, and other social events means the elimination of activities that are enjoyable. Also, being forced to work from home, banned from traveling, and left to exercise without a gym reduces many activities some consider fulfilling or important. This can be a recipe for depression. Fortunately, there are techniques that one can utilize to keep his/her mood from tanking while stuck at home.

Example image of a 24 hour timesheet with activities listed in each hour block, and two columns Important and Enjoyable with ratings between 1 and 10. These numbers are totalled up for a daily rating. There is a 'Mood today' checkmark towards the bottom listing whether the daily mood was Poor, Fair, Good or Excellent, with Good checked in the example. At the bottom is a note field, with an example note; 'Overall, a good day. Need to try and boost my enjoyable activities where feasible. Maybe I should look into alternatives for cooking.'

Example Spreadsheet

Use a spreadsheet to track what you've done in the past few days. Next to each activity, rate how important/fulfilling you found the activity on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 = least, 10 = most). Do the same for how enjoyable you found each activity. The spreadsheet will sum the totals for each category automatically. The totals will give you a baseline as well as a sense of the balance between how much of your day is spent doing important tasks versus enjoyable ones (see the example below). Once you have tracked your typical daily activities, the next step is to decide what to modify. However, you must first determine what activities you value most.

Your values are what you hold as central to your character. They generally drive your motivations and behaviors. You will first need to identify what you value most in order to generate activities that will make the most impact to your sense of well-being. Using the five life areas below, identify your top values in each area.

Relationships: What relationships do you value the most?

Career/Education: What are your career aspiration or educational goals?

Leisure: What do you enjoy doing the most?

Mind/Body/Spirit: What's important to you about your mental/physical health?

Responsibilities: What are some chores/tasks that would make you feel accomplished?

For each value you list, generate 3-5 activities that align with that value. For example, if someone values being physical fit (from the Mind/Body/Spirit category), he/she may generate activities that revolve around weight-lifting, running, and other forms of health promotion. Similarly, if someone values having a clean living space (from the Responsibilities category), he/she may identify sweeping, mopping, and dusting as corresponding activities.

As you create activities, it will be important to follow the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) framework in order to maximize your probability of success. The more specific and measured you are, the more likely you are to achieve your goals.

Specific: The Who, What, When, Where, and Why

Measurable: Be able to track your own progress

Attainable: Don't bite off more than you can chew

Relevant: Goals must be important to you

Time-Bound: Give yourself a deadline

Pick a few activities from your list to plug into your schedule. Be sure to start slow and adhere to the SMART principles listed above. Also, continue to track your daily activities using the spreadsheet provided in order to monitor your important/enjoyable numbers and measure your progress.

Dealing with the COVID-19 restrictions effectively is going to require deliberateness, structure, and some creativity. Fortunately, these are not foreign traits to Rangers. Best of luck and feel free to reach out to your RPSYCH team with any questions. RLTW!