BEHAVIOURAL ACTIVATION: FUN AND ACHIEVEMENT
So there’s depression, and there are symptoms of depression. These are two very different, yet similar things. Depression is a mental illness, while the symptoms are the signs that tell you a patient is suffering from depression. The funny thing is that these symptoms usually fuel the illness in the sense that they worsen the situation. Therefore, if you’re a mental health practitioner, one of your goals should be to find ways to treat the symptoms while helping the patient get back to their feet.
What are examples of depression symptoms? They include loss of motivation, lethargy, loss of pleasure, loss of interest, and indecisiveness. All these can lead to inactivity, which will in turn keep the depression going, or worsen it.
Depression won’t just affect the patient’s social life. The effects will also be observed at the work place. You’ll slowly notice they rarely compete most of their tasks and that’s mainly because they keep procrastinating and neglecting some of their responsibilities. And as such, whenever they start thinking about the amount of work waiting for them, they’ll gradually fall deeper into depression.
Increasing the Activity Level
Handling depression is not all that difficult. With the right techniques, you can help the patient increase their level of activity in a day, and that’s how they’ll get back to the right headspace. The prime reason why mental health practitioners normally advice depression patients to keep themselves busy with something is because they want them to keep thinking about something else – a different focus.
· The activity will help the patient feel better. The patient doesn’t have to make huge steps. Accomplishing the small tasks will help them feel like they have made tremendous steps forward. They’ll feel like they have a grip on life and can control their destiny.
· The activity is also meant to help them feel less tired. In a normal situation, a person will feel worn out after a chore. They’ll feel like their body needs more rest. However, when it comes to depression, the opposite is what’s true. Rest will be the reason why they’ll feel tired.
· The patient will have more clarity. The moment they get started, they’ll gain clarity. They’ll have a different perspective on different problems in life, and that’s a great sign.
Fun and Achievement
What do you normally do whenever you want to feel better or generate some positive stuff? We’re guessing you usually take part in some fun stuff, right? Well, that fun stuff can also help a depressed patient get back to a healthy mental state, but it won’t be enough. The patient will need something more because depression is not just about feeling sad always. Many other feelings are involved as well. They include a feeling of despair, guilt, and hopelessness. So get them involved in other things that can help them feel that sense of purpose or achievement. For example, they could do some ironing or pay off money on their credit card.
Even though the depression patient can benefit a lot by increasing the level of activity in their life, we also have to acknowledge the fact that it’s easier said than done. Put yourself in the patient’s shoes. What do you think they are thinking at that moment? They’ll be thinking, “I cannot do this,” or “This is so hard,” or “I don’t want to fail again.” These are just a few thoughts that will stop them from making that first step. And the worst thing that you can do, is make them make that huge step too soon.
A depressed individual has to be handled with care. Things that usually don’t require a lot of effort can easily overwhelm them. so the idea should not be about making them do things, but making them do something small. It’s like walking an athlete through a training session after recovering from an injury. If you were bedridden for 6 or more months due to an injury and the doctors suddenly gave you a clear bill of health, will you right away go back to the field. You’ll first reach out to your rehabilitation coach for some conditioning, right? Well, that’s exactly how you need to treat a depressed patient. That first step is the most important step. And if you push them hard they’ll fall back into it.
Sometimes it helps to work with time instead trying to achieve a set amount of work. You could ask them to read a book for at least 5 minutes instead of reading 10 pages or a whole chapter. Say, for instance, spending 20 minutes weeding a garden instead of weeding half of it.
That’s the surest way of achieving a goal. At the end of it all, the only thing that will matter is what you’ve done and not how much you’ve done.
Raquel Soteldo RP(Q), MA, ABA, PMP, CCC