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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Break Free from the Mental Recession or Depression by Doing Less

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 12th 2009

depressed womanOk, so there's no hiding from it. We are in an economic recession and for many that doesn't just hit the financial books. Recessions seep into the collective consciousness of our every day lives. You might start noticing yourself actually feeling more down lately as more and more people are saying "well, it's just the economy today" or "we're going to have to tighten our belts." You may catch yourself feeling disappointed, maybe anger or guilt for not being more successful right now. This could lead to feeling more tired with thoughts like "what's the point" or "this is hopeless". The cycle continues and as more and more people get caught in this cycle, we move from and economic recession to a collective mental recession. Inertia to actually get up and do things seems to mount. So what can you do?

Motivational Psychology informs us that in order to get past inertia, we need to set our goals lower. That's right, lay off yourself a bit! You're life may seem more difficult when you're not feeling that well and so you need to set your sights a bit lower at the moment. When you have a cold, it's good to ease off a bit to promote healing. This is the same concept. I often ask my patients who are feeling depressed, "What do you think you can do today?" Depending on the situation, they might say "I think I can go on a 15 minute walk outside." I then follow with "Great, just walk for 5, you think you can do that?" The answer is invariably "Yes". The purpose of this is to relieve some of the inherent pressure to actually do things and when that is done and the mind believes it can do something, it is more likely to do so. You can do the same for laundry, making cold calls at work, or cleaning the house. Doing something is better than nothing. If you walked for 5 minutes outside, instead of just feeling overwhelmed by it and not getting to it, you have won the battle. In fact, when most people just get outside to walk for those 5 minutes, once they're outside, it's more likely that they'll stay outside and just continue walking for a bit. It's that initial inertia that is important to get over and setting your sights lower can help out with that.

Here's the amazing piece, if 5 minutes seems like too much, ask "do I think I can do it for 1 minute?" Start with that.

When you get your body moving toward action, your mind tends to follow. If you notice you are falling into a mental recession, make a mental note, "mental recession is occurring". The best way to get going again is to set your sights lower and give yourself a bit of compassion, this may very well be a difficult time for you. While it may come naturally to beat yourself up when the mental recession is upon you, being easier on yourself will free up the pressure and give you more energy to do the things you want to do.

Whether it's exercise, household chores, or the workplace, ask yourself what have you been putting off or slowing down with? Then ask how long you think you can do it for, and then aim for a little less. You can always just choose 1 minute's work and then build from there. You can always come back to web surfing. See if you can ask yourself these questions now.

As always, please share your comments and questions below about your experience with inertia, the economy or depression. You writings below add to a collective wisdom for all to benefit from.



Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Motto for the day... - James - Feb 13th 2009

Dr. Goldstein,

Thanks for once again giving me something practical to use.  I love this article for several reasons, not the least of which is that it reinforces a kind of personal motto; Motivation Follows Action.  So many people wait until they're in the mood to do something, and then are frustrated that they never get things done.  You articulate this concept perfectly!

 Thanks again,


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