Keeping busy to fight off depression

I’m a grad student, and my summer course load is light this year. My spring semester is more or less over and I’m facing the prospect of a very lazy summer. That leaves a lot of time for lounging around on the couch and reading the entire Internet and watching Netflix. I’ve found over the years that doing that for a day or two as a treat can refresh me and make me happy, but if that starts to be all that I do I will slide into depression.

Since I’m just pulling myself out of the worst couple years of my life in terms of mental health, the idea of letting all my progress slip away is terrifying. To try to stave off the illness, I’m going to set some goals for myself this summer.

1. I will leave my apartment every single day. If I don’t have class, I will run an errand, hang out with a friend or just take the dog to the park or on a nature walk.

2. I will do something productive every day, even if it’s only for five minutes. Sometimes my trip outside the apartment can count as my productive thing, like if I’m in class or at the grocery store. But if it doesn’t, I will make an effort to cook something healthy or do some dishes or clean something or do laundry. This will also keep my home in a state that will help me be cheerful.

3. I will try my hardest not to dwell on negative emotions. If I need to blog about them or complain a little I will, but after I’ve processed them I will distract, distract, distract. Mike is sleeping with someone else? That sounds like a really good time to get coffee with a friend. Friends stressing me out? Time to turn off my cellphone and take the dog somewhere fun.

I’ve prepared myself well for this summer. I have a whole stack of books to get through and some gardening to do and recipes to try. I have plans to go out of town two or three times. I’m going to try to make up for time I lost with my friends when I was so busy last semester. I’m a little scared of all this free time, but after being too busy to catch my breath for all of April, I’m also sort of looking forward to it.

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