Hello everybody, welcome to episode 110 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Glad to have you back here today, friends. We have a question today that takes a look at how to set goals when trapped inside a mind of anxiety and depression and the natural effect those factors would have. Let’s consider how these all blend together and what we can do about it. Here’s the question…
QUESTION: “I can be a very eager busy body sometimes. Or at least my mind can be a busy body. However, I also struggle with anxiety and depression. I’ve been officially on mental health recovery for a year now. I’m in a better mental space, but I still struggle with accomplishing goals and staying committed. How can I hold myself accountable while not putting unrealistic expectations on myself?“
How Do You Set Goals With Anxiety and Depression?
Ok, there we have it. Thank you, miss, for sending this question in. When I read this one, I can’t help but to divide it into three sections which would be:
- the busy-ness of your mind
- the accountability, and
- the goals themselves.
Like it’s a compact question and I think it’s all cohesive and makes sense, but I’m still tempted to answer it in chapters almost and see how it comes together.
Let’s give it a shot.
1) Being Busy
So first, the busy-ness. You might not have done this intentionally, but it struck me how you said that you ALSO struggle with anxiety and depression after pointing out that you’re a busy body, at least mentally. I say this because I’m quite sure they’re the same entity.
It’s most likely that the busy-ness is a tactic you’re deploying to combat your anxiety and depression, a conveyer belt of either distractions away from these difficult feelings or perhaps the busy-ness is focused on ways to combat these difficult feelings.
Whatever the case may be, my bet is that it’s all very cyclical, and that the mental busy-ness only causes more of the anxiety and depression you’re trying to avoid.
The thing is, if a proper system isn’t in place to reach these goals you’re setting for yourself (and we’ve talked a lot about what this system may look like in a lot of our episodes devoted to habit formation), then the goals are going to be tough to hit, only causing you more frustration.
This is the price many busy bodies pay – whether or not they take pride in their busy-ness – the price of quantity over quality; trying to do too much and inevitably facing burnout and a weakened performance.
This overdoing doesn’t do anyone any favors, particularly someone who struggles with anxiety and depression. So while picking your battles is important, it’s also important to properly execute on however much you choose to undertake, whether it’s a lot or a little.
Which brings me to the accountability you asked about, because accountability is indeed a massive part of having a good system for hitting the goals we set. You ask about holding yourself accountable, and the most effective way to do this is to go beyond yourself.
Go beyond your own willpower. I know that willpower is sexy, but it’s also challenging, it’s a waste of precious time, and not displaying the willpower we hope to display can easily result in more depression.
Why make this harder on yourself than it has to be? Create a physical and social environment that makes you have to lean less on willpower.
If you want to be healthier, buy less junk food, don’t bring it into the house and try not to eat it. Join a class at the gym with people who have the same goals and want to support one another, don’t hang out only with people who aren’t fit and try to be the one that stands out. It’s just a much easier road when the world around you gives you a push rather than trying to discipline yourself.
As a matter of fact, once you’ve made your world accommodate to your vision, it will become normal and a part of who you are.
And the more normal it is, the easier it will be to have willpower in the times you need it, because your identity will have changed. Whatever your goals are, consider what ways your house, your friends, your family, your schedule, etc. can be flexed to favor them.
3) Accomplishing Goals
And what about those goals, anyway? Accomplishing goals is a much easier process when those goals mean something to you, and the busier your mind is, and thus the more goals you’re prone to setting, the less meaning each goal can have. Does that make sense?
Be really cognizant of which goals you’re trying to accomplish, and if aren’t genuinely interesting to you, then switch them up. If your mental health recovery is a big part of your life (which it sounds like it is), then may some of these goals can be tied to calmness, acceptance, gratitude, self-care, or other parts of your mental health journey.
The last thing you need as someone who struggles with depression is to pursue goals that stand to distance you from fulfillment, let alone actually hit them.
If your goals need to be adjusted in this way to become closer to your heart and your system is in place, you’ll likely find yourself redefining what goals are realistic and unrealistic. Once we’ve spun our wheels with the wrong goals and the wrong systems for so long, this idea can get skewed, and we trick ourselves into thinking that what we haven’t accomplished is far more challenging than it actually is.
So work on the goals themselves and your approach to them. But of course, the priority for you and your mental health recovery would be to first allow yourself to struggle with goals. Hitting goals can be tough enough, let alone when don’t have good goals, good systems, or especially, self-acceptance.
Conclusion: Setting Goals with Anxiety and Depression
It’s ok if you’ve struggled with this and even if after this episode you find you’re still having trouble, maybe it’s just one of the tougher parts of life for you. That’s okay, we all have them. But as it stands, the jumping off point would be trying to release the need to accomplish all these things and then see what happens.
Because at the end of the day, if you find that your mental health hinges entirely on that which you accomplish, that’s really the overarching problem here, and what you should seek to work on more so than the mechanics of pursuing goals.
Ok that will do it, dear friends. To the woman who sent this in, as always, we say thank you. I hope my answer was able to help you out a little. At times I worried it was a bit too fragmented, but if it didn’t, please follow up with another question or through email and we’ll keep working on it. Speaking of email, all of you are encouraged to submit your own questions to our email address so we can answer them for you on the show. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Advice@oldpodcast.com. That’s the place to send those questions, join the family and help another episode of OLA come to life. Sure had fun today, guys. Hope you did too. I will see you for the next one, and take care of yourselves until then.