Dear Dr. Peirano,
I have been feeling listless and exhausted for a long time. I work from home, sleep badly and don't get up until eleven o'clock. Then I really have to force myself to go to work.
I get distracted very easily and usually take a long time to complete my tasks. When my girlfriend contacts me, I spontaneously do something with her and then think that I can also work in the evenings. That usually doesn't work out and I have a guilty conscience. Then I'm on my cell phone a lot again, or on Netflix.
Then I sleep badly again and resolve to catch up the next day or at the weekend.
I used to be someone at school who did everything at the last minute and only studied like a nut the night before the exam. Apparently I need the pressure.
Do you have any tips for me?
Dear Martin V,
Unfortunately, you do not write to me whether you are generally satisfied with your work and whether there are other issues that bother you. Some of your problems can also be symptoms of depression: tiredness, listlessness, trouble sleeping, loss of joy and feelings of guilt.
Maybe you can read the book sometime
Matthew Johnstone: My black dog
into the subject of "depression" and then decide for yourself to what extent this applies to you. Incidentally, the author has suffered from depression himself and knows exactly how it feels. His drawings and descriptions make the book a really successful classic when it comes to getting started with the subject of depression. If you think you have depression, I would recommend therapy.
I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. In my PhD, I researched the connection between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.
Information about my therapeutic work can be found at www.julia-peirano.info.
Do you have questions, problems or lovesickness? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on stern.de.
For the advice I give you, it doesn't matter if you're depressed or not. One aspect of my job as a psychotherapist that is very valuable to me is that the strategies that are taught in therapy not only ensure that mental illnesses are resolved, but also lead to a happier and more mindful life overall. Better communication, regular breaks, self-care, more positive activities, the search for fulfilling social contacts and loving and constructive handling of one's own feelings always improve the quality of life, even in mentally healthy people. They never hurt (compared to unnecessary surgery or the side effects of medication). And for people with mental illnesses such as anxiety, eating disorders, depression or compulsions, these therapy modules are particularly valuable for freeing themselves from the symptoms or at least alleviating them.
A very important therapy module, especially in the case of depression, is the development of a daily and weekly structure. Sometimes my patients and I spend many hours at the beginning of a therapy setting up and fine-tuning an individually tailored daily structure. And most of the time the comment is made: "I completely underestimated how important that is. I feel much better with the daily structure and I do everything to stick to it."
I once had a very memorable experience myself of what can happen when you don't have structure. A few years ago I came back from a nice vacation in a good mood. However, due to bad weather, I had ended the holiday three days earlier than planned. Then I thought to myself: Great, just do what I want for three days! Finally!
Without children and my job, I let myself go. It was the full program: about 8 hours a day in front of the computer, watching series and sleeping late. As a result, I wasn't tired in the evenings and slept poorly, and I didn't feel like shopping during the day. So I ordered food to have more time for computers, series and lazing around.
After three days I was completely listless, confused and unfocused. I was exhausted and looked the same...
I then forced myself to go to the market and buy food, clean up and go for walks. Then the holidays were over, my children came back and with it the whole structure: school, work, meal times, etc.
But one thought stuck in my mind: If I feel so bad within three days of a good, relaxed phase of life without a daily structure, then people with depression or mental problems without a daily structure must have it much worse!
I would recommend putting a lot of energy into building a daily structure!
The book "Moodify" by Janine Selle gives you a starting aid, in which you can enter your bedtimes, sleep duration, mood, movement, etc. every day with little effort.
It is often helpful to start with the insomnia, as fatigue leads to problems concentrating, listlessness and a lack of purpose. There is a health app that was developed to treat insomnia and my patients have had good experiences with it. It is called "Somnio" and can be prescribed by a general practitioner.
Once sleep is settled, set a regular wake-up time. This then automatically results in bedtime and also the time to fall asleep.
A morning routine is very important because people are particularly sensitive in the morning and late at night. Some people like to go for a walk in the morning - a walk to the nearest coffee shop for morning coffee or a newspaper, or a stroll in the park can also help here. Others start with exercise, such as yoga or weight training, which is great for building momentum. Others first write a diary and come to mind very carefully. And some people are very fit in the morning and want to start work right away. What is good for you?
Then observe when you like to eat and plan meal times. Write it down and note how it makes you feel. Also write down when you start work and how long you want to work before a break (meal time, walk, sport). So the breaks should also be planned in terms of time and content (e.g. 1-2 p.m. lunch, 3-3.30 p.m. stretching exercises).
In the first few weeks, daily planning is still an experiment. That's why you should take stock every evening and write down what was good and you want to keep and what stressed you out. Then think of solutions for the issues that don't work yet and try them out. For example: a playlist with good mood music to wake up to.
Or: no mobile phones/TV/computer games before 6 p.m.
What did you allocate too little time for and what too much for?
What activity bothers you at a certain time of the day and is better done at another time?
Also think about the following topics:
As you can see, the topic of daily planning is very complex. But once you start using it and see the impact it has on your energy and well-being, you'll likely find joy in it.
Kind regards, Julia Peirano
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