AS@W Antidepressant Skills Workbook: Heling You Deal With Depression
Reactivating your life
Step 3 Set realistic goals

For each of the activities you have chosen, set a manageable goal for the coming week. Keep in mind that depression makes it difficult to get moving. As a result, you need to set your goals much lower than you ordinarily would.

For example, if you would like to start riding a bicycle again, your first goal might be to find your bicycle and see whether it needs any repairs. If you would like to get the house cleaned up, your first goal might be to vacuum one room, or dust one shelf. If you want to socialize with people again, your first goal might be to talk to one friend on the telephone for five minutes.

To succeed, your goals must be:


Depression can make almost anything seem like a failure. You need to have a very clear idea of your goal so that you will know you have succeeded.


You may find it tempting to set your goals based on how much you think you should be able to accomplish. Don’t. Keep in mind that depression slows you down and makes things more difficult. Your goals should be easy enough to be achievable even if you feel very depressed in the coming week. Sometimes it seems overwhelming to think of starting a new activity. In that case, try setting the goal of gathering information related to the activity: for example, finding out what sorts of exercise activities are available in your local community centre.


You should have a clear idea when and how you are going to carry out your activation goal. “Take a walk Thursday evening for 15 minutes” is much better than “Walk more.”

Here is an example:

Frank started with two goals: slightly increasing his level of physical activity (from none to one short walk each week) and increasing his level of social activity (from none to going out with his wife and daughter every two weeks). His goals looked like this:


  Activity How Often? When Exactly?
1 Walk for 15 minutes Once a week to start Thursday evening
2 Going out with my wife and daughter Once every 2 weeks Saturday or Sunday evenings

He used his appointment book to write in each of these activities. After he did each activity, he checked it off in his book.


Now write your goals:
  Activity How Often? When Exactly?


























Try setting some goals that would be realistic to do this week. Decide how often or for how long you will do the activity, and when you will do it.

Think of your activity goals as appointments with yourself. Treat these goals as respectfully as you would an appointment with your physician. If you must cancel one of these appointments with yourself, reschedule immediately and don’t miss it.

Note: Don’t give yourself extra credit for doing more than the goal you set for yourself. If you do more, that’s fine, but that doesn’t allow you to miss the next appointment. If you let that kind of trade-off happen, your goals will soon be neglected.

Appointment Book
It’s a good idea to buy an appointment book to keep track of your goals.
When you've done the goal, check it off in the book to show yourself what you've accomplished – in the early stages of getting better, that's the reward.

Next: Step 3