How to Break Tasks Down into Bite-Sized Pieces when You Have Depression

How to break tasks down into bite-sized pieces when you have depression - CassandraStout.com

Depression can make even the smallest of projects feel overwhelming and not worth doing. When you’re depressed, your natural inclination is to crawl into bed and stay there. You want to neglect what you need to do, from cleaning your home, feeding yourself, and taking care of pets or children.

But what if you could break those overwhelming tasks into smaller, bite-sized pieces? Then you could tackle them one at a time and truly make some progress, incremental as it might be.

1. Examine the Task. Is it a Task or a Project?

The first thing you need to do to break tasks into bite-sized pieces is to examine the task. Is it really a task, or is it a project? A task is something you can do in one sitting, in less than an hour. Whereas a project is a series of smaller tasks leading to one accomplishment. It’s important to make a clear distinction between the two.

Projects aren’t just for work or school. Anything we want to do can be classified as a project.

If you have a task that you want to break down into tasks, continue reading the next section. But if your task is actually a project, then skip to the third.

2. Break Tasks Down into Steps

You might think of something as simple as “load the dishwasher” as a task, and you’d be right. It’s easy to get done in one sitting. When we’re stable, doing the dishes is automatic, and we don’t generally balk at the amount of work the task takes. But there are a series of steps to loading the dishwasher. If you’re suffering from depression, breaking down any task into smaller action steps can be helpful.

To load the dishwasher, you need to:

  1. Gather dishes from around the house.
  2. Set dishes down on the counter, not the sink.
  3. Clear the sink.
  4. Fill the sink with hot, soapy water to aid in soaking stubborn grime off of dirty dishes.
  5. Place dishes that need soaked in the sink.
  6. Open the dishwasher.
  7. Pull out the bottom rack.
  8. Load the large items, like pots.
  9. Load the plates.
  10. Load the bowls.
  11. Load the silverware.
  12. Take the dishes that were soaking out of the sink, which fit on the bottom rack, out.
  13. Load those.
  14. Put the bottom rack back.
  15. Pull out the top rack.
  16. Load the cups.
  17. Load the serving utensils.
  18. Load Tupperware.
  19. Load Tupperware lids.
  20. Take the dishes that were soaking in the sink, which fit on the top rack, out.
  21. Put away the top rack.
  22. Fill the soap holder with soap.
  23. Close the dishwasher.
  24. Set the cycle.
  25. Turn on the dishwasher.
  26. Drain the sink.
  27. Wipe out the sink.

Wow, 27 steps for one task! Seems overwhelming, doesn’t it? And if you have depression, your inclination is to stop at any one of those steps. So often we don’t even start on a task because it just seems like we’ll never get it done.

But don’t think of the task as “27 steps” or a big picture, “load the dishwasher.” Rather, think of the task as the next step on the list.

So if you’re just starting out, gather the dishes. Then set them on the counter. Then…. Surprisingly, if you’re moving quickly (which is hard to do with depression, I know), loading the dishwasher takes 5-6 minutes, tops.

Try breaking down another task, like clearing the nightstand or making your bed. Making your bed is a simple task to break down:

  1. Pull up sheets.
  2. Pull up blankets.
  3. Fluff pillows.

That’s it. There’s only three steps to making a bed, which is why the task takes roughly thirty seconds.

Next time you’re facing a task, try writing down every step you can think of. Then put them in the order that you need to accomplish. Then tackle the task, one step at a time.

Easy, right?

But what about projects?

3. Break Projects Down into a Series of Tasks

Rather than looking at a project as the entire enchilada, like “plan John’s birthday party,” look at the project as a series of tasks, which you can then break down into single action steps. 

In the party planning example, the tasks can be sorted into different categories, such as food, invitations, or beverages. A task under the invitations category would be to get stamps; another would be to gather all addresses in the same place.

When cleaning your house, you can break projects down into different parts. Your bedroom is one part. The kitchen is another. And so on.

When starting a blog, you can break that project down into different phases. For example, you’ll write posts, edit them, and finally publish them.

These three ways to break projects down can help you see in what order you need to carry out the tasks in the project.

Final Thoughts

You don’t have anything to lose by taking a hard look at your project list. If you can put off some projects until you’re feeling better, then do so. Managing depression is a project all in its own.

But for those you can’t put off, try brainstorming which tasks need done for that project, and then break them down further into single action steps after sorting those tasks into categories, phases, or parts.

This is no small feat when you’re depressed, I know. But just try it.

I wish you well in your journey.

What projects are on your to-do list? Let me know in the comments!

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How to break tasks down into bite-sized pieces when you have depression - CassandraStout.com

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22 Easy Meals to Make While Depressed

Need a list of meals to make while you’re depressed? Then look no further. Here’s a list of 22 easy meals to make, as well as a few tips to use while you’re down in the dumps.

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Credit to flickr.com user Rool Paap. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

It’s an unfairness of the universe that, even while depressed, you still have to eat. Cooking is a useful skill to have, but who has the energy to cook when you don’t even have it to shower? Here’s some tips and a list of  22 meals to try when depressed.

Basic Tips

  • First, I recommend purchasing paper bowls and plates. You won’t feel like washing dishes when you’re down in the dumps.
  • Next, if it’s not overwhelming, print out this entry and stick it to the fridge so you have a list to refer to when you’re zoning out and can’t figure out what to eat.
  • Now is the time to decide whether ordering groceries online for delivery is worth it.
  • Think about setting alarms on your phone for when it’s time to eat. I recommend 9am, 12pm, and 5:30pm.
  • Assess whether meeting weight loss goals is doable, and consider letting them go temporarily, until you feel better.
  • And consider locking up your alcohol. It does no one good when depressed.

Hopefully, this list of meals will help make cooking easier.

Baked Chicken Breasts

Baked chicken can be the foundation of many meals. And the preparation is incredibly easy: simply place the chicken breasts in a casserole dish and bake for 55 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Top with the condiments of your choice and serve with microwave veggies for a quick meal. Other options are to add chopped chicken to pasta, a bowl of spinach, eggs, tortillas, or rice.

Tortellini Soup

Tortellini Soup is one of the easiest recipes out there. It takes three ingredients, one of which is optional. I often make this meal for my family when I don’t feel like cooking.

Ingredients:

  • cheese-filled tortellini
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • cheese (optional)

1. Bring chicken broth to a boil.
2. Add tortellini. Reduce heat to medium-high and boil for seven minutes.
3. Top with cheese, if desired. Serve with microwave vegetables or salad.

Mexican Rice

This is an easy meal which only involves one pot, if you don’t use a rice cooker.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups long grain rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 jar of salsa
  • cheese, optional
  • sour cream, optional

1. Bring water to a boil. Add rice and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and steam rice for twenty minutes without removing the lid. Fluff with a fork.
2. Add other ingredients and stir. Heat on medium-high.
3. Top with cheese and sour cream if desired.

Everyday Cassoulet

Everyday Cassoulet is a French bean stew which is tasty and hearty. It takes about twenty minutes cook time and very little brain power to prepare. The longer you cook it, the better it tastes. Make this recipe when you’re feeling slightly ambitious.

Ingredients:

  • kielbasa sausage
  • one can of black beans, undrained
  • one can of great northern beans, undrained
  • one can of red kidney beans, undrained
  • 3 tsp of thyme
  • one can of tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp of brown sugar
  • cheese (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)

1. Chop the kielbasa sausage. Add to pot.
2. Add other ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for twenty minutes.
3. Top with cheese and sour cream, if desired.

Five-Minute Meals

Here’s a quick and dirty list of meals found around the web that require only five minutes of prep time. These are level 0 meals, when you’ve just dragged yourself out of bed and are tempted to go back.

  • Peanut butter + banana + toast. Yes, that counts as a whole meal.
  • Scrambled eggs + salsa + cheese. Add chopped pepper if you’re feeling up to it. Serve with toast to round out the meal.
  • Guacamole + salsa + cheese + tortilla. Premade guac is more expensive but can be worth it.
  • Ensure meal replacement shake.
  • Cheese + crackers.
  • Cashews + dried fruit + chocolate.
  • Toast + hummus + avocado.
  • Microwave bags of vegetables.
  • Premade salad kit.
  • Microwave sweet potato (five minutes on each side) + one can of black beans + salsa + cheese.
  • Can of tuna + mayo + toast.
  • Peanut butter + jelly + toast.
  • Toast + mayo + turkey + cheese.
  • Cottage cheese + toast.
  • Greek yogurt.
  • Hummus + baby carrots.
  • Instant oatmeal.
  • Blend Greek yogurt + frozen fruit + milk for a delicious smoothie high in protein.

I hope this list of tips and meals helps you when you find yourself in the middle of a flare up. Remember to be kind to yourself. Depression is no joke, and self-care is critical, especially eating–even when you’d rather do anything else.

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