Setting goals when fighting depression can often feel overwhelming and discouraging. One of the most important things to remember is that goals must be realistic. It might feel good to set big, lofty goals like “Be happy,” but when those goals fall to the wayside, it can leave a deeper sense of hopelessness. One of the greatest things you can do when struggling with depression is setting baby goals that are easily achievable. This gives you more opportunity to build up your wins and feel good about yourself! 

What is depression 

Depression is a mood disorder that creates overall sadness and lack of interest in life. It’s completely normal to feel sad or depressed at times, especially through life’s challenges. Once you get to a point where the sadness has spread into weeks of hopelessness, it may have become something more serious. The good news is that clinical depression is a treatable medical condition, and you can regain your self-worth. According to the DSM-5, a manual used by doctors to diagnose mental disorders, you are experiencing depression if you have five or more of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks. 

Signs and symptoms of depression 

  • You feel sad for most of the day, especially in the morning
  • You feel tired or lack energy 
  • You feel worthless or guilty
  • You have a hard time focusing, remembering details, or decision making
  • You can’t sleep, or you sleep too much
  • You’re not interested in activities or pleasure 
  • You think often about death or suicide 
  • You feel restless or slowed down
  • You’ve lost or gained weight
  • You feel cranky and restless
  • You’re overeating or have an ongoing loss of appetite
  • You’re experiencing aches, pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that don’t go away or get better with treatment
  • You have sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings

While these symptoms are common, depression varies from person to person. These symptoms may come and go or be less severe than others. When getting help for depression, your therapist will look at how severe your symptoms are, how often they occur, and how long they last. 

Why goal-setting is so important when depressed

No matter where you are in your mental health journey, working toward specific goals can help you live the life you want while combating a mental illness. Setting one small goal each day can help gain the confidence you need to accomplish larger, more long-term recovery goals. Try asking yourself, “What’s one thing I can do today that helps me get closer to where I want to be?” 


Short-term goal ideas

  • Be out of bed by a certain time
  • Write down 3-5 things you’re grateful for every day
  • Finish a household task you’ve been avoiding
  • Introduce yourself to someone new at work
  • Begin walking every day for exercise
  • Stick to a daily schedule
  • Get dressed in regular clothes even if you have nowhere to go
  • Leave the house for an hour or two
  • Attend a therapy appointment
  • Finish one errand (like going grocery shopping, etc)


5 Tips To Help Set Goals When You’re Depressed 

These 5 tips are actually part of a 5-step acronym, “S.M.A.R.T”. By using the S.M.A.R.T approach, you can ensure that your goals are attainable and working towards your end goal. 

  1. Specific: Make sure your goal is specific to who, what, when, where and why. Detail your goal as much as you can so that the steps are clear and defined. Be sure to answer who is involved, what you want to accomplish, when it will be done, where it will take place and why you’re doing it. 
  2. Measurable: Goal tracking is just as important as goal setting. When setting your goal, be sure to track your progress and measure the results. There are many free resources to help track goals and hold yourself accountable. 
  3. Achievable: Goals should be challenging but reachable. It’s easy to become discouraged if a goal is too hard to reach. 
  4. Relevant: Is this goal important and beneficial to you? Choosing goals that impact you in a positive way ensures that your efforts are worthwhile. 
  5. Time-based: All goals should have a time limit. Deadlines will keep you motivated and on track for the finish line. 


Help for depression in St. Petersburg and Tampa Florida 

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and looking for help in the right direction, the team at McNulty Counseling and Wellness is here to help you get there. Contact us here or call us at 727-344-9867 to begin marriage counseling or couples therapy at our office or virtually in Saint Petersburg or Tampa, Florida.