The Energy Bucket of Depression

Courtesy of the CBIS Manual, June 2009, British Columbia:

Depression’s Energy Budget

Every day, we wake up with “resources” available for our use that day. These resources

might be energy, time, sense of well-being, motivation, etc. The amount of available

resources changes every day, even throughout the day.

If we consistently spend beyond our resources, we will go “bankrupt.” The more

depressed or anxious we are, the fewer our resources.

This means we need to figure out the actual resources we have at any particular time —

not the resources we think we should have, or used to have. This helps us decide what

we really can do each day.

Living Within Your Resource “Box”


• Extra



need for basic



• Resources

needed for

basic tasks


• Depleted


As you can see Tom has so many resources that he can easily accomplish the required

basic tasks for the day. He has extra energy, time, and enthusiasm for other things.

The next box shows that Mary only has enough resources to get through basic tasks

such as dressing, making meals, perhaps a few routine chores. If she tries to push

herself to do much more than this, she will pay a price. The next day she will feel more

exhausted and overwhelmed, and her box may be even smaller.

In the last box, you can see that Randy is having a bad day and can only reasonably

expect to do the bare minimum to get through the day.


Increasing the Size of Your Resource Box

It’s important to go slowly.

1 Don’t push yourself outside your box.

2 H owever small your box, use a bit of your daily resources to do anti-depression

activities such as self care, exercise, relaxation, hobbies etc.

3 H ealthy energy and motivation are released and increased when you reduce

negative thoughts and replace them with more realistic, helpful thoughts.

4 R epeat and persist — it is far more effective to do a very small thing 100 times than

to do a big thing once. You are trying to develop new habits, and these only come

with frequent practice.

5 Congratulate yourself for every effort you make no matter how small. The brain

responds very well to this kind of appreciation and you will be rewarded with more

resources, such as hope, well-being, energy and self-confidence.


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