Recovering from a Breakdown:
The Power Of Small Steps II

by Beth McHugh

If you have been able to achieve your goal of making the bed each morning for a week, well done! If you have been unable to make the bed each day, but have managed once or twice to do so, that is great, too! You have persevered with the task, doing it when you could. Remember those words again of Sidney Smith: "It is the greatest of mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can." In this instance, you did what you could. Congratulate yourself, and try to avoid the other side of the coin - that on some days of the week, you did not make the bed. The point is, on some days, you did. That is what is important.

If you were unable to make the bed at all in the past week, we can have a closer look at why this is the case. The most common reason my clients give me when I ask how the bed-making is coming along and they reply that it isn't, is that, deep down, they don't see that making the bed is that important, or they don't see that making the bed has any connection with regaining full mental health. This is often referred to as a resistant attitude, or more commonly, shooting yourself in the foot! We will deal with resistant attitudes in later articles.

But perhaps you were unable to accomplish the task of making the bed because it genuinely was too difficult for you to do. If this is the case, we then have to look at breaking the task down to make it more achievable. For example, you may be able to make the bed if you have assistance from another person. Perhaps they can make one side of the bed, while you make the other. Or you can just try to make the bed as best you can, without doing an absolutely perfect job. This brings to mind another important truism: "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing badly. At least at first, while you are practicing." It's far better to make that bed badly, or with help, than to not do it at all. Often people with emotional problems are very hard on themselves, or are out-and-out perfectionists. Try not to be. Keep persevering with the bed-making until you are successfully able to make the bed each day.

Your next task is to consolidate that progress and to take another small step on your journey to recovery. To do that, we commit ourselves to making the bed each morning and we choose another small and achievable task to add to our daily list. This task could be doing the washing up. It could be combing our hair, and putting on make-up – in short, grooming ourselves. Again, never underestimate the effect our environment has on the way we feel, and looking good is halfway there to feeling more positive about ourselves. Walking into a clean kitchen will also have an unconscious effect on how you feel. Often outer chaos will reinforce the feelings of the inner chaos within. By taking the task of cleaning the kitchen, we are beginning to turn chaos into control. Many times, it is the simple things in life that are the most important. Looking at a made bed, a clean kitchen, or a groomed face will subtly change the way you feel about your self, your life, and your environment. It's psychotherapy you can do in the privacy of your own home. And it's a lot cheaper, too!

Whatever task you choose to add to your pre-existing bed-making job, good luck with it! Undertaking these two tasks then becomes your goal for the week. Achieving them brings you both consolidation and progress. In these early days of recovery, progress may seems slow, but you will definitely not be adding only one task at a time to your daily schedule for the rest of your life! But in the meantime, relax knowing that that is all that is required of you today.

Other articles by Beth McHugh:

Beth McHugh Recovering From A Breakdown - The Power Of Small Steps I
Recovering From A Breakdown - The Power Of Small Steps II
Recovering From A Breakdown - The Power Of Lists
Recovering From A Breakdown - The Power Of Motivational Statements
Recovering From A Breakdown - Benefits Of Helping Others
Recovering From A Breakdown - The Power Of Counting Your Blessings

Dealing With A Passive-Aggressive Manipulator

Beth McHugh chose to make a career change, switching from science researcher to psychologist, as a result of encountering life problems of her own. Her personal journey of self-discovery, involvement in support networks and academic training have all made unique contributions to the ideas and methods she employs as a counselor. Beth offers email counseling, and frequently publishes articles on various mental health subjects. More of her articles can be found at