Well… I’ve clocked into work, my computer has been turned on, a huge to-do list is calling my name, and yet all I want to do is stare blankly at the wall….
That’s how it feels when I’m in a cycle of depression. The problem is, I’m not paid to sit around and stare blankly at the wall. Somehow I need to muster up my energy and will-power in order to make it through the day.
How am I supposed to remain productive when feeling depressed? That’s a question I recently found on a Life Hacker post. Man, what a great question! Sometimes I really have no idea. And when I’m in the midst of that cycle, the last thing I want to do is force myself through another day at work. I’d rather curl up in bed. Well, here’s my best shot at answering that question:
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. When someone has a broken leg, you don’t expect him to run a marathon. If you’re having a bad day in your mental health recovery process, it’s ok to take it a little bit slower than normal. Be realistic. (If things are especially poor, please skip to number 5 below.)
- Break larger goals into smaller steps. Large projects and complicated tasks can be overwhelming on any day, but especially on a bad day. If you absolutely can’t avoid that larger task, try breaking it into smaller, more manageable steps. These smaller steps feel more realistic and, as you begin checking a few of them off your list, there is a sense of achievement that may help you regain some momentum.
- Take a walk during your lunch break. I know that taking a walk may be the last thing you want to do, but sometimes getting a change of scenery can help your mind press the re-set button. The day light and physical stimulation often help lift your mood. Research also suggests that getting outside during the day may help you sleep better at night, because it adjusts your body’s circadian rhythms.
- If allowed, use YouTube. This may apply more to anxiety than depression, but when I’m really struggling, I turn on 10 Hours of Thunderstorm and Rain Sounds. Something about the sound of thunder and rain relaxes me on a deep, deep level. I’ve recognized that about myself, so I take advantage of it, especially at the office. For you, it may be river sounds, crickets, the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, or another genre, but somehow music and sound have the ability to reach deep within and touch our very souls. The main point is: discover what helps you relax (or feel energized, if that’s what you need) and then use it to your advantage.
- Know when to step away, re-evaluate, or even seek help. We all need that paycheck, but if you’re just really crashing, it might be time to re-evaluate. Sometimes we just need a day off in order to rest and recover. If taking one day off would help you be more productive on your next day back at work, then it may be worth it to take a mental health day. There is no shame in that. Additionally, depending on how severe your symptoms are, you may need to seek professional help. If you fear you are at risk of harming yourself or another person, that’s when you should call 9-1-1. If you don’t think you’re at that level, but you’re still concerned about your symptoms, you may want to contact your mental healthcare professional. Again, there’s no shame in that. They are there to help.
Anyway, those are some thoughts I wanted to share. Please keep in mind that the above is not meant to be medical advice. Depression is a medical condition, so if you are experiencing any symptoms of depression, I’d encourage you to visit a licensed professional counselor or psychiatrist. I have no professional training in the mental health industry. I’m just a co-struggler with depression and anxiety. The above steps have helped me in the past, so I hope that they will help you as well. If you have any additional ideas for making it through work when experiencing a low day, please share in the comment section below!