Being Productive at Work when You’re Depressed: 5 Tips

depressedStaying productive at work while suffering from depression can be a daily challenge.[1] While it’s hard enough to get out of bed, put two feet on the floor, and make yourself look presentable, keeping up with the daily grind can be even more difficult. Most of the time, you stare at your work, unable to accomplish much. Cup after cup of coffee, hoping it will help motivate you, instead leaves you shaking and anxious, with more depressive thoughts running through your brain.

It may seem impossible to get anywhere, but it isn’t true. Here are a few strategies to put the “pro” back into productive:

  1. Break it up.1 When you are feeling depressed, even the smallest tasks seem like they are huge. As soon as you get the assignment, your brain shuts down. You don’t want to do it. You don’t have the energy. Allow yourself some time to digest the project. Sit back in your chair and breathe for a couple minutes. Then, break it down into very small pieces, writing the steps on a piece of paper. When you set smaller goals to meet, as soon as you reach them, you achieve a personal sense of satisfaction. The more you cross off your list, the better you feel and the motivation returns. Even if your list is comprised of 20 different itty-bitty tasks, once you begin and draw a nice line through each one, you can breathe easier and feel better about yourself.
  2. Take breaks.1 Short, timely breaks are your friend. The thought of plugging through a project can sometimes be just too much to handle at times, and research actually shows that taking short breaks can decrease your stress and increase feel-good chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine. It also strengthens your memory and executive functions. For people who are depressed, their brains are already working overtime, and breaks are a necessity.
  3. Learn some calming techniques.1 Deep breathing is a good practice, and it is easy to do while you are working. It will help you feel less stressed as time goes on. Inhale to the count of four and exhale to the count of four. Do this again and again, and it eventually becomes habit. Also, listening to some soothing background music with your headphones helps your brain to soothe itself and focus.
  4. Talk about your feelings.1 Opening up to friends or family members that you can trust will help you feel less isolated. Work friends are good to vent to, as they know first-hand the situation that you’re in. Just don’t gossip or talk badly of people—it’s not professional.
  5. Personalize your workspace.1 Create a motivational, happy space at work that constantly reminds you to be positive. If you have a window, get a plant. Put up a couple happy pictures. Use happy colored containers for pens and paper. Make it your own, and make it upbeat. When you get discouraged, just take a look around you and at your happy photos. It will rejuvenate your motivation.

You can do it—we know you can!

[1] Borchard, T. (2013). 7 Strategies to Be Productive at Work When You’re Depressed. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/10/28/7-strategies-to-be-productive-at-work-when-youre-depressed/

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