5 ways to be productive when you're depressed, according to a therapist

Mimi Launder
Sunday 29 October 2017 12:00
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When you're depressed or feeling down, concentration can be frustratingly elusive.

All of us will feel grief, sadness or struggle with our mental health over the course of our working life - and a good chunk of us will struggle to stay motivated through it.

Therapist Megan Bruneau has compiled a list of tips for Quartz, aimed at everyone who is going through a tough time and struggling to get stuff done.

1. Get outside

From deep under your duvet, the outside world can look bleak and unappealing.

But getting out the house can trick you into feeling more productive.

Bruneau explained:

Depression loves to lie to us.

It says things like, 'You're a downer. Nobody wants to be around you' and 'Stalk your ex's new fiance's Instagram!' and 'Save energy and work from home today'. 

When it comes to productivity, working from home can be a challenge under prime circumstances.

Throw a little heartbreak or shame in there, and next thing you know, the only things you've crossed off your to-do list are opening the door for 'Seamless' and clicking 'Next episode' fourteen times. 

2. Cut yourself some slack

You wouldn't expect to move as fast with a broken leg and nor should your expect your working performance to be top-notch when depressed.

Bruneau recommends you set your expectations lower than usual:

If you're functioning at 30 per cent of your usual state, expect 30 per cent of what you would normally achieve.

Give yourself specific goals to work to: in this hour, in this place, you will work on that looming presentation.

3. Hold yourself accountable

This is far trickier when you're depressed.

But goal-setting with someone else - say a therapist or friend - should give you a dose of motivation.

If you're struggling through a tough time, being alone can be enticing.

Bruneau warns against this:

Even though it feels counterintuitive, it's absolutely essential to spend time with others - so long as they're people who care about you, around whom you can allow yourself to be a total mess. 

Let go expectations for being the life of the party.

4. Show self-care and -compassion

You should also make time to self-care, whether through distracting hobbies and exercise or self-reflection.

Exercise in particular has been shown to help with mood.

Research is also increasingly suggesting that self-criticism has a demotivating effect.

5. Consider therapy

Whatever you are struggling with, non-judgemental, confidential and objective support is bound to help.

HT Quartz

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