If you’re depressed, your number one job is to look after yourself. Productivity is secondary to your mental health. However, learning how to be productive when you’re feeling down can help with depression recovery. If your first reaction to this topic is that it feels like extra pressure, stick with me while I explain how and why being productive can help with depression.
All emotions have an evolved purpose. Sad, depressed, apathetic emotions cause us to pause, withdraw, and reflect deeply. This has self-protective aspects. Sometimes it’s wise to cocoon away from danger. Sometimes it’s wise to question what we find meaning in and not to keep plowing ahead doing the same things. But in depression, this self-protective, withdrawn, low-energy mode essentially gets stuck ‘on,’ and becomes unhelpful. Instead of depressed feelings signaling the need to question whether what we’re doing with our lives is meaningful enough, everything starts to feel meaningless. Emotions are a signaling system. They help let you know when you’re safe versus in danger or heading in the right or the wrong direction. However, when they become prolonged, they lose their effectiveness as signals.
Being productive can help interrupt that negative spiral and turn it around. Here’s where to start.
- Schedule daily sources of accomplishment and pleasure.
- Cultivate a deep-work habit to reduce your need for self-control.
- Alternate between easy, medium, and hard tasks.
- Reduce your usual workload.