Summary: Getting It Done When You’re Depressed By Julie A Fast
Summary: Getting It Done When You’re Depressed By Julie A Fast

Summary: Getting It Done When You’re Depressed By Julie A Fast

Don’t Wait Until You Want to Do Something

You have more control than you think. You can create a feeling of motivation and desire to do something by starting it first and then waiting for the feelings to arrive—and they often do. Of all the strategies in this book, this one might be the most important in terms of getting started with a project. This strategy can form a foundation for you to get things done when you’re depressed.

Here are some other thoughts to consider:

  • Accept that motivation may never come when you’re depressed, but you can do the work anyway.
  • Keep working until you do feel even a small sense of accomplishment, and hold on to that as you finish a project.
  • Work no matter what, so you can go to bed with a sense of accomplishment.
  • Remember, lack of motivation and desire are a very normal part of depression.
  • Start, start, start. The motivation often shows up.
  • Remember: Depression doesn’t want to do anything and never will. It’s an inert illness, not an active illness. If you wait until you “feel like it” to start something, you’ll wait forever!


Focus Outwardly

When you feel depression start to close in and you feel yourself getting defensive, isolated, whiny, weepy, or negative, remember to look outward and think of others besides yourself. You can be honest and ask for help instead of keeping it all inside.

If this feels difficult and you really do need to vocalize your symptoms—as many people do—this is a good time to find a compassionate therapist, so you can focus on more outwardly positive talk when you’re around friends, family, and colleagues.

Here are some other thoughts to consider:

  • Talk positively about others and the task at hand, even if it feels impossible. Keep negative self-talk to yourself.
  • Ask questions, even when you’re not feeling interested in anything. This helps you generate interest in things around you.
  • Ask yourself, “Who am I thinking about right now? Am I only focused on how bad I feel?”
  • Remember: It’s terribly hard to think outwardly when you’re depressed, and doing so can feel like having to sing when you have laryngitis. But you must do it, if you want life to change for the better.


Wait Until You Finish Your Work to Judge It

Of course, sometimes, your work might not be your best, and you might realize this in the middle of a project. In this situation, your thoughts are usually backed up by facts, which means you can make changes and keep going.

On the other hand, the depressed brain makes subjective judgments that can’t be backed up by facts. Depression never critiques a project objectively. Impartial, kind, and realistic judgment is best made after you’ve done your work and the project is over.

Here are some other thoughts to consider:

  • Keep going no matter what you hear in your head.
  • Focus on the process while you’re working.
  • Answer the critical thoughts by telling yourself, “I’m willing to just see what will happen if I do keep going.”
  • In almost every case, the work turns out to be far, far more enjoyable than you ever thought possible.
  • Remember: The projects you judge harshly in the middle usually turn out just fine and look and feel as good as the projects you can easily do when you’re well.


Set Up a Realistic Work Space

Constantly searching for a comfortable place to work can take a lot of your time. By planning ahead and finding or creating a space that fits your style, you can feel more comfortable and the work can flow more easily. On the other hand, if you can’t find a space that feels right, do the best you can and know that you’ll be more comfortable on better days.

Consider these suggestions from others:

  • I must have a clean desk, an aromatherapy candle, a printer, and a cup of ice.
  • I need my children to be in another room and, if possible, completely out of the house.
  • I do a lot of work on the plane during business trips.
  • I have to get out of the house. Being alone makes me more depressed. I work in noisy coffee shops when I have a paper due.
  • I shut the door at my office and put a “Working, available in two hours” sign on my door. People actually respect this.
  • I go to the library and work in a small room with other writers. I turn off my phone and force myself to work.
  • I telecommute.
  • I make jewelry and hate arranging my beads. I now make jewelry for a woman in trade for her coming in and cleaning my work space every two weeks.

Remember: When you have a project due (especially work that requires sitting) think of the environment that makes work easier, and then create or find that environment. If you can’t find a place that feels comfortable, remind yourself that you have to choose a location anyway. Once you are there, stay put, work, and don’t change your mind.


Structure Your Day Like a Child’s

Children respond to structure. If you let them run wild all day, you’re asking for discipline and sleep problems. It’s the same with your brain. Structure creates calmness. Knowing you have to be somewhere or do something at a certain time helps you get things done. Without structure in place, you can lose days, weeks, months, and even years floating around If you let wondering why you can’t get anything done. Structure your life and your brain.

Here are some more benefits of structure:

  • You’re more able to focus on what needs to be done instead of when it will be done.
  • Having things be the same every day might be a bit boring, or it might seem too busy on the good days, but this structure helps immensely on depressed days.
  • When you decide what you’ll do in advance, you don’t have to make what seem like impossible decisions on your depressed days.
  • It can be a huge relief to know that you have something planned and something to look forward to.

Remember: Not having a plan for your depressed days can lead to more depression; this is simply because you have more time to think about what’s wrong with your life instead of getting out there and living it. Begin to put a structure in place now. Don’t wait.


Remind Yourself That You’re Depressed

It’s okay to talk to yourself all the time when you’re depressed. This overrides what your depressed brain might say, and it reminds you that it’s an illness and not you. It’s so easy to forget this when you’re in the middle of a day when your productivity is very low, so work on reminding yourself that you’re depressed until it becomes your mantra.

Here are some other thoughts to consider:

  • Become an observer of your own depression. When you see it taking over, use your mantra to remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong with you or your life—you’re simply depressed.
  • If you’re the visual type, put a copy of your mantra in your purse or wallet. If you’re musical, sing the mantra. Do whatever it takes for you.
  • Use repetition to get through to your depressed brain. It works.

Remember: On the days when you can’t seem to get anything done and everything seems to go wrong, remind yourself that you’re depressed. Tell yourself feeling this way is normal and keep going.


Feel the Depression … and Do It Anyway

Getting things done, no matter how hard it is or how terrible comes from an inner strength we all have. Maybe you’ll cry all through the day, but you have it in you to keep going. You just have to tap into that strength by sheer determination.

Here are some other thoughts to consider:

  • Depression, like many other disabilities, might be a regular presence in your life, but it doesn’t define who you are or what you can accomplish while you search for better treatment of the symptoms.
  • When depression makes you hopeless, do something you know will give you hope—even if it’s just a sliver of hope.
  • When you wake up depressed, say to yourself, “Darn it, I’m depressed again, but just as if I had a broken leg in a cast, I will get up and get on with my day.”
  • Expect to cry, feel terrible, be less productive, and feel like quitting … and then do what you have to do anyway.
  • Whether you have chronic depression or periodic depression, you will have days when you have to get things done no matter how you feel. It might help to think of Abraham Lincoln. He’s proof that it is possible, despite feeling very depressed, that you can do what you have to do.

Remember: Feel the depression and do it anyway, so you can at least wake up the next day knowing you accomplished something under very difficult circumstances. You absolutely can get things done, even when you’re depressed.


Regulate Your Sleep

It can’t be stressed enough that good, regular, deep sleep is essential for a stable mood. It’s also a requirement for maximum productivity. Your brain chemicals change during sleep in order to support your mood and physical body throughout your waking hours. Regular sleep gives you the energy you need to face the day and get things done, even if you feel depressed.

Here are the top five tips for restful sleep:

  1. Get some regular exercise at least three hours before bed. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime.
  2. Avoid substances that hold off or otherwise negatively affect deep, sleep such as caffeine, alcohol, and overuse of tranquilizers.
  3. Avoid taking unneeded naps, and be sure to wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. When you wake up, go outside for 10 minutes. (This regular exposure to outdoor light, even on a cloudy day, helps normalize your circadian rhythm.)
  4. Keep your sleeping environment cool. A cooler body temperature enables you to go into deeper stages of sleep.
  5. Check any medications you’re taking for possible sleep side effects. Many medications used for depression can affect sleep significantly.

Remember: If you do one thing when you put down this book today, think of your plan to get a good night’s sleep. What do you need to do now?


Break Projects into Steps

If you tried to do your task all at once, whether it was learning an acting role in one sitting or trying to speak a language before you’ve studied the grammar, there’s a very good chance you’d get anxious, overwhelmed, and more depressed. You don’t want that. You want to get things done, step by step. You can train yourself to look at every project like a recipe and know that you have many steps to go through before you get a beautiful and delicious cake—or landing an acting role or a learning second language.

Here are some other thoughts to consider:

  • When you feel overwhelmed, write out the steps you need to take and include the time you think each task will take. You’ll find that things usually take a lot less time than you estimated.
  • Remind yourself that you are creative and you can find ways to work on a project, even if it feels overwhelming.

Remember: Everything feels impossible if you look at it as a whole instead of as a process with individual steps. In reality, the steps are all that matter, especially when you’re depressed.


Beware Caffeine and Sugar Highs

Caffeine and sugar consumption are your choice. Only you know how to regulate what you put in your body. You’re an adult. If you’re using caffeine and sugar to feel better and it’s not working in the long term, decide what’s more important—your moods or fleeting energy and pleasure. Overconsuming caffeine and sugar can lead to so many problems—anxiety, shame, and sleep problems, to name a few. Think carefully before you put something in your body that’s making you more depressed.

Here are some other thoughts to consider:

  • If you’re having agitated depression, the best thing you can do is to stop caffeine completely or switch to decaffeinated. It might be very hard, but increased agitated depression is worse.
  • If you feel immediately better when you eat sugar, you’re probably dependent on that sugar emotionally and physically. The first step is awareness. When the craving starts and the sugar hits your body, ask yourself, “What just happened that made me crave this? Can I focus on that for a minute?”
  • Switch to tea. Even black tea has less caffeine than coffee, and over time, you can get used to the taste and start to like it.

Remember: Many substances make you feel better in the moment, but those aren’t always the best choice, considering that the low they create when they leave your system only makes you need them more. That’s how vicious cycles get started.


Avoid Isolation

Make it a goal right now that you will get out and be with people. You might just sit there and watch others. You might not participate. You might watch people throw a Frisbee, work on a project, go to the movies, or do volunteer work. That’s okay. Let others give you energy. Let others help you feel better! It often only takes one time to help you start to feel more connected. When you realize that being with others is better than being cut off, you’ll have more energy and productivity.

Here are some other thoughts to consider:

  • Decide that isolation is not an option, no matter how you feel. Make it a goal to get outside your house and at least walk near other people for an hour every day.
  • Remind yourself constantly that you’re a person worthy of human contact.
  • If you love animals, find a way to be around animals, and then transfer that energy to people.
  • Go to work and/or school with no room for negotiation with your brain.

Remember: Depression is isolating. Reach out. You’ll always feel better. Always.


See a Therapist

Seeing a therapist is a sign of strength when faced with depression.

Here are some other thoughts to consider:

  • Research different styles of therapy, including cognitive therapy that teaches awareness of how what you say and do determines your mood; behavioral therapy that helps you look at the behaviors that lead to more depression, so that you can replace them with more constructive behaviors; and interpersonal therapy, where you examine what current problematic relationships might be contributing to depression and then learn strategies for more effective communication and problem solving in important relationships. Finding a therapist who uses a combination of the above techniques is often a great help. When you make a decision, you can ask for referrals and make calls.
  • You don’t have to want to do the busy work of finding a therapist because it can be overwhelming. But if your goal is to have a supportive therapist who can help you get things done and feel good about yourself, you have to take the first uncomfortable step. It can take less than a few hours for possible years of benefit.
  • Listen to yourself instead of others who might say that therapy isn’t what you need.
  • Knowing you have someone who will listen to you without judgment can be a tremendous help for depression.
  • Action-oriented therapists can have a lot of good advice on how to make the life choices that help you focus on what you can do. Then they can give you practical advice on how to get moving and get things done.

Remember: Most people take more time picking fruit in a grocery store than they do choosing a therapist. Find someone who works for you. The legwork you do up front will pay off down the road.


Allow Time for Positive Results

It’s true that time marches on, no matter what you do. So, why not make the time matter? Why just let that time pass without making positive changes? The decision might be instant, but the results can be a long time coming. That’s okay. When things are going slowly and you think you’ll never be able to get things done and improve your life, remind yourself that this isn’t true; it’s just taking a lot longer than you want or expect. Be patient and think in the long term. It’s worth the wait.

Here are some other thoughts to consider:

  • Set goals and then double the time you originally chose to get them done.
  • When you feel hopeless and that things will never get better, always remind yourself that if you just keep working at it, things will definitely change. Don’t let depression convince you they won’t.
  • Give yourself a year to learn to truly get things done when you’re depressed, without having to think of each strategy constantly.
  • See your depression management as a process, not a destination. You can still have the goal of ridding depression from your life—that’s very possible and many people do it! But until you reach that point, you’re on a journey, not in a race.

Remember: The strategies in this book are lifelong. As you try each one, ask yourself, “What is the realistic time frame to see results?”