How to Get Things Done When You Are Depressed

This blog post analyzes the concept of getting things done when you are depressed by understanding the reasons for its difficulty and how to overcome these and get things done. 

Getting Things Done When You Are Depressed: Why Is It So Difficult?

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Almost a million people die suicide every year, making suicide the second predominant cause of expiry among the group of 15- to 29-year-olds as per the World Health Organization.

When you are depressed, you suffer from various psychological and even physical concerns. One such psychological difficulty is a lack of motivation and energy to get things done, including necessary activities like bathing, eating, cooking, and paying the bills.

You get stuck in a vicious cycle where depression leads to an inability to get things done, and this, in turn, worsens your depression. 

However, there are ways to motivate yourself and circumvent this problem. Let us understand some of them in the following section.

How to Get Things Done When You Are Depressed

In her book, Get it Done When You are Depressed, Julie A. Fast describes 50 strategies to feel motivated and get things done. Having experienced bipolar disorder herself, she is known for her work with mood disorders. 

Some of the essential strategies she recommends in her book include not waiting until you desire to do something, creating creativity, being your mentor, doing something instead of worrying about something, and waiting to complete a task before analyzing or judging it. 

Here are some strategies that you can practice to feel motivated and get things done when you are depressed:

  • Structure
  • Make Decisions
  • Ask for Help
  • Exercise
  • Mindfulness in Everyday Activities
  • Be Present
  • Maintain Connections
  • It Is Okay to Be Imperfect

Structure

Establishing a structure is key to managing depression and motivating yourself to engage in activities. When you lack structure, you tend to feel all over the place and out of control. Therefore, getting your depression under control might seem unachievable. 

Plan your daily routine, just the way a child has a structure. A child gets up in the morning, showers, has breakfast, goes to school, plays, does homework, and goes to bed. A system brings with it relaxation and tranquillity. 

Having a routine can help you perform fundamental tasks like clockwork. You can include any activity that brings even a small amount of joy to your structure. Doing this will make you have something exciting to anticipate if you find structures boring and monotonous.

While having the fundamental tasks constant, you can mix up the fun stuff. For instance, you can engage in painting one day, hiking the next, dancing on another day, and so on.

Another benefit of having a structure is that it disallows you from being preoccupied with negative and self-deprecating thoughts throughout the day. 

To help you design a structure, ask yourself these questions:

  • How did your day look like a child in middle school?
  • In comparison to that, how does your day look now?
  • Is there a structure? If yes, is it helpful? If not, how can you alter it to make it useful? 

Make Decisions

Depression impairs decision-making skills, including simple ones. A minor decision may start to seem arduous, and despite this, if you decide to do something, there may be guilt. 

We have to decide various things every day, from deciding what to eat to making major work choices. It can feel overwhelming sometimes for everybody. So, people with depression can feel perplexed by this necessity.

You can tackle this problem by reminding yourself that you will decide for yourself today, and not your depression. Learn to own up to your decisions by telling yourself that you will not feel guilty because you made a choice, and you will deal with the consequences, if any.

Learn to congratulate yourself for making decisions – even the minor ones. You know what it took you to make that and stick to it without feeling guilty and ruminating over having made the right choice or not. 

Another thing that can help is having a template of decisions prepared for specific situations that are rather usual. It will save you time and effort when you have to make these decisions. However, be sure to stick to these choices when these occasions arise. For example, create a meal plan if you have a tough time deciding what to eat every day. Similarly, if socializing is a problem for you, set dates to meet specific people. 

Moreover, if you need to make significant life choices or ones that can impact others, do not make them when you are experiencing a depressive episode. Write the situations down and note down your decisions when you are feeling better.

Ask for Help

As depression clouds your judgment and limits your ability to do multiple things, it is best to take support with some activities. For example, if you have an important deadline, ask a colleague or supervisor to make you feel answerable. Likewise, if you cannot get out of bed in the morning, ask a friend to call you and ensure they do not hang up until you are out of bed.

Finding someone who is organized, likes to supervise, prefers deadlines, and the like can make excellent support in these cases. Note down the things you need to do every day or week, send it to them, and keep them posted on your progress. Ask them to check on you routinely to ensure you are on track. 

When you are accountable to somebody, you are more likely to get things done. It is effective even in support groups and with a therapist. 

Other ways you can ask for help include reaching out for assistance with household chores, carpooling, and partaking in classes or clubs that encourage teamwork. 

Exercise

Exercising can help decrease depressive symptoms. Ensure you engage in any form of exercise, even gentle stretching, 20 minutes every day. Preferably, step outdoors as exposure to sunlight, and consequently, vitamin D can help boost your mood and regulate your biological clock. It will also help distract you from your depressive thoughts. 

Mindfulness in Everyday Activities

Depression entails continual preoccupation with negative thoughts. Mindfulness in everyday activities involves focusing on the task at hand. For example, when you are showering, focus on how the water feels on your body, its temperature and texture, and how the soap lathers in your palms. When you are eating, focus on every bite and the sensation that comes with it. 

Acknowledge Your Achievements

It is vital to acknowledge your achievements, no matter how big or small. Be mindful of what you do every day. Appreciate yourself for accomplishing things from something simple like getting out of bed, having a nutritious meal, performing a kind gesture, meeting a friend, to something significant like getting a promotion at work.

The more you start appreciating your decisions and actions, the more confidence you will gain in your skills, abilities, and overall self. 

Be Present

Be present in the things you do as it will prevent you from dwelling on the past and feeling guilty or thinking about the future and start worrying. Being present also allows you to experience a sense of gratitude for several things in your life. You will begin noticing your self-worth, which is indicative of higher self-esteem. It will encourage you to believe in yourself and feel motivated to get things done.

Maintain Connections 

Establishing new connections may seem challenging when you are depressed. However, you can work toward maintaining relations as they ease depressive symptoms. Moreover, ensure that your relationships are empowering and make you feel supported. Surrounding yourself with such people will enable you to find the required motivation to fulfill your responsibilities. 

It Is Okay to Be Imperfect

Trying to be perfectionistic can prevent you from completing tasks. You will never begin, and if you do, you are unlikely to finish. People with depression often tend to ensure everything they do is perfect. Otherwise, they consider themselves a failure. 

If your goal is to get things done and feel motivated, allow yourself to be imperfect, and engage in activities in a not-so-perfect manner. As long as you keep going, you are doing your best and are heading in the right direction. 

Conclusion

This blog guide explored why getting things done when you are depressed is difficult and outlined ways to get things done despite depression. Depression can be disabling but remember to take charge of your life. 

We need to go beyond breaking stigma and diagnoses. People tend to believe depression can be managed with medication. Although medication is vital and can help, it does not suffice. We need to work toward recovery by seeking therapy and following through by implementing the learnings outside of the session. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Getting Things Done When You Are Depressed

Can you diagnose yourself with depression?

No, you cannot diagnose yourself with depression or any other mental illness. However, you can learn of the signs that indicate depression to seek professional help at an appropriate time. Some of the signs that indicate depression are:

Depressed mood for prolonged periods;
Fatigue;
A lack of motivation and interest to do anything, including things you used to enjoy;
Sleep disturbances;
Irritability;
Changes in appetite and weight;
Suicidal or self-harm ideations or attempts
If you experience suicidal thoughts, reach out to your national crisis hotline, or contact your physician immediately. 

What increases your risk of developing depression?

The following factors increase your risk of developing depression:

A family history of depression;
Abuse of any kind (e.g., physical, emotional, sexual, neglect);
The expiry of a loved one;
Significant life changes, like retirement, divorce, breakup, marriage, loss of a job, or a new job;
Specific medications; 
A health condition, like terminal illness, physical disability, or chronic pain; and
Abuse of alcohol or other drugs  


Can poverty increase your susceptibility to developing depression?

Poverty can increase your susceptibility to developing depression. It is associated with depression, anxiety, stress, and even suicide. There are several genetic and environmental factors in play at various levels, including individual, family, societies, and the country. 

Is there a genetic reason for getting depressed?

Yes, there is a genetic reason for getting depressed, although it is not the only determinant. Environmental factors also play a role in the development of depression. Studies show that people with a family history of depression are three times more likely to develop the illness. 

Which is the most common psychological illness?

Depression is the most common psychological illness. Women are more likely to develop depression than men. 

Can the school play a role in the development of depression?

Yes, the school can play a role in the development of depression. Moreover, depression can hinder performance in school. Many psychological conditions develop before you turn 25, making adolescence a crucial period to be aware of mental health and associated conditions.

What we recommend for depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

References

Everyday Health. (n.d.). Reframe What You Think About Depression. Everyday Health. Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/depression-photos/get-things-done-despite-depression.aspx.  

Stanton, A. (n.d.). A Guide To Getting Things Done When You’re Experiencing Depression. The Good Trade. Retrieved from https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/staying-productive-when-depressed.  

Tartakovsky, M. (2018, July 8). 3 Strategies for Getting Things Done When You’re Depressed. PsychCentral. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/3-strategies-for-getting-things-done-when-youre-depressed/.  

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Sara Quitlag is an Applied Psychologist, with a deep interest in psychopathology and neuropsychology and how psychology impacts and permeates every aspect of our environment. She has worked in Clinical settings (as Special Ed. Counselor, CBT Therapist) and has contributed at local Universities as a Faculty member from time to time. She has a graduate degree in English Literature and feels very connected to how literature and psychology interact. She feels accountable and passionate about making a "QUALITY" contribution to the overall global reform and well-being. She actively seeks out opportunities where she can spread awareness and make a positive difference across the globe for the welfare of our global society.