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10 Tips for Getting Your Sh*t Done When You're Depressed

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When you’re feeling depressed, sometimes all your plans and best intentions seem to go right out the window. You may know the kind of days I’m talking about. You know, the ones when you have too much to do, not enough time to do it and are also depressed?

We know these days really suck, so we wanted to give you some practical tips for getting things done when it feels impossible to do so.

We rounded up some tips and tricks from our Mighty writers, and asked members of our Mighty community to share a “trick” they use on days depression makes it hard to get things done.

It’s important to remember that what works for one person may not work for you. If there’s something we missed that you do to help you get things done when you’re feeling depressed, let us know in the comments!

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. Try the “One Hour Rule” If Waking Up Is Hard for You

Getting up can be one of the hardest things to do when you’re feeling depressed. When depression makes you want to hide and never face the day, it can be all too easy to just stay in bed. Mighty contributor Ellyse Rafferty has experience with this, so she developed a creative “one hour rule” to help her on days when mental illness wants to keep her confined to her bed.

Within one hour of waking up, I have to be out of my bed. If I look at the clock when I wake up and it is 9 a.m., by 10 a.m., I cannot still be lying in bed. I am a competitive person, and even some gentle competition with my own brain helps me sometimes.

I tell myself: Just try. Get out of bed and get up. If it doesn’t work, and in an hour you feel worse, then you can go back to bed. And sometimes, I will. And that’s OK. But I make myself try. Try to taste the day. I don’t have to like it, I just have to do it.

2. Break Tasks Up Into Small Pieces

This is a tip that can help anyone with a long “to-do” list, but may be especially useful for someone struggling with depression. Mighty community member Tamara M. wrote, 

I break up everything I need to do into really small pieces and try not to think about more than one piece at a time. For example, needing to do laundry would be, ‘I just need to get all the dirty clothes together,’ then ‘I just need to carry them to the laundry room,’ etc. until it’s all done.

Sometimes looking too far into the future — or too far down your “to-do” list — can make you feel defeated before you even start. By breaking up tasks into small chunks, getting things done can feel infinitely more manageable.

3. Create a “Point” System

In her piece, “The Creative Way I Motivate Myself to Do Small Everyday Things When I’m Depressed,” Mighty contributor Angel Mann wrote about creating a reward system to motivate herself to get things done.

I wrote down all of the things I might have to do in a day to take care of myself and my apartment. I assigned points to each of the things, with things I hate the most being worth the most points. I broke things down into small pieces. Instead of “clean house” or even “clean kitchen,” it was “load dishes,” “unload dishes,” “sweep,” etc. Each day I will add up the points I’ve earned. Once I get to 100 points, I will get a treat. The treat I pick varies, but most likely I will end up ordering a new subscription box, since I’ve been fascinated with them lately.

Things you might consider putting on your list include: brush teeth, get dressed, gather laundry, etc. The more difficult the task is for you, the more points you can assign for completing it — giving you an extra “feel good” boost when you finish.

4. Think About What “Future You” Will Need

Mighty community member Cyntia A. shared that when she’s depressed, she thinks about her two “selves” — “Present Me” and “Future Me.”

I imagine there’s a “Present Me” and a “Future Me.” I know it sounds strange, but it’s made a huge difference for me. [I think to myself], ‘Future me will really be in trouble if I put off the laundry again.’ It gives me a chance to acknowledge the way I am actually treating myself, by pretending “Future Me” is someone else, so I feel more obligated to care.

5. Try the “Two-Minute” Kitchen Rule for Cleaning

Mighty contributor Heidi Fischer devised a clever way to clean while she’s feeling depressed, something she calls the “two-minute” rule.

I decided any time I was in the kitchen waiting for something to be finished, I would use that time to speed clean. So whether I was waiting for the microwave, or my coffee to brew, I could slowly get things done, two minutes at a time. Two minutes sounds manageable when I am dealing with depression, and since I’m already in the kitchen, I don’t have to find the motivation to get up and get going.

This little trick has helped her keep her kitchen clean while struggling with depression, and is able to be easily replicated, so feel free to give it a try if you are able.

6. Instead of a “To-Do” List, Make a “Done” List

“To-do” lists work great for some people, and not so great for others. If the thought of creating a “to-do” list while you’re feeling depressed makes you, well, more depressed, you might consider making a “done” list instead. This is something Mighty community member C.J. recommends.

Instead of making a “to-do” list, I make a “done” list. I suggested it to a friend a little over a year ago [when] she was struggling herself. I told her even getting out of bed, brushing teeth, taking a shower… no matter how small, it should go on the “done” list. She felt way better by the end of the day.

This strategy can keep the focus on what you did do, versus what you still have left to do. It’s also a great way to celebrate small victories, because they really do matter.

7. Keep a Planner

Sometimes keeping track of daily tasks can be easier when you have a planner — especially if depression makes you forgetful. Some may even find comfort in decorating the pages of their planner, or creatively keeping track of their mental health. Mighty community member Kathryn L. shared,

I bought a cute planner and write very small things to do. And I only use fun colors like pink or purple. It sounds silly, but it makes things like remembering to pay a bill or make an important phone call a little easier to deal with. Even if it’s just a small task like making dinner or feeding my cat, it helps keep me a little more organized and makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something — which makes me wanna do more.

If you’re looking for a planner for times you are feeling overwhelmed, here are some of The Mighty’s recommendations.

8. Enlist the Help of a Loved One

When you’re feeling depressed, sometimes the hardest thing to do is reach out and ask for help. And while it’s really hard, sometimes getting help from a loved one is exactly what we need. On hard depression days, Mighty community member Bere W. shared, “I ask my girlfriend to cheer me into doing it. She asks me if I’ve got it done, what am I missing and it’s really helpful when I’m [feeling] real low.”

There is absolutely no shame in asking for help, so please reach out if you are struggling. If you are in need of immediate support, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

9. Just Pick One Thing to Get Done

Sometimes there are days when depression consumes you so completely that even the thought of getting out of bed makes you feel more exhausted. Rather than try to force yourself to tick through a long “to-do” list, you might consider trying to get just one small thing done. This is what Mighty community member Alicia V. does.

I pick one thing in my daily routine to get done. Take a shower. Put on my makeup. Make the bed. Even if it’s something small like get dressed. No matter how small, if I can do one thing in my day, sometimes it helps to break the cycle.

The important thing to remember is a “small” task to one person may be a “big” task to someone else. Do what feels best for you, and even though it’s all to easy to do so, don’t let yourself compare yourself to others. Whatever you get done (or don’t) today, you are always worthy of love and support.

10. Meal Prep on Your “Good” Mental Health Days

On hard depression days, oftentimes people can’t muster up the effort to feed themselves. Because of this, it can be helpful to prepare for your bad days by cooking and freezing meals in advance so you’re ready even when depression takes you by surprise. This is something Mighty community member James R. recommends.

Planned leftovers. Pack them up in a container and stick them in the freezer. Having a couple on hand at all times is so handy. I’m a former restaurant cook who had to quit due to mental health issues, so I can also batch cook and freeze stuff to microwave easily.

If some of these suggestions seem like they would be too much when you’re feeling depressed, you’re not alone. Sometimes depression sucks all the energy out of you — and we want you to know it’s OK if you can’t get anything done today. Give yourself a break, practice self-compassion and try again tomorrow. We’re rooting for you.

Getty Image via MistakeAnn

Originally published: February 20, 2018
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