When I’m knee-deep in a bout of debilitating depression it’s hard for me to accomplish minor tasks, including washing my body, making food, and not sobbing while walking. Sadly, this is a Catch-22 situation. I need to work to live but I can’t work OR live while drowning in sadness.
So what do I do? Well, I do the bare minimum and ONLY the bare minimum. I also follow this list of tips that past, okay me compiled for future, napping all day, not leaving her room for forty-eight hours me. That girl needs my help, BAD. She’s gotta pay her bills! Luckily, past her/me has got her/my back. Maybe future you can benefit from this list too. Take what you will from it and hang in there, friend/fellow mental health sufferer.
I make an only necessary to-do list. I include what I MUST accomplish that day and nothing else. My to-do list is typically way unrealistic and epically long and includes massive dreams like “Get, like, three books published!” Clearly, I’m not publishing any book(s) when my face has five layers of grease on it. But, there is work that I can’t not hand in, so I focus on that and exclusively that.
I put optional responsibilities on the back burner. My to-do list does not include random social events, intense chores, or finally watching every season of The X-Files. None of that is required. I currently exist to work and eat and sleep, and that means I may need to miss the birthday party of my roommate’s second cousin.
I ask for extensions if I need them. I have learned that bosses are much more willing to give you a break than my paranoid mind predicts. Whenever I need more time, I usually get it, ‘cause people are sometimes great. At the very least you can try, and if they say no, you’re no worse off. But if they say yes? GLORY BE.
I reach out to friends for help. My pals can’t jump into my body like a cool ghost and finish my work for me. But they are capable of editing or hearing out ideas or just coming to my house and sitting beside me while I attempt to be productive, which prevents me from taking another six-hour sleep break.
I take things very, very slowly. I give myself a shit ton of time to do, well, anything. When I’m depressed, moving my bones takes triple the amount of minutes than it usually does. If something on average takes three hours to complete, I book off the whole day to get it done when the noon demon is visiting.
I reward myself when I complete something. Even if that reward is just looking at Tumblr for five minutes. Or a chocolate bar. Or something as simple as watching my fave puppy YouTube video. I make myself feel good after I work hard.
I use my few okay bursts of energy as much as I can. As most folks with depression know, there are occasional blissful moments of calm within the storm when you feel like a normal, functioning human being who isn’t consumed by thoughts of the world ending. Sometimes these bursts are only an hour long. Sometimes they last for a full day! When you’re feeling uncharacteristically motivated, USE ALL OF THAT TIME, BABY!
I try not to get mad at myself for falling behind. This is one of my greatest struggles in regards to my mental health. If I spend most of the day in bed feeling like human garbage, I then spend the majority of the next day being pissed off at me for wasting the previous day, which only results in me then wasting two days. There is no point chastising yourself for needing time to heal or procrastinating a bit or fucking up. Doing so makes everything way worse and less productive. Forgive yourself and get to work, friend.
I attempt to stay off of social media. This one is beneficial for SO MANY REASONS. Firstly, social media is the biggest productivity suck there is. Sometimes I open Facebook to take a quick gander and suddenly four hours have passed and now I’m panicking cause I have way less time to work. Also, as we all know, social media is the highlight reel of people’s lives and a big catalyst for jealousy and insecurity and fear of missing out. Not the best time to check out Instagram. Leave it be and focus on YOU.
I take breaks by socializing with people I adore. Of course this has to be limited because if you want to get shit done you can’t be getting coffee with besties all day; HOWEVER, I do find that when my mood is on the negative end of the spectrum, a social break with a loved one can give me a solid boost, which helps my work ethic.
I keep some fruits/veggies/vitamins nearby. Now, this is a toughie if grocery shopping is a struggle (which it is for me when I’m depressed), but even taking a trip to the closest convenience store and purchasing whatever they have will benefit you. It may just be an apple but believe me when I say that a single apple can sometimes be the loveliest part of your body’s day. Nutrients are what you need right now. Take all of your vitamins too – especially Vitamin D!
I consume large amounts of caffeine. This works well for me, but I know that caffeine, especially coffee, can be detrimental to some people’s mental health. (Like everything else on this list, disregard what doesn’t apply to you.) I have trouble staying awake when I’m depressed, since I cope by sleeping for WAY too long, so drinking coffee and green tea and white tea is crucial to my being alert.
I sleep a good amount so I can be focused. Talking about sleep, I do give myself a break on the extra hours of snoozing when I’m dejected because emotional pain is exhausting to deal with. I know myself well and I know that my brain requires a good amount of shut-eye to adequately function. If I’m yawning and zoning out throughout the day, I’m not going to be checking anything off my list.
I do extremely tiny amounts of exercise. Again, this can be very hard to do – even for only a couple of minutes – when your spirit is hurting. BUT the littlest routine will do wonders for you. I find exercise is especially advantageous when I’ve barely moved my muscles for days. Stretching and short cardio workouts are my fave.
I resist judging everything I do. When I’m sad, I consider myself to be the worst writer who’s ever write-d. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “This sucks. I suck. WE BOTH SUCK.” But I attempt to put that temporary, extraordinarily low self-esteem aside and force myself to hand in what I have, regardless of how terrible I conclude it is. And when I look back at it weeks later, I usually say, “Oh man! I remember thinking this was HORRIBLE! But it’s pretty okay!”
I flatter myself when I do well. And “well” could simply mean completing something. My number one compliment for myself is: “You did it. Despite everything that you’re feeling, you wrote that thing. Congrats. You’re fucking amazing, Jess.”