Life Hacks For Staying Productive During Depression

Life Hacks for Staying Productive During Depression

“I found that with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone.” –Dwayne Johnson

Can you recall a time in your life when you were so crippled by depression that you weren’t able to focus on anything but your mental health? There was a time when I was so depressed and unable to do even the simplest of tasks. Sadly, this occurred right after the birth of my children, who are two years apart in age. It seemed as though everything was working against me. Some things I can distinctly remember are:

When Your Family Isn’t Equipped To Help

My mother, stepfather, and sister, lived an hour away from me. They were all pretty absorbed in their own problems. I remember feeling like a wallflower, an invisible entity when I was in their presence. My sister was a single mother at the time. She’d have my stepdad and my mom babysit for her while she pulled side jobs. She had many financial difficulties and often borrowed money from the family. They bickered about the money she owed them and complained about having to babysit so much.

I felt guilty for asking for help with money, but I did seek their advice when I was dealing with my abusive husband. They always told me to get away from him, but nothing more than hollow words to appease their own conscience. It took me years before I attained the wisdom to leave my husband.

I especially desired emotional support. I was too far away from the family members that were able to help us. The church and a domestic violence support group offered me the social support and knowledge I needed to take care of my kids on my own.

I Lacked Self-Worth

After my pregnancies, it was hard for me to lose weight. Here I was, in my early 30’s, mentally and emotionally exhausted from depression and anxiety. The constant chipping away of my soul continued for 4 years. My ex-husband took great delight in berating me when I weighed 160 lbs. He told me my stomach stuck out more than my chest, and he could get anybody he wanted, but nobody would want me ever!

I Lacked Mobility

When you are poor, it’s hard to keep up a car. There’s the car payment, the insurance, the car repairs, and of course, e-check. In Ohio, if you have an older car, you can forget about passing the e-check. In fact, I had to get a waiver because I paid money to correct the deficiencies, but it still failed. Luckily, the county I currently live in doesn’t require e-check! But the car I lease now would pass the emissions test.

When you have young kids, many people run the other way when they see you’re in need. After trying to unsuccessfully find a place to stay, I wanted to see if the kids and I could be part of the transitional housing for the homeless. There were several churches that participated in this project. The only catch was you had to move your family each week to another church “host”. I didn’t think that was a great idea for my family, given the fact we had been through so much already. Eventually, we were approved for an income-based apartment. Many people endearingly refer to these homes as the “projects.” It was the best option for us at the time, despite the fact that there was a lot of shady activities going on in the complex.

How did I ever manage to be productive when all this was going on in my life? Nothing fell into place quickly, unfortunately. It took years, but those difficult years helped me become disciplined, even when I was depressed.

Some things that worked to my benefit during my most difficult times?

Ask For A Flexible Schedule

My employer (NACS) was aware of my situation, to some extent, and allowed me to come into work after my son got on the bus in the morning, and after I took my daughter to the childcare center.

Have A Routine At Home

My kids and I followed a regular routine of when we ate dinner, played, and slept. Going to sleep on time, at the same time each day, helps your body maintain a regular rhythm.

Enjoy Low-Key Activities

When you feel the surge of anxiety or depression, it’s hard to be around large groups of people (especially, confident and happy people). While it’s not good to isolate yourself from people, many times they unwittingly cause more hurt than good. We used to go to the park when very few people were there. I took my kids to the “Book Mobile” to get videos, books, and puppets. The Book Mobile is essentially the local library contained on a bus that comes to your establishment (nursing homes, the “projects”, etc.).

Some other “low-key” ideas to get you out of the house, without throwing you into chaos when you are least likely to enjoy it, would include:

  • Walking around a quiet lake
  • Going to the movies during matinee
  • Stopping for some ice-cream
  • Fishing, boating, camping
  • Visiting a nature center

Write Lists

My ex-husband used to scoff at the fact that I was so mentally burned-out that I needed to write everything down. If I didn’t write down even the most minute task, my brain was too foggy to recall key information. Amid depression, domestic violence, unexpected “guests” showing up to “party” with my ex, and the weekly visits from the police, my mind wasn’t focused on the future. Instead, I was stuck in mere survival mode.

My family could not have moved beyond those ashes of despair, that bleak kind of existence, if it wasn’t for writing down to-do lists, tasks, resources, and even Bible verses on index cards.

Get Up And Dressed

It’s important to give your appearance some hope the better days that lie ahead. When you take a shower and get dressed, it’s easier to be ready for whatever is going on in the day. There may be an expected opportunity waiting for you- an unexpected job offer, an unexpected friend may call and want to have lunch. Taking the time to get ready is refreshing to your body and your well-being!

Simple Ways to Balance Work and Life

Work/Life Balance

“Live To Work, Work To Live” was once a popular credo associated with high-achievers, while others referred to the phrase in a tongue-in-cheek manner to express negative feelings towards work and life. We now realize that in order to maximize our potential in the workplace and in our personal lives, we must find our own “work-life” balance. However, “work-life” balance is still a misunderstood concept.

The notion of a work-life balance isn’t a simple formula, but it can be simplified by stating that it is a balance of positive and negative aspects of an individual’s life. Personal, professional and family life- a harmonious balance in all aspects of our existence, can help us achieve a healthy “work-life” balance.

Make Time For Your Social Life

In your quest for economic and vocational satisfaction, making time for family and friends is an important part combatting feelings of loneliness and actually, promote resiliency. Social support enhances the quality of life and provides a buffer against adverse life events. (https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/social-support).

Set Goals

Making the most of the time we have for work and life is dependent on the types of goals we set. If we fail to set goals or impose superficial or vague goals, it is much more difficult to find purpose in our work. A goal such as, “make more money” is too broad, thus, it will be much harder to maintain mental and emotional stamina to accomplish a goal that offers no method to focus our energies. A better alternative to a broad goal is to set a smaller goal, which provides smaller steps, smaller action plans on our part, to manifest a more meaningful and realistic goal.
(https://www.wanderlustworker.com/setting-s-m-a-r-t-e-r-goals-7-steps-to-achieving-any-goal/).

Determine and Reduce Distractions

The “garden” of your life requires much pruning- it is essential to be mindful of the things that are consuming your time and energy that may not be necessary at that moment.

Technology and Smartphones, although a necessity in the workplace, can hinder our attention. It is better to know what time of the day you are most productive and when to maximize getting work done at that time. Avoid checking emails every time you get a notification. Instead, set aside specific chunks of time to read and reply to messages.

Noise is another common distraction in the workplace. White noise, such as the humming of a fan, can help mask other noises that may cause you to become distracted. You can find many white noise apps that enable you to block distracting conversations and noises in the workplace. You can also avoid such distractions by simply wearing noise-canceling headphones or earplugs.

Many workers don’t have the option to shut a door to block interruptions. Body language is an important tool to signal to others you have little time for talk. Be mindful to discern what is relevant information and what is idle chatter. When you feel the conversation falls into the latter category, kindly tell your co-worker that you have to attend to a very important task and don’t have much time for talking right now.
(https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/distractions.htm).

Good Health Improves Productivity, Morale

Getting enough rest, exercise and good nutrition will help you have more energy at work. When employees have more energy, production increases and accidents decrease. Morale and engagement also appear to be higher when workers are healthier. Less absenteeism also assures that coworkers aren’t burdened by picking up extra slack from a sick colleague, which may inadvertently affect company morale and productivity.
(https://www.gohealthhero.com/blog/10-benefits-of-healthy-employees/).

Take Time To Nurture Your Dreams

This is something many busy people take for granted. Unfortunately, when you fail to feed your dreams, you have less to give in all other aspects of your life. When we simply forge ahead, neglecting our dreams, we lose the ability to infuse joy into our work and relationships. Sometimes “life” happens and we lose focus, or our ambitions become less-important. When we don’t have much time to pursue our dreams, we need to find ways to allocate even a small amount of time to dream regularly. This can be achieved by taking on hobbies or side projects that utilize our talents and abilities. When we realize our happiness is the sum total of our work and lives, we may start to find more ways to obtain a better work/life balance.