Effects of depression: The need to be ‘productive’

depression productivity

The effects of depression can be trying and unpredictable. Have you ever planned to take on a bunch of important tasks for the upcoming week? But when it’s time do these things all you want to do is lie down and turn off the world.

One of the hardest parts about depression is how it interrupts our ability to carry through with intentions we have for ourselves. These intentions are often very well-meaning – they’re attempts to help ourselves out of the spiral of depression:

Sally makes lists each week of what she wants to accomplish after work: clean her apartment, exercise, and cook herself dinner.  She feels frustrated and more blaming of herself when she comes home and goes right to her couch to spend the night in front of the TV. The next morning she makes another list and promises that she will follow it this time.

When you are depressed, the sense that you are being ‘unproductive’ can be tormenting.  You are faced with an impossible scenario: 1) your future feels profoundly bleak and even meaningless, and 2) if you could just accomplish X or Y you would finally feel better.  When #1 results in being incapable of doing #2, you can end up feeling even worse.  It can become a torturous cycle.

The solution might be to ‘try easier’

Although it may seem counterintuitive, one way to break this cycle is to shift your objective from accomplishing tasks to caring for yourself.  What if instead of making lists, your task became: “listen to how I’m feeling in the moment and do one of these 3 things to comfort myself”:

  • Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing for 5 minutes
  • Spend time with a friend or family member with whom you feel comfortable
  • Give yourself permission to lie down or rest if that’s what you need

The feelings of despair in depression do not take kindly to our efforts to control them.

In fact, strategies to prevent ourselves from feeling bad often worsen things because we get frustrated at not being able to make the feelings go away.  Just creative hopelessnesslike Chinese finger cuffs, the harder we pull the more stuck we become.  The way out can be to stop the struggle.

Looking for help to get unstuck from the grasp of depression?

If so, contact Jay Reid for a FREE 15-minute phone consultation to discuss this issue and find out how I can help. Call me now at 415-944-3628 or Email me

Jay Reid is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).   He has several years of experience helping people develop more empowered relationships with themselves and others.  

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