It’s a new year, and you have set your lofty goals. You have resolved that you are going to get stuff done and have a roadmap for achieving them. I’m so happy for you and want you to succeed. So let’s talk about what happens when anxiety and depression try to hold you back. In this post, I want to share some practical advice for being productive with depression. This advice is based on my lived experience, and my hope is that it will help you find solutions that can work you.
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Understand Your Triggers
As I mentioned in a previous blog, my trigger is dealing with multiple negative or stressful events at once (conflict, tests, deadlines…etc.). I didn’t know it, but my triggers amplified my depression and anxiety. Thoughts about how incapable I was and my impending failure would consume my mind. I became unable to focus and often felt like I was choking. Often times I would even shut down. This made achieving my goals seem impossible. Accomplishing my tasks in a timely manner was a struggle. To add to that I became even more consumed by irrational feelings of failure and unworthiness which sent me into depressive episodes.
I was not always so aware of my triggers or the impact they had on me. Undergrad is when I was most impacted by my triggers. However, it wasn’t until graduate school that I really started to cultivate effective coping skills. I reached this point through three crucial resources: therapy, prayer journaling, and my bible. These resources helped me to verbalize my emotions, heal from past trauma and reflect on how my past was affecting my present. Then I was able to practice coping skills from therapy, as well as create personalized coping skills. So the first step is always to seek help emotionally and spiritually. I have created a Trigger Tracker worksheet that can help you to take this first step. It will help you begin to identify triggers in your daily life and how they impact you. This resource also includes encouraging bible verses that you can meditate on each week.
Make Tasks Manageable
Once I started to understand my triggers and how they impacted me I was able to work around them. To help me feel less overwhelmed and be more productive I implemented two essential techniques: prioritizing my focus and breaking tasks into manageable steps. These techniques helped me to be productive with depression. This worked for me because I addressed the root of what caused me to shut down or lose focus, multiple stressful events. In scenarios like managing the aftermath of an accident (in my new car…smh) or multiple deadlines in a short period of time, this technique has helped me tremendously.
When I am faced with overwhelming tasks, I begin by asking myself what steps are involved in getting this task completed. Then I determine which steps need to happen first. As my first task, I always take note of what needs to get done for each step. I also list any resources such as numbers, emails or books I’ll need for each step. Once that is accomplished I ONLY focus on one step at a time. This helps me to trick myself into believing that I only have one thing to handle. It also gives me a sense of accomplishment with each completed step.
After breaking my tasks into manageable steps, then I prioritize my focus. Based on the task at hand, I prioritize my focus by deadline, difficulty or steps involved. Then, I set time aside to work on one task at a time at a manageable pace. Typically, I will focus on completing the critical steps for the task with the first deadline. You may find that you feel more motivated when you tackle the easiest task first. Use that momentum to then work on steps for the more difficult tasks. This helps me to be productive because I am focused on one task instead of jumping between multiple tasks. With a manageable plan in place, I am also able to feel less worried about pending tasks.
Have a Support System
I realize that my body is reacting to protect me based on past traumas. Knowing this helps me to respect that by giving myself breaks. Those breaks allowed me to rest and decompress in between steps. I also realize the I cannot do it all in my strength alone. Since I know this, when things feel too difficult or I hit a mental block I turn to God. I do this by prayer journaling, venting to God or just reading my bible. It is also helpful to have someone that you can count on for help or guidance. Thankfully that I have my sister for this. Life is not meant to be accomplished alone, so I encourage you to find someone because. When you know that you are loved, supported and not alone regardless of your accomplishments it becomes easier to be productive with depression.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”
Get Help for Your Depression
As always, everyone’s experience with mental illness is different. This method has truly helped me to be productive with depression, and my hope is that it will help you too. If this method isn’t for you don’t lose hope, because I believe there is a perfect solution for every unique situation. If you suffer from severe mental illness or thoughts of suicide I want to encourage you to seek help today. Find a local therapist or contact the National Suicide Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 or texting “START” to 741-741.
If you have any methods that have helped you to be productive with depression, please don’t forget to share in the comments below. Sharing your experience and what works for you may help others find a solution that works for them. Also, please share this post because you never know who in your circle may be struggling and may need to read this post for encouragement.
** This blog was last update 08/21/2019**
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