Depression Affects Productivity: 10 Tips For Fighting It

Overview

[Feel free to skip down to the 10-point list if you like.] Depression destroys lives, robs strength and spirit. It’s considered to be the fourth most important cause of disability worldwide, and expected to grow to second place by 2020. That’s very frightening. In the past, it was “wrong” to talk about it and an admission of weakness. But with numbers like this, talking about it is important in coping.

For those of us who try to keep depression under control and manage to live functional lives, it still sometimes sneaks up and destroys the hard-fought productivity we’ve gained. I make no bones about it; this is a very frank and open weblog. I suffer from the screaming blue meanies (seasonal affected disorder aka SAD aka seasonal depression) from about October to March. If you don’t want to read more, stop now and go elsewhere.

Usually, January isn’t as bad as December or February, but I’m going through a particular bad winter and a particular bad day today as I write this. However, I have a freelance writing business to run and I haven’t been able to do much of my contract work all day. So I’ve been going through my partially written personal blog posts (as opposed to doing paid work), finishing them up and publishing a few. Even though I wrote twelve posts for one client over the weekend, I can’t seem to bring myself to actually posting them to the weblog, partially out of guilt from not progressing on larger projects for the same client. It’s not rational, this unseen barrier stopping me.

So I’m trying to utilize my time to the best of my ability and to get at least partial productivity today. And that’s really one of the most fundamental ways to cope with depression, especially if you’re like me and refuse to take allopathic pharmaceuticals (I take homeopathic and naturopathic medicines, apply ayurvedic principles, and take vitamins for my SAD and hypothyroid problem. The latter already affects my concentration and productivity; depression worsens it.)

10 Tips For Fighting Depression

I’ve done a bit of research into fighting depression recently and I’ve put together ten brief tips for fighting depression, leaving medication out of the list (excepting vitamins), as it doesn’t work for everyone. Most of these tips are probably common sense but it’s sometimes hard to think rationally when you’re depressed, and thus easy to forget.

  1. Get sufficient sleep.
    I’ve always burned the candle at both ends. It’s a flaw of being a type-A, driven, workaholic personality. Lack of sleep multiplies the effects of depression. If you can’t get a full 6-8 hours each night, try 15-30 minute catnaps through out the day. I’ve tried implementing Steve Pavlina’s attempt at polyphasic rhythm-based sleep, but I can’t quite pull it off yet. I have however been very successful in using Pzizz’s two free 15-minute energizer audio MP3 recordings for power naps several times a day. It’s unbelievable how much these help. I’ve also successfully been using binaural beats to positively affect alpha, beta, theta, etc., brainwaves. (More on that in the future.)

  2. Reduce stress.
    Stress can be invisible and subconscious, and it can come from guilt about a variety of things, personal and professional. For example, as I write this article, I’m suffering from guilt for not working on client projects, which I’ve been unable to do for most of the day. That means I have to make up for this lack tomorrow, which in turn induces anxiety. It’s tough, stressful cycle. If you don’t keep stress under control, it can induce productivity-grinding panic and anxiety attacks. Naps, a walk around the neighbourhood, and exercise can help alleviate the effects immensely. Remember: you cannot learn effectively with stress weighing you down. Sometimes, practicing detachment from your worries will solve your stress.

  3. Get sufficient exercise.
    It’s not just a matter of getting blood flowing, though that’s part of it. But getting outside and getting sunlight and fresh air is important because it rejuvenates you. If you work at home like I do, this is especially important. I find that despite being a hermit thinker type, physical activity makes me feel great during times of depression. Blood flow and adrenaline seem to stave off the worst effects. Though it’s sometimes hard to remember that exercise or keeping busy helps.

  4. Meditate.
    Meditation can be an effective means to reducing stress and thus depression. It can also help you to become aware of what is causing your guilt, your stress, and often help you achieve some detachment from those “problems” you cannot do anything about. In short, it helps you achieve perspective, to see where to focus your attention. I’ve been meditating on and off for about 20 years. (I’ve done over 10,000 hours of meditation, part of the requirement of becoming a Buddhist monk, though not all under a “master”, which disqualifies me.)

  5. Add some colour to your wardrobe.
    Tough for me, an ex-goth who still wears mostly all-black, but all dark clothes all the time increases the effects of depression. Colour stimulates positive feelings. I find blood red or a hunter green shirt helps me. Some people prefer yellow, orange or peach, or prints or paisleys. You can also add colour to your life through art therapy.

  6. Eat properly.
    You know eating properly applies all the time but it’s even more crucial for those suffering from depression. I find grains, nuts, and fruit help me, and staying away from fried foods and refined carbs. I have a friend, a gifted classical guitarist, who ends up in the hospital every three or four years because of the massive amount of fast food he eats nearly every single day, and without vegetables at that. (He’s had around three meltdowns in the decade or so I’ve known him, and hasn’t worked in that time.) Even a fresh submarine/ hoagy/ rocket with lots of free toppings (i.e., veggies) is better than fries, gravy, burgers and pizzas several times a week like he has. (I’m not knocking them, as I eat them, but not every day.) Seek out healthy snacks or make your own, eat nutritious foods and add colourful vegetables and leafy items.

  7. Take your vitamins.
    Learn your E, B, Cs. And Zinc, Folic acid, iron supplements, etc. Poor diet robs us of many absolutely essential nutrients. If you are not going to change your diet, whatever your reason, at least replenish those nutrients.

  8. Drink water.
    The proper amount of fluids helps keep your skin from getting dry in the winter time – the “season” in seasonal depression. It also helps clear out some of the toxins in your body. And by the way, it’s NOT 8 glasses per day for everyone. The proper amount is based on your body weight, age, activity level, and other factors.

  9. Add extra lighting.
    Research shows that adding some warm, bright lights helps fight the effects of depression. You don’t have to spend $150+ on special lamps; just increase the wattage in some of your light bulbs. Also, fluorescent lights are less bright than they appear. Try to replace them if possible.

  10. Smile.
    It’s not a guaranteed nor permanent cure, but it does help sometimes, if you can maintain a smile for a few minutes. I watch The Comedy Network (Canada) sometimes, as laughing helps – at least temporarily, like chicken soup sort of helps a cold. Remembering to do so is key, so you may need to tape some visual reminders to your mirrors or computer, etc.

Disclaimer: I am by no means a doctor and don’t pretend to be. There’s more than one way to fight depression. If you have insidious, persistent depression, consider seeing a doctor, pyschiatrist or a therapist. (For some people, drugs may be the only answer.) Thus, the information provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice – only the findings of someone who suffers from seasonal depression. You use the information found here at your own risk only.

56 smashing comments for this post.

  1. Sanpran Said:

    Thanks. Great post. Eating banana helps (bananas contain tryptophan). from this article: http://www.mrbreakfast.com/article.asp

  2. Matt Said:

    I have recently discovered something wonderful to fight depression: Learning something new about a subject I’m interested in. This method has almost completely destroyed my depression. Every time i feel down, I immediately try to learn something. I will do an online guitar tutorial, I will learn more about 3d animation, I will learn how to be more physically fit, or I will learn some historical knowledge about famous people, that I did not know before. Every time I learn something, I feel slightly smarter, which makes me happy. The more you know, the easier it is to be confident about new projects because your mind is fresh. Because of my learning, I decided to learn the guitar, and now I’m starting to play some Jimi Hendrix songs. I can’t even believe it, because my depression goes away every time I learn something. My mind is renewed with new thoughts, instead of the depressing ones.

  3. Randy Schwinghammer Said:

    I think the most important thing to fight depression is getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet… That is eating fatty fish 3 times a week, and if you don’t eat fish at all, then I suggest you take Mercury Free fish oil supplements.

    If you don’t like any of these, then the greatest cure in the world is exercising an hour a day… no more and no less, I’m sorry, but 20 min of exercise doesn’t count and will not get rid of your depression. You will need more than that.

    What I do is break it down… 20 min in the morning, 20 min in the afternoon, and 20 min in the evening around 6:00 so this helps my brain be more productive and thinking clearly… I hope this can help you guys too.

    If all else fails though, and none of my suggestions help some of you out, then never lose hope… Just keep fighting it with a smile.

  4. rdash Said:

    @Sanpran: I didn’t know that, but I guess it’s proof that sometimes depression is often to an inbalance of diet. I had a friend who would “lose it” every 3 or 4 years and end up in the hospital. He only ate junk food (refined sugars), and not even stuff he made – just ate out every day. (He lived on welfare because of a damaged hand. The shame is that he was once a fairy talented classial guitarist.)

    @Matt: That’s fantastic. Stay busy and you can’t be focused on what depresses you. Everyone I know that suffers usually sit around doing nothing.

    @Randy: It’s funny. I’m allergic to some fish and don’t care much for most cooked fish. But for some reason I love sushi. (I take Omega 3 supplements.) I agree about the physical activity. It gets your blood pumping. You simply cannot be depressed when adrenaline is rushing through your body.

  5. Marty Said:

    I like your 10 recommended steps, can you give me an idea if there are any meditation tapes I can get from the library? I have never meditated but I would like to start doing it in conjunction with my daily exercise.

  6. rdash Said:

    @Marty: I know that some bigger libraries have such tapes. Or go visit a site called Pzizz (http://www.pzizz.com/). They have a piece of software that generates music which triggers alpha, beta, theta waves in your brain. There are two 15-minute free MP3 samples, which you can load onto your iPod or other media player. One is for napping, the other for energy, and both are incredible. I used to use them for napping in the afternoons, without falling asleep.

  7. Michael Said:

    Just reading your post, great tips, I have been using pzizz for a few months now, but not sure if I understand why they say not to use it if you suffer from anxiety or depression in the disclaimer? Can anyone shed some light on this?

    As for exercise, it does help, if you can get out of the cycle to actually go out there! bit of a catch 22!

  8. rdash Said:

    Michael, good point. The hardest part about breaking depression for some people is getting out of the cycle. The only solution I’ve found, in talking to others, is to take things slowly at first, do what you can – even if it’s just to walk around at home a bit. There will be days where you feel more energetic than normal.

    Keep in mind that studies show that many depression symptoms are due purely to poor diet, and thus you will have good days. Those are the days that you need to be as active as possible.

  9. belinda Said:

    I have never in my life thought that I suffered from depression but have of the last three to five years have been wondering. Also my difficulty to be consistant with what I do has become harder and harder each year. i also noticed that it starts in July and tends to carry on through to the end of the year. I battle to concentrate and think finish no I am not irrational but i used to be when i was in my twenties but I am now in my early fourties. I find the ability not to work because of this extremely unbearable it is as if I have no control over my mind and its nothingness. I was always in control of my emotions thoughts work now it is as if i can look into space and do nothing and JUSST have to be content with it – shit this is horrible. thank you for the article. My mind is full of excuses just can not pin point any but know that they are there somewhere

  10. Patricia S. Bell Said:

    Am facing Macular hole surgery which requires face down posture for some time. Am dreading it although I will be well cared for at home, after surgery.Am having a pre-op consulting appt. with my Doctor on the l6th. Are there any pertinent questuins I should voiceand will I be eligible for home help post op I am a Canadian resident. Please advise.

  11. rdash Said:

    Patricia, I wish you the best in your surgery. I’m not really qualified to advise, so I suggest you contact someone who is. I personally like to meditate.

  12. Jean A Dacis Said:

    There is absolutly no one that I know that can relate to depression symptoms that I have, the paragraph you write “this unseen barrierstopping me” is exactly what I have been trying to explain to any one that will listen (they don’t hear what I am saying) my husbands accident 7/07 has left a most devastational scar with me….leaves me w/ no hope for the future and life seems bleak…praying has left me feeling forgotten and afraid… no where else to turn

  13. elsa Said:

    Very nice blog. I think your advice is very sound.

  14. Nishtha Said:

    I really think that these ten tips can help everybody who’s depressed . Some of these tips can help keep depression permanently away from you.
    Suggestion: Lying down with closed eyes , lighting some scented candles around and listening to the kind of music you love can really help .

  15. Kristina Said:

    Depression can also be managed by practicing yoga, affirmations and visualizations. I do this every day. It provides a world of difference no matter how I’m feeling. I begin the day with gratitude for all the good things in my life. Then I affirm positive thoughts and visualize the best possible outcomes. It’s very soothing to the mind and body. This is especially effective after a good yoga or meditation practice when the mind is ripe and clear. Best of luck to all in bringing cheer, love and happiness to the world.

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  17. Edwin Said:

    Thank you for this article. The thing with depression, at least in my case, is that it can strike seemingly out of nowhere, regardless of the season, time of day, etc.

    Right now i’m typing this from work. I’m not sure what triggers my bouts of depression, but when they do…the effects are nearly crippling. It’s like someome took a sledgehammer to my head. I can’t think clearly, i’m very irritable, and my productivity goes down the toilet. Other times, i’m perfectly fine, happy even. I’m all on my own right now, but it’s only sometimes that it bothers me.

    Could I be bipolar?

    Anyway, thanks for the article. I’ll be sure to try some of these tips. It’s reassuring to know that there are others who are trying to find solutions. I just can’t help but wonder if depression has always been this widesread, or if something is making it worse.

  18. Peter Jack Said:

    A lot of good advice.
    Something I read recently mentioned that when you do something – pay attention to the details,and try to do it as well as possible.

    People who suffer severe depression – like me -
    are often rather ‘perfectionist’ in their attitudes, and doing something as well as you can – getting ‘engrossed’ in it – sometimes helps me.

    Another thing that helps is to think “I’ll spend 15 minutes doing that, then I will have a cup of coffee or tea”, and do that throughout the day. Soon you don’t want the breaks any more.

    But at the moment I can’t take anyone’s advice – I’m at an all-time low. For me, the tablets are very, very necessary.

  19. Howie Said:

    Your site is wonderful. Thank you.

    My wife (a nurse) has felt for a while that I have been suffering from at least a mild form of depression, perhaps triggered by a deterioration in my job situation.

    I have always been one to walk, good times or bad, perhaps that has fended it off for so long. And I may simply be reacting to a lot of personal stress (a close relative in her last days).

    I will try several of the suggestions here, I will also meet with my religious leader for some counseling.

    Thanks for caring. I have always said that the worst enemy a person can hav eis himself as he know where are the weak spots are. I am trying to fight off the cloud.

  20. rdash Said:

    Jean, there is always hope, though it may take a great deal of effort to find it. I personally like to think of our states of mind as being analogous to an electron in orbit. To reach the next “state” requires a certain amount of energy. Each higher state requires more energy than the previous state, to achieve. So it is with our depressed state, to seek the next higher state.

  21. rdash Said:

    Great tip, Kristina. Yoga, or even just plain meditation in a quiet place, is far more powerful than it gets credit for because there’s such a “New Age” stigma attached to it. It’s NOT new-agey. It’s very very old-fashioned :)

  22. rdash Said:

    Jenson, being apart from someone you care about is very difficult. If you are actually in a relationship with her, considering using a variety of tools to stay in contact: email and phone are typical, but also use Facebook (with privacy settings on), text messaging, a smartphone that’ll send pics, and maybe Skype with video on. These tools helped me when I was waiting 4-5 months to see my sweetie again, when she had gone half way around the world.

    On the other hand, if you do not have any explicit understanding as far as a relationship goes, do not feel guilty if you find someone else you start to care for.

  23. rdash Said:

    Valerie,

    My condolences. It’s very tough these days. I’m in my 40s and have not had a career job since Dec 2001, until now. But I’m not getting paid for it (share options, possibly). However, I am benefiting and learning. On the other hand, I have been working for myself for many years, writing online, etc. (Not very stable, at least until you really hit it big.)

    Don’t let your dreams die. How are your writing skills? Might I suggest you start a website where you write about Substance Abuse? As you feel more confident and have more readers, you could start working on an ebook that you could sell on your website. You don’t need to learn everything all at once. (A distant cousin of mine, with the same name, and I are actually working on this topic, combined with issues of depression, at http://dailyeffect.com/. Though it’ll be a while before we launch.)

    If you are interested in publishing your own site, two sites you might want to read are http://www.performancing.com/ when you start out, and then http://www.problogger.net/. Also see http://www.copyblogger.com/ and http://rogerparker.typepad.com/ for tips on writing well, on planning your writing, etc.

    Problogger.net has a lot of tips on how to monetize your content.

  24. rdash Said:

    Desre, thanks for sharing. Creative activity, listening to music, etc., definitely seem to help. Physical activity helps some people as well.

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  26. kathleen Said:

    hi i am trying to get out of depression.Cant seem to feel anything. hopelessness is everywhere.I think its important to get out as much as possible ,dont touch booze…and stay near people who really love you and seek profeesional advice..im trying to cope well see.wish me luck

  27. cv writing service Said:

    One more advice: try to have an active an interesting rest. NO home sitting. Just spend some time with your friends or outdoors.

  28. Jeff Said:

    So popping pills, drinking alone and smoking herb seems to help me

  29. Hiram Said:

    Hippocrates said: Let your food be your medicine and let you rmedicine be your food.

    In the living foods / raw foods culture they encourage people to consume raw cacao. This is the stuff they made chocolate from. It’s a mood booster. It also tastes great if sweetened. Whole Foods sells pretty good cacao bars, my favorite is the cherry one.

    Cacao has anandamide (the chemical of bliss), theobromine (a natural stimulant) and many other feel good chemicals. And it’s practically a mineral supplement, has magnesium, it’s good for the heart, it is the one food on Earth with the most aminoacids (cancer fighing), and it’s considered one of, if not the most, prominent superfoods. If you MUST try chocolate instead of its raw variety, raw cacao, go for dark chocolate but be aware that chocolate is processed cacao, and when processed it loses much of its nutritional value.

    Other mood boosters are yerba mate (which replaced coffee for me), it’s the green tea from South America but I find that I have to consume it in moderate amounts for effectivity as a mood booster, otherwise I get the jitters just like with coffee.

    Another natural resource is the consumption of kava, a mild psychoactive root that is consumed as a tea made from its root. The plant itself is a cousin of the pepper plant, and it’s a traditional sacred drink from the Polynesian islands. Its recommended for people who have experienced or are experienced anxiety disorders, depression, etc. I have a lot of respect for this plant.

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  31. valerie Said:

    “Eat properly”, “take your vitamins”, “drink water”. Yes, absolutely. “You are what you eat”, and nutrition definitely plays a critical role in our moods. I will also say that keeping your mind active, and not entirely focused on your pain, is a crucial step to get out of depression. It’s easier said than done, but proper nutrition would definitely be the first step. With the right nutrients in your mind and body, you will then likely have motivation to be more active.

    The tricky part, I think, is to actually be motivated enough to take care of what you eat when you’re severely depressed. This likely will require support from friends and family who actually understand and bother to monitor your diet.

    Thanks for this informative post.

  32. Patty Said:

    I’ve been depressed for 6 years after the deaths of my mother,brother and brother in
    Law. Such sadness. My inability to do my job well resulted in my firing. I now work part time and am making $1000 a month – my other job I was earning $60,000.
    I’m not the same energenic person I was once. I just want to lay in bed and sleep or read. Getting up and dressed is a big deal. Then there isn’t any thing I want to do. I feel like death would be better.
    I need help and take effexxor but it doesn’t do much.
    Depressing life and I know my husband thinks I’m insane.

  33. ed Said:

    and if you do all these things, and you still feel like curling up and dying?

  34. ashley Said:

    i think its very important to do all of the things you have all presented. depression is such a horrible horiible thing. i have been going through a really bad patch and its dreadful, no other word to describe it. its like there are 2 parts of you. one that is dying to be happy, go out, have fun, laugh. the other cant do anything, absolutely anything. now i think that is number one on the list. if your depression is very bad one day, get out, dont think about it just do it, visit somewhere new, go to your favourite place, go shopping, do that job you have been waiting to do for ages. even if its a walk down the street or cleaning out that draw/car/room that keeps annoying you. get your mind off it and be productive! its very easy to say and extremely hard to do but when you do it, it really makes a difference. i mean, i sat in my house for 4 days binge eating and crying last week and having thoughts that, looking back now, scare me. but on monday i decided im going to go back to what i used to be like (i’m a very keen sports participator and figure model). ive decided i am just going to do it, no moaning, no negativity. theres a reason i am badly depressed and i am going to try my best to make that ‘reason’ better in some way. so i have combined lots of things like eating like i used to, training like i used to, being busy, get a better job, study in university harder, finding new hobbies and making time for my friends and family. that last one is seriously affected when i go through a bad patch, i feel i cannot see anyone because i have put on weight, am too ugly, not as successful etc. but that is just negativity. there will always be someone sadder, angrier, bigger, fatter, uglier. i used to be a very very lively person, full of beans! alwasy moving, seeinjg friends and training hard. my bulimia destroyed my relationship with everything from food to friends and most detrimentally-myself. you have to learn to love yourself, we all have problems and downfalls, some much much greater than others. there are people starving in third world countries with lost family and terrible diseases, and heres me complaining about my weight gain (which i think is much more than i have actually put on), lack of money, bulimia and no stimulation. thats it, we all need something stimulating. something that excites us or interests us. i have decided i love tennis so i have become a member of the club and i play with everyone, this has really helped me today and yesterday! i feel fitter, happier and ive met people. i thought i envied the people i played with for their confidence and happiness but you’ll be suprised what fronts people put on, we alllll have problems and some of us can just deal with it better! none of us were born depressed and we should realise that OUR THOUGHTS AFFECT OUR FEELINGS. think about good things-theres got to be something, look at those people in poor countries! be positive and apprecciate what you HAVE got not what youve lost or havent got anymore. i have put on weight and dont work hard enough in university and havent got a job, SO i am going to get a job, work hard, get training properly again, do my favourite things (that i didnt do because i was so down). sometimes depression can be good because you can change it around and make it better. talk to people, have company, smile, do things that you like, watch your favourite tv show, play your fav sport, go to your favourite place, date people, revamp your look(dye your hair, have a massage, change your clothes). there are so many things we can do to make progress, the hardest thing is DOING IT.

    your are not the only one, and in fact there are people who are worse. fight it, afterall its a ‘feeling’. im trying to fight it and I WILL. good luck guys, stay strong :)

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  36. merdina K Said:

    thank you for finding useful advice and thoughts in here. I m depressed as i usually am during winters and it was nice finding people with similar experiences to mine. I ll follow some of the ideas and get back here soon.it s like being with friends.
    Thank you

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    I hate articles like this (and I’ve seen hundreds). They perpetuate the myth that depression is a choice. Depression (real clinical depression, not normal bouts of sadness which everyone experiences) has a mortality rate of 15%. 3 people in every 20 affected, die. If you’re like me and you have ‘double depression’ your prognosis is even worse.

    It is not something I can wish away with smiles and meditation; it has been with me for longer than I can remember. I don’t have the energy to get out of bed; where I a supposed to get the energy to start an exercise routine? Get enough sleep? I can sleep 18 hours a day and wake up feeling like I ran a marathon. I eat better than anyone I know and take enough vitamins to gag a hippo, but please tell me more about how junk food is my problem.

    If this was an article on managing stress or how to feel better after a rough week, I’d be totally fine with it. I understand that the writer has good intentions… but if depression is ever going to lose its stigma and be taken seriously as a medical condition, this nonsense has to stop.

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