How to Work When a Depressive Episode Impedes Your Progress

June 3, 2020 Mahevash Shaikh

In my experience, a significant number of people go through at least one depressive episode in their life. To be considered major depressive disorder, it must last for two or more weeks and this can put a damper on productivity. I have been through many such episodes so far, and have had to work during a significant number of them. Because, unfortunately, sometimes it's just not possible to take a mental health day. Without further ado, here are some tips to help you work when you are smack in the middle of a depressive episode. 

Getting Work Done In an Episode of Depression

  1. Accept your limitations so you can work with them. Accepting that your productivity will be impaired due to depression is the first and most important thing you need to do to try and work to the best of your ability. Coming to terms with limitations like lower energy levels, brain fog, and disinterest are necessary to avoid feeling emotions like shame. Also, keep reminding yourself that it is not your fault that you are depressed, no matter how many people imply otherwise. 
  2. Prioritize your to-do list. Be realistic and focus only on the tasks that you need to work on immediately. Everything else can and should wait for a time when you are not in the throes of depression. Put your mental health first and be unapologetic about it. Even if it makes you uncomfortable, say an assertive "no" to whatever lies out of your current emotional and physical bandwidth. 
  3. Delegate as much as possible. One of the pros of having coworkers is that they double up as a support system in challenging times. If they are empathetic, open up about your struggles so they will be happy to help when you delegate some urgent work. Unfortunately, mental health issues are still a taboo topic in many workplaces around the world. If your workplace is one where this is the case, get creative and assign work to others in a way that they cannot decline. Twist the truth if you have to, but only as a last resort.
  4. Reward yourself. Sometimes, the carrot at the end of a stick approach is the most effective technique to motivate yourself. It certainly works for me, especially because I am a solo freelancer who has no one to delegate to. Having something to look forward to, no matter how small, makes it easier to work when depression makes you feel apathetic towards your job. 
  5. Give up and rest. There is a big difference between trying hard and pushing yourself to the point of a breakdown. Do not feel guilty if none of these tips work for you. Forget about work and take care of yourself. Self-care is not an indulgence, it is a necessity. Allow yourself to seek comfort via coping strategies. As long as they are not a health risk, who cares if they are unusual? If you find yourself overwhelmed or need professional help, consult a therapist immediately.

What do you do to keep working when you are depressed? Please share your tips and strategies in the comments below.

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2020, June 3). How to Work When a Depressive Episode Impedes Your Progress, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

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