Patient Blogs | Depression
How to Get Things Done When You’re Dealing With Depression
photo of woman at table writing list

When I’m in a depressive episode, doing the smallest task can be extremely overwhelming. So, getting all the tasks done that I need to on a normal basis seems almost impossible.

When I get too overwhelmed with everything on my to-do list, I shut down. I freeze, and it’s difficult to separate everything on my to-do list as individual tasks to complete. They lump all together in my brain, and it appears impossible to get it all done. 

Write down your to-do list.

I find that when I have a lot to do, it swirls all around in my head and can make it seem like I have more to get done than I actually do. Writing down what I have to do allows me to visualize how much there is to complete. I write down everything I must do, even if it’s a task I do every day. For example, I’ll write “make your bed” and “shower” on my task list, even though I do these regularly. It feels empowering to cross things off my list.

Start with an easy task. 

Don’t challenge yourself to knock off the biggest or most draining task on your list. This can discourage you right at the beginning of trying to get things done. Do something small. Cross it off your list when you’re done. This can encourage you to complete another task. I often start with my everyday tasks, then move on to the more difficult tasks.

Set realistic expectations.

Don’t write down everything you could possibly add to your to-do list just because. This can overwhelm you. Only write down stuff that is possible for you to achieve today, or in the near future. You can always write a long-term to-do list and work on that when you have extra time. But at the moment, let’s focus on folding your laundry, and not repainting your entire house. 

Look at anything you can get done as an accomplishment, regardless of the size. 

Getting your everyday tasks done can be challenging. If all you did today was make your bed, be proud of yourself. If you were able to cross several items off your agenda, that’s great too! 

Focus on what you got done instead of what you didn’t.

The key is to recognize the effort you put in for the day and focus on that. If you beat yourself up every day for not completing your task list, it’s not going to encourage you to try again tomorrow. 

Set rewards for yourself after a certain number of tasks. 

Have a couple of pieces of candy out and reward yourself with one when you complete certain things. Tell yourself you’re going to watch your favorite TV show after finishing everything. This can motivate you to stay focused on finishing and getting things done.

Getting things done with depression is tough. I think that’s an understatement. If I’m being honest, I even struggled to get writing this article off my to-do list. It was on there too long. Be proud of yourself when you finish things! I know I am. 





Photo Credit: Peter Cade / Stone via Getty Images

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Katharine Hartleb

Katharine Hartleb

Diagnosed since 2014

Katharine Hartleb was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2014, at age 16. She has a passion for helping others and plans on becoming a mental health counselor. Hartleb lives in Charleston, SC, and is a recovery coach at a substance use disorder facility. She is also a young adult presenter for NAMI, sharing her personal story. Connect with her through her personal Instagram and her kat4kindness Instagram.

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