Depression and Doing Nothing (And Feeling Okay About It)

March 19, 2019 Natasha Tracy

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I'm depressed and I'm doing nothing. I think that situation is familiar for many with depression. The secret bit is the "feeling okay about it." That's the hard part. But I know sometimes I have to do nothing when I'm depressed. Here's how I work to not feel bad about it.

Depression and Doing Nothing

I am depressed. I've been depressed for a long time. My doctor and I working on my not being depressed but these things are interminably slow. 

And, as is the case so much of my depressed time, doing anything is painstaking for me. I have to work up an absolute lather to do the tiniest thing. I don't care about anything and I certainly don't care about doing anything. 

I cannot express just how much energy and will it takes to move and just how little I want to. It's horrendous. 

And the thing is, exerting all that energy to do things really does hurt. It really does make my depression symptoms worse. This is why it's called a disability. I'm simply unable to do things.

So, clearly, the answer would be to do nothing, right? 

Well, yes and no.

The Problem with Doing Nothing with Depression

The trouble with doing nothing is that my depression really wants me to feel bad about it. My depression wants me to feel bad about everything, of course, but doing nothing is certainly cause for great guilt and consternation. I'm a contractor, after all, how could I not spend my working hours, you know, working? Bad contractor, bad.

The Great Thing About Doing Nothing with Depression

Here's the thing; I've noticed something. I've noticed that while my depression wants me to feel bad about not working or not doing things when depressed, if I can beat that back, my other depression symptoms actually lessen.

So, for example, if I force myself to attempt to write an article when I simply can't, my depression symptoms flare. If I purposefully don't write that article, my mood is actually a little better. True, there's this gnawing feeling of "doing something wrong" by not doing anything, but I've found I can fight that.

Feeling Okay About Doing Nothing with Depression

And because I've worked this all out, because I've figured out that purposefully doing nothing at times actually lessens the symptoms of a very serious illness, I actually let myself do it. I let myself nap. I let myself play with the cats. I let myself read a news feed. I let myself do nothing. And honestly, after doing nothing for a while, I do find the energy to do something. I find that my depression calms enough that I can actually accomplish something. It's likely a little thing. It's likely not very much, but it's a thing. And it's a thing that I've accomplished without a lot of self-flagellation. 

So there are three tricks here to remember:

  1. Know that doing nothing can be good for depression.
  2. Don't beat yourself up treating your depression by doing nothing.
  3. Trust that by treating your depression, something useful will come of it at some point.

Now I know that depression can pull you down into a pit where you do nothing for days, weeks or even longer. That's not what I'm talking about. If you're there, you need other strategies.

But if you're in the place where every day you're beating yourself just to function, then, yes, I say do nothing for a while. And be okay with it. I am.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2019, March 19). Depression and Doing Nothing (And Feeling Okay About It), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 19 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

October, 18 2019 at 9:48 am

A great article. Thanks also for the comments. Always helps!
I've learned to just do things that need to be done. No longer wait for motivation as motivation may never come. Who wants to take the garbage out when you feel over tired? Even those with energy might see it as a drag! Just do it. It snowballs from there and you may end up do more. And if you need to rest afterwards... also, just do it! Be gentle to yourself.

September, 14 2019 at 5:57 pm

I was just recently diagnosed with Bipolar. I suffer more from depression. Ive been depressed before but this time seems to be the worst. I cant work. I can barely go to school. Im barely able to function. My psychiastrist has tried so many different meds none seem to be working. This has been going on for months. I feel so lost and confused.

May, 10 2019 at 6:59 pm

A phenomenal therapist helped me realize I am "doing something " when I sit and pet my dogs. If I were at work or doing something else then they would be lonely. Sometimes I can convince myself I am taking care of my dogs when all I can do is sit and pet them. Great post for helping us not feel guilty for "allowing "ourselves to be depressed.

Majella Ramsey
May, 7 2019 at 6:24 pm

Thankyou this helps alot having cyclothmia I'm in the black Pitt of depression e very few weeks for at most 4 days then bk to hypo mania i and also when i am i the pit although even when how horrible it is i actually feel more stable and slowed down if that makes sense thankyou again

John kirwan
May, 6 2019 at 11:19 am

Great article. The first time I have heard that doing nothing is ok. I regularly hear about how we should do something no matter how small. But as you say sometimes doing nothing can be good. Thanks

Nancy Dianna
March, 31 2019 at 12:58 pm

This is something that I have come to understand as well. The biggest difficulty I have with this is that the world isn't accepting of mental health days, in my experience. This causes confrontations that amps up anxiety and leads to changes that is circular in nature.

Linda Thacker
March, 24 2019 at 9:20 am

I love your post. I, too, learned that I can feel better by allowing times of depression...just be. Fighting these times only made me feel worse. Thank you for sharing your own experience.

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