Feeling Productive During Depression

December 5, 2019 Kayla Chang

Being unproductive during depression is common; depression has a way of depleting us of energy, motivation, and momentum. Productivity requires of us all three of these things. Productivity is also an effective method of combating depression, meaning the very thing we need to feel better is the very thing that we can't have until we feel better. 

Guilt, Productivity, and Depression

One of the main problems with the inability to stay productive through a depressive episode is that it makes us feel guilty. To some extent, we've been conditioned to base our sense of worth on the amount and success of our output. This guilt compounds any existing doubts and self-esteem issues, playing directly into the depression. 

Even if we're able to make an intellectual distinction between depression and laziness, sometimes guilt makes us believe that the two are the same. And because laziness — unlike depression — is a character trait, the depression starts to feel personal. It starts to feel like our fault. 

Dealing with the Guilt of Unproductivity in Depression

Unproductivity is nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes it's a sign that you just need rest. Everyone experiences stalls in energy, motivation, and momentum, and those stalls are very natural responses to excess stress. And depression puts our minds and bodies through incredible amounts of stress in ways we may not even be aware of. 

But it's natural also to enjoy feeling productive. It makes us feel useful and gives us a sense of purpose. 

During a depressive episode, feelings of aimlessness can quickly spiral into feelings of worthlessness. That's why it's important to sustain some degree of purposeful action, no matter how small. 

How to Still Feel Productive When Depressed 

  • Manage expectations. If we're not feeling 100%, we're not going to perform at 100%. And even feeling 100% doesn't guarantee we'll perform at 100%. Trying to push ourselves beyond what is realistically possible will only result in frustration. 
  • Celebrate every (non-)accomplishment. If anything felt even a little bit difficult, and we did it anyway — whether it took all day or week or month — that's an accomplishment. This includes things like sending an email or going outside. 
  • Maintain some routine. There are certain things we do in a certain way every day. Under normal conditions, these things don't feel particularly important, but they provide a much-needed structure to our daily lives that we feel we lack when in the middle of a depressive episode. Cooking and eating familiar meals or taking a shower following the usual steps can feel comforting.

Knowing when to push ourselves and when to give ourselves a break is tricky, but learning how to do this effectively can help us get through the bad moments and make the good moments last. 

APA Reference
Chang, K. (2019, December 5). Feeling Productive During Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Kayla Chang

You can find Kayla on Google+.

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