Too Depressed to Work? Here's What You Can Do

January 14, 2021 Mahevash Shaikh

We are two weeks into 2021, so it's safe to assume that most of us are back at work. But instead of healing you, what if the holidays made you realize you want to hibernate until the pandemic is over? In other words, if you're too depressed to work, here are some tips from someone in the same boat as you. I promise you will not find the usual suggestions to meditate, exercise, or journal; I'm sure you've already tried those. 

3 Things to Try When You're Too Depressed to Work

1. Work Less

If you ask me, depression is one of the top three worst mental illnesses in the world because it can disable you mentally, physically, and spiritually. I think it's one of the primary reasons I'm an atheist, but that's a story for another day. In an ideal world, a person in the throes of depression would not be forced to work to afford food and rent. Today, even though disability checks exist, not everyone can get them, and they aren't sufficient in the first place. Also, mental health days haven't caught on as much as they should have, so the only viable option is to work less.

Speak to your client or manager and let that person know that you are not in good health -- and that you will be adjusting your work schedule accordingly. It's your prerogative to use a generic term like "health problem" or get specific and mention depression. To be on the safe side, get a note from your therapist or doctor if you choose to do the latter. Either way, notify them of your limited availability so that they can alter their expectations well in advance. There's no shame in working less. In fact, I'm looking for a part-time writing job at the moment. 

2. Work Weird

Okay, I admit I used the word weird to get your attention, but hear me out. By work weird, I mean that you must permit yourself to break free from the work you typically do and try something new. It doesn't matter if new means something minor or something out of your depth. The important thing is to distract yourself with a shiny new thing so you can keep showing up at work somehow.

Personally, I have chosen to explore creative writing in all its glory this year. Given that it's something I've wanted to do for years, I feel the tiniest bit of motivation to write despite having severe depression. There's a good chance I might be as bad at it as I was always afraid I would be, but at least it will be something to look forward to on some level. So whatever work you do, try and find something new that intrigues, challenges, or frightens you. Alternatively, you can ignore your current resume and dare yourself to pursue something completely different. 

3. Take a Career Break

If you have debilitating depression, especially for the first time in your life, be kind to yourself and take a career break. Call it a sabbatical or whatever you like, but do it for the sake of protecting your mental and physical wellbeing. Of course, make sure to reach out to friends or family for monetary and emotional support.

Legally speaking, your employer or your client cannot discriminate against you for being disabled, and speaking in a civil manner should grant you a reasonable number of days off from work. In case you need further help, don't hesitate to reach out to social services. Keeping a job when you have depression is hard, and sometimes it's impossible. Whether you are able to work or not, you matter, and your suffering is valid.

What do you do when you're too depressed to work? Share your stories in the comments.

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2021, January 14). Too Depressed to Work? Here's What You Can Do, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 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.

Ruben Hernandez
January, 11 2024 at 8:31 am

Hello, thank you for the gentle approach to something that is given side eye in the workplace. I have a great job but I cannot function. I cannot afford to quit. I want to apply for disability but I am so concerned about being rejected. I was afraid to ask to be put on part time for a few weeks. Thank you for reminding us that it is OKAY to take care of ourselves.

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