You might have noticed that this week’s posts are focused on productivity and positivity. They’ve been centred around how to be more productive and successful and making the most of the hours in each and every day.
But it’s not always that straight forward. Trust me, I know. Getting up an hour early is a really great suggestion but what happens when you’re so completely exhausted that it hurts to turn your alarm off? What happens when the thought of leaving the house brings awave of paralysing anxiety? It’s tough. Really bloody tough.
One of the common symptoms of depression is a lack of motivation. A feeling of being completely useless and unable to do anything. This presents itself in a number of ways, all of which I’ve experienced over the last couple of months.
This one always shocks me. I don’t understand how a mental health problem can have such a huge impact on you physically. But it does. I’ve had days over recent months when I’ve felt more tired and achey that I did at the summit of Kili. Seriously. There’s no explanation for it other than it being a symptom of depression. Nothing has happened in the previous days that could have made you this tired.
This physical exhaustion impacts on your productivity in a few different ways. Most obviously, you want to sleep more and everyone knows that when you’re asleep, you’re not getting things done.
It also means that exercise is basically off the table. When I’m this kind of tired, I can’t run. I’ve tried a couple of times (it took so much effort and mental strength) in the hope that I’d get into it after a couple of kilometres and it would be invigorating. I didn’t, and it wasn’t. It’s a vicious cycle though, the less I work out, the more lethargic I get. And, without running to clear my head, I often just drift into a deeper “low”. Neither of which help with productivity. Feeling lethargic and low aren’t good for productivity in terms of actually getting things done or in terms of creative flow.
Mental Exhaustion and Clouded Thoughts
Sometimes known as “brain fog” this is one of those shitty things that people with depression have to put up with too. You know, alongside everything else. As well as being part of depression, this can also be a side effect of anti-depressants. My last set of meds were a nightmare for this. I felt like a zombie for 6 months. It was hell. I would constantly drift off when people were talking to me. I’d zone out on the tube and “wake up” miles away from where I was meant to be with no recollection of how I got there.
Clearly, ending up somewhere you’re not meant to be is rubbish for productivity but there’s more to it than that. Clouded thoughts mean that making a simple decision about what to have for dinner can result in a complete melt down. Planning on scheduling your posts for the next month? Think again mate! If the choice between pasta or rice made you cry, imagine what choosing blog topics will do to you.
When your brain isn’t behaving like it should it’s almost impossible to get anything done, especially anything that requires creativity. Things like trying to write a new blog post are impossible – formulating real sentences isn’t something that your brain can deal with on these days.
This is probably the biggest one for me. It seems to be the one experience most often and also the one that I find the most difficult to get out of. I hear a lot of other people talking about this one too.
At times, you are your own worst enemy. This is particularly true of depression. There have been days recently when I’ve considered deleting my blogs completely, days when I’ve thought about quitting my job, all because I don’t believe that I’m good enough. That I don’t bring anything to these roles. That no one would miss me in those positions and that someone else could do a much better job than I could.
Self-doubt is terrible for productivity and motivation. The usual thought being “there’s no point in me doing x, y and z so I won’t.” And that thought usually trumps everything else. There’s no arguing with it. There’s no rationalising it. It seems like the only option here is to give in to and listen to the voice inside your head until it gets bored and shuts up.
It’s basically impossible to do anything at all when you’re crying hysterically for “no reason”. Enough said about this one!
What’s the Solution?
Sorry guys and gals but there isn’t a solution! I don’t mean that in a pessimistic, doom and gloom kind of way (I’m actually in a pretty positive mood today) but it’s one of those things. It’s one of those things that you need to deal with on a case by case basis.
Sometimes I can deal with physical exhaustion by going for a run. Other times the only way to get through it is to sleep and eat and sleep some more. Sometimes support from friends and family helps with the self-doubt. Other times it just makes it much, much worse. One of the things I often find myself thinking is that people are just saying nice things to me either out of pity or to make me feel better even though they don’t mean it.
The most important thing to do when you’re feeling unproductive or, due to various reasons, you actually can’t be productive is to give yourself a break. I’m laughing as I type that because even though I know it’s the best thing to do, I never ever do this. I just try to push through and sometimes I even add more pressure to myself with extra work and tighter deadlines.
My final note on this is, whether you suffer from depression or not, if motivation and productivity isn’t there, don’t force it. It’s one of those things that can’t be forced. Be kind to yourself and listen to what your body is telling you. Ease up on the pressure. Relax.
If you do suffer with depression, learn to celebrate the wins no matter how small. Learn to accept that these things are out of your hands. Stay strong no matter what.