It’s the morning of February 11, 2017. Lester will never forget it.
His alarm rings, he tries to get out of bed, but…he can’t.
Lester’s body feels like a sandbag forced down to the mattress, his mind races, and his eyes well up with tears. The first emotion is fear. I’ll be late for work! Lester attempts to leave the bed. No luck. He calls his boss and asks for a day off for health reasons.
That day turns into weeks spent in bed with thoughts about pointless life, loneliness, and useless work. Lester is stressed. Or, as they say, he has emotional burnout.
And here’s Lucy. Her mornings start with crawling out of bed with nothing but an awful headache. Negative thoughts will accompany her throughout the day: on the way to work, in the office, during her dinner with friends, and through sleepless nights.
Lucy smiles as if nothing is wrong, does her job reflexively, and no one from her surrounding realizes she has dysthymia, a high-functioning depression that causes changes in her body and mind.
Both Lester and Lucy tell no one about their condition. Like 300 million other people worldwide, they try to live a full life and work efficiently. In fact, they have to work to do so:
When in depression, a person finds it costs larger-than-life effort to do something. That’s because stressed people are not just in a blue mood, but in painful physical condition, either.
It goes without saying, both stress and depression are not problems to ignore. They require treatment, so don’t join the 80% of sufferers who don’t receive it simply because they see symptoms but don’t want to admit something is wrong. Yes, treatment works.
But while in the process, you need to make everything less exhausting for you to do. To manage your stress, recover from depression, and maintain productivity even when unmotivated, try the following:
It may sound counterintuitive, but writing has a therapeutic effect on your mind. Doctors admit the value of transmitting thoughts to paper, though it’s not a perfect panacea, of course. But practices such as keeping a diary, writing long lists or unsent letters, paraphrasing from others, and free writing lead to better self-confidence and help us to process emotions and old wounds.
It might help to draw a clear picture of what you should change in your life to recover from stresses or depression. Dasha Amrom (Career Coaching Ventures) suggests a cause of stress might be the feeling you can’t control things.
And here’s where writing helps, too.
If you prioritize tasks and plan ahead by creating to-do lists, breaking projects into small steps, and scheduling meetings, you’ll feel accomplished, on-task, and prepared. Writing will not prevent tasks from piling up, but it does allow you to analyze your thoughts and decide how to delegate your responsibilities.
2. Learn Calming Techniques
According to researchers, interruptions affect your work satisfaction and performance, keeping you from reaching that flow state of pure focus and creativity. So, to skyrocket productivity, try to avoid interruptions whenever possible: Listen to calm music in earphones, practice deep breathing techniques, or try different variations of meditations.
These all have calming effects, help you find internal peace and balance, soothe nerves, and help you manage negative emotions, all of which makes you feel better. To enhance your productivity, change your perspective: Don’t dig yourself into stress or depression, but try something you’ve never done before. Take a nature trip, find a new hobby, whatever. It will distract from a brooding frame of mind and steer your energy in the right direction.
3. Take Care of Your Health
As Shawn Achor, positive psychology researcher and author of The Happiness Advantage, says, four barriers exist to creating a positive reality. He nicknamed them HALT — hungry, angry, lonely, or tired — so if you feel any of those things, it’s time to change that for better mood and productivity.
- Eat well. As you probably know, food impacts both physical condition and mood, so try for healthy and frequent meals. They will keep you focused and energetic. Also, maintain the level of sugar in your blood to avoid irritation, mood swings, and anxiety.
- Sleep well. Though insomnia is the best friend of your stress or depression, lack of sleep can compound matters. Try to avoid stressful situations before bedtime and be sure to get your eight hours.
- Go for sports. By alternating brain work with physical work, you can enhance productivity. Exercise stimulates endorphin secretion, making you less angry and tired. And, paradoxically, expending physical energy makes you feel more energized.
- Groom. It’s not about mere hygiene, but protection from stress and depression as well. So buy a massage chair or head massager, try practicing hug days in your office, and stroke your pet to increase your level of endorphins.
Aside from these physical things that influence our mood and condition, there are also mental tricks we can practice, through what’s called positive psychology, to improve our mood.
In his TED Talk “The Happy Secret to Better Work,” Shawn speaks about… writing (yes, it seems we go back to the point one of this article). But he changes the perspective (okay, here we go back to the point two) and details another three steps to more productivity:
- Write gratitude lists.
- Journal about a positive experience you had in the last 24 hours.
- Send emails of appreciation to someone you love.
Together with exercising and meditating, these lead you to the positive thinking necessary for happiness and balance, the only powerful weapon for struggling with stress.
Leigh Steere says there can be both internal and external causes of stress and depression. Internal ones include work-life imbalance, interpersonal discomfort, wrong fit role, and financial struggles; external ones might be a poor engagement or working conditions, bullying, or unreasonable demands from your boss.
Whatever your reason is, longstanding fatigue might be a signal to leave a job or change your lifestyle. Don’t hurry to give up everything once you feel sad, but don’t let stress run your life, either. Sometimes, just talking it out or making small changes are all you need for a happier life.
About the author:
Lesley Vos is a professional web writer and contributor to publications on digital life, style, and productivity. She is a nature lover and passionate traveler, willing to see New Zealand one day. Feel free to follow her on @LesleyVos.