How to keep working when you’re depressed

The last thing you may feel like doing when you’re depressed is working. But what if you’re a freelancer? Read four strategies that have helped one freelance writer continue to work when depressed.  

Do you suffer from depression? And how is it affecting your career? It can be hard enough dealing with the impact of depression if you’re employed, but what if you’re freelance, or run your own business? With no sick pay or cover,you can’t afford to lose work through illness.

Freelance writer Lesley J Vos shares her own experience with depression, and the tricks she employs to keep working, even when she just feels like hiding away from the world.

Constant deadlines means I can’t afford NOT to work

As a freelance web writer, I work from home which increases social isolation as well as the risk of anxiety and depression.

I’ve been crafting articles since 2010. Sometimes I write three or four pieces at the same time, though shifting between different topics is hard. Attention allocation affects writing quality and, therefore, impacts my self-confidence. So, when pressed for time and inspiration, I often feel stress and lack of motivation.

The snag is that I can’t sit and wait for the muse to come. I write for a living, and have prescribed topics and constant deadlines. Which means I have to resort to different tricks in order to stay the course.

I’m not alone with my depression – and nor are you

What I’ve learned over the years is that I’m not alone with my depression:

Thankfully today there’s an increasing amount of research and online articles that teach managers to help depressed co-workers. But things aren’t so rosy for freelancers like me. I work alone, and no one is there to help with my workload, motivation lack, and stress.

Here are four things that help me work when I’m depressed

But while this may hurt, I’ve found several things that help to encourage me to keep on working in moments of loneliness and despair. Surprisingly, the best saviour is my busy schedule.

Here are four things that help me maintain my productivity when I’m depressed.

1) Find ways to keep depression at bay

It’s always better to prevent a problem from occurring than wait for it to happen and then find a solution. And depression is no different.

Personally I find freelance writing stressful, so here are ways I have found to cope with it – and help to keep anxiety and depression at bay:

  • I wake early – adapting my biorhythms to my day encourages happiness and gives me more time for writing.
  • I write – everyday writing practices such as free writing on mornings, the technique of unsent letters, and mind mapping help to generate ideas and plan everything.
  • I exercise – sports activities and using calming techniques allow me to relax and change my perspective.
  • I use apps – mobile apps help me to ease my writing work (Grammarly, Grammarly Review, Plagiarism Check, Clean Writer Pro, The Story Starter) and stay calm (Pacifica, Headspace, Happify).

My habit of drinking coffee also appears to be positive for writers! (There’s good news for green tea drinkers too.)

What ways can you keep your depression at bay? Do you have any stress triggers you can find ways to deal with or eliminate? Are there activities (like eating healthily, exercise or meditation) that help you to manage your mood? Staying one step ahead of depression can really help, I’ve found.

2) Keep busy

The trick is not to stop working when you feel stressed. The principle of fighting fire with fire helps: when you’re busy doing something, you don’t have time to dwell on things or worry. As a work-at-home writer, here’s how I stay busy:

  • I plan my days for maximum productivity, with time for work and time for breaks.
  • I use my downtime wisely, filling it with activities like exercise or meditation.
  • I embrace the benefits of working from home, such as working in my pyjamas.
  • I make time for hobbies I enjoy and spending time with family and friends.
  • I can also plan my work around the times I know I’m more productive.

It appears that work has healing properties, as Ernest Hemingway said of work: “the most important thing in life which distracts from every misfortune.” So I’ve turned my writing into a weapon for de-stress and motivation.

How can you plan your time so your days are full of time to work, and time to do things that energise and uplift you? And ensure you don’t have huge gaps of time to fill with worry?

3) Make your workplace inspiring

Your working environment matters because it’s a reflection of your inner condition. So organising it accordingly could help to beat stress and enhance productivity. That’s what I’ve done:

  • I’ve painted my walls a peaceful green – no more dull beige!
  • I make sure the lighting and temperature are right for me.
  • I’ve got rid of clutter (yes, I know some writers call it creative mess, but I disagree with them).
  • I surround myself with plants.
  • I’ve hung motivational quotes on my walls.
  • I have clear areas for work and for rest.

All these are scientifically proven methods to influence your health and mood while working, and really work for me personally. But what about you? Does your workspace uplift you, or depress you? And if it’s the latter, what can you do to change it?

4) Be social

While office workers can socialise with colleagues and clients, the closest many freelancers get to company at work is their cat! Writing from home, I’m on my own with problems, duties, and worries. And often this solitude can lead to a sense of isolation and stress.

To avoid this I make an effort to be social. I attend seminars, take part in conferences or webinars, visit local meetings, and communicate with interesting people on social media. I may be an introvert, but I have learned to express thoughts and share impressions with others, and it has helped.

So, if a lack of company in the daytime is getting you down, think about some ways you can be more social. Some freelancers work in a coworking space one or two days a week, or even start local freelance network groups.

You may be surprised at how many other freelancers in your area are just as desperate to meet people too. (Read more tips on how to beat loneliness when you work from home.)

Find ways that help you keep working through depression

These are just four strategies that have helped me stay productive through good days and bad, and I hope they’re helpful for you too.

If you do suffer from depression, don’t be afraid of feeling sad or unmotivated. Work on it, never give up. If I can find ways to work with depression, I believe you can too.

Need more advice on depression?

If you do suffer from depression, we hope the advice in these articles will help:

Lesley J Vos is a freelance web writer, pro guest blogger, and ghostwriter contributing to publications on writer’s life, productivity, and self-development. Check out Lesley’s profile here or drop her a line on Twitter.

Photo by Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash