Distraction and Depression: 3 Ways to Avoid Both!

When some people feel depressed, they can’t get out of bed or spend hours ruminating. Others suffering from depression, however, can develop a tendency to be easily distracted – or to even actively seek out distraction. You don’t have to be a psychologist to get it: People who are feeling depressed may look for near-constant distraction as a way of avoiding dealing with their feelings; emotions that perhaps they don’t know how to articulate. 

And then there’s the flip side: the insipid way that distraction can bring on bouts of depression. Let’s say you’re at the office for 8 hours and don’t get anything done because you got caught up (again) in a web of social media, pointless political blogs, sports sites, online shopping, you-name-it. 

The feeling of being unproductive can be frustrating, and many folks beat themselves up after realizing how much time they’ve wasted. No matter how depression sneaks up on you, there are ways to take back some control over your life. Here are three big ones: 

  1. Learn to Block Digital Distractions 

Tens of millions of people are reassessing how they can work and or study more productively – and taking advantage of tech tools to help them achieve this. Students, from high school to college and beyond, are using website blockers for studying while workers are using blocking apps, such as the free extension Blocksite,  to close themselves off from the internet or certain sites during particular times of the day – in order to get stuff done. 

The choices with this blocking strategy are all up to you – and you can allow the Blocksite to sync across all your devices to make it even easier for you. The goal is to become more productive, which leads to greater satisfaction, which spurs motivation and brings feelings of contentment

By putting yourself in distraction-free mode when you have a task that needs to get done – and this could be anything from cleaning the house to writing a term paper – you are virtually guaranteed to complete that task faster, and more effectively. And when you are efficient and effective, a virtuous cycle begins to build where the happiness you feel at completing something pushes you towards doing more. 

Instead of looking back at a wasted day and berating yourself for not being able to focus – and slipping further into depression – block out as many digital distractions as possible, and put your nose to the grindstone. After a few hours of solid work, reward yourself with a nice break and note all the things you accomplished. Then, get ramped up and go attack the next mission. 

  1. Learn to Prioritize 

As an old saying goes, ‘when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you want to do is stop digging.’ Imagine an office worker with a to-do list as long as their arm. Or imagine a student with an upcoming calculus test, but who hasn’t finished writing a report due tomorrow. It’s easy to see how the office worker or the student could look at their pile of incomplete assignments and feel like throwing their hands up in despair. On the other hand, should that student or worker find a way to prioritize, and get even 25% of their projects done over the morning, by lunchtime they might start feeling better about themselves – and more positive about their chances of completing what they need to do. 

NOTE: We are not medical professionals and this article is not intended to be medical advice but anecdotally, many will attest to the radical changes they begin to feel after becoming more productive via the power of prioritizing. Work by itself, of course, will not necessarily cure depression and if you or others think you should seek medical attention, definitely do so. 

  1. Learn to Take Advantage of Exercise 

A major key to happiness is exercise: a walk in the woods, swimming, hitting the gym, etc. But if you have oodles of unfinished work, you’re not going to feel much like exercising. This creates an unhappy cycle. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, psychologist Jud Brewer notes that when faced with increased anxiety, many people’s brains urge them toward distractions. He calls this an anxiety distraction feedback loop. Brewer writes, “To you, looking at cute puppies on YouTube (again) may seem like a strange choice when you still have a big project to do. But to your brain, it’s a no-brainer. It’s survival 101.”

To avoid falling into the trap of looking at YouTube puppies instead of going for a run, set small goals for yourself each day: “Today I’m going to run 3 laps on the track.” When you accomplish that, slowly set the bar higher. Exercise isn’t something you can skimp on for long without starting to lose focus or feel blue. Find something that makes you sweat, and stick to it!

Good luck with getting your work or study life under control…and becoming more productive. It can be a life-changer!

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Sanjit Mansingh

Sanjit Mansingh is a Journalism and Mass Communication graduate. While studying in this field he quickly realized what he wants to do in his life: Filmmaking. His interest in writing scripts is what made him give a try in the world of content writing. Sanjit's an avid Movie Geek and is an award winning Director as well.

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