Depression and Chores: How To Get Them Done
If you have ever been diagnosed with depression, or even just fleetingly felt the blues, you know that sometimes the tiniest things seem gargantuan, particularly when it comes to getting chores done. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we thought we’d honor that by touching on just how mental health affects our ability to function in the world, particularly the day-to-day functioning that comes with keeping a home organized and running smoothly.
When those who struggle with minor to debilitating depression experience a depressive episode, it can last for a few days to a few months, to even a year or more. Symptoms of depression can include fatigue, loss of energy and interest in activities usually enjoyed, isolation, feelings of shame or low self worth, loss of appetite, and an increased need for sleep. None of these symptoms are good if you are faced with a house or apartment that is messy or cluttered, or in an otherwise unmanageable state. Is the goal in this situation to pull oneself up by the bootstraps and get moving? OR is it to take one’s time, using self-care and the help of a trained therapeutic professional, and simply do the best that you can each day? The answer may prove different for every individual experiencing depression. Some argue that forcing oneself to act in opposition to what they want to or tend to do when feeling depressed can be therapeutic, and actually reverse the progression of the depression. Others claim that while in a depressed state, a person is probably functioning at a much lower level, and thus needs to ride out the episode with a different set of standards. This can apply to chores as well.
If you have ever struggled with depression, either mild or crippling, you know what we are talking about when we say ‘self-care’. Self-care can, again, mean different things for different people, but the foundation of self-care for a person struggling with depression is help from a qualified professional. That is step one, and takes precedence over pruning your closet or reorganizing your home office or coming up with an inbox system for all the mail that enters your house. Once you have gotten help in this way, you might feel well enough to make a list of daily chores to be done, and you might categorize the chores as ‘priority’, ‘possibly’, and ‘put on the back burner’. Or you might not have the energy to make any lists at all, but choose to go for a walk in the sunshine and hire a cleaning service to come once a week or twice a month to help with the chores. The point is, the way you handle your depression (after getting help) is up to you, particularly when it comes to getting the chores done.
With that in mind, we do have a few suggestions which might prove helpful if you are, or know someone (or live with someone), who experiences depression. See below.
Do One Thing At A Time
As anyone who has suffered from depression knows, the smallest household tasks can prove about as daunting as climbing Mount Everest in a snowstorm. Make it easier for yourself (and less overwhelming) by cutting up each task into smaller pieces, and spread those pieces out over longer periods of time. For example, if you know that there is a mountain of neglected and unopened mail in the box on the console table in the entryway, take five pieces of it each day and sort through those five pieces only, tossing the circulars and the junk mail and separating the non-junk mail into ‘things to deal with today’ and ‘things to deal with tomorrow’. Make two piles and go through the mountainous stack until you’ve gotten it down to a manageable size (we’re talking a single digit number of pieces). If you need to take two pieces per day and go through those two, fine. Whatever you can do is what you can do, and often if we bite off more than we can chew, we get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. Therefore, take things one (small) step at a time.
Give Yourself A Reward
It can help to incentivize things. Often times, coming up with pleasurable things to do is well nigh impossible when you’re in a depression, so keep it simple and try and think of soothing things that cost nothing, like a lavender bubble bath, or burning a scented candle while reading a good book. If you can get creative enough, take yourself out for your favorite meal, or enjoy a spa treatment — a massage can work wonders to stimulate feelings we might have otherwise kept inside, as the mind-body connection is quite real. If you have the energy to get outside for a walk or jog, or even to get to a Hatha yoga class, go for it! These are great ways to honor your body, mind and spirit while going through a rough time mentally and emotionally.
There is no shame in hiring a cleaning crew or individual to come into your house or apartment and do the chores every once in a while. If you are lucky enough to have this option, use it. There is nothing better than knowing that you have a clean, well-organized living space to move about in when chores seem too difficult to do. Apathy is another symptom of depression, and apathy is the antithesis of completing chores. When in emotional crisis, chores cease to matter very much, which is why outside help can be so incredibly important. Professional organizers can also be of great help in times like these.
Let It Go
We aren’t telling you to let stacks of newspapers and trash pile up in corners, but we are saying that if certain things, or anything, around the house cannot get done regularly during a period of depression, so be it. You are the most important part in this equation, and getting better is paramount to returning to your normally functioning self. If getting better means letting your partner or a hired cleaning service take care of the household maintenance for a while, that is ok. Again, tending to you is the most important thing, so if it makes you feel better to step back from chores for a while, do it.
We can’t stress this enough: When you’re feeling down, or when you suspect you might be going through a depression or depressive episode, seek professional help. There is absolutely no shame in utilizing every resource possible in order to feel better and return to a functional state of being. You deserve to enjoy your life, and we don’t know many people who don’t need a little help now and then, whether it’s in the form of organizational or emotional assistance. Don’t forget to reach out to those closest to you. You might feel as though you are burdening them, but you’re not. Again, utilize every possible resource in order to get back to yourself.