Focus is part of your executive functioning skills, which help you to successfully complete tasks throughout your day.
When you are experiencing depression, your focus can be negatively impacted. This is sometimes referred to as brain fog.
Having difficulty focusing with depression adds a fogginess to completing responsibilities, recalling where things are, tracking and engaging in conversations, and concentrating on tasks.
These challenges with focus are hard enough without depression. With depression, they can increase negative feelings of yourself, lead to frustration, embarrassment, difficulty making decisions, reduced feelings of joy, and hopelessness.
When you experience a lack of focus at work or school, you may not be able to maintain the high standards of your workplace in that moment.
Acknowledge that you lack focus in that moment and take a pause instead. You may not feel like you can continue to operate at the same speed, and that is okay.
Here are 3 truths about focus and depression:
1. Focus and depression are related.
You are not making this up. Your focus is likely impaired when you experience depression and depression symptoms. You may have difficulty making decisions, concentrating, and remembering details.
Instead of avoiding the truth, give yourself permission to accommodate yourself when this happens. There is no shame in improving your mental health.
This can feel difficult when you are at work, at school as a college student, and within your personal life because you may want to fix it rather than sit with the discomfort. Acknowledgment can be a tool to help your depression or depressive symptoms.
2. Building a toolbox can help with focus.
There are ways to help yourself get focused again even when you feel depressed.
Image of a smiling woman. Read More: “Strategies To Ease Depression”
If you know you are losing focus; think about what helps you the most in those moments.
Often, deep breathing, mindfulness, mindfulness meditation, flexibility with plans, and a pause can be helpful when you feel like you are losing focus.
Negative self-talk, negative feelings, and negative thoughts can hinder your goals, so when you start to hear the voice that is no longer being kind, correct it.
This may sound like:
Hey, you are doing your best.
It’s not okay to talk to yourself that way.
I know you are losing focus, and we have solutions now.
Let’s take a pause so that we can get our focus back.
Part of building your toolbox when you experience depression is to develop a loving relationship with yourself.
Whether you identify as a depressed person or not, a depressed mood can bring a lack of focus. Starting a shame spiral with negative self-talk and negative thoughts is not helpful. You can make changes.
When you are going through a depressive episode, therapy can be a helpful tool.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a helpful therapeutic approach to address depression and incorporates your values, using mindfulness, accepting and taking action. EMDR, light therapy, other talk therapies and prescribed antidepressant medication can also be helpful.
3. Depression will take more effort.
It can be a hard truth to realize that something will take more effort.
In a world of magic solutions, it can be difficult to realize that not everything is easy.
Image of a girl lying face down on a couch. Read More: “4 Tips For Managing Depression When It’s Hard.”
Depression can make seemingly easy tasks, like focus, much more difficult leading to hopelessness.
You do not have to live life as a victim of depression, as that is not helpful and results in stuckness.
Honor the discomfort, frustration, stress, overwhelm and any other emotions that don’t feel good.
Then, once you have acknowledged the discomfort, take steps to move forward.
You know depression makes things a challenge, so help yourself through that with loving gestures.
Take a long bath when you get home from work. Cook yourself a loving meal. Cuddle up in a cozy heavy blanket. Eat a popsicle straight from the freezer on a hot day. You have options, even when it seems like you don’t.
Image of a businesswoman in the office with her head down on the desk with several cups of coffee. Read More: “Learn 5 Ways To Manage Feeling Overwhelmed At Work”
Even if you have not been diagnosed with a mental disorder or mood disorder, you can still be gentle with yourself.
Rather than be reactionary, get preventative when it comes to your mental health.
If you know you are prone to depression and its impacts, set aside time to connect with nature, friends, and loved one away from work or school.
When you are in a depressed mood, you may lose focus, even when you don’t have a depressive disorder.
Sometimes, the next best step is to identify what is happening in the present moment so that you can develop long-term solutions, even when you feel like you are having trouble moving through a period of depression.
The truth is that you may have periods of depression in your life, whether it is a low mood, moderate depression, clinical depression, mild depression or a depressed mood.
It is okay to acknowledge and accept these, and you don’t have to live in a depressive episode, permanently. Even when you experience severe depression, there is still hope.
Depressed feelings ebb and flow. The intensity is not permanent and does shift, though sometimes, just slightly.
When experiencing depression, it may seem like there is no reason to try anymore and suicide can feel like an option. While suicide may feel safe and like a way to cope with your feelings of depression, extreme thinking like this can be harmful to you.
Rather than live in the extreme, you can find some middle ground when it comes to depression. Depression treatment can not only be helpful but also necessary.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, therapy with a mental health provider well-versed and comfortable working with suicide can be very helpful.
Image of portraits of different people. Read More: “What Everyone Ought To Know About Suicide Prevention”
If thoughts of suicide is part of your story, it’s important to make sure that the therapist you choose to work with is comfortable with talking about suicide as one who is not, may cause more harm or prevent you from sharing this important part of your story of depression.
With more immediate concerns for suicide, speaking with a crisis counselor or peer support specialist available through the national suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255 and in Colorado, Colorado Crisis Services can be helpful as well.
Tiny, consistent measures in your life can bring great change with positive impact.
The truth about focus while you have depression can be tough, and there are resources that can help.
A mental health professional can help you to navigate therapeutic solutions and rule out potential other contributors like ADHD or trauma and a medical doctor can check to make sure there are no medical conditions contributing.
There is help available, and you are worth the effort.
Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC