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Executive Dysfunction Is the Depression Symptom That Makes Basic Tasks Difficult

And the more you think about the task that’s causing you distress, the more sapped your energy may become. “Fatigue and lack of energy can make even tasks that normally seem small feel really big, requiring a lot of physical effort,” says Amy Nasamran, a licensed psychologist and founder of Atlas Psychology in Lansing, Michigan.

How do I cope when I’m too depressed to function?

Beyond receiving formal treatment for one’s mental health, whether that be through therapy or taking medication or a mix of both, many of those dealing with executive dysfunction use simple methods of making the burden more manageable. One common tip is to keep a list of your daily tasks. Not only does this help you remember precisely what you want to accomplish, but it can also help make your goals seem more manageable.

“Divide up daily tasks into small chunks that can be easily accomplished. If one starts the day with a long list of items, it can seem overwhelming,” explains Talley. “When the list is ‘chunked’ into two or three item groups, motivation is raised, and success much more likely to be achieved. For example, I often have very depressed clients start the day with the task of simply showering, brushing their teeth, and getting dressed. Each item on that list is crossed off and that cluster is done.”

Another option is to combine these tasks with something you typically enjoy — even if you might be struggling to find pleasure in the things you used to. “Pairing a task with something pleasant can help,” says Schiff. “Say you need to do the dishes or some house cleaning. Pair this with something like listening to your favorite music or having your favorite show on in the background while you clean,” she advises.

This is something Rochelle has found useful even with smaller tasks, brushing her teeth included. “I set a timer. I put on a video so I don’t feel the time go by and it’s more enjoyable. It’s a little easier to get it done,” she says.

“Sometimes, doing the smallest possible task is a step in the right direction,” says Nasamran. “Maybe just washing your face instead of taking a full shower is progress. If making a meal feels impossible, maybe having a simple snack or a drink of water; if getting out of bed feels hard, maybe just sitting up in bed. Doing smaller versions of tasks can make what feels impossible more doable.”

Above all, though, forgiveness and patience with yourself is essential. “So much of depression is worsened by being mad at yourself about it,” says Danielle Tcholakian, a writer who has experienced depression with executive dysfunction. “I think it helps if you can even just [think to yourself], ‘Holy shit, you brushed your teeth? Dude, huge.'”

Rochelle has found strength in a similar attitude. “The biggest thing is really just being patient with yourself,” she says. “Like, I know, when depression gets really, really hard, that’s what becomes a tough part. Really take a second to be patient with yourself and just know you can always bounce back.”


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