Coping with Mental Illness: Keeping Yourself Busy and Staying Productive

I have found that keeping myself busy and staying productive is one of the keys to successfully managing my mental illness. There are many reasons for this, and there are many reasons why it can help you too. I have spoken with many people about this subject, and they all have either agreed with me or recommended it to me before I had the chance to bring it up. This technique works for so many people, and I am yet to find someone it doesn’t work for. Of course, this is no miracle cure or shortcut to recovery, but it can aid you in that process and alleviate your symptoms in the meantime.

In effect, this technique involves retraining your brain with learning how to cope and manage with difficult thoughts, feelings and impulses. It teaches you how to redirect negative energies and behaviours into something that is productive and beneficial. This will also provide you with feelings of self-accomplishment as you have successfully managed to produce something. When engaging in an activity, it gives you a distraction which will prevent your mind from wandering and focusing on your symptoms, although this may not eliminate your symptoms entirely, it can lessen the severity of those symptoms. During this process you may also find a new hobby or talent, which gives you something to have in common with others to either talk about or participate in the same activity with them, therefore improving your social life and social skills; so there really is nothing to lose.

The most difficult part of this technique, is getting started in the first place. Especially with illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety or any other illness that can cause a loss of motivation or cognitive impairment. I have mentioned these illnesses as I know how hard it can be to even pull yourself out of bed when you are suffering from depression, or how the hallucinations and delusions can be so consuming that functioning within the ‘real world’ is not quite possible, or how cognitive impairment can leave you feeling like you are not capable of accomplishing anything. However, these are simply hurdles and barriers that we can get past with a little work and perseverance.

In order to make this easier for you, start with small, simple things; and do the things that you love to do and what makes you happy. This will give you more reason to do these things, which will inevitably make you far more likely to do them, and continue doing them. You’ll find that once you begin doing something, it’s easy; and that will give you the motivation to carry on. In fact, I have found that once I begin doing something I can either become so immersed in it, that a couple of hours can pass without my notice; or I end up enjoying myself that much that I do not want to stop doing whatever it is I am doing. After you feel comfortable doing small things, step outside of your comfort zone and try doing something a little bigger.

If you continue this process you will find that you are capable of doing anything that your mind can think of, whilst bettering yourself and how you manage your illness simultaneously.

Tips on Staying Productive

Many people struggle with their levels of productivity, including those with and without a mental illness. This is something that I have struggled with, and still do, although I have improved my levels of productivity greatly by doing a few small and simple things. The following are some things that you can do in order to increase your productivity:

Do your most important work first

Many people do not realise that avoiding doing the most important or most dreaded piece of work can lead to distracting you from performing your other tasks with guilt. Once you begin procrastinating or avoiding work, it can become a never ending cycle. So break that cycle, complete your piece of work, and continue with your other tasks and the rest of the day. Then bathe in the light of satisfaction, the hardest part of your day is over.

Multitask appropriately

Multitasking can be very useful, or it can be very harmful to your productivity. I would usually recommend focusing on one task, completing it, and then move onto the next; but sometimes, that just isn’t plausible. If you need to multitask, make sure you are multitasking effectively. By this I mean that if you are working on multiple articles, pieces of work or whatever else, make sure they are either closely related or at least somewhat relevant to each other. Although you are multitasking, it allows your brain to focus on one subject, which should allow you to produce and perform better.

Remove or block out distractions

One of the main reasons that I struggle with productivity, and one of the most common reasons that others suffer with productivity, is distractions. In today’s technological world, there are more distractions and possibilities for interruption than there ever has been. This can make it virtually impossible to concentrate on a task and maintain that level of concentration. Therefore, when you are working or aiming to be productive, create a space with little or no distractions for you to work within. I have found that merely blocking out distractions cannot be enough, and that it is better to remove them completely, or to change your workspace to one that has no distractions.

Wake up earlier / Get a head start

An extra few hours in the morning, could make or break your day. The busier your day, the more time you are going to need. However, you may find that waking up earlier can be quite difficult, therefore I recommend starting with small steps, such as waking up 15 minutes earlier each day whilst gradually increasing the time until you reach the time you are aiming for. If waking up earlier isn’t an option, getting a head start on what you need to do is another great way to increase productivity. This may mean taking an extra bit of time out of your day, to start on the work and tasks you need to do tomorrow.

Use technology as an effective tool to increase productivity

Although technology can be a distraction, it can also be used to increase your productivity. In the modern world, smart phones are capable of almost everything your computer is capable of. There are also a wide range of apps specifically aimed at people who wish to increase their levels of productivity. This may include applications and programs such as Dropbox, the Cloud, and Google Drive for storing your files online, allowing you to access them at any given time from multiple devices. Trello is a great tool for keeping track of projects and deadlines, along with Basecamp which is wonderful for project management. You may also find tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer to be useful as they are capable of scheduling social media posts, meaning that you can spend less time on social media, and more time being productive.

Take breaks

As crazy as it may sound, taking breaks is an important part of increasing your levels of productivity. This is because no matter how busy you are, or how devoted you are to completing your work, as humans, there is a limit on what we can do. When we are working or being productive, we are diminishing our levels of energy. Eventually, physical or mental fatigue will begin to increase and as a result, it will start to impair your effectiveness and the quality of your work. Therefore it is important to schedule regular breaks, even during your most task-filled days. This will allow you to refresh yourself both mentally and physically, whilst allowing you to be more productive without effecting the quality of your work.

As you can see, keeping yourself busy and staying productive can be quite the task, however, it can also be extremely beneficial. This technique can and will improve your life, so go be productive and create some awesome stuff which you can be proud of. Good luck.


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