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9 Helpful Tips for Working from Home with Depression

Living Well

April 15, 2020

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Photography by Rowena Naylor/Stocksy United

Photography by Rowena Naylor/Stocksy United

by Sam Dylan Finch


by Sam Dylan Finch


Having depression while working from home can feel like grappling with mental illness on “hard mode.”

There’s not really a gentle way of putting this: Depression blows.

In the post-pandemic world, many of us work from home, which has plenty of benefits, like logging on wearing sweatpants and walking your dog in the middle of the day. But isolation and confinement can also worsen depressive symptoms.

Getting ready for work in an office setting involves a mandatory routine and commute, while working from home can be more flexible — for some people, too flexible. But there are coping skills and steps you can take to build a work-from-home routine and make working from home feel more manageable.

If you’re struggling to work from home without tanking your mood, here are some tips to make things a little easier for you (and your brain!).

Join the free Depression community!
Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

Prioritize small moments of joy

I realize this can be irritating advice. If depression is hitting you hard right now, the idea of incorporating “joy” into your day might feel foreign or absurd.

But wherever possible, taking small breaks to stretch, watch a funny video, get some sunlight on your face, cuddle a cat, or listen to a favorite song can help make working remotely feel less draining.

It might feel like these small actions don’t make much of a difference, but the impact of smiling or finding joy throughout your day can matter more than you’d think.

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Pomodoros to the rescue!

If you struggle to remember to take breaks, you should give the Pomodoro method a whirl. It may help you focus while working and create intentional space for small breaks throughout your day.

The technique, in a nutshell

  1. Set your timer for 25 minutes and start working.
  2. When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break.
  3. Then, set the timer again and get back to work.
  4. After four 25-minute work sessions, your fourth break should be longer! (About 20 to 30 minutes.)

There are all kinds of apps that make practicing this much easier. Some even allow you to work this way with others!

Give it a try and see how it boosts your productivity (while taking some much-needed breaks as you work).

Connect with your co-workers beyond ‘business’

Work meetings aren’t the only way you can connect with your co-workers.

Can you schedule a video call to have lunch together? How about a virtual coffee date? You don’t have to forgo human connection during work hours, but you do have to be more deliberate about scheduling time for it.

Socializing with our workmates is a critical part of staying mentally healthy during the week, especially when you’re working from home.

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Stay nourished and hydrated

It can be easy to get sucked into work and completely forget to eat and drink water.

Keeping our bodies in working order is how we keep our immune systems supported and our depression at bay.

Another pro tip? If you’re losing focus during the day, don’t reach for the coffee just yet. Instead, consider trying a snack first — many of us lose focus because we’re not nourishing ourselves properly, and coffee will only further suppress our appetites.

Be compassionate with yourself

Not to sound like a broken record, but be kind to yourself. Instead of only keeping a to-do list, consider adding a “got it done” list to track your accomplishments, big or small, throughout the day.

It can be easy to convince ourselves we didn’t do much on a given day, but celebrating the small victories can help us keep perspective.

Above all else, remember that it’s OK (and completely understandable) that you might be having a hard time.

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Limit your screen time as much as possible

Staring at a screen all day is draining enough as it is. If possible, it can be helpful to limit your screen time outside work hours and take frequent breaks to give your brain a quick reset.

With computers offering us so many distractions at any given moment, the amount of concentrated focus it requires can impact us significantly. It’s important to give ourselves some spaciousness to combat the digital fatigue that can come with working remotely.

Refresh your workspace

In my article about combating “cabin fever,” I broke down some tips for making your living space healthier.

Some suggestions included:

  • incorporating plants
  • working near a window
  • decluttering
  • experimenting with lighting
  • prioritizing spaciousness

Yes, even a lava lamp can help things feel a little less bleak. Don’t hesitate to make a few changes — when working from home, you’ll likely find yourself even more sensitive to your environment.

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Declutter your screens, too!

Remember, what you see when you log into your computer is still part of your “view.”

Take some time to clean up your desktop, organize your bookmark tabs, and swap out that desktop image for something more uplifting. Sometimes, things that seem unimportant can increase the background noise and anxiety that we feel on any given day.

Seek out some additional support

Depression is a serious condition, and as such, it’s important to have adequate support.

This roundup of low cost therapy options is a great place to start, and many have teletherapy options. ReThink My Therapy has both therapists and psychiatrists available to users as well if medication is something you might want to consider.

If you have a trusted relationship with your manager or a human resources professional at your job, you can also reach out for professional support. This can include adjusting work expectations or hours or setting stronger boundaries about what projects you will and won’t take on at this time.

Remember that while depression and self-isolating can feel lonely, you’re not alone in what you’re experiencing.

Don’t hesitate to seek out more help if you need it — you’re unlikely to find a single person who wouldn’t benefit from some extra support.

Fact checked on April 15, 2020

Join the free Depression community!
Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

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About the author

Sam Dylan Finch

Sam Dylan Finch is a writer and content strategist based in Seattle, WA. You can say hello on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or learn more at

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