Things to try when depression affects your memory and concentration

Depression brings a whole heap of horrid symptoms to our door. We have no energy, problems sleeping, struggle to make decisions and lose interest in things which once brought us joy – to name just a few.

Depression can also really limit our concentration and memory. It can be frustrating and disorientating (and sometimes a bit embarrassing too) – we walk into a room and can’t remember why, we leave our keys in the door, we feel like we never get anything done because we can’t remember what it is we were supposed to do. It can feel like we’re wading through treacle, our brains just don’t work as quickly and efficiently as they once did. And boy, do we notice it.

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It’s difficult to cope with this fuzzy brain feeling, as we all have tasks, responsibilities and relationships that need our input – even when we’re unwell. However, we have found a few tactics that can help boost memory and concentration.

Start small

When depression strikes, small things become big things. We’re not on a level playing field, we’re limited, and we need to account for that. For example, it can take an inordinate amount of energy, headspace and motivation just to get out of bed – something that’s truly taken for granted when we’re well. Be proud of all your achievements, no matter how small they may seem because the teeny steps always compound into something bigger anyway.

List it

Writing to do lists for the various tasks we need to complete can stop them from buzzing around our brains and decrease the anxiety we feel about forgetting something. They can be short-term or longer-term lists and can be used for pretty much anything. The lists don’t have to be anything fancy; they can be scribbled on postits, stuck on the fridge, or jotted in the back of your diary. It might help too, to keep a notebook next to the bed to write down anything that’s keeping you awake at night.

Break it down

Big tasks can feel scary and overwhelming. Looking at them, they seem completely unmanageable, so we don’t attempt them at all. This gives those pesky thoughts – the ones which tell us that we’re hopeless and helpless – wings. Breaking big tasks down into much smaller chunks can make them feel more approachable. Rewarding ourselves for finishing a task can make it feel more fun and help to boost our confidence.

Set reminders

Setting reminders for things we need to do, or places we need to go to, gives us one less thing to remember. You could set them on your phone – either as a list, or as an alarm to go off at a certain time, you could pop them in your diary – assigning different tasks to different days, or you can even put a list of everything you need to remember when leaving the house on the back of your front door. Setting reminders like this can help free up much-needed headspace.

Screenshot it

Sometimes we might see an article, or some information or an advert for something we need to buy whilst mindlessly scrolling through our newsfeed. If we see it at a time we are unable to act, we are burdened with the need to remember it.  Taking a screenshot is a simple way to take off that pressure, saving a reminder in our files for us to follow up on later. 

Be kind to yourself

Depression can sap our energy and makes it nigh-on impossible for us to function as we once did. It’s hard for us to get everything done that we want to do. Try and be gentle with yourself, you’re doing the best you can and right now that really is enough

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