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I am experiencing situational depression. This isn't 'discouragement' due to research. Me feeling inadequate in my research is NOT the problem. The problem is that the steps involved in research seem to be at best, not helping, or worse - exacerbating the negative emotions that are associated with depression.

Let me rephrase that - I have not felt 'impostor syndrome', and I do not feel it now (sorry if it sounds a tad bigheaded but I want to avoid confusion).

I have some idea of the things I need to do to combat depression, but it seems to me that they all involve staying away from work at the lab. Has anyone faced this? Can I do anything to prevent loss of productivity?

Usually, I hear the following ways to fight depression:

  1. Get in a routine.
  2. Set goals.
  3. Do something new (don't get stuck in a rut)

Now, these can be applied when I am free. But the majority of my waking hours are in the lab (or supposed to be). While doing bio research:

  1. The routine/ schedule is thrown off whack by unforeseen developments/ etc.
  2. Goals, even minor ones, may or may not be reached. This is research.
  3. Can't help getting stuck in a rut if we're trying to get data out of a particular experiment.

I took a week off, and it helped, but doesn't seem to have helped enough. Any suggestions?

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You are mistakenly conflating hours spent in the lab with productivity. There is certainly a point of "diminished returns," where extra hours don't actually improve your productivity, and actively harms it in the longer run.

A few ways to change up your routine:

  • Work on your most important task first thing in the morning.
  • Focus exclusively on your work for 20-30 minutes at a time. This means no checking email, no chatting with lab mates, or other distractions. After you're done with your block of time, take a few minutes to recharge before restarting (or moving to a new task).
  • Avoid obsessively checking your email. Pick a few times per day to answer your email and engage in social media, and stick to it. (And don't spend multiple hours during such sessions; figure out what's important and what isn't, so that you can be finished in 15-20 minutes or so.)

You'll find you probably get more done in less time following such an approach than just spending tons of hours in the laboratory. This will also give you time for your personal life, which brings me to my other point:

"Block out" time in your schedule for "recharging" activities.

The nature of the "recharging" activity will depend on what works best for you: some people exercise, others engage in artistic or creative activities, and still others meditate. It doesn't really matter what you do to clear your mind and "recharge your batteries"; however, you should make time for it, and make sure that you stick to it. It doesn't need to be an extensive commitment: even an hour or two per week can suffice.

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