How to Manage Depression at Work
Depression (i.e. feeling intensely flat and sad) can significantly impact a person’s ability to go about and enjoy their day-to-day life.
A person who is depressed may be experiencing a number of different signs and symptoms of depression. A depressed individual may feel very miserable more often than not, in addition to feeling irritable and overwhelmed. Sleep may be negatively impacted and their appetite and weight may also increase or decrease.. A person battling depression may often feel very tired and lose interest in activities that normally bring them great pleasure.
Someone who is suffering from depression may lack confidence and motivation, have difficulty juggling tasks, as well as trouble concentrating and making decisions. Depression can cause a person’s level of productivity to drop, as well as social withdrawal from their partner, family, friends and colleagues.
As a result of these symptoms, depression can make meeting one’s responsibilities (including those at work) especially challenging. In this article, we discuss a number of different tools you may wish to consider introducing to help you manage your depression at work.
Tools to Help You Manage Your Depression at Work
Reach Out to Family, Friends and/or Trusted Colleagues
Recovery from depression takes time, and it is essential to reach out for support from loved ones, such as a trusted family or friend, and where possible, a trusted colleague in your workplace. Having someone to lean on and confide in, particularly on your toughest days, can benefit you in a number of different ways.
Firstly, speaking with someone who cares about you and your mental health can help to prevent you from feeling isolated throughout your journey with depression. Secondly, talking to another person about how you are feeling can help you to release stress surrounding negative thoughts and difficult emotions you are experiencing. And in some cases, speaking to another person can help you to uncover possible solutions for a problem at hand, and can help you to view things from a more objective perspective when your head is feeling clouded by depression.
Seek Professional Help for Your Depression
If you are concerned you are or certain you are suffering from depression, it is critical you seek professional help and support, to get you back to feeling the happiest version of yourself. If you are feeling confused and struggling to know where to start, reach out to a loved one and ask for their assistance in locating professional help for your depression; they are likely to be very willing to help you on your journey to recovery.
It is important to remind ourselves when we are suffering from a mental health illness such as depression, that when we have an issue with our physical health which requires medical treatment (and potentially time off work to recover), we must do what is necessary to feel well again. The same approach should be taken for our mental health; if you have been struggling for more than a fortnight with symptoms of depression, do not delay in seeking professional help and support.
Speak Up and/or Take Some Time Off (Mental Health Break)
Mental health illness is not uncommon and should be taken seriously when an employee confides in their employer. If you are really struggling at work, do your best to speak up regarding how you are feeling, whether it be with your manager or human resources department (or both, etc.).
In some cases where a person is suffering from depression, they may not recognise the need for taking some time off to aid recuperation of their mental health. It is no secret that when we feel depressed at work, our situation can negatively impact a large number of aspects of our work, including concentration, productivity, performance and interpersonal working relationships, just to name a few.
Where your depression is drastically affecting your ability to work, and most importantly, to recover from depression, do not hesitate to take some time off (as appropriate/possible) to rest and recoup. This can also help to prevent you experiencing a breakdown in the workplace.
Take Time to Get Organised (Including Allowing Time for Rest Breaks) and Set Yourself Achievable Goals
Depression can not only cause an individual to feel overwhelmed about what they need to achieve, it can also make it difficult to concentrate when it comes to focusing on a particular task. Where this is the case, the following tips may come in handy.
Create Your Task List
Writing a list of what you need to achieve is a good place to start when you are feeling depressed at work. Simply noting down the items you need to achieve can assist you to empty your mind and stop you from worrying about all you need to complete. Once you have created your task list, take a moment or two to prioritise it, in order of importance/urgency etc.
Remember, when you have finished a task, ticking it off your list can give you great satisfaction and can help you to build your self-confidence and the belief in yourself that you can achieve what is expected of you, bit by bit. As you tick each task off your list, do your best to remain organised and file any specific materials or paperwork relevant to the task to avoid a messy workspace (which can lead to feeling overwhelmed, as well as difficulty focusing on future tasks).
Break Big Tasks Down into Smaller and More Manageable Components
Depression and stress experienced in relation to major work projects can be reduced by means of breaking them down into smaller and more manageable components. Take some time to devise a step-by-step plan for each of your major projects, that enables you to tick off each sub-task as you complete it. Don’t forget to acknowledge your achievements as you tick off each step!
In the beginning, do your best to focus your attention on the most important and manageable steps of each task (where possible). Getting through the most unpleasant and/or challenging sub-tasks on your list early in the day/week/month can not only ease your workload moving forward, but can also help to make the remainder of the project more enjoyable.
Set Yourself Achievable Goals
Do not hesitate to be upfront and honest with your manager(s) and co-workers when a new project or task arises at work, regarding a realistic timeframe required to complete the task. This can help to prevent you from experiencing any unnecessary added stress (or feelings of depression) thanks to allowing for enough time to complete it.
Take Rest Breaks
Despite what we may think, taking regular rest breaks is key for optimal productivity (and performance) in the workplace. Taking a break from our work can help to reduce mental stress and exhaustion and as a result, can help us to focus and concentrate more effectively when we are applying ourselves to our work.
As regularly as you are able to, leave your desk or workspace and take a break from your work. You might like to consider taking a short walk through your office/building, getting a glass of water, completing some gentle stretches or a brief meditation.
Try to Pinpoint Depression Triggers in The Workplace
What triggers depression for one person in the workplace may differ to that of the next. Perhaps it is a particular situation that triggers your negative thoughts (such as feeling overloaded by an excessive task list), or a multitude of things. You might like to take a moment to consider which of the following situations trigger your depression at work:
- unrealistic major deadlines
- an overloaded task list
- lack of planning and organisation
- poor communication
- lack of teamwork
- working alongside difficult or intimidating people, and/or
- workplace gossip
By identifying your personal depression triggers in the workplace, you can work to put strategies in place to manage them as effectively as possible. Preparing in advance can be very helpful to prevent you feeling especially overwhelmed and flat when specific issues arise.
Don’t Fear Asking for Help When Necessary
When you have just joined an organisation, recently changed roles or are under significant pressure at work, saying “yes” and accepting an increasing number of tasks can become a habit. However, over the long term, you may find yourself feeling very overwhelmed and perhaps further depressed. Don’t fear asking for clarification or assistance from your manager and/or co-workers when necessary, in order to take care of your short-term as well as long-term mental health.
Identify and Practise Some Calming Techniques When You Experience Negative Thoughts (i.e. Feel Depressed)
When you feel symptoms of depression coming on at work (for example, in regards to your specific depression triggers), it is good to have a few tricks up your sleeve to restore calm and prevent your negative thoughts from taking over your mind. You might wish to consider doing some gentle stretching by your workspace, taking a short stroll around the office, chatting with a trusted colleague or practicing some deep breathing/mindfulness meditation. Find what suits you best and implement it when you feel the need arise.
Make Self-Care A Priority
Self-care is a vitally important component of maintaining optimal wellbeing, including our physical, mental and emotional health. Self-care is especially important when suffering from depression. Take some time to review what changes you can make to take the utmost care of yourself. Your self-care approach may include the following components:
Dealing with challenges at work (and in our personal lives) can be made more challenging on days where we have not had adequate sleep (in the case of most adults, approximately 7 to 9 hours per night). Getting quality sleep (and the right amount of it) is essential for ensuring you have as much energy as possible to achieve what is required of you at work each day.
Reviewing your sleep habits (or ‘sleep hygiene’) can be beneficial with regards to maximising the quality and appropriate duration of your sleep. For more information on sleep hygiene, please see our article ‘‘Improve Your Sleep: How to Practice Good Sleep Hygiene’ via this link.
Ensuring our diet is abundant with nutritious, fresh wholefoods (in addition to achieving adequate hydration) is essential for maintaining optimal energy levels throughout the work day, so we can complete the tasks required of us.
Participating in regular exercise has a large array of benefits for sufferers of depression, many of which are relevant in terms of being able to think clearly and work productively while at work. Exercise enhances our mood (due to feel-good endorphins) and allows for the release of physical tension. Exercise can naturally boost our energy levels and gives us the chance to distract ourselves from negative thoughts. Exercise boosts our self-confidence as well as builds resilience (as we learn we are capable of safely pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone). Exercise can help us to focus and promotes quality sleep and overall good health.
We can’t be “switched on” all the time, especially when battling with a mental health condition. It is important when suffering from depression to allow yourself adequate relaxation time each day. Find an activity you enjoy and make as much time as you can to engage in that activity and relax. For example, you might like to consider reading, drawing or yoga.
Value Work-Life Balance
It is crucial to keep at the forefront of your mind that your health is the most important thing in life and although job productivity and performance are important, focusing too much of your attention on work can leave you feeling stressed, exhausted and depressed. Do your best to maintain work-life balance i.e. a mix of work, self-care, home/family responsibilities and social activity.
Coping with the symptoms of depression in the workplace can be tough. However, with professional help, support from loved ones and trusted colleagues, and by implementing some helpful strategies, it is possible to work and manage depression.
If you find yourself struggling with depression, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team at Brain Wellness Spa, to help you get back to feeling your best as soon as possible.