According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting more than 264 million people. People with the most severe cases of depression may not be able to get out of bed, much less go to work every day. However, the vast majority of people with depression have mild or moderate symptoms. For the most part, they go to work and meet their other responsibilities just like everyone else and the people around them may not even be aware that anything is wrong. Even if you can get by with depression, it’s like having to live your life dragging a weight behind you. Depression makes every part of life harder, especially work. If you’re depressed, here are some tips for dealing with it at work.
Acknowledge the Problem
The first thing is to acknowledge the problem. This may seem obvious, but many people with depression fail to acknowledge it. This is especially true of men, who are both less likely to recognize the symptoms of depression and less likely to ask for help. Symptoms in men also look different as well and are more likely to include anger, irritability, aggression, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, and physical aches. Both men and women are likely to experience a lack of motivation, poor memory, and poor concentration. If these symptoms persist for two weeks, consider the possibility that you may have depression.
Talk to a Therapist
If you think you may have depression, the first thing to do is talk to your doctor or therapist. Many people try to deal with depression on their own, thinking it will pass or that they can cope with it as long as they get enough exercise and meditate. While those things certainly help with the symptoms of depression, they are no substitute for professional help. Psychotherapy, sometimes with the assistance of medication, has a high rate of success in reducing some or all symptoms of depression.
Prioritize Your Mental Health
Ambitious people hate to hear this, but sometimes you just have to take your foot off the gas. In some cases, that might mean taking some time off to address your mental health. For others, it might mean reducing your workload a bit. Some people may want to consider changing jobs completely. Some professions, like law, for example, have a much higher rate of anxiety, depression, and substance use than others. Some career paths just aren’t sustainable.
Identify Your Most Important Tasks
It’s good practice, in general, to identify high-priority tasks at work and focus on those first and it’s even more important when you’re depressed. Perhaps more than anything else, depression drains your energy, motivation, and focus. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get to the second or third items on your to-do list so make sure you start with whatever is most important to get done that day.
Be Aware of How Depression Affects You
It’s crucial to understand how depression affects your work performance. Some things are probably obvious, lack of focus, low energy, and total lack of motivation make even simple tasks harder. However, it’s also important to realize more subtle ways depression affects your job performance. For example, you might be more likely to get angry at coworkers for making minor mistakes or you may feel demoralized by constructive feedback. Being aware that depression affects you in certain ways allows you to compensate. Maybe you take extra time to cool off before you point out a mistake or respond to an email.
Make a Plan
Come up with some kind of strategy to accommodate your symptoms. For example, although fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of depression, there are still certain times of day when you have more energy. Try to schedule important tasks during those times. You may also consider ways you can shift your workload to better cope with your symptoms. For example, you may be able to arrange to work earlier or later or delegate some tasks that depression makes especially difficult. The key is paying attention to how depression affects you and your ability to do your job.
Take Care of Yourself
Be sure to take care of yourself both at work and at home. At work, take regular breaks to rest and destress. Chat with friends or take a walk. At home, make sure you’re doing basic things like eating healthy, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep. There is now a lot of research showing these things are especially good for reducing symptoms of depression and preventing recurring episodes. It’s also a good idea to avoid alcohol. If you’re recovering from addiction this is obvious but, many people make the mistake of using alcohol to temporarily relieve their depressive symptoms. However, drinking typically only leads to more anxiety and emotional volatility.
Stick to Your Treatment Plan
People mainly make two mistakes when it comes to following a treatment plan. Either they feel like it’s not working and give up prematurely or they feel like it is working so they don’t need it anymore. It typically takes several weeks to notice any improvement from psychotherapy and it may take six weeks or more to see improvement from antidepressant medications. You have to learn new thinking habits, so give therapy time to work. If a treatment plan does seem to be working for you, don’t quit just because you feel better. Depression is often a recurring issue but future episodes can be prevented if you stick to your treatment plan.
Depression is one of the worst conditions for your quality of life and it often leads to substance use issues and possibly even suicide. Depression is certainly nothing to take lightly. If you do have a substance use disorder and co-occurring depression, it’s important to treat both simultaneously. At Hired Power, we can help you identify your addiction treatment needs, help you design a treatment plan, and support you all the way through treatment and beyond. To learn more about our services, call us at 800.910.9299.