Dealing with Depression at Work: How to Work with Your Illness
Depression is, frankly, terrible. It is exhausting, overwhelming, and can lead to some dark places. And trying to deal with depression at work can add whole new layers of stress and exhaustion.
But it isn’t hopeless. No matter the source of your depression or how severe it is, there are ways that you can learn to manage it so that you can work with depression. Depression doesn’t always have to get in the way, even if it means you have to face more challenges.
So today, let’s look at some ways that you can manage your depression so you can feel more capable of whatever your job is. We’ll also look at how to identify some of the symptoms of depression at work.
To clarify, we are not talking about feeling sad or down at work. We are specifically talking about how to deal with the symptoms that come from depression, the mental illness. Although some of what’s said may carry over to talking about feeling depressed sometimes, the two aren’t the same thing. With that said, let’s get started!
Is work contributing to your depression?
Before you can know the best ways of dealing with depression at work, it can be helpful to know one thing: is work contributing to, or even acting as the primary source of, your depression?
There are a few signs of this, including:
Seeing symptoms almost exclusively when at work
Feeling much better on weekends or vacations, no matter what is going on
Feeling dread about work, or specific tasks, constantly
Often randomly falling ill, or finding reasons to take time off work
If you think work might be a big contributor to your depression, it’s worth trying to find out what part of work it is. If it’s only some aspects or tasks, maybe you can figure out a way to work around those. But if your job as a whole is making your depression severely worse, it may be time to consider whether it’s worth it for you to stay there.
Symptoms of depression at work
Many of the signs of depression at work are also the symptoms depression may show in other aspects of your life. Keep an eye out for these symptoms, or symptoms like these:
Trouble concentrating: if you consistently can’t focus or concentrate on tasks, depression may be at play
Constant fatigue: fatigue, exhaustion, and lack of energy are common symptoms of depression, and they can also show up at work
Missing deadlines: being unable to get work done on a consistent basis can be another warning sign
Feeling overwhelmed: getting overwhelmed over what seems like nothing, or with small tasks, can be another sign of depression. Depression means you have less energy, so it can be easier to get overwhelmed
If you identify with some of these symptoms and aren’t sure if you have depression, it’s a good idea to consult a professional. This list is not a diagnostic tool; it is simply meant to help make you aware of some of the common signs and symptoms of depression. Getting help with depression is important, and self-diagnosing should usually be avoided, or at least confirmed by a professional.
Dealing with depression at work
If you struggle with depression at work, there are ways that you can help manage its symptoms, so you feel more capable of completing your tasks. Taking care of your mental health is always important, too— not just at work. Many of the things listed here can also help you deal with depression in other facets of life.
Acknowledge and accept
The first step to dealing with depression at work, or in general, is to acknowledge and accept it. Know that you have this issue, and accept it for what it is. Only once you’ve done this can you work with it, instead of against it, to find ways to manage your symptoms.
Consult a professional
This post does not replace a professional in terms of diagnostics or treatment. Depression is a mental illness, which means it is a medical condition, and as with many medical conditions, the best results usually come from expert help.
Seeing a therapist and/or psychiatrist can make a huge difference. Not only can they confirm the diagnosis, but they can help come up with a treatment plan that makes sense for you. They might also be able to give you medication if you feel that is something you would benefit from.
As I said before, having depression can lead to getting overwhelmed easier. So staying organized at work can help prevent that from happening. This means organizing both your belongings and your tasks.
Try to keep your workspace as clean and clutter-free as possible. It’s also helpful to keep a list of what tasks you need to get done, or organize them in some other way. This can be a good old-fashioned pen-and-paper list, or done online through an app like Trello.
Choose the right workspace
If you work from home, or have control over your workspace, it’s important to choose a good one. Try to choose somewhere that you won’t get interrupted, and that is fairly free of distractions. Of course, you also don’t want to fully isolate yourself.
One of the best things to do, if possible, is to have your workspace near a window. A little sunlight can go a long way when it comes to depression. Or, even better, take your work outside! A back porch table is another great place when working with depression.
Connect with others
Whether you work in an office, at home, in a grocery store, or anywhere else, there is always a way to find connection. Depression thrives on isolation, so having a little bit of social interaction can really help alleviate some of its symptoms.
This can be coworkers, friends, family members, or even pets. What’s important is that you have at least some social connection, so you aren’t completely isolated. And if it’s coworkers, that’s even better, because you might be able to commiserate about work struggles, and maybe support each other!
Give yourself breaks
Nobody, no matter how perfectly their brain functions, can work for hours on end with no breaks. Our brains aren’t designed to work that way, and when dealing with depression at work, that becomes even more obvious. You need breaks, so try to give yourself some if at all possible.
This doesn’t have to mean taking a full 30 minutes away. It can simply mean taking 5 minutes to relax and breathe after an hour of working. Inserting these small breaks throughout your day will give your brain the rest it needs to keep going.
Talk to your boss
If your depression severely limits you, or you have specific things you are concerned about, consider talking to your boss. They might be able to help you figure out a solution, or even lower or remove certain tasks to help you do your best. This won’t always work, but if you think your boss might be receptive to it, it’s worth a try.
Other coping mechanisms
There are dozens of other coping mechanisms and “hacks” that can help manage depression or its specific symptoms in other parts of life. These things— like meditation, journaling, candles for focus, etc.— can also help you deal with depression at work, so consider giving some of them a try.
Taking care of your mental health
At the end of the day, what’s most important is keeping yourself healthy. So when dealing with depression at work, remember to get help when needed, go easy on yourself, and keep yourself healthy. By doing that and following some other tips to help manage some of your symptoms, you can continue to do what you love without being stopped by depression.
Do you have other ways to deal with depression at work? Questions about it? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know by leaving a comment below or tagging us on social media (@llctherapeutic on Twitter and @therapeutichealingjourney on Instagram).