How to Manage Your Depression at Work
“Depression isn’t always dark rooms and crying endlessly. Sometimes it’s getting up, going to work, and smiling and laughing all day and then coming home to sit quietly doing little to nothing until it’s time to go to bed.”– Jenzilla
Dealing with depression is never easy, no matter the situation you find yourself in.
But getting up each and every morning and managing your depression at work is downright excruciating. Everything within you is telling you to pull those covers back over your head, stay safely in bed, and avoid the outside world at all costs.
If you struggle with depression, going to work is often the most challenging obstacle you will face in your day. That was the case for me.
I lacked motivation, found it difficult to concentrate, and often struggled to communicate effectively with my colleagues. This ultimately led to me frequently calling into work simply because I didn’t have the energy to fake another day away. I was exhausted.
There were also days where I had to find a place to hide so I could cry at work without anyone seeing me.
I felt embarrassed and shameful that I couldn’t keep it together and remain “professional”. Afterwards, I would try to pull myself together by dabbing some powder around my puffy, red eyes and going on with my day as if nothing ever happened.
After years of struggling with depression and going to therapy, I finally developed some coping skills to help with those difficult days at work.
I learned that if you’re able to manage your depression based upon the environment you’re in, it may just very well be the stepping stone to finally taking control of your depression.
Take a Mental Health Day (or Two)
Sometimes, there comes a point where taking a day off (or more) is an absolute necessity for your mental health.
Just as you need rest when you’re physically ill, the same holds true when you suffer from depression, or any other mental health condition.
Depression can be quite draining and it can quickly wear you down.
There have been times in the past where I personally was unable to focus at work and give it my all. So, it was better for myself and my co-workers that I took some time off to recharge.
While taking time off won’t necessarily make depression go away – I always come back to work feeling more refreshed and better able to perform my job.
Seek Out Help
If you ever think you might have depression, don’t be afraid to get help.
Too many times did I think my depression would just go away on its own. But that was far from the truth.
There have definitely been periods of depression that were easier to handle than others. However, the depression never went away without some kind of intervention – it was always there, even if it was just on the surface.
There are several options to choose from these days when it comes to getting help for your depression.
You can always consider traditional talk therapy, whether that’s in-person, over the phone, or via telehealth. You can also check with your workplace to see if they offer an employee assistance program (EAP). Oftentimes, these programs can provide counseling sessions at no extra cost to the employee.
Share Your Depression with Your Supervisor
I understand that not everyone will be comfortable with this. But if you have a good relationship with your boss, it may be beneficial to let them know about your condition. Especially if your depression has started to affect your job performance.
If they have a heads up, they may be more understanding when you need to take some time away.
However, if you find yourself in a job where you don’t feel comfortable sharing your mental health condition, or don’t feel like it’s safe to do so, don’t feel obligated. Nothing is ever worth making your depression worse, especially if it’s a place you have to be at most days.
You may even want to consider seeking out a new job if you feel your job is too toxic for your mental health. This idea is discussed in more detail later.
Always Take Your Breaks
While it’s important to take time off at your job, it’s also imperative to take your breaks during the work day. Many of us work straight through that 15 minute break or through our lunch hour thinking we are getting more done in the long run. When in reality – all it’s really doing is slowing us down.
Studies show that even just a short break can increase your focus and improve your mood compared to those who press forward without stopping. When taking a break, you’re likely to come back to your current task with greater mental clarity and increase your performance all the way around.
If you have control over your break time, set a timer on your watch or phone to remind yourself to step away every hour. If you can’t do an hour, try every 90 minutes.
At the very least, if you don’t have flexibility with your breaks and they are automatically scheduled for you, make a point to always take them. It will get you out of the monotony of the task at hand and in a different frame of mind.
If you find yourself stuck in a building all day at work, get yourself out of your normal routine and enjoy some nature and a dose of sunshine!
Taking a time out and stepping outside can do wonders for your mental health. Especially if you make it a habit.
Whether I’m working from home or physically at the office, I like to take a walk each day if possible. I’m lucky to have an area I can walk in both places.
The last thing I want to do while depressed is some sort of physical activity, but walking usually clears my mind and brings me back in touch with reality.
Get a New Job if Necessary
No job is ever worth sacrificing your mental health – life is just too short!
If you find yourself at a place that doesn’t value you or is not supportive of mental health – it’s time to leave. I know how hard it can be to take that step, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll think of every reason under the sun on why leaving is such a terrible idea. You may think “I can’t afford to leave” or “everyone will think I’m crazy.” But can you not afford to take care of your greatest asset – yourself?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what everyone else thinks.
If you must work, as most of us do, start looking for a new job while you are in your current role. You need to get out of the toxic environment that is likely making your depression worse as soon as you can. I’ve left a job a time or two because I didn’t feel supported, and every single time it was the right decision.
Even though the conversations surrounding mental health are changing (which I love), talking about depression at work continues to remain a taboo subject.
Depression is hard enough to manage as it is. But being forced to hide your depression at work shouldn’t be something that is still happening.
I hope that whatever kind of workspace you find yourself in, that it’s a safe and comfortable work environment for your mental health.
And if you personally do not struggle with depression, then please know that someone you work with could be and to always be kind. You truly never know what someone is dealing with or facing in their life and they may be doing all they can do to keep themselves together.