Dealing with depression at work is not easy. Let’s just acknowledge that for a moment.
You’re feeling so incredibly numb, overwhelmed and terrible you don’t know how you’re physically going to get into work. Then, when you do, you don’t know how you’re going to make it through the day without having such negative thoughts you may just burst into tears at any moment. Or almost worse, you feel so numb you may not feel anything at all. You put on the mask and try hard to ignore the inner oppression you feel – your brain feeling like tar or quicksand.
Everyone’s experience of depression will vary. If you are depressed you are likely to be feeling persistently low, withdrawn, negative, tired, have problems concentrating amongst a whole range of other symptoms, unique in some ways to you. Doing something simple like getting out of bed can feel like climbing a mountain at times.
But, there is hope. There’s a lot of hope. The fact that you’re reading this is a step in the right direction. There is a lot you can do to manage depression and make it better.
In the first instance, I would always say it is imperative to visit your doctor. Secondly, find ways that help you manage your depression. It’s not easy as it will be a case of trial and error. It could be a combination of therapy, offloading to a friend, mindfulness, exercise, self-help books, medication or numerous other strategies that help to reduce the depression and keep it in check whilst you recover.
Depression is something that is not going to go away overnight. It is likely to be a process involving gradual recovery. But, once you find and master those tools, they will be your allies and support you to both get better and stay well. It may feel overwhelming and difficult to predict and comprehend at times but people do recover from depression.
Ask yourself do I need some time off?
When it comes to working, initially you need to establish whether you should take some time off. People are often reluctant to do so because they don’t recognise that they’re ill. Depression is an illness, make no mistake. Brain scans demonstrate the very real ways in which parts of the brain change during depression. You’re not a failure to take time off. If you need to, its ok.
However, if you’ve decided you need to go to work or have no choice there are many things you can do to make things easier.
To start with I would like to turn this on its head and say that for me, being at work has been one of the most important factors in getting better. We are social beings and being around others can make us feel good. In addition, for me, intense rumination is something I struggle with when depressed. When in work it’s often difficult to do this, particularly if work is a busy environment. Of course, some of it will depend on the job you have. Perhaps the job itself is contributing to the depression and so part of getting better may be to look for alternative employment. But, the routine of work can be very helpful and actually give our minds a rest from the exhausting feelings that accompany depression.
Another technique I would recommend is mindfulness. You probably can’t sit and meditate during work hours but you can purposefully take a few moments out to be still and centre yourself by paying attention to your breathing and noting where your mind has been wandering to. This can help stop depression in its tracks and prevent you from snowballing into a cycle of despair. I would also recommend taking note of any thoughts you find overwhelming in a journal or even on your phone. You can decide to look at these issues at a later time when it suits YOU and not when it suits the depression.
Have someone to lean on
Thirdly, find an ally. Is there a person you can turn to for support? If there is a colleague you can trust all the better. In fact, if you are lucky enough to be able to talk to your line manager then that’s a huge avenue of support. Unfortunately, this is not always easy and we have a long way to go in reducing the stigma of mental health in the workplace. Ironically, it is likely that some of your colleagues are going through/have gone through something similar.
Finally, be kind to yourself. Depressed people often have negative self-talk, feel guilty, take on too much and feel that they just haven’t done enough. Check in with yourself. Commend yourself for being in work, for turning up, for doing what you can to manage this whole damn illness because you deserve a medal. You didn’t choose this but it’s here and you’re working with it. You’re doing your best.
Depression is a very real and frightening illness. For more information and resources
go to www.mind.org.uk