Happiness comes before success — science proves it. If you feel happy, it’s more likely you’re productive, creative, and enthusiastic.
Most people spend around two-thirds of their lives at work, and workplace depression is one of the invisible causes of poor performance.
These are some ways how workplace depression might look to co-workers:
- The once-vibrant team member now sits alone and aloof, avoiding eye contact and conversation.
- They seem uninterested in their work and deadlines, and make more frequent mistakes.
- Appear distracted and forgetful, and they often seem to be lost in thought.
- Their productivity has slowed to a crawl, and they seem to be struggling to make even simple decisions.
- They are frequently late to work and leave early, and they seem to have no energy whatsoever.
- Constantly questioning their abilities and second-guessing themselves, and they seem to have lost their confidence.
- Seem unmotivated and apathetic, and they appear to have withdrawn from their colleagues.
- May overreact to minor setbacks or have difficulty getting along with others.
- Their appearance may have changed, and they may seem unkempt or disheveled.
10 Practical Strategies To Overcome Workplace Depression
Silent depression can not just cause poor work performance, but can also create an overall unhappy environment with the suffering person present.
As a prevention, employees should be encouraged to understand the symptoms and get help if they feel depressed. Screening for depression should be part of HRAs and EAP programs.
Here are some actionable ways to help you overcome workplace depression.
1. Adapt your biorhythms.
Our bodies have natural rhythms that are influenced by the day-night cycle. These rhythms are called biorhythms.
When our biorhythms are in sync with the day-night cycle, we feel our best. However, when our biorhythms are out of sync, we may feel tired, irritable, or depressed.
One way to help keep our biorhythms in sync is to adapt our sleep schedule to the day-night cycle. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends. It also means getting enough sleep, which is typically 7-8 hours per night.
When we wake up earlier in the morning, our bodies produce more gonadoliberin (GnRH), a hormone that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle. GnRH also helps to improve our mood and energy levels.
So, if you are struggling with workplace depression, one helpful strategy could be to adapt your biorhythms by going to bed and waking up earlier in the morning.
Three more things:
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol after 4 PM. These substances can interfere with sleep.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath, read a book, or listen to calming music.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. These conditions are ideal for sleep.
2. Look after yourself.
Taking care of your physical and mental health is essential for overcoming workplace depression.
it includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sunlight. It also means taking care of your mental health by practicing relaxation techniques and avoiding negative self-talk.
Include these in your self-care regimen:
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Exercising regularly.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Managing stress.
- Practicing relaxation techniques.
- Avoiding negative self-talk.
- Spending time with loved ones.
- Doing things you enjoy.
It is also important to make time for self-care, even when you are busy.
This could mean taking a few minutes each day to meditate, go for a walk, or read a book.
It could also mean taking a longer break each week to do something you enjoy, such as spending time in nature or getting a massage.
Taking care of yourself can help you feel better physically and mentally, making it easier to cope with workplace depression.
It can also help you to be more productive at work and to achieve your goals.
Two more things to do:
- Pay attention to your appearance. How you look can have a big impact on your mood and self-esteem.
- Make sure to take care of your personal hygiene and to wear clothes that make you feel confident.
3. Set realistic goals.
Don’t try to do too much at once. Break down your goals into smaller, more manageable steps.
When you are struggling with workplace depression, it can be difficult to focus and set goals. However, setting realistic goals can help you to feel more in control and to make progress towards your recovery.
Here are some tips for setting realistic goals:
- Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Break down large goals into smaller, more manageable steps.
- Set deadlines for yourself, but be flexible if you need to adjust them.
- Reward yourself for achieving your goals, no matter how small.
It is also important to remember that you are not alone in this. There are many people who have overcome workplace depression, and you can too. Just take it one day at a time and focus on your goals.
A high-functioning depression, though it’s neither a diagnosis nor a clinical disorder, is one in which the depressed person is able to function at an optimal level, have a relatively “normal” life, and maintain good relationships.
This could be persistent depressive disorder (PDD), or dysthymia.
4. Go in for exercise or sports.
Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, improve your mood, and reduce the risk of depression, both in the general population and in the workplace.
- If you are able, try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. This could include activities such as brisk walking, running, swimming, biking, or dancing.
- If you can’t fit in a full 30 minutes, even a short workout can be beneficial. A few minutes of jumping jacks, push-ups, or sit-ups can help to improve your mood and energy levels.
- You can also try to incorporate physical activity into your workday. Take a walk around the block during your lunch break.
- You may not realize it but exercise can help improve your cognitive functions and productivity. So, find a minute every hour to do some activities, like stretches, at your desk.
If you are struggling with workplace depression, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about how you can incorporate more exercise into your routine.
One more thing:
Find an exercise you love to do. You are less likely to stick with an exercise if you don’t enjoy it. So, find something that’s both fun and challenging – it can even help bring your anger down.
5. Talk to someone you trust.
Workplace depression is a common problem, and sharing your feelings with someone you trust can help you feel assured that you don’t have to handle it all alone.
Some specific benefits of talking about your workplace depression:
- You can get a different perspective. They can offer you a different perspective on your situation. They may be able to see things that you are not able to see yourself, and can help you develop new coping mechanisms.
- You can feel less alone. Depression can make you feel isolated and alone. Talking to someone you trust can help you to feel less alone and more connected to others.
- You can get support. Your trusted friend or family member can offer you emotional support and encouragement. They can also help you to develop a plan for overcoming your depression.
- You can get advice. Your trusted friend or family member may be able to offer you helpful advice on how to cope with workplace depression. For example, they may be able to suggest strategies for managing your workload, communicating with your manager, or taking care of your mental health.
You can talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member, therapist, or another person from your work. Talking to someone about your depression is often advised as the first step towards coping with it.
- Choose someone you feel comfortable talking to. It is important to choose someone you trust and feel safe with.
- Be honest about how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and feelings, even if they are negative.
- Be specific about what you are struggling with. Be as specific as possible about the challenges you are facing at work and the symptoms of depression that you are experiencing.
- Ask for help. Let the person you are talking to know what you need from them. For example, you may need someone to listen to you, offer advice, or help you develop a plan for getting help.
6. Take small breaks throughout the day.
When you feel depressed, it can be difficult to focus and stay motivated. Taking small breaks can help you clear your head, recharge your batteries, and come back to your work refreshed.
Small breaks in between work can help you:
- Reduce stress. Stress can be a major trigger for workplace depression. Taking breaks can help to reduce stress by giving your mind and body a chance to rest and recharge.
- Improve mood. Taking breaks can help to improve your mood by giving you a chance to do something you enjoy or by simply getting some fresh air and sunshine.
- Boost creativity and productivity. Taking breaks can actually help you to be more creative and productive when you return to your work. This is because taking breaks helps to clear your head and give you a fresh perspective.
- Improve overall well-being. Taking breaks can help to improve your overall well-being by reducing stress, improving your mood, and boosting your creativity and productivity.
Here are some tips for taking effective breaks:
- Get up and move around. Get out of your chair and walk around the office, go for a walk outside, or do some light stretching. Moving your body will help to improve your circulation and reduce stress.
- Step outside for some fresh air. Fresh air and sunlight can have a positive impact on your mood and energy levels.
- Take a few minutes to relax and clear your head. This could involve closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths, listening to calming music, or doing a short-period meditation.
- Do something you enjoy. Take a few minutes to read a book, listen to your favorite music, or chat with a friend or colleague. Doing something you enjoy can help to improve your mood and reduce stress.
I encourage you to start taking mini-breaks, even when you’re working from home. A few minutes of break time can make a big difference in your mental health and well-being.
What’s more, take breaks throughout the day, even if you are feeling good. They can help you to stay sharp and productive, and they can also help to reduce your risk of work burnout.
7. Practice relaxation techniques.
When you are stressed, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. This is a natural response to danger, but it can also have negative consequences for your health. Relaxation techniques can help to reverse the effects of stress and bring your body back into balance.
There are many different types of relaxation techniques, such as:
- Yoga: Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. Yoga has been shown to be effective in reducing stress, improving mood, and increasing energy levels.
- Meditation: Meditation is a practice of focusing your attention on the present moment. There are many different types of meditation, but all of them involve focusing your attention on your breath, your body, or a mantra. Meditation has been shown to be effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Deep breathing exercises: Deep breathing exercises are a simple but effective way to relax your mind and body. To do a deep breathing exercise, sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, allowing your stomach to rise. Exhale slowly through your mouth, allowing your stomach to fall. Repeat this exercise for 5-10 minutes.
You can practice relaxation techniques at any time, but they are quite helpful when feeling stressed. If you are struggling with workplace depression, I encourage you to try practicing relaxation techniques on a regular basis.
Even a few minutes of relaxation can make a big difference in your mood and stress levels. Here are some tips for practicing relaxation techniques:
- Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath.
- Take slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath.
- Don’t judge yourself if you find it difficult to relax. Just keep practicing and you will get better over time.
There are many resources available to help you get started – books, websites, and even apps that can teach you how to meditate, do yoga, or practice deep breathing exercises. You can also find relaxation classes at many gyms, community centers, and yoga studios.
8. Avoid negative self-talk.
Negative self-talk can have a serious impact on our mental well-being, without you realizing it.
When we engage in negative self-talk, we are essentially telling ourselves that we are not good enough or that we are incapable of success. This can fill us with feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
If you are struggling with workplace depression, it is important to be aware of your negative self-talk and to challenge it. When you start to think negative thoughts about yourself or your work, ask yourself if those thoughts are really true. Are you really as bad as you think you are? Are you really incapable of success?
If the answer to these questions is no, then you need to challenge your negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones. Focus on your strengths and accomplishments. Remind yourself of all the things that you are good at and all the things that you have accomplished.
Here are some tips for challenging negative self-talk:
- Identify your negative thoughts. The first step is to become aware of your negative thoughts. Pay attention to the things that you say to yourself, both internally and externally.
- Challenge your negative thoughts. Once you have identified your negative thoughts, ask yourself if they are really true. Are you being fair to yourself? Are you being realistic?
- Replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. Once you have challenged your negative thoughts, replace them with more positive ones. Focus on your strengths and accomplishments. Remind yourself of all the things that you are good at and all the things that you have accomplished.
It is important to remember that negative self-talk is a habit. It takes time and effort to break a habit. But if you are consistent with challenging your negative thoughts and replacing them with more positive ones, you will eventually start to see a difference in your mood and outlook on life.
If you are struggling to challenge your negative self-talk on your own, there are many resources available to help you. You can talk to a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional. There are also books, websites, and apps that can teach you how to challenge negative self-talk and build positive self-esteem.
9. Do things you like, make time for them.
Workplace depression can make it difficult to have the motivation to do anything. However, forcing ourselves to do activities that make us feel good can dramatically increase our drive, boost our mood, and reduce stress.
We all must make time for activities that we enjoy, even if we can only spare a few minutes each day. Because happiness is an action word, says Sonja Lyubomirsky in The How of Happiness.
- Spend time with loved ones. Spending time with people who care about you can help you to feel supported and loved. Make time for activities that you enjoy doing with your family and friends, such as going out to eat, watching a movie, or playing games.
- Read. Reading can be a great way to escape from the stresses of everyday life and to immerse yourself in another world. Choose books that you find interesting and enjoyable to read.
- Listen to music. Music can have a powerful effect on our mood. Listening to music that you enjoy can help to lift your spirits and reduce stress.
- Dance. Dancing is a great, enjoyable exercise to improve your physical and mental health. It can quickly reduce the stored stress in your body and refresh your mind and mood.
- Do something creative. Engaging in creative activities can help you to express yourself and to feel more connected to your emotions. Try painting, drawing, writing, or playing music.
If struggling to get habituated to happy activities (sadly, depression can make it difficult to focus on anything related to joy), seek help.
You can talk to a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional. They can help you to identify enjoyable activities you can stick to.
10. Get expert help.
Ask for help.
Never feel that you are alone, or you need to suffer in silence, or you have to cope with it on your own.
About 17 million Americans are affected by depression every year. And 50% of those with depression are untreated.
Seek help from a therapist or counselor whenever you feel you might be going into depression. Get yourself examined so you can begin early treatment.
They can also help you handle your symptoms better and guide you with the skills to manage your work-life balance more efficiently.
Read your company’s policies regarding mental health and insurance coverage. Self-employed people can check their insurance policy to find out what kind of mental health benefits it includes.
If uninsured, look around for community mental health centers and free-to-access mental health social initiatives.
- SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline, 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727)
What is depression?
Depression is a serious mental health issue that can negatively affect how a person feels, thinks, and acts, and decrease their ability to function well at home and at work. It can impact anyone, irrespective of their age, gender, income, and “seemingly” ideal conditions at work and home.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is diagnosed if a person experiences these symptoms for more than two weeks:
- Feeling sad
- Loss of interest in pleasure in activities previously enjoyed
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Changes in appetite, overeating or not eating enough
- Trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much
- Restless activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
Please note that the word “depression” in this article does not refer to diagnosed clinical depression. Instead, it refers to symptoms that feel like depression, like those above.
Do not confuse work stress with depression at the workplace.
Work stress is a temporary and occasional state of feeling anxious or irritable due to work demands, while work depression is a persistent feeling of sadness, anxiety, and lack of motivation that interferes with your work and personal life.
Finally, do not mask or internalize your symptoms of work depression. If you feel emotionally detached at work, it’s time to take note, especially if you mindlessly go through your tasks day after day.
Talk to a psychological counselor to understand if it is an underlying depression or stress, so they can help you develop coping mechanisms.
Ask your boss or colleague for help if you are having trouble performing or meeting your goals.
Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher.
• • •
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