As someone who has dealt with depression for over five years, I know firsthand how tempting it can be to stay in bed and obsess over every single detail of your inadequacies rather than get ready for work. However, this should not and does not have to be the case. Here are some tips to help get you through the work day while fighting depression.
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1. Seek Help
First and foremost, take care of yourself. Trying to push your way through depression without proper acknowledgement of your condition or proper treatment will only leave you emotionally and physically drained. Make sure to actively seek professional help, follow any suggested self-care routines, and take any prescribed medications. This is your core center of recovery and will transcend into other areas of your life.
2. Focus on the End Goal
Although thinking positively is one of the hardest things in the world right now, do your best to focus on the ultimate purpose of your job. Whether it’s simply to pay your rent or a valuable step towards a long-term career, keep your goals in mind as you go about your day.
3. Work in Chunks
For someone with depression, even the most miniscule of tasks can seem daunting. Splitting up large assignments into smaller chunks will make them infinitely more manageable and allow you to pace yourself and stay focused.
4. Take a Break
Depressing is exhausting. To prevent burnout halfway through the day, ensure that you take multiple short breaks. Stretching, going for a short walk outside, or even just getting a drink of water will keep you alert and allow your mind to reboot.
Depression often makes you want to isolate yourself from others. Even simple things like eating lunch with some co-workers or asking your boss about his or her weekend can take you outside of your own head for a while. Being engaged and cheerful may seem forced at first, but allowing yourself to relax and share a laugh or two may make those feelings surprisingly genuine.
6. Use Calming Strategies
Depression is usually comorbid with anxiety, which can obviously be heightened in the workplace. One thing that I always do is listen to music, usually something soft and slow like John Mayer or Sarah McLachlan, which enables you to block out the activity around you, relax and pay attention to what you’re doing. You can also clench and unclench your fists, or practice different breathing exercises.
7. Bring a Good Lunch
When you eat better, you feel better. Avoid the stereotyped comfort foods and go for something your mother always tells you to buy more of. In particular, choose options that are high in magnesium and vitamin B-12. Magnesium helps boost your mood and energy levels by increasing the brain’s production of serotonin. It can be found in avocados, pumpkin and almond seeds, salmon, halibut, and grains such as brown rice and quinoa. Milk, eggs, and poultry contain vitamin B-12, which can strengthen mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters.
8. Clean/Personalize Your Space
A clean, organized workspace will make you feel more in control and will consequently make you more productive. Surrounding yourself with things that are meaningful to you such as inspirational quotes or pictures of family and friends will help remind you who you are outside of depression.
9. Have a Venting Circle
Depression cannot be conquered alone. Whether it is someone you can drag to the bathroom with you during work or call right after, make sure you have people you can confide in about work stress or just the frustrations of depression in general. This will allow you to decompress and give you the encouragement and love you need to pull back the covers for the next day.
Depression is an illness, but it does not have to be an all-consuming force. With the right goals in mind and the willingness to strive for even the smallest of victories each day, you can and will conquer it.
How have you managed to cope with depression at work? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!